Sustainable fashion creator recounts time she got a carpet beetle infestation from an unwashed thrifted sweater: ‘just don’t do it’

There’s nothing quite like the rush of acquiring a piece you’ve long been searching for while thrifting. While the excitement of finally having the garment in your possession may lead you to throwing it on your body immediately — without properly sanitizing it — one creator, and avid thrifter, is strongly cautioning against doing.

Lindsey Rem (@lindseyrem), a Los Angeles-based sustainable fashion creator who often posts content on YouTube and Instagram about her latest flea market finds, capsule wardrobes and how she curates her slow fashion looks, recently shared what can best be described as a cautionary tale for other thrifters.

“When I was in college, I thrifted a sweater and wore it a couple times without washing it,” Rem said in a video she stitched on Sept. 8. “I’ve done it before. We’ve all done it. I thought it would be fine, but it actually infested my entire room with carpet beetles, which are similar to bed bugs.”

Unlike bed bugs, carpet beetles are a “clothes-destroying pest” that feeds on the natural fibers of garments.

“They get in your sheets, they reproduce really quickly but instead of biting you, they bite your clothing,” she explained. “So I spent $50 for an exterminator, had to leave my apartment for 24 to 48 hours, spent hundreds drying cleaning all of my dry clean only clothing. So buy yourself a steamer, steam your clothing really hot if you don’t wanna pay for dry cleaning.”

What is a carpet beetle?

The true culprit of ruined clothing, per Forbes, is actually carpet beetle larvae, which are approximately a quarter of an inch long, are reminiscent of worms in shape and “feast on natural fabrics.” Should you see “a trail of light brown shell-like materials” in your space, it’s likely you have a carpet beetle infestation. Carpet beetles, on the other hand, do not bite.

“They also prefer items that have been stored for long periods of time, meaning that the old tablecloth in the back of your linen closet is much more likely to come under attack than, say, the wool blanket you use nightly,” reported Forbes. “In general, look out for carpet beetles in dark, enclosed spaces, like closets, chests, boxes and drawers.”

Get ahead of a potential infestation

According to Sage Pest Control, the following are five ways to keep pests out of your closets and off of your clothing:

Launder seasonal clothes before storing them

  • Be sure to wash clothing without the use of fabric softener or other products that contain starch, as they may attract rather than repel pests.

Opt for rigid, plastic storage containers over cardboard

  • Cardboard contains cellulose, a “food source” for silverfish, a type of pest that targets fabrics like linen, cotton, silk, viscose and rayon.

Use products with cedar wood

  • Cedar wood makes for an effective pest repellent due to the natural oils and chemicals it releases. Thujone is the main chemical present in cedar chips that combats the presence of insects.

Store your clothes with sachets of herbs

  • Create “all-natural, insect-repelling sachets” with commonly found kitchen herbs to cultivate an ideal blend to repel pests. A mixture of lavender, cloves, mint and cedar shavings can help keep carpet beetles, moths and silver fish away.

Pest-proof other areas of your home

  • Avoid creating an environment that attracts pests in the first place. Avoiding excess humidity within your home and ensuring that windows and doors are are weather-sealed are just a couple of ways to do this.

Rem’s cautionary tale, which she first told via YouTube years ago, has left a lasting impact on several TikTok users who came across her story back then. “I remember you mentioning in a vlog when this happened and ever since then I’ve always thrown my thrift finds in the wash right when I get home,” @hollyfurtaww wrote in response to her video.

For creators like @ratherbwmydog, the sheer idea of being in a thrift store elicits “the itchies.” Added @courtsterrrrrrr, “Thank you so much bestie i will never be stepping foot in a thrift store ever again.”

“Fellow carpet beetle survivor :’),” @marie2902178 also commented. “I wish ppl knew just how often bed bugs and carpet beetles show up in thrift store donations.”

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