6 DIY Tips for Avoiding Closet Moths

Are your pullovers peppered with unusual holes and your wool rug riddled with small signs of inexplicable damage? Closet moths could be the culprit. Left unbothered, these pests and their larvae can mean downright destruction for your clothes and fibers. Defend your wardrobe from damage with these handy tips to drive away clothes-loving moths.

1. IDENTIFY CLOSET MOTHS

Closet moths (also known as clothes moths) are small insects who measure between ¼ – ½ of an inch when fully matured. You can be sure you’ve caught sight of these moths fluttering in the back of your closet if the insects sported fringed wings and beige or tan bodies. The two most common types of closet moths are casemaking clothes moths and webbing clothes moths. Unlike their light-loving cousins commonly seen flying at night, these moths shy away from light and prefer to stay in the darkest spots in your home.

While the sight of matured moths flying in your closet could be alarming, it’s not actually the adult moths that are most destructive. Their offspring are responsible for the holes in your cardigans. The larvae are small and hard to spot, but the moth names can provide clues on what to look for. The two types of closet moths are named for the behavior of their larvae. Casemaking moth larvae can be identified by the transportable cases that house them wherever they go, and webbing clothes moth larvae use clothes fibers to spin tubes and webs left on the surface of your garments.

2. KNOW WHERE CLOSET MOTHS ARE COMING FROM

One thing is for certain: closet moths love your wool sweaters as much as you do, especially if that sweater is tucked away in a dark basement or hasn’t seen any love since last winter. Pulling old items out of storage often means bringing hitchhiking closet moths and their destructive larvae out of hiding and into your bedroom. An adult closet moth dredged up from storage can lay 50 eggs at one time on items with natural fibers. Those eggs then hatch and the larvae call your clothes home until they are fully matured.

How closet moths found their way inside and onto your expensive wool rugs in the first place can be tricky to figure out since there are many possibilities. These fabric-munching insects can be found on baseboards, along rug edges, and in air ducts or other places where loose hair and lint collect. Closet moths are drawn to animal-based, natural fabrics in your home such as silk, cashmere, fur, wool, felt, leather, and feathered items—leaving not only your clothes vulnerable to their chomping, but also your rugs, upholstery, carpet, and shoes as well. These moths prefer to shelter in dark, mostly undisturbed sites inside your home, making closets ideal.

3. WASH UP

While closet moth larvae have their sights on natural fibers, they’re also attracted to that unwashed jacket hastily tucked away last fall. Synthetic fibers will entice destructive pests when blended with natural fibers such as wool or when soiled and stored with spilled food, sweat, stains, and the natural body oils that accrue from normal wear. If your already-appealing natural silk blouse sees a food spill and is hung up unwashed, its vulnerability to fiber-eating larvae increases drastically.

Washing clothing prevents damage to your wardrobe by removing attractants and can also get rid of any current eggs and larvae resting on the fabric, too. Sealing up presumably contaminated items in airtight bags and taking a trip to the dry cleaners can effectively wipe out any eggs and larvae who have made your closet their home. Rather handle it yourself? Throw those clothes in a high-temperature cycle in your washing machine and be sure to inspect and vacuum them after pulling them from the dryer to finish the job.

4. GET RID OF EXISTING CLOSET MOTHS AND LARVAE

If a hot wash isn’t an option or you want to utilize more than one method to banish these bugs, other avenues are just as easily available. Often minor clothes moth infestations can be handled by vacuuming the contaminated clothes and their surroundings. After each vacuuming, dispose of the bag’s contents away from your home and wardrobe.

Extreme cold is as equally effective as heat when it comes to getting rid of closet moths. Damaged items can be sealed and placed in the freezer for three or more days to efficiently eradicate the bugs who’ve made a feast of your attire. After freezing, inspect and vacuum as above.

5. PROPERLY STORE ITEMS

Closet moths find their way in through small entry points and weak storage methods such as cardboard boxes, bags with holes, and unsealed containers. These destructive pests won’t know you have an enticing buffet of wool coats packed in your basement if they’re packed in airtight containers. Add airtight storage containers to your shopping list and spend an afternoon sealing up the fur rugs and family heirlooms that might attract closet moths and their larvae.

In addition to storing individual items in sealed containers, check the shelves and cabinets where those boxes and bags were stored in the first place. Closets often have cracks in corners, basement windows need new stripping, and baseboards can be better sealed to stop small insects from gaining entry.

6. TURN TO REPELLENTS

If you’re still pulling out pieces from your closet and noticing new signs of damage, introducing a repellent may keep closet moths from getting close enough to eat away at your clothes. Over-the-counter solutions such as mothballs, crystals, and chemical repellents are available for home use and can be found at your neighborhood home and garden store.

For whatever method you decide to try, be sure to read and follow the recommended directions on the packaging. Many repellents are not approved for use on fabric, plastic, or in frequently trafficked areas. To utilize a more natural material, cedar and cedar oil have been known to repel or even kill eggs and larvae, though the jury is still out on the exact potency of these methods.

A closet moth invasion can be handled efficiently on your own, but if their destruction is more than you bargained for, a call to a trained pest control professional is the next step. Whether you have a minor infestation or have observed major damage, our experts can handle all levels of invasions, effectively keeping your closet safe, your furniture unharmed, and your heirlooms safe for the next generation.

SOURCES

https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef609
https://www.si.edu/mci/english/learn_more/taking_care/insects.html
http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7435.html
https://web.archive.org/web/20120314051656/http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/library/entml2/ep122.pdf
https://cpb-us-east-1-juc1ugur1qwqqqo4.stackpathdns.com/blogs.cornell.edu/dist/3/3809/files/2013/11/Clothes-Moths-1wopkr1.pdf