To fight the bug, we must understand the bug.
December 15, 2011 8:06 AM   Subscribe

How do I ensure carpet beetles won't destroy my clothing?

Last spring we had a carpet beetle infestation in the bathroom. Months later I discovered that the beetles had also infiltrated the closet where I keep my 'nice' clothes and went to town on my wool-based suits and slacks. I tossed the wool clothes, mothballed the closet and all of my other clothes that didn't seem to have been touched for a week, followed by washing. I also vacuumed the closet out and hosed down the edges and seams with Raid ("keeps on killing for 12 weeks").

Now I need a new suit for an upcoming interview. What do I need to do to make sure this one doesn't become food?
posted by logicpunk to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Keep it zipped in a garment bag, with cedar balls, and hang it in the hall closet instead.
posted by amelioration at 8:14 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I understand that carpet beetles can be killed by freezing. Put the clothes you want to protect in a sealed bag in the freezer for a few weeks. If you have a large freezer, treat your whole wardrobe to a deep freeze. While the closet is empty, give it the vacuuming of a lifetime, preferably with a vacuum with disposable bags (which you can later dispose of in cleansing fire). Dust the carpets with borax, wait a few days, then vacuum again.

Nasty, nasty little things. I understand they only eat natural fibers, so maybe consider a polyester suit.
posted by leapfrog at 8:32 AM on December 15, 2011

It looks like it only takes 48 hours in the freezer, according to this site, but I'm not sure how reasonable that is. I would suggest keeping the suit in a garment bag and sealing up any openings with duct tape, like where the hanger comes out. Be sure that you have some silica packets in the bag or the pockets of the suit to absorb moisture.
posted by shoesietart at 9:51 AM on December 15, 2011

Best answer: As a scientist, I am disappointed that I don't have any real evidence that this works, but I have been told to keep an orange and clove pomander in your closet to keep out moths. Googling to see if this works on carpet beetles indicates that maybe the answer is yes but then again this might be selection bias. These pomanders smell incredible, in any case, so you can't lose. Just don't stab yourself on the cloves.
posted by wondercow at 8:09 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Keep it zipped in a garment bag, with cedar balls, and hang it in the hall closet instead.

Thanks dear.

Thanks for the answers. I'll certainly keep any new wool stuff away from the site of the infestation, but I really really want to eradicate the little buggers at the source. I hadn't thought of borax, and the orange/clove thing seems like potentially a less toxic route. Wondercow, do you know if orange and clove essential oils would work as well as pomanders? I already have those lying around so...
posted by logicpunk at 9:46 AM on December 16, 2011

I honestly have no idea, but I assume it must be the smell that keeps bugs away, so essential oils seem like they ought to work. I'm not aware of any chemical properties of cloves that would keep away moths from a distance--since it's not like you have to actually rub the cloves on the clothes to get an effect--so it must be the odor, I would think. I think it's the cloves that actually keep moths (and likely, carpet beetles) away, and the orange is more of a vehicle for the cloves. I would probably go heavy on the clove oils, then, although you might want to balance them out with the orange oil to make it pleasant to your own nose. You don't want people thinking you came straight from a spice plantation next time you wear your suit.
posted by wondercow at 3:24 PM on December 16, 2011

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