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How to Get Rid of Clothes Moths in Your Home

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how to get rid of clothes moths

Are moths eating your clothes? Do you suddenly have holes in your wool or silk fabrics?

If so, there’s hope! You don’t have to live with clothes moths forever.

With over 20 years of experience in the pest control industry, we’ve helped hundreds of homeowners get rid of clothes moths on their own, using the same tools the pros use.

Keep reading to get our top tips for clothes moth control and to learn how to get rid of these pests naturally – without chemicals!

6 Steps to Get Rid of Clothes Moths

clothes stored with cedar moth rings

1. Inspect for clothes moths

Start by inspecting your entire home to identify where clothes moths live and feed.

Focus your inspection on the areas where clothes moth larvae are most likely to be, such as closets, carpeting, and stored boxes.

To make your inspection as effective and comprehensive as possible, grab a high-powered flashlight and a nail file or small spatula (good for prying open small gaps and cracks).

Once you’ve got your tools, inspect the following areas:

  • Closets
  • Fur blankets, coats, and other items
  • Taxidermy
  • Bristle brushes
  • In and around hair padding
  • On or near woolen clothing and textiles
  • In carpeting (especially under or near the edges of the carpeting and in the carpet backing)
  • In stored boxes of textiles or wool clothing
  • In lint (especially lint that’s found under baseboard sand around door casings)
  • In and around wool-upholstered furniture
  • In accumulations of animal hair
  • In air ducts
  • And anywhere else there’s a buildup of keratin-containing material

As you conduct your inspection, remember that it’s not adult clothes moths that feed on wool fabrics or other textiles. In fact, they don’t even have mouthpieces to cause such damage!

Instead, it’s clothes moth larvae that chew holes in silk, suede, wool, and other materials.

While you inspect the areas listed above, use your file or spatula to collect bits of lint. Examine the lint closely for live larvae (which are shiny and white with dark-colored head capsules) or their shed skins, which look very similar to live larvae.

Keep in mind that clothes moths may also originate from natural sources, like sparrow or starling nests and yellowjacket, mud dauber, hornet, or bumble bee nests under the eaves, in the attics, or in the wall voids of your house.

If you have a problem with other pests (like birds or wasps), that may be where your clothes moth infestation started, and you may need to get rid of these pests first.

If you’re not sure where your clothes moth infestation is coming from, consider placing glue boards (like these) near windows, in closets, and in other likely areas.

These glue boards will trap adult clothes moths, which can help you determine where they’re laying their eggs.

If you’d prefer, you can also purchase sticky traps baited with food-attractant lures designed to monitor the presence of clothes moth larvae.

2. Clean and secure your susceptible items

Once you’ve identified where adult clothes moths congregate and lay their eggs, it’s time to focus on cleaning up your space, getting rid of adult moths and their larvae, and securing your susceptible items.

Here’s how to do this:

  • Vacuum all carpets and upholstery thoroughly using a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter. Pay special attention to potential harborage lares, like the space under baseboards, behind door casing, under furnace or AC registers and radiators, and more.
  • Dry clean or launder all susceptible clothing and other articles.
  • If applicable, consider freezing highly susceptible items before storage. More on this later.
  • After cleaning, bag all undamaged, susceptible items in tightly sealed, heavy-gauge plastic bags and containers. We like hanging encasement bags like these.
  • Store furs in specialized cold-storage facilities
  • Have carpets professionally cleaned by a company that uses a nozzle-type cleaner to treat the edges of all carpets thoroughly.
  • Roll back infested carpets and area rugs at least 12” and vacuum the underside to remove or kill all pest larvae.
  • Get rid of potential clothes moth breeding locations, such as old wool fabric scraps, carpet remnants, old feather pillows, dried insects in frames or other collections, and fabric scraps.

To use freezing to kill clothes moths and their larvae, seal all affected items tightly in a polyethylene bag, remove as much air as possible (vacuum bags like these are a great option), and freeze them in a deep freezer for a minimum of three days at a temperature of -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Since the entire item must reach that temperature, treating bulky items like pillows or blankets can take longer.

3. Mothproof susceptible items

Invest in mothproofing to protect your susceptible items from moth damage, which utilizes preventative applications of moth-specific insecticides.

While some woolen items are preemptively moth-proofed during their manufacturing, most modern dry cleaners offer the service for items that have not been moth-proofed.

Even if an item was moth-proofed when it was manufactured, the chemicals eventually wear off due to washing, dry cleaning, and wear and tear.

As such, all susceptible clothing should be mothproofed regularly.

Here are a few of the best mothproofing formulas available today:

Pyrethroid Insecticides

The process is completed by using pyrethroid insecticides like permethrin, as well as other non-residential insecticides, including pyrethrins and pyrethroids that are labeled for mothproofing carpets, area rugs, drapes, tapestries, and more.

PDCB

Another popular moth-proofing chemical is paradichlorobenzene (PDCB). PDCB serves as both a repellent and a continuous fumigant, killing clothes moths and their larvae on contact.

While the use of PDCB has diminished in many areas due to concerns over vapor exposure, it is an effective way to kill moth larvae – but you MUST use it carefully.

