Rugs and Moths

Moth Damage

Moths are a pain and can cause serious damage to oriental rugs. Unfortunately they think the pile of an oriental rug is rather tasty - throw in the odd knot or two and they consider it a feast. It's not the moths that will eat your rug - females lay hundreds of eggs and it's the larvae that do the eating. Moths are particularly fond of relatively undisturbed areas - just like those under furniture that is rarely moved.

Fortunately, it's not that difficult to eliminate moths and ensure they don't become a problem. Using an "anti-moth" treatment is quite simple and will eliminate these pests and safeguard against their return. Certain chemical applications will render the wool inedible to moths. Both the front and back of a carpet should be sprayed every six months or so with any one of a number of these moth sprays.

Moths are best kept at bay by frequent moving or handling and by regular exposure to light and air. If rugs must be stored, then inspection at intervals is essential. A carpet in use is rarely in danger from moths.

Tell-tale signs:

  • Flying moths - the common clothing moth is small, approx 10mm long or less. Normally silvery tan or pale brown in colour. A slow flyer that will fold its wings and drop to the floor if you try to catch one on the wing
  • Bare spots in the pile - bizarrely some moth larvae prefer the taste of one colour yarn to another so bare spots may appear with certain colours and not others.
  • Webs - often only become obvious with a particularly bad infestation - white gossamer threads covering an area.
  • Cocoons - furry sausages 12-15mm long by 3-4mm diameter. Sneaky devils like to camouflage themselves by adopting the colour of the wool around them so can be tricky to spot.
  • Larvae - thin worms in the pile - approx 10mm long - it's these little blighters that actually eat the wool and they can sometimes be spotted before they've made their cocoons
  • Sand (sort of) particles in the pile - normally tan or brown - looks a bit like sand and is excretion of the larvae.
  • Broken or loose plies - causes by the larvae chewing though the yarn.


  • Regular vacuuming - at least weekly for the top and then, several times a year, vacuum the back of the rug, the pad and the floor underneath.
  • Move or rotate the rug - If any parts cannot be reached with the vacuum a household, non-staining insecticide can be used. Be careful applying any insecticide and ONLY use a product designed for rugs.

Related articles