If you have clothes moths, the first place you’re likely to check is your wardrobe. After all, they are called “clothes moths”. But while clothes moths are notorious for the damage they do to your garments, their favourite breeding ground is actually your carpets.
Clothes moth larvae eat keratin proteins found in hair and skin. This is why they have a taste for high quality, natural materials such as wool, silk or fur. They also prefer dirty clothes, as they will be covered in a delicious layer of keratin-rich sweat, skin and hair.
Even if you don’t have wool or silk carpets (and most people don’t), that doesn’t mean that they will be moth-free. The fibres of synthetic carpets are still the perfect place for clothes moths to hide their eggs.
When these eggs hatch, the larvae may not eat the fibres of synthetic carpets, but they will eat the dirt that collects in it. Skin, hair, food debris and various other detritus that makes up household dirt is packed with the nutrients that clothes moth larvae need to grow.
Any bit of carpet where dust and dirt collects and settles, such as in the corner of stairs or beneath/behind furniture, can become a feast for clothes moth larvae. When the population becomes overcrowded, the adult moths will crawl or fly to find new breeding grounds. These might be more dirty corners of carpet, or your wardrobe.
By the time you’ve noticed damage to your clothes, the infestation in your house may already be widespread. Clothes moths prefer dark places where they won’t be disturbed, meaning that a regularly-used wardrobe is often a last resort rather than a cherished home.
Another common clothes moth haven are rolls of leftover carpet or unused rugs in attics or basements. This creates the perfect storm of clothes moth habitat: undisturbed, dark, damp and dirty.
Thorough, regular hoovering is the best way to prevent clothes moths from becoming established in your carpets. In the summer, it only takes four to ten days for clothes moth eggs to hatch, so you should hoover twice a week to maximise disruption.
If you don’t hoover for more than a month in summer, you will have given the larvae enough time to complete their lifecycle and become adults and spread the infestation further.
Rugs, especially if they’re made of natural fibres, should be beaten regularly as clothes moth love to crawl underneath them where their larvae can feast in secret. Only hoovering the top of them won’t be enough.
But even in the most hygienic household, there are corners of your carpets that you’ll rarely reach. If there’s carpet stuck behind big, heavy furniture, it may go untouched for years.
The worst combination is neglected carpet that’s kept warm by radiators or nearby hot water pipes. We’ve uncovered carpets in such locations that are exploding with moths. At this point, the carpet has to be destroyed as removing the infestation would be nearly impossible.
Of course, the best thing you can do is not have carpets. While dusty any corner can attract moths, without carpets there’s nowhere for the moths to lodge their eggs. If there are no restrictions against removing carpets in your property, we highly recommend switching to wood, laminate, stone or concrete.