If you follow me elsewhere on the internet, then you already know my heartbreaking tale of woe and destruction. But, for those of you not on the Twitter and the Instagram: In late summer, I lost a third of my wardrobe, a third of my yarn stash, and a sizable portion of both my fabric and felt collections to the dreaded clothes moth. Around my craft studio, this horrifying incident is referred to, in appropriately hushed and reverent tones, as either Moth Hell or The Mothing. And, in sharing my story (spoiler: I defeat the moths and emerge victorious), it is my hope that I can help save other crafters from the same terrible fate.
At first, I was deeply embarrassed. And I must not be alone in that initial reaction, because, bouncing around the crafty/home-related internet, there’s tons of information about how to protect your fiber and fabric from an infestation, and even what to do after you’ve seen your first moth, but there’s precious little reliable information about how to actually save your stuff when a full-blow infestation is already underway. This lack of visible online guidance and commiseration made me feel alone and ashamed. But, then I looked around at my clean apartment and organized workspace (that was still, nonetheless, infested with clothes moths), talked to fellow crafty friends who whispered about their own past infestations, and I got the hell over it. Because, you know what? Moths don’t care if your apartment is clean. If they get in, they’re still going to eat your yarn, your wool sweaters, your silky underthings, and anything else that might have ever come into contact with sweat, your skin, or pet hair. And they’re probably going to be pretty stealthy at first—they’ll hide away in your yarn bins, coat closet, or in the back of your drawers where you keep the stuff that you never wear—and it won’t matter that you vacuum twice a week and put away clutter, because you won’t even know that they’re there. The fact is, if you’re not specifically looking for signs of clothes moths on a regular basis, you can easily have an infestation on your hands before you even see that first moth fly out of your craft room. And it doesn’t matter how those stupid moths got there in the first place—perhaps you brought home an infested skein of yarn, or picked up the wrong wool coat at the thrift store, or maybe one of those little buggers just happened to flitter in through an open window—all that matters is dealing with it quickly and thoroughly and the FIRST time around.
After successfully dealing with my own moth problems, I decided to put together a guide to help other crafters who find themselves in the same situation. I live and work out of my Brooklyn apartment, and I have two very curious cats, so I did not use unnecessary pesticides or chemicals. Instead, I used common sense, good old fashioned white vinegar, and a whole lot of cleaning. These aren’t preventative measures. This is the unvarnished truth about what to do when a clothes moth infestation is definitely already happening, and now you have to fix it.
If you’ve got moths, this is how to save your stuff:
What you’re up against:
While the small tan moths fluttering around the room might be the most visible sign of trouble, adult moths aren’t actually responsible for eating your delicious, delicious fabrics and fibers. The culprit, as it turns out, is the moth larva. (Read: The caterpillar that hatches from the moth egg, which will, eventually, turn into that fluttering moth.) Moth larvae have voracious appetites, and, though they prefer animal fibers such as wool, cashmere, alpaca, etc., they will also munch on natural plant fibers like cotton, especially if the fabric is dirty/covered in pet hair.
Unlike many pests—and contrary to popular opinion—clothes moth eggs DO NOT lie dormant, only to hatch years later to suddenly reinfest your space. [Sources: Maine state government by way of Colorado State University and buildingconservation.com] They generally hatch within 4–10 days in the summer, but in cooler winter temperatures, it can take up to three weeks or so. That’s good news, since you won’t have to go around worrying about zombie eggs lurking in your stash FOREVER. [Source: Penn State University]
When you spot a moth or moth damage, the first thing you should do is contain the problem. Close off the room, then carefully check the fiber/textiles/furniture/rugs/clothing therein. Take note of any location or item that shows signs moths, moth eggs, larvae, or casings. [Here’s what all of those things look like.] Temporarily seal the infested item(s) in a ziplock bag or plastic box with a sealed lid for cleaning or disposal. Go through the rest of your apartment/house room-by-room to see if the problem has spread. Close off any additional rooms that show signs of damage, and seal any additional infested items in bags or plastic boxes. (If you’ve got a thorough infestation in multiple rooms, you can skip the initial bagging step and go straight to the cleaning.) If you’re lucky enough to have caught things early, your moth elimination efforts might be contained to just one room. (Hooray!) If not, I’m not going to sugarcoat it: You’ve got some serious work ahead of you. But, rest assured, the moth battle is one you can win. Just take my advice: I speak from direct experience when I say that this whole EPIC Anti-Moth Cleaning of Doom thing sucks. You’ll only want to do it once, so don’t half-ass it.
