How to Get Rid of Moths Effectively (Step by Step Guide)
for Clothes Moths
Adult moths might seem harmless to you in day-to-day life, but they can be a real nuisance when their larvae eat through fabrics such as wool and cotton, and even dry goods in your pantry such as grains, bread, and even pasta.
They end up ruining many of your good clothes, food, and even some household items. Thankfully, there are many things you can easily do at home to get rid of moths and prevent them from breeding and destroying your possessions.
Common throughout the United States, the larvae of clothes moths (Tineola bisselliella) attack garments, carpets, furs, blankets, upholstery, piano felts, brush bristles, and a number of other related items.
Pantry moths (Plodia interpunctella), on the other hand, go for dried food products such as pet food, pasta, grains, bread, spices, cereal, and even cookies!
Learn exactly how to get rid of moths in this complete guide here by Planet Natural, to help you eliminate this problem once and for all.
Note: Fabrics stained by foods, perspiration, or urine are most subject to damage. Synthetics or fabrics such as cotton are fed on if they are blended with wool.
What are Moths?
Moths are insects that belong to the order called Lepidoptera, which literally means ‘scaly-winged’ since their wings are made of microscopic scales. They’re related to butterflies, but there are many differences including the fact that moths are active after dusk, while butterflies are active during the day.
Moths are most active when the temperature is over 80°F, but certain species can emerge in the winter when the temperature drops below 40°F.
Adult moths are usually harmless, but the moth larvae that cause all the problems. Although there are several thousands of different kinds of moth species out there, you are most likely to come across the pantry moths (Plodia interpunctella) or the clothes moths (Tineola bisselliella) inside your home.
There are several different common names for both these types of moths. Cloth moths are also known as webbing clothes moths, or simply clothing moths. Pantry moths, on the other hand, are also commonly called Indian meal moths, North American High-flyer, Weevil Moth, Flour Moth, or Grain Moth.
How to Identify Moths?
In general, moths are about 1/4 inch long with their wings folded and have a wingspread of about 1/2 inch. There are certain species that are a lot larger and look different, but you’re very unlikely to find them inside your home or for them to ever bother you in life.
We, here, are focusing on the two that can require certain pest control measures. When it comes to clothes moths, you’ll notice, damaged clothes that have holes eaten through them by small, white larvae (1/2 inch long) and often have silken threads or tunnels, and fecal pellets over the surface of the materials.
Pantry moths are golden-yellow with a satiny sheen and reddish-golden hairs on top of the head. Adults avoid light and attempt to hide when disturbed.
Clothes moths naturally gravitate towards closets and wardrobes, and their caterpillars feed on natural fibers like linen, silk, wool, or fur. They’re usually half an inch long with gray and bronze wings.
While they look similar, pantry moths can sometimes be larger than clothes moths and while clothes moths have tiny hairs on them, pantry moths do not.
Damage Caused by Moths
We’ve already touched upon the basic damage that pantry moths and clothes moths cause including destroying your favorite clothes, food, and even other household items.
Pantry moths usually make their way into your house from the grocery store due to contaminated warehouses and storage facilities. You’ll first start noticing an icky webbing or even small caterpillars inside your favorite snacks.
Clothes moths have multiple ways of making it into your home since they can fly in through open windows and doors, or even come even if you’ve bought some used clothing or even small cracks in your home’s foundation.
Even though clothes moths usually prefer natural fibers, they can still eat synthetic ones if they’re drawn to them due to, say, a stain or even sweat. This is why it’s really important to always only store clean clothes. The stains that aren’t visible to our eyes, can still oxidize over time and attract these pests.
They feed on protein (keratin) found in natural fibers, but even protein from food residue that has been left over on our clothes and so it’s important to never store dirty clothes in your closet.
Apart from creating holes, they also leave behind webbing and frass, insect excrement that looks like grains of sand, and even pupae skins.
Allergies Causes by Moths
Although most people don’t experience any physical health effects around moths, others may suffer from allergic reactions and irritation when they can skin contact. The larvae are usually what causes this reaction due to their sharp spines or hairs that can sting.
These stings can cause itching, scaly skin, rashes, and even outbreaks that look similar to eczema. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms and suspect a moth infestation in your home, it’s important you visit your doctor to seek medical advice.
