Cats vs Moths - how to save my rug?
July 23, 2019 4:44 AM   Subscribe

I have a wool rug, which I like very much, but unfortunately when I just rolled it up (for a whole unrelated thing) I found evidence of moth casings and larvae. I am disappointed, because whilst I knew we had moths I was hoping very frequent hoovering would protect it, and it doesn't seem to have been sufficient. Is there anything cat-safe I can treat the underside of this rug with to prevent clothes moths?

Difficulty Level:
- I live in Edinburgh, and basically the entire city is infested with clothes moths, not to mention our large building. Total eradication isn't happening, we've tried drastic measures before and they just come back every summer. They feed on the cat fur behind the bookcases, wardrobe, any nook and cranny now and I'm not sure I can do much about that because....

- I have two big dumb-ass cats, and newts. Even the "natural" low toxic insecticide sprays I've found contain pyrethrin, which is still toxic at low levels in cats. It might be fine, but I love my cats way more than this rug and don't want to risk it, even if I'm only spraying the underside.

-This is a big rug, and with the best will in the world taking it outside to beat every week, or even hoovering the underside every week, is just not gonna happen. Doing something once a month would be workable though.

So.... is there anything I can do? I'm considering scotch guarding the back just in case it will help make it unappetizing, but after that I'm out of ideas.
posted by stillnocturnal to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well - one animal that is known for liking to track down and eat moths - is the cat - so don't discount that approach to controlling their numbers. (Our two toms would have any moth that appeared in their living space on extreme danger money).
The problem is more likely to happen in places where the can't or won't go. If the cats are not going to be there then they may be fewer problems with putting moth balls there instead. This article claims that (the contemporary "PDB"ones) are not very toxic to pets - just keep them in a sealed container so they can't be eaten.
posted by rongorongo at 5:25 AM on July 23, 2019

We've had this problem. Do you have a room you can block off from the cats? Then treat the rug in that room and let it air out for a day or two. Or if you could buy a large plastic storage box (depending on the size of the rug), you can moth-bomb it inside the box for a few days, then air it.
posted by Hypatia at 5:37 AM on July 23, 2019

Response by poster: Hypatia - unfortunately we're in a small flat, the only room we can practically keep the cats out of is the study, which is where the newts are. Food for thought though, could maybe drag it to my parents to treat it if nothing else works, although probably not as often as would be necessary.

Rug is about 2.5 by 3.5 metres.
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:48 AM on July 23, 2019

Best answer: Along the idea of pesticides, dry cleaning will work, though it's not the cheapest option. They do use pretty harsh chemicals so you might want to air it out afterwards for cat safety, but I think that would be the easiest option. Bring the rug to the dry cleaner, drop it off, and bring it back the next day--practically no work for you.

A freezer also works, but you say this is a big rug so perhaps it's not practical unless you have a chest freezer.

Otherwise I think you've covered the available options (beating and airing out; pesticides). There is no magic trick to these suckers, they are a serious pest.
posted by epanalepsis at 6:24 AM on July 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

Temperatures above 120 degrees F will kill moths. Depending on your weather, the interior of a closed car in the sun might get that hot. If so, you can put the rug in your parked car for a day or two to "bake" it and the moths.
posted by mcduff at 6:51 AM on July 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I know this seems obvious but perhaps it is not for everyone thus why I am posting here - have you contacted a local rug shop? Like, a nice one that sells Persian rugs? Good rug shops in the USA tend to have experts on staff that will advise on the best methods for maintenance of your rug, even given your limitations, even if you did not buy it from them. Rug shop owners and operators tend to be a bit evangelical about rug care and truly dedicated to their craft. Our family is still loyal to our "local" rug shop that has not been local to us for 20+ years, and we still contact them for advice.
posted by juniperesque at 7:12 AM on July 23, 2019 [5 favorites]

Do you not use cedar there for moths? I put cedar wood blocks in my dresser drawers, and have used the same, sold with little hangers attached, in my clothes closet, to repel moths. Have relatives who have cedar lined blanket chests, those are commonly used to keep moths away from stored wool blankets.