You’ve only seen one tiny little moth and no signs of damage? Don’t ignore it and hope for the best. That road, I can assure you, will only lead to tears.
Please note that the links to supplies and tools that are provided below are affiliate links, and I will be compensated if you choose to make a purchase after clicking through.
- Vacuum with hose (strong suction)
- Steam/Spot cleaner (Optional, but handy for furniture/mattresses. If you need deeper/hotter steam clean, you can also rent a large steam cleaner for carpets and furniture.)
- Washer/Dryer (A trip to a laundromat will help you do everything in one fell swoop/wash awkwardly large items.)
- Oven with a “warm” setting (Be careful—this is a fire hazard, so see notes below.)
- Trash bags
- Lint roller
- Ziploc bags, quart freezer bags, gallon freezer bags, Big Bags storage bags in size L, and Big Bag storage bags in size XL
- Ziploc Space Bag vacuum seal bags
- Oxygen absorber packets
- Silica moisture absorbing packets
- Plastic boxes with sealed lids
- White vinegar
- Spray bottle
- Paper towels
- Yarn wash (optional, but nice for handknits)
- Clothes moth traps
- Cedar blocks/boxes/chests
- Welcome to Night Vale, a podcast to entertain and soothe you while you clean
Before you start cleaning, you should figure out how best to approach your space, keeping in mind that cross-contamination (putting clean things on or near infested/not yet cleaned things) can and will cause already clean places/items to become reinfested. If ever there was a time to be super-neurotic about cleaning, this is it. I recommend starting the cleaning process by wiping down a table with undiluted white vinegar and using it as a staging ground for plastic boxes with lids, where you can place clean items to keep them separate from not-yet-cleaned items while you’re working. This table can serve as a starting point for the whole cleaning process, and you can begin there and work your way out, cleaning as you go until you’ve finished the entire room/apartment/house. (Jumping around from place to place makes it more likely that you will accidentally re-contaminate an already clean area.) To protect your home even further, spray and wipe down any cleaning tools that you’ve used—including the vacuum/vacuum brushes/broom/etc—with undiluted white vinegar when you’re done with each cleaning session. During the cleaning process, your vacuum and your white vinegar will be the most important tools at your disposal, so be prepared to show them some love.
I’m sorry to tell you that there is no magic solution that makes moths go away, so the key to successfully ridding your home/workspace of them is, alas, being absolutely and tirelessly thorough. I am not exaggerating when I say that I touched and cleaned every single item in my craft studio and apartment during my own moth infestation, and the process took weeks. Not not hours, not days. Weeks. (Think of it as a good opportunity to finally go through and get rid of all of the junk that you’ve been meaning to toss over the years—that’s what my husband and I did.) Alas, if you take shortcuts in your cleaning, chances are good that you’ll have another infestation on your hands in a few months. And then you’ll have to clean again, and it will suck. Them’s the facts. So, just do it right the first time, and then it’ll only suck/take over your life/give you nightmares once, okay? Okay.
Why white vinegar? Moth eggs/larvae aren’t particularly hardy, and white vinegar is a strong but natural cleaner. While it cleans, it changes the pH of anything on the surface being scrubbed and kills any moth eggs and larvae. And, when diluted with water, it also can be used to set dyes in yarn and fabric, so it’s perfect for cleaning your handmade items without risking a mess of running colors.
Ready to get started? Here’s how I cleaned ALL OF THE THINGS:
Yarn and Fiber:
Unlike many resources that I found in my own panicked googling, I’m not going to tell you to throw away your entire stash. And, while there might be skeins that are just too far gone, I’ll give you some options for saving what you can, and then I’ll tell you how to protect your stash in the future. I said at the beginning of this post that I lost ⅓ of my yarn stash during my moth cleaning process, but that number is a bit misleading. It describes real and upsetting losses, sure, but it also includes a much-needed culling of my stash, and a good percentage of the skeins I ended up tossing I *chose* to get rid of, either because they were colors I didn’t like or low quality fiber that I was never going to use. It’s amazing what an infestation can do to clarify which supplies you do and don’t want to keep—when you know that you’re going to have to put forth considerable effort to clean something, suddenly it’s a whole lot easier to make those hard to-keep/not-to-keep decisions.
