Updated On

April 25, 2024

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    How To Get Rid of Clothes Moths

    You’ve just pulled your favorite wool or cashmere sweater out of your closet to discover holes throughout the material. Unfortunately, you may have clothes moths if you find clothing or other natural fiber materials, such as wool, cashmere, and silk, have holes in them suddenly. Clothes moth larvae eat keratin, which is a protein found in animal fibers like wool. Clothes moth larvae will also eat human hair and skin cells in our homes because they also contain keratin. 

    Despite popular belief, clothes moths and other species of moths are not only attracted to light but also enjoy and seek out dark places, such as closets and attics. Once in these dark areas, clothes moths will breed rapidly and lay moth eggs. Then, their eggs will hatch, releasing larvae that will immediately begin feeding on natural animal fibers in the area. This can include rugs, textiles, clothing, backpacks, and more. If you’re suffering from clothes moths, you must act quickly to treat them before they destroy more clothing in your home. 

    In this guide, we will cover the following topics on clothes moths and preventive measures you can take to prevent them from infesting your home: 

    • How To Get Rid of Clothes Moths
    • How To Prevent Clothes Moths
    • What Clothes Moths Look Like
    • What Causes a Clothes Moth Infestation

    How To Get Rid of Clothes Moths 

    You’ve found signs of clothes moths in your home. So, what can you do to get rid of your clothes moth problem in your home before they damage more of your textiles? 

    • Identify your fabric pest. Just because you’ve found holes in your favorite wool sweater or rug doesn’t mean you have clothes moths. Other pests, like carpet beetles, are also notorious for destroying natural fiber materials, and they will require a different kind of treatment. Use our identification section below to help you deduce which pest you are dealing with before you start blindly treating for what you think are clothes moths. 
    • Get rid of heavily infested items. We know how difficult it is to part with your favorite wool sweater, but leaving heavily infested items that are beyond saving in your closet will only allow the clothes moth larvae to eat other fabrics. Do yourself a favor and discard heavily damaged items that are beyond saving or repair. Make sure you take the trash out immediately and remove it far from your home to prevent the larvae from staying on the premises. 
    • Empty your closet. Remove all of your clothing from your wardrobe and wash your clothing at high temperatures in your washing machine. If possible, splurge for dry cleaning, which is an effective way to kill all moth larvae while preserving your wool and cashmere sweaters. Some natural fibers may shrink in the dryer, though, so make sure to read any clothing labels before you wash your sweaters. A dry cleaner can ensure that your items are washed effectively, without shrinkage, if you are concerned about this outcome.
    • Purchase a moth spray. For adult moths flying around your home, consider purchasing a moth spray to kill the moths before they can breed and reproduce quickly. Remember, the clothing moth larvae are the ones who eat away at your clothes and rugs, while the adult moths are the ones who reproduce and create larvae. Eliminating the adult moths with a moth spray can help decrease how many eggs and larvae are created. 
    • After emptying your closet, vacuum it thoroughly. Clothes moths usually lay their eggs in dark corners of your closet or underneath furniture or rugs that are not frequently moved or disturbed. Take a vacuum to these areas and thoroughly deep clean them. 
    • Rent or buy a carpet steamer. If possible, use a carpet steamer to deep clean your carpets and closet. The hot steam will kill moth eggs, larvae, and other pests in your carpet, which will end the ongoing breeding cycle and destruction of your textiles. A dry cleaning service or carpet steamer can perform the deep clean these materials desperately need to be free of clothes moths. 
    • Freeze or heat items you can’t wash. If you’re unable to wash your wool sweater in hot temperatures, use sunlight or freezing temperatures to your advantage. Sunlight can kill moth eggs and larvae, so take natural fiber items outside, lay them in the sun, and brush them heavily. Make sure you wear protective, disposable gear so that you don’t accidentally bring larvae or eggs back into your home. Alternatively, you can place clothing in zipper bags then place them in your freezer for two weeks to kill larvae and eggs. 
    • Use mothballs. Please keep in mind that mothballs are highly toxic and poisonous to us, children, and pets. As a result, we recommend using mothballs as a last resort and closely following the manufacturer’s guide. 
    • Set out pheromone traps. Pheromone traps work by attracting male moths, which are then stuck onto the glue on the trap and unable to leave, effectively killing them through starvation. Without male moths, female moths cannot reproduce and will not be able to continue the breeding cycle unless they leave your home. 
    • Get help from a pest control professional. If nothing else seems to work, reach out to your local pest control provider for help dealing with your clothes moth problem. Clothes moth damage can be expensive, so investing in a pest control treatment can save you money and distress in the long run. A professional will also have access to specialty products, like fumigation tools and insecticides, that they can apply to fight off clothes moths. 

