Clothing moths: A greater problem than ever before

Clothing moths: A greater problem than ever before

Rising temperatures, changes in consumer shopping preferences and the COVID-19 pandemic may be key factors for the rapid rise of clothing moth infestations around the world.

Clothing moths love dark and undisturbed spaces, whether these be the woolen fabrics in a carpeting store, neatly folded cashmere sweaters in a posh boutique, taxidermal elk hung about your mantelpiece or the knit mohair sweater that you haven’t worn in quite some time.

What types of environments do clothing moths seek?

Like you and me, clothing moths enjoy peaceful environments. Peace, according to the Oxford dictionary, is "freedom from disturbance; tranquility." Once you're familiar with the specifics of where you’re apt to find a clothing moth in your house, I'm confident that you’ll fully agree that this "freedom from disturbance" is exactly what they’re after.


Clothing moths are particular creatures. While there are some places—such as a well-swept, weekly vacuumed and bi-weekly dusted suite—that they’ll never visit, there are other locations—like the back of a linen closet that hasn’t been combed through in weeks, or a wool entry rug that hasn’t seen foot traffic in months—that they’ll flock to.

The two most common species of clothing moths—the casemaking clothes moth, Tinea pellionella, and the webbing clothes moth, Tineola bisselliella—are not strong flyers, (so don’t expect to see the sky darken as they enter your bedroom closet). These two clothing moth types are also adverse to bright light, preferring to remain in dark or dimly lit areas, and quite timid, or should I say apprehensive? Thus, they are frequently overlooked during routine cleaning activities.

Routine cleaning activities don’t typically encompass the following:

  • Running your hands through infrequently worn wool garments in your closet.
  • Moving around unworn keratin-rich sweaters, socks, and other articles of clothing in your dresser drawers. 
  • Vacuuming the undersides of wool carpets.
  • Having wool carpets professionally cleaned twice a year. 
  • Vacuuming beneath baseboards in laundry rooms or other areas where lint, dander and hair accumulate. 
  • Pulling dressers off of carpet and cleaning (said carpet) underneath. Don’t you dare just vacuum around that “one spot” because it’s inconvenient to do anything more. 

    In addition, clothing moth larvae will feed for a short time on clean items, though they most often seek out and feed on soiled portions of these fabrics. It is scientifically recognized that vitamin B is essential to the full development of the larvae, and many of these properties occur in perspiration, urine, fruit juices, milk and meat gravy.

    Typical cleaning rhythms don’t necessarily ensure the following two steps. But, once you read these words, you are officially “in the know” and therefore responsible for properly taking care of your woolens and furs. 

    1. Launder or dry clean these garments prior to storage (even if they appear clean).
    2. Place them in a pest-proof container with a secure lid or a tight seal.

      These simple suggestions, friend, can help keep clothing moths both out of your home and out of your life. 

      What does a clothing moth infestation look like?

      If you catch sight of an adult moth, first identify what type of moth it is: a clothing moth or pantry moth. If you identify larvae (and not adult moths), ensure that it is a clothing moth larvae and not a carpet beetle larvae. Once these task are complete, understanding exactly what clothing moths eat—as these insects eat more than just clothes—will greatly aid you in your search for the source of the infestation. Third, know what indicators you are looking for:

      • Larvae droppings. These pellets, also known as frass, are excreted by larvae after fiber consumption. (Yes, it's poop.) They are found woven among the silken strands of fabric. Since the dyes of various materials are often unaffected by the digestive process, the pellets are frequently the same color as the fiber being consumed. This makes it easier to differentiate from general dust accumulation.
      • Silk deposits. These larvae lay their silk hidden in the folds or weaves of tapestries, beneath rugs, in the areas of clothing beneath cuffs and collars, or between garments when they are hung too close together or tightly packed into closets.
      • Silken tubes. When larvae feed on the underside of carpeting, the silken tubes may extend along the flooring or in floor cracks.
      • Furrows or long, irregular holes. These occur on the surface of the material. Woolens damaged by clothing moths frequently display furrows, caused by the “grazing” feeding behavior of the larvae. Long, irregular holes are from heavy infestations.

        How do I prevent a clothing moth infestation?

        Preventing an infestation is much easier than eliminating an established infestation. What’s important to remember is that woolen items  -whether this be a sweater, a rug or a blanket- in constant use and routinely cleaned are rarely damaged. What is damaged are those items that are not in constant use and which are not regularly cleaned. 

        Here are a few suggestions to keep your clothing hole-free all through the years:

        • Regularly vacuum tapestries and woolen carpets. 
        • Vacuum shelves and dresser drawers before storing woolen clothing for the season. 
        • Vacuum closet floors, paying special attention to the area beneath baseboards. 
        • Properly launder or dry-clean woolens and furs prior to storage.
        • Place woolens and furs (post cleaning) in pest-proof containers with secure lids or tight seals. 
        • Avoid storing keratin-rich items in humid attics or basements, which are ideal moth environments. 
        • Routinely take all moth-loving-items out of your closet and, if you’re not going to wear them, give them a good shake. 
        • Store seasonal or infrequently worn items in proper sealed containers, the best being vacuum-sealed plastic bags if storing for a long period. 
        • Use the Insect Buster to lightly dust the undersides of your woolen carpets and rugs with our non-toxic insect powder Dust to Dust, a superb alternative to diatomaceous earth. 
        • Keep your woolens in a “woolen freezer."
        • Do not use toxin-filled mothballs.

          How do I get rid of clothing moths?

          If you find clothing moths in your home, already happily gorging themselves on your clothes, there are six steps that must be followed to get rid of these hole-producing, silk-depositing wool moths, which includes purchasing Dr. Killigan's Premium Clothing Moth Traps. In addition, if you have woolen carpets or rugs, I recommend purchasing the Insect Buster, as this will assist with a present infestation and also help prevent further infestations.

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