Sort your stash into three trash bags: keep, throw away, and undecided. The keep bag should hold relatively undamaged skeins, the throw away bag should include skeins that you no longer want and skeins that are clearly too damaged by the infestation to save, and the undecided bag should hold anything that you’re unsure about to revisit later.
* The oven:
Let’s get this out of the way first: This method can be a fire hazard. And, if you must do it, you should only do it for ANIMAL FIBERS. Not acrylics, not cottons, not blends. And you should NEVER, EVER leave it unattended. EVER. (No, seriously.) It should also go without saying that, should you decide to try this, you should have an appropriate fire extinguisher nearby. (Also, I’m not an expert on fire safety, so you should contact someone who is if you have questions or concerns.)
And, with that said, I will now admit that this is the method that I used to save my stash.
Exposing animal fiber yarn to temperatures of 120F for a minimum of 30 minutes will kill moths/eggs/larvae at all stages. I placed my my animal fiber stash on baking sheets and cycled them through my oven on the warm setting (I used my oven thermometer to ensure the proper temperature) for an hour. I watched it like a hawk, and didn’t have any problems. And it worked.
Following the oven adventure, I gently vacuumed away any leftover evidence of moths/eggs/larvae on each individual skein. This part took forever. If you’ve got balls of yarn and a backyard, you might also want to unravel the balls and shake them out vigorously outside, then use a ball winder to re-wind them.
Note: I am told that sealing yarn in an enclosed car in a sunny spot on a hot summer day can do the same thing. This seems reasonable, but I haven’t tried it, as I live in NYC and don’t have a car.
* The freezer:
If you’ve got a chest freezer that ISN’T frost-free (frost-free freezers periodically cycle their temperatures above freezing to prevent frost buildup), turn that baby down to below freezing, put your stash in Ziploc freezer bags with the air squeezed out, then freeze them at temperatures consistently below freezing (go with -10F or so) for one to two weeks. Allow them to return to room temperature, then repeat the process. Allow your skeins to return to room temperature one more time, then shake them out/gently vacuum them off to remove any leftover evidence of moths.
Note: If you’ve got 100% wool felt/100% wool fabric (NOT synthetic, blends, or ecofelt), these are also the methods that you should use to clean that.
How to protect it from a future infestation:
Always store your yarn stash in high quality plastic bins with sealed lids.
Before placing your yarn in the bins, double up on protection (and storage space) by sealing your yarn in reusable Space Bag-style vacuum storage bags with a couple of silica moisture absorbing packets inside to make sure that your yarn stays completely dry.
For yarn that I’m not planning to use right away, I include a couple of oxygen absorber packets in addition to the silica moisture absorbing packets in my vacuum storage bags to create a dry, oxygen-free environment that’s completely inhospitable to pests of any kind. In theory, this should also kill anything that I may have missed during the cleaning process. (Be careful–once you open a bag of oxygen absorbers, they start to work right away. They’re a one-time-use item and can’t be reused once you reopen your vacuum storage bag. Any leftover packets should be sealed in their own vacuum storage bag immediately to keep the oxygen in the air from ruining them.)
When you acquire new yarn, put it away immediately. Don’t leave it sitting on your worktable for a month. If you’re not using it, keep it safe, sealed, and protected.
Hand-Knitted and Hand-Crocheted Items:
There are few things more upsetting than finding moth damage on hand-knitted or hand-crocheted items. But, before you mend, you need to clean!
Fill a bucket or plastic tub with 50% water and 50% vinegar. Submerge the item and allow it to soak for at least half an hour. Gently rinse the item, press it with a towel to remove excess water, and lay it flat to dry.
Optional: Re-wash it with your favorite lanolin and scent-infused wool wash.
How to protect it from a future infestation:
Thoroughly vacuum out any shelves, closets, floors, or surfaces where the items will be stored, then wipe everything down with white vinegar before returning the cleaned items to the area.
When not in use, store your knitted and crocheted items in sealed plastic bins, heavy plastic storage bags (I like Ziploc’s L and XL Big Bags), vacuum storage bags, or cedar boxes/chests. (Cedar oil in cedar chests or boxes kills moth larvae that comes into contact with it, protecting the items inside. Lightly sand the wood periodically to refresh the chest/box and release the oil in the wood.)
If you’re keeping your handmade items in a drawer, place enough cedar blocks inside that the cedar scent is evident when you open the drawer. Lightly sand the blocks every 6 months or so to refresh them.
Unless you’ve got a ton of silk or wool mixed in with your cottons and linens, chances are pretty good that your fabric is faring much better than your fiber. Even so, you’ll still want to clean it thoroughly and store it properly.
