Antimacassars, the small material or crocheted pads designed to fit on the headrests of chairs, have been proven not to work. In extensive testing, What Chair? magazine found that they did very little to prevent upholstery infestation by the Common Macassar Beetle.
Even when applied to the arms as well as the back of the chairs, the Antimacassar did not stop the beetles from getting into the fabric.
"It's a matter of access, really," said a What Chair? spokesperson, "the Antimacassar only covers a small proportion of the chair's surface. In some cases the Antimacassar is not even solid - beetles can just crawl through the holes!"
Macassar Beetles are carried from chair to chair by secreting themselves in people's hair or clothing. In many instances they are known to get into people's homes after being picked up on trains or in public buildings.
Although they are quite large at around 1.5cm long, fully-grown Macassars are completely transparent so not easily seen. Their bodies resemble small crabs, but with thirty-two hooked feet allowing them to attach to fabric, like Velcro.
Contrary to popular belief, the beetles do not eat the upholstery itself. Instead they feast on the food crumbs and skin cells which inevitably fill the crevasses of older furniture. It is their aggressive mating behaviour which endangers the structure of the chairs or couches concerned.
In a demonstration given by the What Chair? team, a 1937 maroon chaise-longe was shown which exhibited total Macasar infestation. Even from several metres away we could hear the ominous rustling indicative of large numbers of adult beetles.
"We have come across many examples like this, where older people have mistakenly placed their trust in these completely worthless devices," said the spokesperson. "We have referred the case to the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform to see if Antimacassars should be banned."
So what can be done to ward off the beetles? Well there are several sprays on the market, but they are all extremely dangerous to children and pets, and should only be used by professionals. Full transparent plastic covers have been used with some success, but the comfort of the furniture is then diminished. Bright lights are known to cause them to stop moving, but within half an hour or so they become acclimatised and become active once more.
For most of us then, the only option is to attempt to ignore the tickling and itching as the beetles scurry around us. Try not to drop food on your chairs, and never be tempted to rummage for the TV remote without first donning rubber gloves. But, as What Chair? have discovered, for all the good Antimacassars do, you may as well throw them in the bin.