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It's almost a cliche, but there is an unseen enemy just waiting to destroy your precious area rug - the every-hungry moth - enemy to all things woven!
Moths can cause extensive damage to rugs by attacking the pile, fringes and knots on the back of the rug. However, it's not the flying adult moths - like the unique Polyphemus Moth (antheraea polyphemus) shown above - that do the damage. Instead it is the larvae that hatch from their eggs that will consume almost anything, including wool, fur, feathers and silk.
Moths and their larvae thrive in dark, undisturbed areas such as the underside of a rug that doesn't see much traffic or is rarely vacuumed. A large infestation can leave a cobweb-like blanket in the area of the damage, along with fine, sand-like debris. It is pretty much impossible to repair the damage to a fine rug once moth larvae have decided to make a meal of it.
It's fairly easy to avoid letting moths feast on your fine Oriental rug. Simply rotate the rug periodically and be sure to vacuum it at least once a week. It can help to expose the rug to light and air, which will aid in deterring the moths to lay their eggs. If your rug is not used very often, you can guard against moths by spraying the front and back of it with a readily available insecticide for this purpose. Do so every six to eight months. Check with your local hardware or home-improvement store for what it best to use in your climate. And be sure to dispose of any unused chemical safely and properly.
If you must store your rug, wrap it in a breathable fabric, not plastic. The lack of air can lead to rot or mildew. If possible, place the wrapped rug in a chest with a moth deterrent. This is the ideal storage solution. And be aware of the ambient temperature of the room in which you store the rug. If it is damp and humid, you may still find mold growing on the rug even if it is wrapped in a porous fabric. This will weaken and discolor the fibers. Conversely, in a hot and poorly ventilated storage area the base of the rug will dry out and will become brittle. Ultimately this could destroy the rug's strength and durability.
Moths can be beautiful, fascinating creatures - outside, fluttering around your backyard or garden. Plus they can find much better things to eat there than your valuable area rug. So take steps before the moths attack and deposit their eggs under you rug. Because by then, it will be too late to prevent the inevitable damage.