Hand-Knotted Rug Care: Preventing Moth Damage to Persian or Oriental Rugs

Little-Persia can provide moth treatment as part as our handmade rug cleaning, we also sell professional moth treatment sprays and moth traps which use advanced pheromones to trap male clothes moths, slowing or even stopping the breeding cycle. Our procedure is wool safe and, importantly, kills not only moths but their eggs and damaging larvae. Contact us at info@little-persia.com for details or to book moth treatment. We also repair moth damaged rugs.

A herd of elephants could trample over your Persian or Oriental rug and the chances are it would still be in good shape, but introduce an infestation of tiny insects into the mix and the damage done could be dramatic. Household moths are a major concern for Persian rug owners and Oriental rug cleaners alike. The damage done can be drastic and cross contamination is a big worry. Adult moths flying around do not do the damage; it is the larvae in the early stages that eat away at the wool in a rug and just about anything else in their way. Adult moths do not eat the wool but the females do lay hundreds of eggs at a time, often in dark undisturbed areas. Rugs which are not regularly moved or vacuumed or areas under furniture can be prime location for nesting. The eggs hatch into larvae which feast on hair, wool or silk fibres and just about anything else they can sink their teeth into. These larvae then create a cocoon before evolving into the small moths you may see flying around your home. Clothes moths are small, around 1cm in size and are generally a silvery or brown colour. They are slow moving but beat their wings rapidly to fly, often when you try to catch them they will fold their wings and drop to the floor.  Moth larvae in a major infestation can cause devastating damage to a rug in a matter of weeks.

Moth stuck on trap

It is important to know what to look out for to prevent damage caused by moths or the spread of larvae from one rug to another. The first thing you may notice is moths themselves, the ones to look out for are the small ones less than half an inch in length, the large moths that attach themselves to outside windows, drawn to the light, are not the big concern. If you do notice these small silvery or brown insects, or even if you don’t, it’s a good idea to inspect the back of your rugs from time to time. The eggs will often be laid on the reverse of the rug as this is most likely to be undisturbed and the darkest environment.  These eggs can be difficult to spot, they often appear as a powdery-type dust but may be the same colour as the wool. Eggs will hatch within about a week into larvae, a small maggot like insect which can grow up to half an inch long. These are the critters that cause the damage and they can move around the rug. Often a particular colour will be tastier to the larvae than the rest and they start feeding on this first, this is why you see rugs with patches of colour worn away. It can be difficult to spot the larvae if the infestation is not bad. Sand-like particles in the pile of the rug which are tan or brown in colour is an indication of a problem, there is a good chance that this is the excretion of the larvae. Larvae can be active anywhere between 2 and 30 months before forming a cocoon, by far the biggest life-stage of a moth. These cocoons are slightly larger than the larvae at their largest size, web-like in structure and can often be camouflaged to the same colour as the wool. These last around a week before hatching into adult moths.


Moth eggs on a carpet.

A large moth larvae.

An empty moth cocoon.

As with anything prevention is the best cure. The good news is that moth problems do not usually occur when a rug is in use. Normally moth damage occurs when a rug is in storage as the moths seek out undisturbed and dark areas. However a rug which is placed under furniture is at higher risk as are large rugs which cannot be moved with ease. Rugs which are not regularly vacuumed or moved are at risk and you can always get unlucky. Prevent rugs from moth damage by vacuuming around once a week, occasionally vacuum the back of the rug as well as this is a prime location for moth eggs. If the rug is too large to vacuum the full reverse try to fold back the sides by a few feet and vacuum the reverse of the border areas. Rugs hanging on walls should not be ignored, vacuuming if possible and handling these from time to time should discourage female moths from laying their eggs here.


Here you can see that certain areas or colours of a of a rug are tastier to the larvae whereas some are left.

If you are unfortunate enough to have a moth problem it’s best to act fast. Vacuuming thoroughly should help to kill off larvae and eggs but you will probably need to use some specialist chemicals as a vacuum is unlikely to be able to reach deep-lying problems. Ensure to buy made-for purpose spray and spot test it first to make sure there is no damage to the wool or colour-run. Moth crystals, balls and flakes are not a solution! These options offer a minor repellent when it comes to rugs, a rug provides excellent shelter and they are likely to be able to avoid these altogether. They can also be toxic and damage your rug or at the least give it a bad smell. Non-staining insecticides containing Pyrethrin (a class of insecticide originally extracted from the flower heads of Chrysanthemums) are useful as they kill of moths but quickly break down so avoid many health risks associated with pest control. That being said, always do everything you can not to get any insecticide on your skin and do not inhale these chemicals. The one treatment which is 100% safe and natural and guaranteed to kill off any moth infestation is to freeze the rug. The rug should be bagged with the air removed, sealed and placed in a freezer for around a week. It should then be left for several days to thaw out fully before opening in order not to damage the rug. Of course this does not solve the problem of the adult moths and the chance of a re-infestation. A pheromone moth trap can attract adult male moths but does not deal with the females. However as moths only have a lifespan of 2 weeks to a month in adult form it should be possible to break the cycle. No male moths means there can be no baby moths and the females will die out within a month.


moth life cycle

The typical lifespan of a moth.

Little-Persia provides professional Persian and Oriental rug cleaning and can solve your moth problems. We can remove any eggs or larvae from your rug, safely curing your rug from any moth infestation. If your rug is already damaged it is possible to have areas re-woven. Contact us for further details.

If you would prefer to treat your rug at home we sell a specialist Oriental rug moth spray which kills both larvae and eggs within a rug, giving up to one years protection. Each bottle provides up to 25m2 coverage. We also sell pheromone moth traps which are human and pet safe, they attract male moths in an area up to 60m2 allowing you to not only treat any rug with the early signs of a moth infestation but to help control the moth problem in your home.

Moth Trap