* Wash it:
Wash your washable fabrics in water at temperatures of at least 120F and dry them in a hot dryer. (Yes, this might shrink certain fabrics. Use common sense and your usual laundry/dry cleaning methods for delicate fabrics.)
* Freeze it:
As with yarn, if you’ve got a chest freezer that ISN’T frost-free (frost-free freezers periodically cycle their temperatures above freezing to prevent frost buildup), put your fabric in Ziploc freezer bags with the air squeezed out, then freeze them at temperatures consistently below freezing (-10F or so) for one to two weeks. Allow them to return to room temperature, then repeat the process. Allow the fabric to return to room temperature one more time, then shake it out/gently vacuum it off to remove any leftover evidence of moths. This is a great option for delicate, shrinkable fabrics that can’t be washed.
* Vacuum it:
In some cases, especially when there isn’t an obvious infestation, you can thoroughly vacuum fabrics to remove any stray moth eggs, then store this fabric in vacuum storage bags or ziploc bags until you’re sure that there aren’t any moths or larvae.
* Do NOT set it on fire:
The oven may have worked for your yarn, but you should NEVER use this method for fabrics. It’s dangerous, and it will probably result in burning quilting cotton and evenweave. I know this, because I set some of my own fabric on fire. Twice. Then I stopped being an idiot and took boxes and boxes of potentially contaminated fabric to the laudromat, which is what I should have done in the first place.
How to protect it from a future infestation:
Thoroughly vacuum out any shelves, closets, floors, or surfaces where the fabric will be stored, then wipe everything down with white vinegar before returning the cleaned fabric to the area.
Once all of your fabric has been cleaned, seal the yardage for each design/color in its own large Ziploc freezer bag (or larger storage bag if needed), and then store the bagged fabric in a plastic bin with a sealed lid. This does three magical things: It keeps all of the fabric for each project organized and in one place, and it protects the fabric from dirt, dust, and pests, and it helps prevent any future infestation in one piece of fabric from spreading to the rest. I now do this every time I buy new fabric.
If you have a large stash or tons of fabric scraps, you can also use vacuum storage bags with silica packets and oxygen absorber packets for long-term storage to create an inhospitable environment for pests, just like you did with the yarn.
Dealing with a moth-infested wardrobe requires nerves of steel. Drink a beer or a cup of coffee while you gather your courage.
* Freeze it or wash it: If your clothes are washable, follow the instructions in the fabric section above.
* Dry clean it: Take all dry clean only garments to the cleaner. It’ll be expensive, but you’ll want take every garment that needs to be cleaned at the same time so you don’t risk reinfesting clean garments or cleaned storage spaces.
* Check your shoes: Shoes don’t get cleaned very often, so they can be a perfect breeding ground for moths. Toss any pairs of shoes that are beyond saving, then vacuum out the remaining pairs. Once they’ve been vacuumed, wash any canvas shoes or sneakers that are washable in a washing machine, and wipe out any shoes that aren’t machine washable with white vinegar. If you’re cleaning leather/silk/satin shoes, skip the vinegar and brush them thoroughly with a toothbrush or a nail brush, then vacuum one more time. Pay special attention to shoelaces.
* Check your handbags/backpacks/totes: Much like shoes, bags are also items that are used often, but not regularly washed. Follow the shoe guidelines above, or dry clean if appropriate.
How to protect it from a future infestation:
Thoroughly vacuum out any shelves, closets, floors, or surfaces where your clothing will be stored, then wipe everything down with white vinegar before returning the cleaned clothes to the area. This includes any cracks or crevices, the spaces on the sides of shelves, and under and behind any storage unit. Don’t forget to remove your drawers from the dresser and wipe out the inside of both the drawers and the empty dresser frame.
Store clean seasonal items in either plastic bins with sealed tops or in vacuum storage bags with silica packets. Keep special occasion garments in sealed garment bags to protect them from dirt, dust, and pests. Store folded sweaters in sealed plastic bins or sealed plastic storage bags year round.
Use cedar blocks in all clothing storage areas, taking care to use enough of them to make the scent evident when the drawer/door is opened. Lightly sand them every 6 months to refresh the scent and oil in the wood.
General Tips for Cleaning Your Home and Workspace/Post-Moth Maintenance:
As I said before, the key to success is to be absolutely thorough and to avoid cross-contamination between clean and dirty areas as you work.
