Sunday 29 April 2012

Help my carpets are infested with Moths!

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If I told you that, you'd probably think I was joking or talking about a long, long time ago or perhaps it happened in a country not as advanced as the UK.  But actually early in July 2011, I discovered that my three upstairs bedroom carpets were in fact alive with cloth eating moths. Yuck, I hear you shouting, that's gross and that is exactly how I felt too. I was teetering on the edge of seriously tearing my hair out and breaking down. My first instinct was to hide and not tell anyone, what if they think my house is a pit? that we are unclean?  I then started to google and realised this is a massive issue for many people but sadly it does not seem to be talked about that much in everyday life.

Would you be surprised to hear that moths are still a major pest in the UK, in the same way, that bees, mice and flies are? Amazing isn't it?  When I was a kid my Nanny always had a nasty smell in her wardrobes and drawers and that was from mothballs and repellent.  We never had those in my house growing up and as an adult, I never gave moths a second thought, they were just something that came in if the window was open and the light was on and then they would flit around the light. So I must say it was a surprise for me to learn that you can have a moth infestation.  Particularly when you find out that some moths (case-making cloth eating moths in my case) like to eat your carpets and of course clothes and laundry too.

threadbare carpet patch
Bald patches appear as I hoover

What has really surprised me, is that since I have been talking to people, loads of them have started to tell me that yes they find those little cases behind their sofa or they have found a bald patch under the bed when they have hoovered or had holes in their clothes.  It really does seem to be a much more common problem than is known about.

What kind of moths eat carpets?

Case making clothes moth
The tiny gold coloured moths with the tell-tell spots on their wings

When you think moths, you might think of the large type that are attracted to the lights in your house, but those are harmless.  They are not the type that concern me, the real pests are the ones that want to eat your wardrobe from the inside out and they can literally do that if left for long enough.  These little ones like the dark and they hide from you, making it hard for you to spot them.  The females like to walk at ground level and and they will find a nice piece of fabric (or carpet) to lay their eggs on.  Most websites will tell you they only like natural fabrics and wool carpets but my personal experience shows that is not the case, they will happily much on a synthetic carpet or a viscose top.

The males fly high and can be spotted in corners of the room when it is dark and you just turn the light on, or even high on the walls behind pictures and bookcases.  For a while I kept spotting tiny little moths in the corners of the bedrooms and wondering why so many seemed to be about but of course I thought nothing of it, it was summer and the windows had been open.

What are the signs of these moths in your home?

I am sharing what I learnt during this harrowing time in the hope of helping others and as early spring is the time when the moths can make themselves at home and start to breed, it is important that people know what signs to look for. At my house the first sign was under JJ's double bed.  I probably first noticed (what I now know were the cases that the larvae made as they turned to moths) little silvery white bits of thin 'paper' under JJ's bed last Spring.  I felt cross that he had been rubbing and pulling apart tissues to the point that there was lots of little bits down by the skirting boards.  I hoovered them up and thought no more of it.

Cloths moth empty casings on the carpet
Larvae cases

Then in early July it was time to turn the mattress again and I decided to have a good clean under his bed and again all those silvery bits of 'paper' were there. I pulled the slating on the bed up so I could get in the wooden frame and have a good look on his floor - what were those bits of paper?

I noticed some of them seemed to be pushed right into the threads of the carpets and as I pushed the carpet to look, pieces of the tread started to come away in my hands.  I used the hoover and was left with big bald patches and small bits of paper that looked as if they were burrowed into the carpet (I now know that they actually were).  I still had no real idea but just had a feeling something was a miss.

I googled 'carpet eating pest' and found this wonderful thread which, when read over a very long time revealed to me the ins and out of a moth infestation and there is a good follow-up thread on the same blog too.  I was not alone, tons of people were suffering from it.

I was completely freaked out and my house felt dirty.  I logically knew it was not dirty, I actually enjoy cleaning and do it frequently but something was a miss as they little blitters were living under JJ's bed in the carpet by all the walls. I decided I needed to look in the girls room too and yep there was the same under Miss M's bed and under the bookcase.  I hoovered and cleaned frantically but I couldn't ditch that feeling there was horrid things in my precious babies rooms.

What I did about it...

