Finding moths in carpet and rugs is almost inevitable under the right conditions. Moths thrive in climates containing a proportion of damp or moisture and their larvae feed on animal hair and fabrics.

Oriental and Persian rugs would be included in their diet as the keratin in the wool fibres of these fine pieces are ideal for moths to consume. If a rug is placed in an area with little or no sunlight or footfall then the conditions start to become favourable to moths.

Antique rug damage
Restored antique rug

Not all moths are made equally. There are around 160,000 species of moth and some are keener to feast on a fine Persian rug than others. Two species of moth are of concern to rug owners: the carpet moth and the pale backed clothes moth. Both will actively seek out and attack carpets and rugs.

Carpet moths are smaller than normal house moths with a body averaging about 5mm in length.

The bodies of these moths are usually buff in colour with spots on their wings (although they rarely fly – you are more likely to see them hopping around at ground level on your rug).

Carpet moths will leave small white sacs which looks like tiny grains of rice. These are the eggs from which larvae hatch.


Carpet Moth

When the egg hatches, larvae will grow into adult moths in as little as 2 months if conditions are good. It can take up to 2 years if conditions differ but because of central heating, carpet moths can now look forward to warmer conditions throughout the year in which to grow. One thing is certain tough: whereas a Persian rug can be the product of many months or years of laborious weaving, the damage that is caused by moths and the mastication of larvae can ruin a rug in a matter of months resulting in costly repairs.


Some signs are more obvious than others:

  • You may notice threadbare patches in your rug in places where there is little footfall or in unused rooms
  • If you get closer to the rug you may see adult moths moving around on your rug
  • A closer inspection may reveal the small white sacs that are the eggs from which larvae hatch


If your Persian rug is at the stage where moths and larvae are present, then we would recommend having them professionally treated with products that will kill the moths and destroy the larval cases.

Once the progress of the infestation is halted, the rug should then be thoroughly cleaned. Moths like dirty rugs and are attracted to perspiration, skin cells, food traces and general detritus. They also favour moisture from damp, poorly insulated rooms, and spillages. All these conditions should be eradicated to prevent a further infestation.

If you have found moths in a rug or carpet, it would be wise to conduct a thorough check of your property to see if the moths have settled anywhere else. If they have, then those other areas would need to be treated too.

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Prevention is always better than a cure (and cheaper too!) and the processes to follow to prevent moth infestation and moth damage to oriental rugs is the same:

  • Keep your rug clean and free from dirt
  • Regularly hoover your rug to remove any debris
  • Rotate or move your rugs to ensure that they are well aired and treated to fair conditions evenly
  • It is not just your rug than may be attractive to moths! Make sure you hoover around the edges of rooms, under furniture and take measures to prevent moths in wardrobes and closets too. (Try putting lavender in organza bags and placing them in your wardrobes. Moths do not like their scent).
  • Exposing your rug to a certain amount of sunlight will help to fend off moths.
  • If you have oriental rugs in storage, make sure to check them and air them regularly. A rolled up, oriental rug that is not disturbed for some time is an ideal place for moths to thrive and reproduce.


Recognising moth damage in rugs is often the first sign of a problem. Once the infestation is dealt with, the damage will need to be repaired by professional craftspeople who work with damaged Oriental and Persian rugs.

James Barclay Rugs conduct this work on a regular basis and can repair moth damage to a virtually flawless finish in most cases.

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