How to clean it:
* Furniture: Vacuum thoroughly, removing cushions and using the hose to access any cracks and crevices, taking care to clean the back, sides, and bottom of the furniture as well. If you discover signs of damage, rent or buy a steam cleaner to deep clean the item, then continue to vacuum thoroughly at least once a week until no signs of moths remain.
* Rugs and Carpets: Vacuum thoroughly on both the front and back (where possible). Rent or buy a steam cleaner to deep clean the item. Continue to vacuum thoroughly at least once a week until no signs of moths remain.
* Mattresses: Like furnuture, rugs, and carpets, vacuum your mattress thoroughly on both the front and back, then rent or buy a steam cleaner to deep clean it. Allow for plenty of drying time before you need to sleep on it again. Continue to vacuum it thoroughly at least once a week for a few weeks. Consider encasing it in a protective covering.
* Everything else: Remove every item from every shelf/cupboard/cabinet/closet and wipe down all surfaces, and clean all of the items that you removed before putting them back. If an item can be washed in the washing machine (pet beds, curtains, placemats, potholders, aprons, throw pillows, etc.), wash it. If an item or surface can be wiped down with white vinegar or diluted white vinegar (nicknacks, recycling bins, lampshades, etc.), do it. (A 1:1 white vinegar to water ratio is generally safe for most surfaces, but spot check if you’re not sure.) If not, vacuum thoroughly, then use an appropriate cleaner for the item or surface (say, oil soap for wood/wood floors). EVERY SINGLE ITEM OR SURFACE IN YOUR HOME SHOULD BE CLEANED. I cannot stress this enough. If you skip an area because it looks clean, you’re probably going to miss something and end up with more moths and another round of cleaning.
How to protect it from future infestation:
* Vacuum and wipe down your craft room shelves monthly, and do the same in your closets and dressers at least once every three months. This will keep these surfaces inhospitable to pests, and will help you catch any new infestations early.
* Place hormone clothes moth traps in places prone to infestation (closets, drawers, linen cabinets, near your yarn and fabric stashes). Replace them regularly, according to the instructions on the package. This does two things: It will alert you to any new moth issues, and it will attract male moths, preventing them from mating with females. The traps that I linked to in the supply list at the beginning of this post are the most effective traps that I’ve found thus far.
* Pet hair: One of the most important lessons that I learned from this whole debacle was this: moths effing love cat hair. And, despite regular cleaning, I wasn’t always doing things like moving the couch or heavy shelves so I could clean under and behind them. So, that’s where the cat hair gathered, and that’s where the moths did too. (Shudder.) Make sure you’re doing a thorough move-all-the-things cleaning every few months.
* Sunlight: You know how your grandma used to air her quilts once a year by shaking them out and then hanging them in the sunshine for a day? Well, sunlight is an extremely powerful natural cleaner. If you’ve got the backyard and the sun to do it, it’s a great way to prevent infestations and rid your textiles of unwanted pests, even before they become a problem.
* Contaminated trash: While you’re cleaning, remove any trash/trash bags immediately. Do NOT keep bags that aren’t quite full in your home to use the next day.
* Contaminated vacuum cleaner: When you’re battling an infestation, make sure you empty your vacuum canister and/or remove the bag from your home at the end of each cleaning session. Also, take care to wipe down the surface of the vacuum with white vinegar to prevent any moth eggs that might be on it from hatching or spreading.
* General cleaning and upkeep: By far the best way to prevent new infestations is to clean thoroughly and regularly. (And behind things and under things!) If used often, your vacuum can prevent most moth-related issues from ever becoming a problem.
Note on pesticides: I’ve got cats, so I’m not a fan of toxic moth balls or chemical sprays. And, turns out, most of the “natural” sprays aren’t any safer for cats and kids. I didn’t use them, and I didn’t need to.
The above methods are how I handled my clothes moth infestation, but there are tons of additional ways to treat and prevent one. Definitely feel free to share your favorite tips and tricks in the comments below—your fellow crafters will thank you!
Thank you so much for sharing your moth saga. It is good to know about the effectiveness of white and I will start wiping craft room surfaces with it. I haven’t had moths yet but I worry about it. Today I brought home two thrifted cashmere sweaters and one had a couple of tiny moth holes (at least I think that’s what they are). I bagged each sweater individually in Ziploc to guard against bringing in eggs and both will get felted within the next week or so.
This article will be kept as an important resource but I hope I don’t need it. