12 tips on how to prevent a clothing moth infestation

By Dr. Killigan
12 tips on how to prevent a clothing moth infestation

From Los Angeles and New York to the United Kingdom and beyond, reports of clothing moth issues have exploded, and sent households and businesses alike scrambling to protect an array of fabrics from destruction.

The rise in reported infestations has been attributed to consumer trends for natural fibers and low-heat wash cycles, rising temperatures around the globe, and the COVID-19 pandemic, the latter of which led to a sharp decline in pest management services as a result of social distancing.

But what is a clothing moth, you ask?

Clothing moths, or clothes moths, are notoriously known for their larvae's practice of damaging and devouring wool, silk, fur, feathers and other natural fibers. The case-bearing moth and web-spinning moth are two of the most common types of clothing moth. Since they are drawn to warm, humid environments, closets, storage spaces and other locations where clothing or other materials are stored, these are places where they can frequently be found. If left untreated, clothing moths can seriously harm fabrics such as clothes, carpets, furniture and other materials.

>>> An all-natural repellent against clothing moths is coming soon from Dr. Killigan's. Click here to join the early access list! <<<

Unfortunately, the increasing populations of both case-bearing and web-spinning moths show no sign of slowing down. Those that have yet to be affected by clothing moths can take action now to prevent an infestation of clothing moths. Prevention is key. A reactive approach to a clothing moth infestation can be both costly and time-consuming. Some households have battled clothing moth infestations for years on end.

Consider the following tips on how to eliminate—and prevent—an infestation of clothing moths.

Run second-hand items through a hot water wash (or have them dry-cleaned)

If you have a clothing moth infestation, it may be rather unpleasant to think that it came from hand-me-down clothes from a family member for your rapidly growing kid, but it’s true. A clothing moth infestation may have sprouted when you acquired that second-hand item.

Not only may second-hand clothes contain hundreds of germs and bacteria that are harmful for our skin and health, but they may also be carrying clothing moth larvae or eggs. Clothing moths are attracted to more than just keratin-rich items. They will also smell out and infest items that have stains from food and other cellular materials on them, as these items provide the larvae with needed nutrients.

Immediately wash any second-hand items in a hot-water wash, with temperatures of at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Properly store clothes

Short-term

    Do not put dirty or even once-worn clothes back into your closet, as clothing moths may discover and eat these clothes. Skin cells or food splats, even those that you are unable to see, can become a food source that will attract these wool moths. Wash all clothes before returning them to your closet or your drawers.

    Long-term

    Carefully seal any clothes that will not be regularly worn in vacuum-sealed storage bags or airtight containers, such as plastic storage bins. If you are using plastic storage bins, consider sealing them with tape. Ensure that all clothes are clean and moth-free before packing them away.

    Keep your closet open

    Many moth species are attracted to light; clothing moths are not of that breed. In fact, clothing moths hate light; rather, they are attracted to dark spaces where they can hide. Purposefully create spaces that are light-filled and airy. Consider installing an efficient LED bulb in your closet that you keep on at all times. 

    Keep your closet clean

      Clothing moths will eat more than just clothes. They will also consume pet hair, human hair, lint and dust. Regularly vacuum your wardrobe, drawers, carpets, floors and all surrounding areas, paying special attention to corners and any typically undisturbed areas.

      Create movement

        Run your hands through hung fabrics in your closet and folded clothes in your drawers or periodically rotate these clothes. Either way, create movement. Movement will prevent clothing moths, which are trying to make home in your house, from wanting to hang around. They detest activity and gravitate towards undisturbed spaces.

        Do not use mothballs

        Mothballs contain naphthalene. Though they may be a moth killer, exposure to the toxic chemicals that make them up can make you or your pets sick. Too, mothballs look like candy, which may appear attractive to small children. It’s just not worth it.

        Use Six Feet Under Non-Toxic Insect Spray

        Every few months, wipe down your closet walls, baseboards, clothing rods, and shelves with this non-toxic insect-killing spray. It will kill any clothing moth eggs and larvae on-contact and will ensure that your closet remains moth-free.

        Clean your furniture

        Any furniture that is upholstered and contains wool, feathers or horsehair is privy to an infestation by clothing moths. Regularly vacuum these items by removing seat cushions, vacuuming along the inside corners where the inner sides meet the seat cushions (with the crevice attachment), vacuuming the sides, back and area under the seat cushions (with the upholstery attachment) and vacuuming the seat cushions and pillows themselves.

        Control humidity

          The length of time for a clothing moth’s life cycle—under ideal temperatures—is less than a month, meaning that a clothing moth can go from egg to larvae to adult moth in four weeks (or less) time. Ideal temperatures are those where humidity is between 75-90%.

          Place dehumidifiers in trouble spots around your home to help keep the humidity down and the moths out.

          Pocket fact: Clothing moths typically live for 65 to 90 days, though this can vary greatly depending on three factors: humidity, temperature and food availability. 

          Be mindful of your shopping habits

            Better quality clothes can contain more natural fibers, fibers that are highly favorable for clothes moths and carpet beetles. These include wool, silk and fur, which contain a protein called keratin. Keratin is what makes a moth’s world go round (and allows them to repopulate).

            Natural fibers are seen as more sustainable than synthetic fibers. Thus, there are a growing number of reports demonstrating that clothing moths are a greater problem than ever before.

            Cedar is a natural, non-toxic, chemical-free moth repellent. The oil that infuses its wood has incredible insect-repelling power. The eastern red cedar is a tree that is abundant and serves as a renewable resource here in North America. I recommend cedar products from this tree because of its insect-repelling strength and because of its profusion (in North America). The use of it does not damage the health of our forests, but keeps our forests green and plentiful.

            Place clothing moth traps in your closet

            Repeat every season. These non-toxic traps will immediately alert you to a clothing moth issue—before it gets out of control. They contain no harsh chemicals or insecticides, have a potent double pheromone formula, and use the stickiest glue to lure and kill the two most common and loathsome clothes moths types plaguing closets around the globe—the case-bearing clothes moth (Tinea pellionella) and the web-spinning clothes moth (Tineola bisselliella).

            Unopened, our traps remain effective for three years from the date of manufacture. Opened, they are effective for three months.

            If you are dealing with an infestation of clothing moths or seek more tips on how to avoid one, please feel free to contact our customer success team at support@drkilligans.com. We would love to hear from you!


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            4 comments
            • I hadn’t ever thought of the importance of creating movement in my wardrobe. Good insight!

              Julie on
            • This is a great reminder to carefully wash any second-hand clothes. I thrift quite often and would hate to accidentally bring home clothing moths.

              Vanessa on
            • Given clothing moths can live up to 90 days, these traps are perfect since they last up to 3 months once opened!

              Mitch on
            • Great info here, hadn’t thought of the importance of humidity control as well as the light source

              Jason on

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