No chance for the moths!
Raus aus der Mottenkiste
You've got a move coming up and your sheepskin rug needs to go into storage? An old heirloom that is being brought down from the attic and is going into the living room? No problem! We show you how you can successfully avoid or fight moths.
Not everything buzzing around the house is like a carpet moth trying to get at your rugs or cashmere sweater. However, different insects are often quite difficult to distinguish. The best thing to do is to pay attention to the environment in which the small winged insect appears, because that's usually where its food source is.
The more familiar moth species, such as the dried fruit moth or flour moth, are food moths.
Their larvae eat their way through our food and leave behind unappetizing webs in the packaging. They infest flour, cereals, muesli, dried fruit, nuts or chocolate.
Should you discover food moths in your kitchen or pantry, at least you don't have to worry about your rugs or clothing: those aren't on the menu for these critters, they're pantry pests.
The 6-9 mm small, yellowish-golden clothes moth (tineola bisselliella, also called carpet moth or tapestry moth) has feathery, frayed wing tips. Its larvae feed on the keratin in animal hairs and fibres.
Watch out for furs, rugs, carpets and wool textiles. The larvae sit directly on top of fabric and hide as soon as they sense danger. Clothes moths avoid light, like quiet places and cannot fly very well. They are more likely to be seen climbing up and down the walls.
Clothes moths are not a threat to your food because they are material pests.
Colloquially, night butterflies are often referred to as moths, which causes confusion. Some night butterfly’s species also look very similar to moths. They are - like moths - nocturnal, during the day they usually rest in places where they are well camouflaged to protect themselves from enemies.
They are attracted to light, which is also the reason why they suddenly flutter around in the living room. Unlike moths, however, they don’t settle in one place:
Common night butterflies do not pose a threat to textiles. They feed on nectar, plant juices and dew.
What is actually the difference between a moth and a mite?
- Moths belong to the family of small butterflies and they have a length of about 1 cm. In case of a moth infestation, dark excrement crumbs or feeding traces on food or clothing are conspicuous. The eating pests are the larvae of the moths. It is then necessary to get rid of these small caterpillars.
- Mites, the eight-legged arachnids, often appear as flour mites or baked fruit mites. House dust mites are also very common. They live primarily in mattresses and bedding. They feed mostly on dander and plague allergy sufferers, but do not nibble clothing or carpets.
How do moths get into the house in the first place?
Moths don't just knock on the door. So where do these particular pests come from?
Food moths, like clothes moths, are often attracted by noticeable odours or dust. A leaking attic roof or an open window will do the trick. This is especially true at night, because the moths are nocturnal.
However, clothes moths also get into the house through shopping, and second-hand clothes are particularly vulnerable suspects.
Where do moths live?
Similarly, moths do not like light or bright places: movement and light are therefore the best moth protection for your carpet or rug.
If a pile of winter clothes sits in a wardrobe and is rarely moved throughout the summer months, this kind of environment will become the perfect breeding ground for moths.
Four tips to prevent moth infestation
It's all in the location: busy and bright
If possible, place your rug IN FRONT of your couch or bed and not under it. Otherwise, that’s exactly the kind of quiet and dark place that a moth likes and will choose to lay her eggs.
If your sofa is on the rug, you can attach scents (→ see tip 3) or moth traps to the underside as a precaution. Normally, however, it is sufficient to vacuum your space regularly, as well as under the couch. Moths live for about 14 days. Do not give them a chance to nest.
Get it going: shake, tap, turn
Since someone normally walks over a used rug all the time, a moth infestation is unlikely to be an issue here.
However, additional precaution is of course to always maintain good levels of home hygiene.
It is best to turn the rug, hang it up and vacuum or even tap it with the flat side without the brush. Vacuum more under the rug than the rug itself. This way you remove the moth-attracting dust and necessitates the trug to be moved around, which moths and their larvae do not like at all.
Lavender & Co. let’s moths evaporate
- To combat textile moths, essential oils such as lavender, pine or cedar can be used.
- Small scent bags, with the ingredients mentioned above, also act as good prevention, you can simply hang them up in your apartment. The emitted scent will drive away the clothes moths.
- A bunch of lavender on the windowsill is also a natural barrier against mosquitoes and clothes moths.
Store rug correctly
You must be cautious of a possible moth infestation in your wool rugs when put in storage. Keep the following tips in mind for successful storage:
- Thoroughly clean your rugs before storing them to remove dust, dirt and odours.
- Roll up each rug and pack it in a plastic bag without holes. Vacuum packed is always
- Choose a good place to store: a draft-prone, dusty and dark attic is perhaps not the best option.
- Install fly screens on windows/openings if possible.
- Place fragrances as described in tip 3.
- Set up moth traps to control any outbreaks.