    How to Prevent Clothes Moths

    If you’re concerned about clothes moths infesting your home or returning after you’ve cleared them out, here are our top tips for preventing future infestations: 

    • Wash dirty clothing and blankets frequently. Clothes moths are attracted to natural fibers, but they also eat human and pet hair and skin cells. Soiled clothing, blankets, and rugs covered in pet or human hair, body oils, and skin cells are their ideal homes. Regularly wash clothes and textiles to prevent clothes moths from using them as their new home. 
    • Be careful about second-hand clothing. Thrifting or buying second-hand can be a great money saver and lead to some great finds. However, you may also unintentionally bring home pests, like bed bugs, carpet beetles, and clothes moths, who love to travel via garments. If you purchase second-hand, make sure that you immediately wash any items you take home with hot water.  
    • Meticulously seal and store your clothing. If you have clothing made of wool, fur, or feathers, take advantage of tight, compressed storage bags or garment bags to prevent clothes moths from finding these items. Vacuum bags are another great option.
    • Repel clothes moths with natural scents. Clothes moths do not like the smell of cedar oil or other essential oils, which you can use to your advantage. Simply spritz a mixture of essential oils and water on your clothing or in your closet to repel clothes moths from nesting in your closet. 
    • Air out your closets. Moths don’t want to lay their eggs in bright areas. So, keep your closet doors open regularly and air out the closet. 
    • Frequently move your clothing around. Moths aren’t inclined to lay their eggs in areas that are often disturbed. Ensure you regularly move your clothing and items in storage areas to prevent clothing moth infestations from forming. 

    What Do Clothes Moths Look Like?

    There are two primary types of clothes moths: the yellow webbing species and the brown speckled casemaking clothes moth species. In terms of wing colors, the yellowish, common clothes moth has pale, beige wings, while the brown house moth has bronze and black wings. Otherwise, they are both nocturnal insects that seek out dark, undisturbed areas to lay their eggs. 

    Clothes moth larvae are tiny and difficult to see with the naked eye, though if you look closely, you may spot them. The larvae are cream-colored caterpillar-looking critters with darker heads. Typically, they are between a quarter of an inch and half an inch. Larvae have a life cycle between one and 24 months, depending on the temperature and environmental conditions. Despite their small size, it should be easy to identify if you have clothes moth larvae because female clothes moths lay anywhere between 50 and 1,000 eggs at one time. 

    Clothes moth eggs are incredibly tiny, almost microscopic, so it’s unlikely that you will be able to spot them. However, if you find clothes moths or larvae, you can assume there are clothes moth eggs nearby. 

    When looking for clothes moths, we recommend looking in dark, undisturbed areas, such as attics, closets, the backs of wardrobes and drawers, and spare bedrooms. Check underneath rugs and carpet, or furniture that is rarely moved or sat on, such as a spare bedroom couch or bedroom. Clothes moth damage may also be mistaken for carpet beetle damage, so take a moment to assess whether the damage you’re experiencing is from carpet beetles or clothes moths. Carpet beetle damage is very similar to clothes moth damage, so your best bet is looking for and identifying the larvae or finding beetles or moths in your home to help you deduce which fabric pest you are dealing with. 

    Moths are usually more prominent from May until October, so this is the time of year you may notice an increase in moth activity around your home, making it an ideal time to take preventative measures. 

    Signs of a clothes moth infestation: 

    • Holes in your favorite animal fiber materials, such as cashmere, wool, and silk
    • Excessive shedding from fur coats, sweaters, or stoles
    • Tiny tubes clinging to animal fiber materials
    • Damaged patches on your wool rugs
    • Silky tunnels, furrows, or trenches on your clothing, rugs, and blankets
    • Irregular holes in your clothing
    • Moths flying around your home
    • Spotting clothing moth larvae
    • Webs on your clothing that look like “dried snot”

    Clothes moths are not considered dangerous to human health because they are not known to carry disease. However, they can be very destructive to our textiles, fabrics, and clothing. They may also eat food, such as grains or other dry food options if they find easy access to it. 

    What Causes a Clothes Moth Infestation? 

    Clothes moths are attracted to anywhere with easy access to keratin, their preferred food source. Keratin is found in animal-based fabrics, such as wool, cashmere, and silk. It’s also what human hair and skin cells are made of, so dead skin cells and hair strands around our home can also be an attractive prospect for clothes moths. In addition, our pet’s hair can also be eaten by clothes moth larvae, so keeping your pet regularly brushed and their bedding clean is an essential step in preventing clothes moths from infesting your home. 

    Causes of a clothes moth infestation: 

    • Outdoor lighting or lit windows at night
    • Dark, undisturbed areas in your home, such as closets, attics, or spare bedrooms (these places are ideal for clothes moths to lay their eggs)
    • Fiber fabrics, like fur, wool, cashmere, and silk
    • Sudden spikes in hot temperature, which may encourage accelerated breeding
    • Spring to summer weather, which is their typical breeding season
    Today’s Homeowner Tips

    Moths are usually more prominent from May until October, so this is the time of year you may notice an increase in moth activity around your home, making it an ideal time to take preventative measures. 

    Final Thoughts 

    Nothing is more frustrating than finding your favorite sweater or grandma’s blanket with holes. Clothes moths are an infuriating pest to deal with. Unfortunately, they can be difficult to kill because they breed quickly and are sneaky, quiet pests. If you find yourself overwhelmed with a pesky clothes moth problem, we recommend reaching out to your local exterminator to get immediate help. The longer you wait, the more time the clothes moths have to reproduce, spread the infestation, and continue damaging your clothing and textiles.

    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Ed Spicer

    Ed Spicer

    Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management.

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