To prevent clothes moth infestations, pest pros wrap PDCB crystals in clean paper and layer them between stored wool and other susceptible materials. The fabrics are then packed into trunks or boxes and sealed.

For PDCB to be as effective as possible, it should be used at a rate of 1-1 ¼ lbs per 100 cubic feet of storage space. The items should also be stored in airtight containers, such as large, vacuum-sealed plastic bags, which are then stored in boxes or chests. This maximizes the efficiency of the chemical and prevents vapor exposure.

Plant-Derived Oils

If you’re looking for a safer alternative to common moth-proofing products, formulas that use lavandin oil and other terpenes are a good option.

At high concentrations, terpenes are effective at repelling clothes moths. That said, there is some question about their ability to repel clothes moth larvae, so they should be used as a repellent, rather than an insecticide, for adult moths.

4. Store clothes with cedar moth balls or in cedar-lined closets and chests

If you’re looking for a pesticide-free way to keep clothes moths out of your clothes, cedar moth balls and cedar-lined closets can be a great option.

While cedarwood offers some repellency for clothes moths, it won’t kill clothes moths at any of their life stages.

With that in mind, store freshly laundered or treated clothes with cedar moth balls (like these) or in cedar chests or cedar-lined closets.

5. Consider garment storage in cold vaults

If you have high-value furs or other garments, consider storing them in cold vaults.

Cold vaults are sometimes available through dry cleaners or specialized businesses.

Because cold vault storage is expensive, it’s usually only suitable for valuable furs or other items.

6. Apply a residual insecticide

To prevent clothes moths from re-infesting your space, apply a residual pyrethroid insecticide or desiccating dust, like silica aerogel, to areas like the space around baseboards, under furniture, and on carpet backing.

Any time you apply insecticides, read the label directions and follow all instructions exactly.

Keep all kids and pets away from the area until the treatment is dry.

Should I Use Mothballs?

Mothballs are some of the most common moth control methods – but they can be hazardous.

Naphthalene (the active ingredient in mothballs) is toxic to both humans and pets. Any time you smell mothballs, you’re being exposed to the chemicals used to make them and the toxic gasses they give off.

In mild cases, exposure to naphthalene gasses can cause health effects like headaches, nausea, and eye and nose irritation. In severe cases, effects can be more serious – including but not limited to hemolytic anemia.

Naphthalene is also a possible carcinogen and is known to cause damage to the liver and kidneys.

With all that in mind, you need to use mothballs extremely carefully if you’re going to use them.

To use mothballs safely, place them into tightly closed containers with the clothing or textiles you want to protect.

As long as the container remains tightly closed, the naphthalene fumes will remain sealed within it. When you need to use the stored items again, open them and let them air out, away from kids and pets. Wash all stored materials before use.

If you’re looking for a safer alternative to toxic mothballs, store your clothes with cedar chips and lavender sachets (like these) instead.

Need Professional Help? We’re Here for You!

Clothes moths can be frustrating, destructive pests. Fortunately, you don’t have to live with them forever.

Whether your DIY attempts have failed or you just need more assistance, our team is here for you.

Contact us today, and we’ll connect you with our network of trusted, local pest management companies in your area: (844) 532-0076.

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Clothes Moths FAQs

There are two primary types of clothes moths that infest homes today: the webbing clothes moth and the casemaking clothes moth. The webbing clothes moth is the most common in the US and is found in all 50 states. 

Webbing clothes moths are beige in color with reddish hairs on the head. Their wings are small – less than ½” across when fully extended – which makes them poor fliers. 

Webbing clothes moths are common during the warmest months of the year but can breed and develop in heated buildings throughout the winter. 

Their larvae are creamy white, shiny, and no more than ½” long. They’re known for spinning feeding tunnels of silk and leaving patches of webbing in their feeding areas. 

Casemaking clothes moths, on the other hand, aren’t as common as the webbing clothes moth. These moths are more brown than webbing moths and have three distinctive dark spots on their wings. 

The larvae of casemaking clothes moths spin a small silk case around themselves, which they carry while they feed. 

While webbing clothes moths cause extensive damage in one part of a garment or textile, casemaking clothes moths feed sporadically and rarely cause extensive damage in a single, concentrated area. 

They’re particularly fond of feathers and down, although they will feed on other items, including horsehair, furs, and wool. 

Clothes moths eat animal fibers such as fur, wool, silk, feathers, felt, suede, and leather. They consume these materials because they contain keratin, a protein their larvae can digest.

Pesticides are necessary for moth control when you need to eliminate an established population of clothes moths or provide residual protection, which you can do with residual sprays and desiccating dust.

Although you can prevent most clothes moth infestations by storing susceptible items properly, pesticides can help eliminate an infestation that’s already begun.

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Author Bio: Zachary Smith

Zachary Smith is the founder of PestDude.com. Zachary is a licensed pest control professional with 20+ years of hands on experience eradicating pests from homes and businesses. Zachary earned his Bachelor of Science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2002. He specializes in rodent and insect infestation management of structures and landscapes. His passion is to share his extensive knowledge with the world.

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