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How to Get Rid of Clothes Moths

For such tiny quiet critters—clothes moths can cause a lot of damage. For many, clothing has sentimental and financial value—even if you’re not a fashionista—having your personal items wrecked in your own home can be frustrating and upsetting. 

While clothes moths are troublesome, they’re not actually the ones responsible for eating your sweaters, it’s their offspring. Adult moths lay eggs that hatch into the real troublemakers—moth larvae. These worm-like pests feast on fabrics containing the protein keratin; wool, cashmere, mohair, and fur. 

Clothes moths are tiny and often go unnoticed—but even just one moth can lay hundreds of eggs! 

If you think you have clothes moths or want to actively prevent them from moving into your wardrobe, follow these easy, natural tips:

1. Identify the pest

While you might feel certain that clothes moths are responsible for the holes in your clothing—many bugs eat fabric. Cockroaches, carpet beetles, silverfish, and firebrats are known to eat clothing or residue found on clothing; making it look like moths are responsible. You can determine what pest is to blame based on the kind of fabric that was eaten.  

Insect What to look for The fabric they feed on 

Webbing Clothes Moths

These larvae spin silken tubes or patches of web as they move about. They leave behind waste that resembles sand.  

Wool, cashmere, and mohair. 

Casemaking Clothes Moth 

The adult moths are small and often go unnoticed, while the larvae are easy to detect because of its tubular casing or cocoon. If you see a worm-like insect with a hard shell, it’s the larvae of the case-bearing clothes moth. These moths will often crawl off of clothing to spin their cocoon—look for them on walls, ceilings or crevices in shelving. 

Fur, flannel, wool, soiled fabrics, and hair.

Carpet Beetles

Carpet beetles are very common pests in North America and can also eat keratin fabrics. They resemble fuzzy worms and are likely to be spotted on clothes. Carpet beetles are oval-shaped with six legs and two antennae. They have rounded, hard bodies and wings beneath their shells. 

Wool, mohair, fur, and feathers. 

Cockroaches 

Cockroaches will eat anything they can find and lay eggs in humid warm areas. Cockroaches have flat, oval-shaped bodies with long skinny antenna. They are known to eat food that is attached to fabrics.

Perspiration, body fluid stains, hair, food and drink spills, and laundry starch. 

Firebrats 

Firebrats may eat small holes in fabric. They are commonly found near bathtubs or sinks searching for water. They are cousins of silverfish and look very similar. Firebrats are a brownish-grey color. 

Cotton, linen, and silk.

Silverfish 

Silverfish—as their name suggests—are a solid silvery or gray metallic color. They are attracted to cardboard but have been known to eat fabrics.

Silk and cotton. 

 

Items commonly infested with clothes moths include sweaters, scarves, coats, blankets, rugs, down pillows and comforters, upholstery, and taxidermy mounts. Moth larvae prefer to feed in dark, undisturbed areas such as closets, chests, and boxes where clothing is stored for long periods. Clothing and blankets that are regularly used are less likely to be infested. 

If all the signs point to clothes moths, follow the rest of these tips. 

2. Discard infested garments

Articles of clothing that are heavily infested with larvae, holes, or eggs should be thrown away. Dispose of any items that can’t be salvaged outside immediately, do not let them sit inside a garbage bin in your home. 

3. Thoroughly clean the items you intend to keep 

Dry cleaning—while it might not be the most eco-friendly option—is the most effective method for killing moth larvae.  If you’re lucky enough, your neighborhood might have an environmentally friendly dry cleaning option. If not, some sources suggest washing affected clothes in hot water—130 °F or warmer—although this can be risky. Eggs could cling to your washer or dryer and find their way back onto other fabrics. Also, many washing machines can’t guarantee precise temperatures; if the water isn’t hot enough, the eggs will continue to hatch. 

If you do decide to wash your clothes in extremely hot water, always read your labels first—some fabrics will shrink or wear down in hot water. 

At the end of the day, it’s better to be safe than sorry—invest in professional dry-cleaning services for the items you want to keep and discard the rest. 

 

4. Deep clean your closet or storage area

After your clothing storage is empty, thoroughly clean the area. Start by vacuuming every corner of your closet, wardrobe drawers, and anywhere else clothing is stored. Empty the vacuum vessel or bag and take out the garbage immediately. 

Moths love dark corners and openings—seal up small crevices in the infested area with caulking to prevent moths from coming back. 

Steam your carpets, or have them professionally cleaned to ensure they’re free of eggs and larvae. 

5. Prevent clothes moths from coming back

Avoid future infestations by: 

  • Dry-cleaning vintage or thrifted clothing before introducing it into your wardrobe
  • Vacuum and clean your closet regularly
  • Keep your windows open throughout the day—moths don’t like natural light 
  • Use a natural moth repellent to keep clothes moths away

Traditional moth traps attract moths into your home only to poison or harm them. Stay Away Moths naturally repels webbing and casemaking clothes moths by using powerful, fast-acting ingredients. 

The unique blend of plant-based ingredients such as essential oils of cedarwood, geranium, and geraniol will continuously protect your wardrobe for 30 days. Stay Away Moths works by emitting a natural scent pleasant to people but burdensome to pests. They take off and stay away for 30 days—all without the use of harmful chemicals. 

“We had tiny clothes moths coming into our apartment through the vents. Despite our landlord attempting to help, they were still coming in. These tiny bags did the trick. No more moths!”

– Christine V. 

There’s another area in your home that moths love to takeover…the pantry. Read these tips to prevent pantry moths