Life Cycle of a Moth
Adults live 10-28 days, but do not feed on fabrics. Females lay 40-100 eggs, which generally hatch in 3-21 days. Larvae live 35 days or more and will wander some distance away from their food source to pupate in crevices.
The pupal case is silken with bits of fiber and excrement attached to the outside. The life cycle is 65 to 90 days at ordinary household temperatures. Two generations per year.
How To Get Rid of Moths Effectively (Step by Step)
Getting rid of moths is easier than you think. If you follow our step-by-step guide, you should be able to effectively get rid of them from your homes:
Step 1: Identify and Clean Up
The first step to getting rid of moths is to identify the type of moths you have in your home, that is whether they are pantry moths or clothes moths.
Once you know that, you’ll need to start cleaning up! For pantry moths, that means tossing out any dry food goods and products that may be contaminated and cleaning out your pantry and cabinets properly.
If it’s cloth moths that are causing an issue, make a laundry pile and wash all your clothes with hot water and detergent. Make sure to dry them on medium to high heat setting in your dryer which will help kill the larvae (unless your clothes label says otherwise).
Another option is to dry clean your clothes since the dry cleaning residue left behind on clothes is unattractive to these insects and pests. Store your clothes in sealed containers.
If you cannot place items in sealed containers, use repellents to deter these damaging pests. Also make sure to vacuum cracks, crevices, and other breeding areas in floors and closets.
Step 2: Use Preventative and Control Measures
Now that everything is clean, you have a fresh start. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few moths or larvae here and there that can still cause issues down the line.
That’s why it’s important to start preventing moths from infesting again, and to remove them once and for all. Here are some common measures you can utilize:
Moth traps are made to lure adult moths into a trap, where they will be killed. This will prevent the moths from reproducing and having further generations.
These traps are made of sticky flypaper that is coated with moth pheromones to attract adults. Whenever a moth lands on the paper, it is trapped and cannot fly away. They eventually end up dying.
Pheromone traps should be placed in areas where moths are known to gather, such as inside closets or kitchen storage spaces.
White vinegar is a natural cleaning agent that alters the pH levels of surfaces it comes into contact with. When put in an acidic environment like white vinegar, moth eggs and larvae can’t live.
Use caution throughout the house while working with white vinegar because it has the potential to corrode some surfaces, including stone worktops, metal, and hardwood floors.
Organic diatomaceous earth contains no toxic poisons and works quickly on contact. Apply lightly to carpet and fabric items, or wherever pests are found to keep them at bay and to also kill them effectively.
Natural Repellent Herbs
There are certain scents that moths are naturally repulsed by, so utilizing those can be a great way to keep them at bay. Put some lavender, bay leaves, cloves, rosemary, and thyme in a bag and hang it where you store your clothes or food. Fortunately, these herbs repel moths.
Alternatively, you can also use a diffuser with one or more mixes of the essential oils of these plants, or dilute the oils and spray them on your clothes and valuables.
You’re probably waiting for us to mention mothballs as they’ve always been a popular method but, unfortunately, they’re not a good option. These mothballs contain naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene which are pesticides known to be harmful to our health.
Since moths frequently come in contact with the food we eat or the clothes we wear, this can have dire consequences if such pesticides are regularly used. Experts strongly advise against it, and so do we.
Today, instead of mothballs, cedarwood and products containing cedar oil are more commonly used to repel moths. Cedar hangers are a great way to deter moths if you hang your clothes on them. Just make sure to lightly sand it after every few months and apply a coat of cedar oil to it again.
Important: Many of our customers ask about the effectiveness of using trichogramma wasps to combat clothes moths. However, we have no scientific study to say with certainty that it works. Any such use would be experimental and without the promise of results.
Step 3: Clean Your House Regularly
Maintaining a clean home will help you avoid pest issues in the future. Cleaning surfaces and removing debris like crumbs, fibers, and dust will help a lot.
Keep an eye out for moth activity not only in your food and clothing but also in other areas like pet food and even your pet’s fur. If you notice any signs of infestations, act fast and repeat steps one and two.
Repeatedly facing infestations might mean that you need professional pest control assistance, but that’s not always the case. Either way, keeping an eye out and regular cleaning will save you a lot of time and effort down the line.
If pest levels are intolerable, treat with a fast-acting botanical insecticide. Always follow the instructions on the product label.
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