Anyone who thinks they are immune to moths with a synthetic fibre rug could unfortunately also be in for a nasty surprise. The larvae of the rug moths cannot digest the material, but in some cases their feeding instinct takes over, making them chew through cotton or artificial fabric.
Tips to successfully combat moths
If you are affected by a moth infestation, it takes a while to get rid of them. You will most likely recognize the infestation of the small voracious butterfly larvae by small holes in clothing, rugs or carpets. It’s time to act quickly!
In case of a relatively light infestation, it is often sufficient to clean the rugs thoroughly and additionally expose it to direct sunlight for a longer period of time. In this way, existing larvae and eggs of the carpet moths dry out from the exposure to sunlight.
If possible, rugs can be frozen to combat moths, as all eggs and larvae die at around -18 °C. This will quickly put an end to the infestation.
Have you ever heard of ichneumon wasps? Ichneumon wasps or Darwin wasps are considered beneficial insects and are not dangerous for humans or pets. The little animals, not even 0.4 mm in size, feed on moth eggs and thus exterminate the pests. Once their work is done, they will disappear.
If the moth infestation is persistent and the carpet moths are so deep in the loops that vacuuming does not help, a professional should be contacted. With professional rug cleaning and moth control, you are on the safe side.
Always remember that sheep wool rugs are self-cleaning. Similar to a cashmere pullover, washing is not good for the rug and is not necessary!
Expert interview with Felicitas Lehner
It is not unusual for us to receive a high number of calls or emails about moths and sheep wool. Felicitas Lehner is our all-knowing oracle on questions about sustainable sheep wool rugs.
We have included a short interview here that is based upon a recent conversation with a customer:
Customer question: When you buy a rug, you sometimes think about the risk of moths and want to protect the rug from possibly becoming infested with them. Isn't a sheep wool rug at great risk of being eaten away by moths? I have in mind those classic internet pictures of clothes with holes in them or textiles that, after being in storage, virtually crumble away when you touch them.
Felicitas Lehner: It is absolutely true that the natural enemy of virgin sheep wool is the clothes moths. We make many products from virgin sheep wool and have therefore been fully acquainted with this type of moth. The habit of the clothes moth is to seek out quiet, calm andwarm places.
For example, a winter coat will not be endangered throughout the winter, but rather in the warm summer months, where it is stored away in a quiet back corner of a closet.
A rug that is placed in a busy living room, however, is not at risk.
Customer question: What wool protection, products or insecticides do you recommend for protecting sheep wool products?
Felicitas Lehner: Essential oils help, even though I'm personally not a fan of them. Setting up moth traps as soon as you spot a moth has helped me over the last 20 years, as a fan of wool.
Regarding an “integral” protection of sheep wool, we have developed a biocide-free wool protection called Ionic Protect®, which works on a plasma-ionic basis (there is a video about it on our Isolena website). We use this wool protection process for our insulation materials and acoustic insulation.
Customer question: Why is this wool protection only used for insulation and acoustic products?
Felicitas Lehner: We do not use it for our decorative yarns and garden wool, as these are in constant use and the clothes moths do not tend to settle there. For the sheep wool rugs we produce on request (e.g., larger quantities for the UK market), we do include this wool protection.
Why, you may ask, do we not use this process on all rugs? From our point of view, it only makes sense to use it on fitted carpets that would cover the floor of an entire room. Here there are naturally quiet corners, where moths can easily settle.
Our hand-woven rugs, however, are fitted rugs that are made to measure for the customer on order and delivered. With our fitted wool rugs, the top and bottom of the rug can both be used and displayed. The very action of turning a rug over provides protection from moths, as they will be unsettled by the motion and will not choose to nest there.
Customer question: Are there nevertheless cases where protection against moths is also important for rugs?
Felicitas Lehner: Yes, if the rug is travelling anywhere or is in storage for a long time, I am
absolutely of the opinion that a wool protector – biocide-free please! – should be used.
Most of the rugs that are found on the market are made in low-wage countries such as
Morocco, India, etc. Unfortunately, the rugs are often sprayed with any insecticide (= ! Nerve poison !) for transport, so that it reaches the customer undamaged. This is mostly a superficial treatment and fortunately evaporates again (as it is gaseous).
If the sheep wool is treated and processed correctly for the intended use, it should only bring pure joy to your home.
Moth fear - our conclusion
In everyday life, it is unlikely that moths will choose to nestle in your rugs especially in an occupied living room or bedroom. Here, or also with runners in the hallway or rugs in the kitchen, there is simply too much going on for the moths and their larvae.
To be on the safe side, there are numerous precautionary options. Especially if you are storing a rug, you should take precautions. If moths are present despite your efforts, hope is not necessarily lost!
With a little tender loving care, you can usually enjoy your rug for a long time.