It's all about cleaning items before you store them for the season.

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Lucy Schaeffer

Caring for wool sweaters and household items may be your last concern at this time of year. But the steps you take now can make all the difference in what you find when you bring out your things in the fall: wonderful woolens, or ones peppered with holes. Here's what to know about dealing with-and preventing-moths around your home.

Know What's Bugging You

If you see moths flying in your house, they probably aren't clothes moths, but pantry pests-the type that infests flour and grains. Clothes moths don't like light and are so secretive that you'll probably never see them. What's more, the adult moths won't do any harm. Damage to woolens is actually done by the larvae of two types of insects: clothes moths and carpet beetles (the latter being more prevalent than moths in most areas of the country). Both insects lay eggs in secluded spots with plenty of food-wool, fur, down, shed pet dander, and other animal-based materials. Larvae emerge within a few weeks; beetle larvae can feed on fabric for a year or more and moth larvae may cause damage for a couple of months. Synthetic fabrics such as polyester and rayon are rarely attacked unless blended with wool, or if they are dirty. Larvae may also infest carpet edges, upholstered furniture, and air ducts where they feed on lint and pet hair. Damage may consist of irregular holes.

Keep Things Clean

Moth and beetle larvae shun bright light, so they rarely attack frequently worn clothing or heavily trafficked carpets. They thrive in clothing that is packed away and sections of carpet that's hidden under furniture, especially if there are food spills or other attractive scents. The best strategy? Be sure to keep things clean.

Vacuum Frequently

Weekly use of the vacuum and general good housekeeping go a long way toward keeping pests at bay. If you clean often, you may remove them without even knowing it. Vacuuming also removes moth eggs and larvae from carpets before they have the opportunity to hatch.

Launder Before You Store

Before you pack up winter clothing for storage, wash or dry-clean garments that have been worn. This rids them of moth and beetle eggs and also eliminates perspiration remnants and food spills, which attract and nourish pests. Moths and beetles don't eat items made of synthetic or cotton fabrics, but you should clean those, too, if you store them with woolens.

Brush Coats Outside

If you have winter coats you haven't worn, you probably won't want to pay for dry cleaning just to guard against eggs that might have been deposited on them. Yet if you store them as is, you risk an infestation. In this case, try an old-fashioned but effective regimen: Take the items outside on a sunny day and brush them vigorously, especially under collars and along seams. This should remove eggs and larvae, which are so small, you probably won't be able to see them. In case you miss a few of the pests or their eggs, pack this clothing separately from laundered or dry-cleaned items.

Opt for Smart Storage

Moths and beetles can get through extremely tight spaces. When storing woolens, resealable plastic bags or plastic boxes are best for keeping pests out. To protect the items from condensation, wrap them in lengths of clean cotton, and store. Take care in using plastic containers for long-term storage-years rather than months—as they do not allow the items to breathe, and some plastics may degrade fabric over time. If storing valuable items, consult with a professional textile conservator for recommendations.

Tips for Using Moth Deterrents

The dark-colored heartwood of red cedar contains natural oils that help kill clothes-moth larvae, but this alone won't protect clothing. It's not effective against carpet beetles, and, with moths, it kills only young larvae, not older ones or eggs. The effect also fades as the scent does. You can replenish the scent of boards, closets, and chests by sanding the wood lightly or dabbing on cedar oil, but there is no way to know if you've added enough. If you have a cedar chest, it's best to think of it as a reasonably airtight storage container-and only keep clean fabric inside it. Again, wrap items in clean cotton before storing them.

Mothball and moth crystals can thwart infestations but come with many drawbacks, so you're probably better off without them. Both products contain pesticides that can be harmful to people, unborn babies, and pets. Since mothballs and moth crystals work by releasing fumigant gas, they must be used in tight-fitting containers, rather than in closets or drawers, to be effective. If you do use these products, keep containers out of your living area-in a garage, perhaps. And air out clothing thoroughly outside before wearing it or hanging it in your closet again (dry cleaning won't eliminate the mothball odor).

Using lavender to repel clothes moths is another old homemaker's trick. Sachets filled with lavender (and/or laced with its oil) and suspended in your closet or tucked in your drawers are said to protect woolens. They will also leave a pleasant scent behind. Lavender will not, however, kill moth eggs or larvae, so be sure the space is free of them first.

How to Solve an Existing Problem

What if you already have clothes or carpet pests? Here are some tips for identifying the bugs you are dealing with, getting rid of them, and then salvaging your woolen items. You won't likely see clothes moths, but if you find holes, you know you have a problem. With moth larvae, you may find silky webbing or cigar-like cocoons. Beetle larvae leave dried skins-like tiny rice grains.

To get rid of an infestation, start by removing and treating all infested material. You might throw away the most damaged clothing. Dry-clean or launder items you keep; freezing also eradicates pests: Put items in sealed plastic bags, squeeze out air and freeze for a few days. Take the bags out, let them return to room temperature, and then repeat. In the case of condensation, let clothes air out before storing again.