It looks like cedar oil is safe for cats (check with you vet). Could you dilute that with water and test spray a small patch on the underside of your rug?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:39 AM on July 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Re: cedar, it is only effective as long as the volatile oils are present. If it doesn't smell strongly of cedar, you're not going to have much luck with it - I've found the little sachets, hangers, etc, to be basically useless against an infestation. Cedar oil is a better bet than cedar wood since the wood loses its' oils quickly, but for the same reason don't dilute it. But it can't really hurt to try (at least, it won't hurt you - maybe check with your vet).
posted by epanalepsis at 8:09 AM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

There is no meaningful evidence that cedar kills the larva (which are what does the damage) nor that it deters them. The *oil* from juniperus virginiana can kill very small larva but not the slightly more mature ones and the oil has a short life
posted by crush at 9:04 AM on July 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: How about food grade diatomaceous earth? It's used for clothes moths as well as for pets. Only issue I'm aware of is to avoid breathing a ton of it in. So don't use so much under the rug that you release a cloud of powder with each step.
posted by Stewriffic at 9:29 AM on July 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Also, the rescue where I volunteer uses it for ant control around food sources when caring for feral cat colonies. I've used it on my tomatoes and other plants.
posted by Stewriffic at 9:31 AM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Anyway, our clothes moth infestation destroyed our silk area rug but the much larger wool one remains undamaged. We've lost a lot of other things in the years we've had clothes moths, however.

No pesticide treatment is safe around the cats, but every exterminator we talked to said pesticide extermination is rarely successful for clothes moth infestations in homes. Cargo shipping companies use "fumigation tents" which are dry-ice tents to suffocate the moths. Some companies will come do this for furniture in the home--I don't know about rugs. Also if you can vacuum-seal the rug into something, you can suffocate the larvae.

Extreme cold storage works for furs by keeping the larvae inactive while the item is not in use--you need to be below 18 F to kill the larvae. Heat requires 30 minutes at about 120 F to kill the larvae.

Pheromone traps can capture adult moths (which don't damage textiles) before they have time to breed and are important in controlling an infestation.

Generally, you need to vacuum obsessively, and empty the bag each time when it is already outside of the house. You need to launder or dryclean all the natural fiber clothes and brush them with a clothes brush between wears and store them somewhere air tight to keep the moths out of them.
posted by crush at 9:32 AM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

you need to vacuum obsessively

Using a sealed system and a HEPA filter to avoid any risk of blowing eggs around.

Ugh, clothes moths, ugh ugh ugh. Better than bedbugs, but not by a huge margin.
posted by praemunire at 9:47 AM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Wool moths are endemic; get rid of them and they'll come back because they are so prevalent in nature. Apparently there are also carpet beetles. I have used cedar oil to discourage wool moths with a fair amount of success, not 100%. Even if they don't kill the hungry larvae, they mostly keep the egg-laying adults away. Wool/ clothing moths like to be undisturbed, so vacuuming helps and also gets rid of eggs and actual moths. You have to be diligent. You can soak cotton balls in cedar oil to drop behind bookcases.

Pheromone traps sound like a good idea.

Moth balls work but are quite toxic to humans and you should not use them.
posted by theora55 at 10:30 AM on July 23, 2019

Response by poster: Whilst I appreciate all the thought behind the general moth advice, I was really hoping for answers to my specific question - what can I treat my rug with to deter moths but not poison my cats. I already hoover obsessively, with a good hoover ( long-haired cats require it) but appreciate the advice about the bag.

Looking for a local rug shop seems like a good idea, as does diatamous earth underneath. Cedar oil has worked so-so with my clothes, but can't hurt I guess.
posted by stillnocturnal at 11:00 AM on July 23, 2019

Have you tried contacting a pest control professional for ideas? I have my apartment sprayed periodically (for spiders, not moths) by a professional, and he uses a solution that is cat-safe once it's dry.
posted by serelliya at 1:27 PM on July 23, 2019

We've had clothes moths, but we can't use moth balls because our clothes are stored in an open space, not in a closet or wardrobe, and the gases would be toxic to us. It sounds like you're in a similar position.

Instead, we used sticky moth traps which were really effective at catching and killing the adult moths before they had a chance to lay eggs.
posted by jb at 1:39 PM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Does the rug have furniture on top of it most of the time, or is it free-standing? I ask this because you talk about hoovering the underside being to complex to do frequently. Could you fold back half of it and hoover that part while it's on top of its other half, then reverse it and do the other underside?
posted by CathyG at 2:52 PM on July 23, 2019

Best answer: This company recommends steam cleaning rugs in addition to pheramone traps.
posted by kjs4 at 6:47 PM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

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