All wool aficionados know to fear the moth.
But do you also fear the Carpet Beetle?
When we first moved into the house, though I cleaned it well, the cracks in the floorboards and between the window woodwork still harbored who knows what. The bedroom was about halfway down the lists of rooms to tackle, so a few months went by with it being clean, but not the deep-clean blasting that comes with major home improvement. I innocently left a wicker laundry basket on the floor and tossed in my favorite (and expensive) merino wool underwear. Since I only do full loads of laundry, the laundry basket remained undisturbed but slowly filling until a week or so later when hanging all the freshly laundered things up to dry, I found serious, nauseating damage.
I thought the new-to-us washing machine tore them up, but that was impossible because it doesn’t have an agitator.
I thought a mouse chewed them up so I set out my sick but humane and effective electrocuting trap, but didn’t catch anyone.
Then I realized I’d seen a few dead beetle bodies on the windowsills when we first moved in…
…beetles that turned out to be of the dermestid variety – yep, corpse as well as all kinds of protein eaters, apparently very common in the area. (I haven’t encountered them before so perhaps the colder winters and higher elevation of my old city kept them at bay? Or else I was just lucky, or maybe they prefer semi-rural to urban areas…). So preventing them and their evil wool/fur/hair/silk massacres is similar to keeping out and dealing with moths – after cleaning the hell outta the place and sanding and re-finishing all the window woodwork and floors (and all the vacuuming that entails) and partially dismantling and thoroughly cleaning the radiators and painting all the walls and ceilings I thought I’d kicked any beetle left in the house to the curb, and I’m pretty sure I did then but…
A knitting project I haven’t touched since the spring threw my cavalier attitude out the window.
Luckily, it seemed to have only hit one yarn cake seen at the top of the post and not the project itself, but I really dogged a bullet because I did everything wrong: I left the project and yarn exposed in a loosely woven basket on a table a few inches beside a window with several flowering shrubs just beneath it outside, I occasionally put said basket on the floor underneath the window when it was in the way, I never plunked the whole thing in another kind of enclosure, plastic bag, etc., while it sat for months, I never tossed in a lavender sachet or anything odoriferous for masking purposes, and most importantly, I didn’t check on it.
(And ahem, note to dumbass self: naturally dyed yarn often fades when you put it in direct sunlight… this is supposed to be yellow-green, but the exposed section lost its green and the best of the yellow.)
So I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the damage when I finally picked up the project again in September. But I am lucky this time – the damage is minimal and even the faded cake was mostly okay after a few yards, though I’m going to have to be very careful with the final sweater which I’m not too happy about – the lovely woad-dyed blue is very colorfast but this other stuff I’m adding in as stripes sucks… And the rest of my projects and stash are fine – unlike this WIP, I keep everything else in at least one, if not more, tightly sealed containers.
Treating for carpet beetles is the same for moths – clean the hell out of the area – then empty and wash out the filter and dust chamber of the vacuum immediately. Take anything suspected of being infested outside and shake it well – undo and re-skein it loosely, then seal up in plastic bags and freeze for a couple of weeks. Let thaw for a week and refreeze (this freeze/thaw cycle kills moth eggs and might be a bit more than necessary for carpet beetles – I think one freeze might be enough, but overkill won’t hurt anything). Then wash it all especially if moths were your munchers – moths are very messy with their webbing and copious poop, but beetles generally make clean breaks and sometimes leave bits of body behind.
(And I always leave thrifted woolens in the trunk of a hot car or outside in freezing temps for a bit before I can wash them immediately).
One of the few things that we didn’t have to fix on our house was the windows – all had been replaced in 2007. They aren’t the top-of-the-line by any means, but they aren’t the worst either (yes, there are “better” and worse vinyl options) so it was one of the few home improvement things I was happy to not have to worry about immediately. But the screens are only for half of the window. When we replaced the windows in our old house, we got the full screens (and also put in window boxes which made it nearly impossible to water them or use air conditioners while still having the top part screened to prevents bats in the bedroom – yes, I know about this from experience). And though the half screens better accommodate our new need for air conditioners, they have a maddening gap where they don’t quite meet up with the window that lets in both flying and crawling things which I hadn’t realized…
…plugging or sealing up this gap will now be a project at the top of my list… or else full-sized screen shopping?
Oh, and never use mothballs and pesticides – those do more damage than the crawly/flying fucks themselves – prevent them and then you don’t have to deal with them.