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How To Get Rid of Moths in Closets

Close inspection of a moth-eaten knitted garment.

Moths are pesky critters that don't just eat your most beloved clothes, they can also cause some health issues. Here are tips on how to effectively drive them away from your closet.

Moths can be mildly irritating in the summer when they swarm around your porch light. They become more than a mild irritation when you switch your closet for the season and find that moths have gotten into your sweaters.

While moths aren’t particularly dangerous and are even kind of cute, the last thing you want is moth larvae in your house. They don’t just eat wool. They also devour silk, cotton, and linen. Even worse, they leave behind their skins and their excrement.

Moth larvae can cause allergic reactions in some people. These can manifest as rashes, blisters, scaly skin, and other skin irritation. Some people are sensitive to substances produced by moths and their larvae that can be inhaled. This can cause life in a house with moths to be miserable for some people.

How do you keep moths out of your closet, and away from your wool trousers? Here are some ways to keep moths from causing you to need a new winter wardrobe.

A person ironing clothes on ironing board.

Getting Rid of Moths in Closets

If you find evidence that moths have established themselves in your wardrobe, you need to act quickly before they destroy anything else.

  1. Wash all your clothes and your curtains: If you find signs of moth leavings wash everything to remove any possible larvae. Wash things that can handle it on hot then dry them on warm. For more delicate fabrics, take them to the dry-cleaner, or wash them on the cold setting, and stick them in the freezer for 72 hours to kill the larvae.
  2. Iron your clothes: The heat from the iron will kill the moth larvae.
  3. Hang your clothes in the sun: Exposure to sunlight will kill any remaining moth eggs.
  4. Vacuum everything: Vacuum your baseboards closet shelves, and inside the closet. Throw out the bag to prevent hatching larvae from working their way right back to your bedroom.
  5. Scrub your closet shelves with vinegar and water: You can use vinegar and water or another cleaner to remove any eggs or larvae that may have been missed by the vacuum.
  6. Set traps: If you know you still have adult moths in your house, place sticky traps to help catch them before they lay eggs and destroy your hard work.
  7. Call a pest control professional: If you have more moths than you can handle, call an expert. They know where to look, and the best ways to eliminate infestations of moths.

A bag of dried lavender flowers stored with the bed sheets.

Keeping Moths Away

If you have managed your infestation, or if you want to prevent an infestation before it strikes, there are tried and true methods to keep moths away from your bedroom.

  1. Cedar is a proven method for keeping moths away. You can apply cedar oil or spray cedar in your closets, and the corners of your room. You can purchase cedar planks to hang in your closet and even cedar balls to store with your clothes.
  2. Brush your clothes with a clothing brush if you’ve been out, especially after dark. This will remove any hitchhikers that could find their way into your bedroom.
  3. Store clothes in airtight bags or containers. This will help prevent moths from finding their way into the off-season clothes you’ve put away.
  4. Sachets of rosemary, lavender, bay leaves, peppercorns, eucalyptus, or thyme, or a combination of these will help repel moths. These are herbs that are natural repellents. You can also mix the oils in a spray bottle for a natural moth repellent spray.
  5. Make sure you wash all your clothes before storing them for the season. Moths will be more attracted to the scent of clothes that have been worn, even if it’s something you only wore once for an hour.
  6. Store your clothes in lavender. Lavender is another natural moth repellent that will leave your clothes smelling fresh when you pull them out of storage. Make a sachet or use a potpourri ball to store with your clothes. Swap it out every once in a while to maintain the potency.
  7. Cinnamon and cloves both work as moth repellents. Place in a sachet and store with your clothes, or in your closet to keep moths away. You can also try blending the oils and using them as a spray.
  8. Vacuum frequently. This will pick up any moth eggs that have found their way into your bedroom. Vacuuming is one of the best ways to prevent moths. It can pick up eggs you may not realize have been tracked in.
  9. Keep your clothes in a well-ventilated area. Moths thrive in warm humid air, so keeping things stored in areas that are inhospitable to moths will help protect them.

Mothballs Or Not?

Mothballs are highly effective in repelling moths. For some people, they may be the obvious choice, but use them with caution. Only use mothballs for their labeled purpose. Mothballs can cause irritation to the skin, so if you are using them handle them with care.

Often mothballs are used outside in a mistaken effort to repel pests other than moths. Not only is this not effective, and technically illegal since mothballs are not to be used for off label use. It is also dangerous to children and family pets who may handle and ingest them. The soil and groundwater can also be contaminated.

If placed with clothing, containers containing mothballs should be airtight. The chemicals in mothballs can leak out and contaminate the air. This is also why mothballs should not be used in attics or crawl spaces. Mothballs can be irritating to the lungs.

Clothes stored with mothballs should be hung outside to remove the odor after being run through a vinegar wash. You may need to do this several times to remove the smell.

The choice of what to use to repel moths is a personal decision. Just be aware of the dangers and handle with care to protect the health of you and your family.

Prevention is easier than a cure, and putting measures in place to prevent moths out of your bedroom will keep an infestation from occurring. It may seem like a lot of work, but you will be saving time and money compared to taking care of a full-fledged infestation.

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