How to Get Rid of Clothing Moths

By Julie Miller
How to Get Rid of Clothing Moths - Dr. Killigan's

Clothing moths are pests that can do considerable damage. They nest in a family's heirloom, lay eggs in your vicuña pull-on sweater—which only happens to be the finest and rarest wool in the world—and embarrass you at a dinner party. You had no idea that there were holes in the delicate blue wool scarf that you had wrapped around your neck.

Regardless of whether or not you’ve personally experienced their insatiable cravings, it’s important that you’re prepared for these winged miscreants that will happily take up residence in your closet. I feel that knowing how to get rid of clothing moths is a must, especially if you wear clothes (which we all do). You’re about to find out how to prevent and kill a (clothing) moth and all of their munching larvae friends.

Six Steps to Get Rid of Clothing Moths

Access the Situation & Identify the Winged Pest

In your desire to quickly kill these clothes-eating invaders, it’s easy to overlook the exact type of moth that you’re dealing with. There are several species of moths that will take up residence in your home. After you’ve clearly identified your moth and feel confident that you have neither a brown house moth, a white-shouldered house moth, or a Mediterranean pantry moth, I would then ensure that it’s indeed a clothing moth and not a pantry moth, as these two species are often mixed up with one another. Ask yourself these questions before you rip open your first sealed Dr. Killigan’s Clothing Moth Trap.

Is my moth a weak flier, tending to flutter about rather than fly in a direct pattern? 

Does it shy away from light, hiding in dark locations? 

Does it have tiny tufts of golden or reddish hair on its heads? (You’ll need to actually catch one to find out. A magnifying glass may be helpful. Remember: They don’t bite.)

Have you found evidence of its destructive nature? Clothing moths tend to graze along the surface of keratin-rich fabrics, but they can also chew holes.

Discard Particularly Infested Items

Once you can confidently say "yes, it’s a clothing moth," it’s time to meticulously go through your wardrobe. The reason I write "meticulously" is because clothing moth larvae, though they will not eat synthetic fibers, they will eat through them to burrow into the natural fibers underneath, which includes much more than just your wool sweater. They’re not called "wool moths" after all.

If the item is beyond repair with your needle and thread skills, place it in a trash bag, seal it with twist ties or knot it up, and immediately dispose of it in the outdoor garbage can.

Thoroughly Clean the Clothes You Keep

You have two choices in this matter: hot or cold.

If you choose to kill these moths with heat, you can do this by washing your clothes with hot water over 120°F or steaming or dry cleaning your clothes. If you wash the clothes yourself, consider turning up your water heater. 120°F to 125°F is a water heater’s standard temperature setting, but the water will lose some heat on its way to the washer. If you steam your clothes, you may need to be a steam cleaning expert, as whether or not the clothing moth larvae actually die will depend on the thoroughness of the treatment, the duration of exposure to the steam, and the depth of the steam that reaches into the garment's fibers without risking damage to your precious garments. A more effective, though expensive route, would be to dry clean your clothes.

If washing, steaming, or dry cleaning isn’t your route of choice, you can try killing the larvae with cold. First identify and isolate the infested clothing items. Second, place these items in a sealed, airtight bag. Do not over-stuff the bag with clothing and make sure that you have sealed the bag well to prevent frost and condensation on your clothing items. Say a temporary good-bye to that sweater and deep freeze it, ideally for a week, but at least for 72 hours. Ensure that your freezer maintains a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit or colder.

Clean Your Closet

Vacuum the area where the affected items were stored, paying special attention to the corners and edges. Use a strong-suctioning vacuum and its attachments to do so. Clothing moths will not feed on your carpet, as this is a synthetic fiber, but the carpet can provide food sources such as pet hair. Then, spray a light dusting of Six Feet Under on your carpet. This non-toxic kill-on-contact solution will kill any remaining eggs or larvae that were missed.  (We do recommend choosing a small, inconspicuous spot of your floor covering to test on before committing).

As a further step, I recommend thoroughly wiping down all shelves, walls, storage containers, etc. in your closet—any places where the clothing moths could have been—with Six Feet Under.

Place Traps

Place one of Dr. Killigan’s Clothing Moth Traps on your clothing rod and one low to the ground in your closet. Because clothing moths are not strong fliers, having one near the ground can be a helpful location. Placing a third trap on the other side of the room, around 8-10 feet away, can help draw away moths from the closet. The pheromone attractant can permeate up to 100 ft. if there is constant airflow, which will help draw out any moths that are in the vicinity. As you choose your trap placement, keep in mind that clothing moths like dark, undisturbed, quiet places.

Dr. Killigan’s Clothing Moth Traps are only intended for the two most common clothing moth species: the webbing moth, Tineola Bisselliella, and the casemaking moth, Tinea Pellionella, which are the only moths that will damage your clothes. If you have either of these species, you can ensure that our traps will do the moth killing for you.

Be Patient

Lastly, it is important to understand that while you are trapping adults today, the eggs they have laid will hatch in the next 20-30 days. Give it time, and even when things start to lull, remain vigilant. Catching all of the male moths, as the traps only attract and catch the males, will not stop the life cycle immediately due to current larvae. The solution for this problem is to keep traps out so that you can catch every generation of adult males before they mate. In doing so, there will soon be no eggs left, meaning you will have no moths left.

How to Keep Clothing Moths a Nuisance of the Past

You must be proactive. To keep clothing moths a-thing-of-the-past, here are some tips and tricks:

  • Purchase Dr. Killigan’s Insect Buster and fill it with food-grade diatomaceous earth. (DE must be purchased separately.) Disperse this into any and all cracks and crevices where the moths may be gaining a foothold.
  • Take out, shake, and wear all of your clothes.
  • Keep clothing-moth-loving-attire that you don’t wear frequently in sealed clothing bags. If storing for a long period of time, I recommend vacuum-sealed plastic bags.
  • Have your wool carpets or rugs professionally cleaned twice a year. In the meantime, lift furniture and vacuum every square inch of these carpets and rugs.
  • Wash your clothes regularly. Moths are spellbound with the scent of urine, sweat, or food stains.
  • Purchase a freezer for those cashmere sweaters.
  • Keep one of Dr. Killigan’s Clothing Moth Traps out at all times to make you aware of a potential issue. Once opened, the trap is good for three months; unopened, it is good for three years from the date of manufacture.

It may seem that clothing issues are on the rise. Together, let’s be prepared.

Final Word on How to Get Rid of Clothing Moths

Having a clothing moth infestation is no joke. It takes extreme diligence, patience, and hard work to get rid of these wool-eating, pet-hair-munching, food-stain-loving pests. Have you had a clothing moth issue? How did you get rid of those winged invaders? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below! 


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