How To Protect Your Garments Against Moths?

Tineola bisselliella, is the species name of the clothes moth. This tiny moth lays its eggs in the feathers or hair of animals and also in products made from animal hair (all fibers and materials that contain the protein keratin). The larvae of the small moth can eat little and larger irregular holes in the fabric and destroy the garments.

Although the hatched clothes moth with its shiny yellow-brown wings is smaller than one centimeter, it can cause considerable damage. The best thing against moths is prevention. Here we explain what you can do to avoid moth and what to do if you do have moths.

What moth like

The clothes moth is primarily interested in fibers made from keratin (a protein that forms the basic structure of mammal hair – including human hair). So moths like all products made from animal hair. Especially if they have been worn and the scents from sweat, food stains and dander additionally attract the moths.

Moth prevention is easy

The three most important measures are pretty simple. Firstly, it is best, of course, if you can prevent moths from entering the house in the first place. So, fly screens in front of the windows help prevent unwanted moths from entering. And if the females don't come in, they can't lay eggs either.

The second basic rule is: If you do not use wool clothing for a more extended period, i.e. longer than two months, then it is better to stow it moth-proof to prevent an infestation. Garments you put back in the closet should have aired in the sun for at least two days or be freshly laundered.

And third, your closet should be attractive to you, not moth. Natural helpers such as lavender, laurel, cloves, cedarwood, or peppermint turn wardrobes into a smelly cubbyhole for moths. And make sure to renew the aromas regularly.

Sure, none of this is a guarantee against moths, but prevention is always easier than fighting moths if you have them.

Check regularly

To make sure your wool clothing is safe, you might want to check now and then. The easiest way to find out if you have moths is to set up sticky scent traps. They attract male moths with pheromones. An infestation is very likely if several moths get caught in these traps in a short period (one to three days).

Make flying in difficult

Small animals like moths are regular guests in our apartments and houses. Unfortunately, it's pretty difficult to stop them. But fly screens protect against flying insects quite well. And combined with the other preventive measures, it should be easy to prevent moths.

The right smell against moth

The best remedies for moths protection are completely natural and easy to get. Because moths avoid certain smells like Lavender, Bay Leaves, Clove, Cedarwood, Peppermint, Patchouli or Thuja (Tree of Life essential oil) and less effective lemon peal.

So if you put or hang bits of cedar wood, lavender bags or dried lemon peel near your woolen clothes, the moths most likely stay away from these scents

Lavender, Peppermint and the other plant aromas have a stronger smell at the beginning, but they have to be replaced regularly in order for them to work. Cedar wood can simply be roughen again and again with a sandpaper.

In addition, you should wash your wool garments before storing them for longer and ideally pack it for protection. You can find out more about this below.

Store Your Clothing Mothproof

If you want to stow your winter clothes in summer, or the other way, you should definitely note the following so that you can store your wool garments mothproof. Before you store or stow wool clothing for a longer time, you should wash it thoroughly so that the odors are out of the clothing.

Loosely fold the clothes and place them in a pillow case made of sturdy linen or thick cotton cloth. It's best to put a lavender bag or a few pieces of cedar wood in it and fold the open side several times, before folding everything to a compact bundle. So your clothes can breathe and are well protected from moths.

If you want to be on the safe side, you can also use a vacuum bag for storage, but this is usually not necessary and with the natural method you avoid products made of plastic.

What If I Have Moths in My Wardrobe?

Mostly you find out about moths in your closet the hard way: You discover damages, little and bigger irregular holes in one or some of your woolen garments.

In this case, it is best to immediately react and fight the infestation.

Try to locate the infestation

If you do have moths in your closet, a few simple steps can help get rid of them. To find out exactly where the moth infestation is located, you should set up a few attractant traps (female moth pheromone traps) in different, dark corners, where you store your clothes. The traps attract the males with the female sex hormone. You cannot prevent an infestation with the traps, but you can find out whether you (still) have moths, because where there is a male, the females ready to mate are not far either.

Look through your closet to check if you find clothes that already have moth holes or in which webs of the moth larvae are visible (patches of white, thin, sticky threads).

If you find broken garments that you still can repair and use, you can learn how to make them moth-free below. If you have damaged clothes that you need to throw away, please pack them tightly in a plastic bag (yes, really, it's necessary) before throwing them into the trash.

Avoid Pesticides

Let's talk about one thing upfront: pesticides. We can only urge you to avoid chemical and natural pesticides and toxins altogether. These can attack the nervous system and trigger strong allergic reactions. Some substances could also damage your garments, which you aimed to prevent by eliminating the moths. 

Changing temperature Kills Moths

Nature offers plenty of methods to get rid of the moths. If you have discovered broken items of clothing that have been eaten by moth larvae, take these and the surrounding clothing made of animal fibers and place them in the oven at 50-60°C (120-140°F).

It is essential that the temperature is even and that you stay around because of the risk of fire. One to two hours in the oven at 50-60°C kills all the eggs and larvae of the moth. Afterward, wash everything through (or better twice).

The same is true for cold. So, with clothes that are extremely sensitive, it is better to put them in the freezer at -18°C (0°F) or below. But it has to be stored there for at least a week, and you will need a giant freezer, depending on how many wool garments you own.

vacuum and wipe well

But that's not all, yet. You should clear out the closet, check everything for moths and vacuum the closet well with a vacuum cleaner.

Especially the corners and cracks; everything that is hidden and dark should be vacuumed particularly well. Then wipe the cupboards or chest of drawers well with vinegar water (vinegar cleaner) and let it dry completely.

If you want to be on the safe side, you can blow-dry the corners with your hair dryer for a few minutes – this would destroy the last eggs. But make sure that your cabinet surface can withstand the heat of a hair dryer (be careful with laminated surfaces).

And again, set up some sticky pheromon traps to see if you still have moths. If so, take another round of cleaning and heating or freezing everything.

let moth's natural enemy help you

If you have a tough moth infestation, the natural enemies of the moth can help you fight it: the parasitic wasps (Trichogramma evanescens). These tiny animals are a flightless subspecies of wasps, that lay their eggs in the eggs and larvae of the clothes moth and kill them.

The wasps themselves are smaller than half a millimeter and die or disappear as soon as they can no longer find moth eggs. They do not leave any damage on clothing and shake off when worn and become part of the house dust. So don't worry, this won't be a vermin invasion. The little animals are your best friend when you have a heavy moth infestation and you do not need to worry ever seeing one.

You can buy the parasitic wasps on small cards on the Internet. They hatch three days up to one week after shipping.