For a severe infestation, call a professional to help you treat your carpets. If it's a minor problem, buy a spray made for these pests and spot test to make sure it doesn't affect the carpet color. Apply, following label instructions, anywhere you find traces of larvae or don't often clean-such as behind bookcases and along baseboards. Treat both sides of the carpet (if not fastened down) and the rug pad. Make sure that the entire house is cleaned thoroughly before replacing treated items. If furniture is infested, you might need to call an exterminator. For a DIY route, try pheromone-laced cardboard traps to check if moths remain. (These shouldn't be your main defense, however, and won't trap beetles.)

As for the items that were under attack, consider whether or not they can be mended. You may be able to repair blankets or other large-thread items yourself, using matching yarn. Finely woven items and heirlooms should be taken to a company that specializes in reweaving.

Comments (26)

Anonymous
December 23, 2018
An issue is what do you do with the sweaters you are wearing in rotation before washing? it may be 2 / 4 weeks before you wash them. have a clear, airtight box for the worn sweaters and others for the unworn? If i keep a worn sweater on a hanger will moths attack it? Would a clothes rack exposed to daylight be moth proof? or nighttime darkness is sufficient to have a moth lay an egg? Or should a sweater be washed right away after being worn?
Anonymous
April 19, 2018
This is the most informative article I have found on a issue that has cost me me to lose my best apparel - Thank you, Robin Eshaghpour
Anonymous
February 7, 2018
A good advice I had from a friend: Spray with insectspray in cupboards, trunks and chests where you keep things. Dolls might wear woolen clothing, stuffed animals might be made of wool and otherwise clothes and yarn are in danger. Spray, close the item for as long as it says on the bottle and let a good fresh draught in afterwards.
Anonymous
July 22, 2017
Carpet beetles are little creatures that can cause big trouble. Whenever you hear the name insect, never trust it. Most of them are not that friendly. There are several reasons why beetles aren’t good for your place. First and most important is when you have kids. Kids don’t know what is good or bad for them, they just swallow everything, and if they swallow a carpet bug roaming around on the carpet, they will suffer severe consequences. Here, how we tackle with this : http://starpestcontrol.ca/pest_control_service/carpet-beetles/
Anonymous
July 2, 2017
two weeks ago I discovered my wool area rugs were damaged by bugs. These are special handmade Persian Rugs. I have taken them tp specialist to clean. what is the best way to clean hardwood floors to get rid of them?
Anonymous
June 30, 2017
Here's a suggestiion that we have had 100% success with for getting rid of clothes moths! It involves dry ice and large plastic garbage bags. Put the infested clothes in a garbage bag with the dry ice. We use dry ice "blocks", not the pellets. Wrap the dry ice blocks with an old t-shirt or pillowcase. Securely tie the top of the garbage bag. Very important! Then put the garbage bag into another garbage bag and, again, securely tie the second bag. As the dry ice evaporates, the bags will inflate with carbon dioxide and become quite taut. (Clothes moths cannot live without oxygen!!) Don't disturb the bags for three days. If one of the bags appears to deflate during this time, that means the bag was not securely tied and the carbon dioxide escaped. You'll need to repeat the process again. After three days, unpack the bags. The t-shirts that wrapped the dry ice will be empty. Your clothes will be FREE of moths and moth larvae!!! Now the clothes need to be stored so that moths cannot have access to them. Good luck!!
Anonymous
June 27, 2016
IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT YOU READ THIS POST. These suggestions are good, but I've found that none cover what has happened to me. In an attempt to keep my outdoor visiting birds happily fed and economize, I switched to buying seed from Wild Birds to ACE Hardware. The result is, albeit too late to remedy, that ACE Hardware seed is infested with grain moths. You don't see it until it's too late. They have ruined thousands of dollars of my rugs and infested the entire house.
Anonymous
November 20, 2015
Ozone would probably kill moths and such. We purchased an industrial-strength ozone generator to kill crawlspace mold. I'm talking a $3,500 unit, the type that you (and your pets!) have to leave the building in order to run, the type used by fire and water repair companies. Over the years, it's been SO handy, we've used it in different homes, it kills all sorts of household pests, it would certainly kill moths. Or you could rent one, or hire a a flood/mold repair company that has one.
Anonymous
November 20, 2015
Ozone would probably kill moths and such. We purchased an industrial-strength ozone generator to kill crawlspace mold. I'm talking a $3,500 unit, the type that you (and your pets!) have to leave the building in order to run, the type used by fire and water repair companies. Over the years, it's been SO handy, we've used it in different homes, it kills all sorts of household pests, it would certainly kill moths. Or you could rent one, or hire a a flood/mold repair company that has one.
Anonymous
October 25, 2015
This is the most helpful post on this painful topic that I've found so far. I've determined that my sweater problem is carpet beetles rather than moths. Just pulled out winter sweaters to find shed skins and live larvae; this after I washed everything before storing for the winter. Yuck. Has anyone found a method for eradicating these nasties?
Anonymous
July 10, 2015
