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How to Get Rid of Clothes Moths

How to Get Rid of Clothes Moths

A moth infestation can feel really invasive and it can be heartbreaking when you discover beloved pieces that have been nibbled away – especially with children around to witness the destruction and your own distress. Here in the UK there has been an explosion of moths in the last 5 years, becoming a proper pest.

Unfortunately there is no easy solution for moths, but here are our tips to make sure clothes moths don’t eat your precious garments as well as a guide on what to do if you think you have moths in your closet.

How to Tackle Clothes Moths in your House

Oh no! You have found your favourite sweater with moth holes. Here is what we suggest to tackle clothes moths in your house.

1. Wash and dry everything carefully, then put in a thick plastic bag (this is something plastic is good for) and place in the freezer (at -18°C or colder if possible) for at least two weeks. Try not to leave the freezer open at this time. If you can’t fit everything in at once, put carefully washed clothes in a sealed plastic box and rotate what’s in the freezer.

2. Next, carefully clean and wash (using a solution of vinegar and water – though be careful with antiques) AND vacuum every last corner of where you store your clothes before following the tips below on how to prevent a future moth infestation. Cleaning the areas where the moths congregate is really key to getting rid of them. Afterwards, empty the vacuum cleaner into a sealed plastic bag and dispose of it in an outside bin.

If you have pieces that need mending or darning, we love Mend & Patch: a handbook to repairing clothes and textiles by Kerstin Neumuller, which is full of practical tips and inspiration.

How to Prevent Clothes Moths

1. The most important is to regularly vacuum and clean you wardrobe, drawers or clothes store and move things around. Clothes moths don’t like to be disturbed. Take things out and give them a shake. hang your sweaters out for a few days in the wind.

2. Wash clothes carefully before storing them over the summer (clothes moths have a keen sense of smell and are drawn to dirty clothes). You can find our tips for washing your knits here.

3. Store your clothes in sealed plastic containers or sealed plastic bags. Add a block of cedar wood or lavender as a further natural deterrent. The smell will deter adult moths as long as it is strong, but it does not last for ever. 

4. English Heritage also recommends having your chimney cleaned every couple of years and checking your loft or attic for birds’ nests and removing them along with any nesting material.

Clothes Moths: Frequently Asked Questions

Do All Moths Eat Clothes?

Most moths have a liquid diet of things such as flower nectar and tree sap – it’s only the larvae of Tineola bisselliella, sometimes called common clothes moths and webbing clothes moths, that feed off some clothing.

Another species of pale-backed clothes moth (Monopis crocicapitella) has also been found in recent years. It’s not yet clear how harmful they are to clothing.

What Do Clothes Moths Look Like?

Webbing clothes moths (Tineola bisselliella) are normally 5-8mm long with slightly translucent taupe wings. They mostly scuttle around and tend to fly only when it’s warm. Pale-backed clothes moths (Monopis crocicapitella) tend to be a bit longer, with dark brown wings and a distinctive lighter taupe stripe down the middle.

How Long Do Moths Live?

The life-cycle of a moth is about 65-90 days. A female adult moth lives for about 30 days, during which time she can lay up to 300 eggs.

What Moth Repellents Do You Recommend?

Freezing is the best method. Adult clothes moths can be killed by aerosol sprays but these are filled with harsh chemicals and often still leave the larvae intact.

Do You Suggest Using Moth Traps?

Pheromone moth traps only kill adult male clothes moths. This slightly reduces the breeding rate, but the impact is so small that they are mostly used as a barometer rather than a preventative measure. We suggest hanging them in cupboards so you can see if moths arrive.

What Do Clothes Moths Eat?

The larvae of clothes moths (Tineola bisselliella) like to feed off natural fibres such as wool, feather, fur and silk but they also eat grains, nuts and rice so make sure you always store these in glass, ceramic or plastic airtight containers.

Do Clothes Moths Eat Cotton?

Occasionally, but they prefer wool, silk, feathers and fur.

How Do Clothes Moths Cause Damage?

The female clothes moths lay small white eggs, which hatch into larvae. The larvae spin silk webbing into a tunnel (which is why they are sometimes know as webbing clothes moths). The larvae then eat the fibres in the material, causing holes in clothes.

Are Clothes Moths Attracted to Light?

Unlike other insects, clothes moths shun light and prefer to hide in dark areas.

How Do You Check for Moths?

Look for signs of casings or webbings – check corners and crevices, under labels and in the creases and folds of clothing. Hang pheromone traps in cupboards to spot if they arrive.

Finally, you can get your children involved in making herb bags to help naturally repel moths and keep clothes fresh – fill small cloth bags with dried lavender, cloves, thyme and rosemary to hang in your wardrobe or place in your drawers. To dry the herbs, make little bunches and hang them upside down in a cool, dry spot.

Discover our tips for washing and caring for your woollen clothing here.

Written by Anna K