By this point I knew I needed to inspect all the rooms, I was freaking out, we had over £1000 of carpet laid about 8 months before downstairs.  I found the moths in our carpet under our bed, to a much lesser extent but they were there and then I found them under JJ's wardrobe and chest of drawers.  Tell me, who moves heavy wardrobes and cleans under them?  Certainly not me, what was the need I thought.

On the spot I made a decision, the carpets had to go.  I went downstairs and grabbed a stanley knife and started to hack away, by the time dh came home from work I had reveal to him we had an infestation and I had pulled up every upstairs carpet, including the bathroom. Thankfully the downstairs of our house did not seem to be affected, but I cleaned it all just to be sure.

Upon more googling I discovered that what I needed to do was clean every inch of my house. I had to empty every cupboard and wash every piece of linen (fabric).  All the clothes and linen that had been washed and hot tumbled then were put into vacuum pack bags where there was no chance the dreaded moths could get them.  Anything we could not wash like duvets were taken to the dump and we bought new ones, I was taking no risks.  I found evidence of moths in my wardrobe, some of them had been breeding there and I binned many clothes with small holes (keep your eyes peeled for small holes in clothes, especially around the stomach area, they like the bodily secretions there).

For about 3 months we lived with the majority of our things vacuum packed and just used the same things again and again. I wanted to make sure there was not enough left hanging and unworn for the moths to get a grip on once again.

clothes moth cocoon
A cocoon stuck to the underside of a roll out drawer from under the bed.  They get everywhere!

I bought repellent to hang in every wardrobe, moth balls to put in every drawer and spray to use on all the furniture, bed, my clothes and frankly everything in the house to ensure they really were gone. I sprayed into all the floor boards, they can lay their eggs down there too. I now keep a regular check on all our clothes, I am often found looking round the ceilings for any signs of moths and I replace the moth balls every three months.  Never again will I take a chance.  Can you imagine how much work it was cleaning a 4 bedroom house top to bottom including every piece of fabric in the house?Not to mention the expense of all the carpets being replaced.

How do you get a moth infestation?

I have no idea how the original moth or two entered our house, they can fly in just like any other moth or the larvae can come in on something you have bought from a charity shop or been given by someone else.  So do make sure that anything second hand that comes into your house is given a hot wash straight away.  Don't take any chances, it is just not worth it.

What I realised is that the moths had bred in our house by feeding on hair and old milk that had dribbled out of the kids bottles from their cots when they were little.  Yes I had cleaned it up at the time but obviously not well enough.  The odd drip in the night when you are not there from a toddler bedtime cup gives the moths the dairy (or human) liquid they desire and need to thrive.  The places the moths were established in the kids bedrooms were at the sides of where their cots had been.  In our room the only place they had breed was behind our headboard and this can probably be put down to them feeding on my hair, dead skins cells and perhaps sweat from our bed. Pretty disgusting to think about, isn't it?

My final advice...
  • Clean under your beds every couple of months.
  • Hoover every week.
  • As soon as you see any tiny moths on your ceiling, spray the little blighters to kill them.
  • Check your wardrobes for small holes in your clothes.  If you find any, wash all your clothes in a hot wash and clean your wardrobe fully. (or freezing the clothes for a few days also kills the larvae).
  • Don't allow your wardrobe to get too full, keep the floor of it clear, the less hiding places the better.
  • Keep your house clutter free and light, that removes the conditions that the moths and larvae need.
  • Keep drawers and doors on cupboards closed to that the moths cannot get in them. Do not leave your clothes out in the room for long periods.
  • Just keep the clothes you need in your cupboard, vacuum pack other seasons clothes for safe keeping.
Finally if you do find you have moths, do not despair.  Yes it will be a lot of work to wash everything and clean the house from top to bottom, but don't be tempted to ignore it.  So many cases I read about on the Internet said the moths were back within a couple of months but I pray to the Lord that my method of ripping up the carpets has worked as we are now 10 months later and no signs.  Lets hope that continues....

Update, we moved out of that house in the summer of 2013 but the moths had never come back, so my thorough method of cleaning worked.

Best of luck if you find yourself struggling with these pests.  Do feel free to share your stories or tips in the comments.

Mich x

These are the products I used to treat my moth infestation (#ad) -

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