OK, I'm past the point of going "au natural" to kill the clothing moths in my closet. Would love advice on what product/products to buy to finally kill these pests and their larvae, or do I need to hire a professional.
Anonymous
July 7, 2015
I too have been driven bonkers over the last few years by little unwanted guests in and around our home. It began with a new leather sofa that brought in Bird Mites! Then, moths, soon silverfish, and finally the last straw.... Brown widows. We live on the beach in Southern California and try to stay completely organic. That said, "EcoSmart" ( family & pet safe) for those BIG jobs, it eliminated all! Available at most stores. Then back to lavender, cedar and plastic bags. Good luck all :-)
Anonymous
May 21, 2015
Have since thrown away 26 sacks of clothing and costume to the tip, cleaning now in Spring and Autumn, killing adult moth, they fly at dusk, I have seen thirty in the past two weeks. Everything stinks of cedar or lavender. I have decluttered, even getting rid of books. My freezer is full of wool, silk and leather. My friends think it's funny or that I am obsessed but it's very stressful. I have a suspicion that they will never go away. And I will SLAP the next idiot who advises "Mothballs"....
Anonymous
May 21, 2015
I discovered the little blighters at the start of August last year. I was unpacking a medieval costume to take to a re-enactment when I noticed hundreds of weird little "Grains of rice" on the clothing. And then a tiny moth flew out of the suitcase. Upon googling it I discovered with horror that I am now host to the case bearing clothing moth. It's been going on for ten months now. I initially did 17 loads of washing before packing clothing away in clear bags with all the air squashed out.
Anonymous
May 3, 2015
Does anyone know the best natural way to get rid of carpet beetles? I have cats and these awful bugs have infested my cat climber and now I am afraid they might be everywhere! The cat climber is carpet covered but probably is synthetic, not wool carpet. I think they must be eating the cat fur. Yuck!!! Help!
Anonymous
April 8, 2015
Thanks for the tips. I was using lavender pouches in my drawers thinking that it will repel moth. To my surprise my sock drawer was full of "sand", a few larvae and a couple of adult cloth moths. Only cotton socks were eaten. Woolens were OK.Hope that laundry and dryer killed the remaining critters.
Anonymous
February 25, 2015
I'm really grateful for the advise but why are my cotton Tshirts getting little holes in them if moths are not the culprits?
Anonymous
February 3, 2015
I microwave wool and cashmere. let them cool to evaporate the moisture, store in zip lock bags one per bag. tie up large coats with cotton cord to fit in microwave. Use one minute setting, what it takes to heat a cup of coffee. every part of the article feels quite warm not hot. twice if needed, makes any residue left on clothing such as dander sanitized. Front loading washers have no agitators wash one swearter at a time on handwash cycle. Steam press coats, helps kill moths
Anonymous
November 29, 2014
I have found that the only things that work for me is to wrap the item in another cotton or polyester item . the bugger's are too lazy to find a way in. I will try spraying with a lavendar concoction as well. The biggers ate all the cashmere that was on hangers. Of course it was the Nordstrom cashmere not the target ones.
Anonymous
October 20, 2014
I read this & was encouraged that washing and drying clothes would be the solution. However, I just read on another site that sells insecticides that washing, drying and even vacuuming does not kill eggs. One user commented that a clothes moth few right out of the just-washed pile. The exterminator says the eggs are sealed by the female moth with a glue-like substance that cannot been seen and won't wash or vacuum out. I washed 3 closets of clothes & started on displayed textiles/drawers. :-(
Anonymous
May 18, 2014
For an effective natural approach try Lavender Oil (available from Celia Lindsell Ltd : bit.ly/1nVQ9Jj), add some oil to your sponge and clean all surfaces. Add a few drops to the softener compartment of your clothes washer or to the final rinse of a hand wash. This will give all your laundry a delicious fresh smell and certainly keep the moths away. Put a couple of drops on the duster when polishing in the bedroom or living room.
Anonymous
October 30, 2013
Thanks for sharing this useful tips, I have been using zensect moth proofers for one year. I recommended to use the Moth Proofer Balls for all clothes cupboards, drawers with woollens and downstairs cloakroom where woollen jackets and coats are hung, it Keeps the moths away.
Anonymous
August 14, 2013
I clean constantly: The house, the closets, the carpets, and launder the clothes after only one use. But to no avail, these buggers just won't go away. I had never had problems until a few years ago. I put every single article of clothing in the wash or dry cleaned, stored them in air tight containers, washed out the closets and drawers and thought I was rid of them. We moved into a new home and shortly after moving in, we had the moths again. I am getting so mentally stressed :(
Anonymous
November 4, 2011
Horse chestnuts in drawers and closets will keep moths at bay, spiders, too. There's no smell, either.
Anonymous
January 10, 2009
You can try sponging the surfaces with white vinegar. Dishes of white vinegar, ground coffee, activated charcoal (for aquariums), crumpled newspapers, volcanic rock pouches (in closet supply areas and home improvement doodad catalogs) all might help. Painting the walls with good latex paint to seal in the smell might help as well.
Anonymous
August 18, 2008
Moth control that works. Unscented ordinary white soap. Grate it and sprinkle between the cloths. THAT"S A GOOD THING as MARTHA would say. Seta Atik.