By: Lisa Wagner (NIRC Certified Rug Specialist and author of www.RugChick.com)

Hand woven rugs can last centuries when well cared for. However, when exposed to fiber-eating bugs, they can be destroyed in just a matter of months.

The higher humidity El Niño weather over the past year has made our region much more bug-friendly. This has led to a dramatic increase in bug infestations happening in in clothing, upholstered furniture, and rugs. In most cases homeowners have no idea they have a problem until it is too late.

Clothes moths and carpet beetles will eat wool, silk, hair, pet fur, feathers, and leather. Their larvae will also feed on dust, lint, paper, and materials soiled with oils. Silverfish will feed on cotton, paper products, glue adhesives, and starches. All flourish in more humid environments. Exactly the weather we have had over this past year.

Synthetic fiber rugs and furniture are blended with natural fiber ingredients, which makes every single rug and fabric item in your home a potential food source for insects.

These bugs thrive in dark, undisturbed areas with a food source. Normally this means fiber-eating bugs will be found in attics, basements, closets, and storage units. Places where there is no one disturbing them.

With the higher humidity their reach is extending into the “living spaces” of homes and these bugs are being found feasting in protected areas that are covered up by furniture. This is especially true with pets in the home as areas that collect pet hair become feeding areas for these insects.

You cannot mothproof or beetle-proof a home. Moths will fly in through the doors and windows, and carpet beetles and silverfish will find their way in through cracks and gaps in the home structure.

They will lay their eggs into the middle of the food source and the hatched larvae feeds during a cycle that can span from 3 months to well over a year. These worms are hidden so no one knows they are destroying the items they are feeding on.

Some tips for inspecting for bug activity and protecting your rugs and furniture:

– Immediately inspect all rugs, fabrics, and clothing in storage. Attics, basements, and storage units are the areas where locals are discovering the biggest infestations. Depending on the type of fiber-eating bugs the activity will look like sticky lint webbing, small casings (about the size of a rice), or clumps of sand (feces of eaten fibers).

– Rugs placed into storage must ALWAYS be washed before being wrapped, and ideally treated with a moth repellant if it will be untouched for several years. Wool, silk, and cotton wrapped in plastic can mildew so use Tyvek paper.

– Check undisturbed corners in your home. Look in closets, under furniture, inspect the back corners of rugs, and use vacuum attachments to get to hard to reach areas that are dark and undisturbed. You want to create airflow in these areas to help dissuade bugs from making a home there.

– When infestations are found in rugs or furniture, contact a pest control specialist right away for options on killing the bugs and destroying the eggs. Subzero freezing and high heat treatments are today’s poison free options. Those contents can then be cleaned to remove the dead insects.

– Textiles hung on the wall, especially Navajo rugs, must be taken down quarterly and inspected for bug activity. A light vacuuming with a hand held vacuum tool, or brushing softly with a horsehair brush, will dust the rug and keep bugs away.

For more education on what bug activity looks like in rugs, and how to solve the problem, visit www.blatchfords.com/moth.

Lisa Wagner is a NIRC Certified Rug Specialist and international rug care trainer. Her family company Blatchford’s Rug Cleaning & Repair is located at 7848-G Silverton Ave., San Diego 92126. If you have rug questions or needs please call them at 858-223-0222 or visit www.blatchfords.com.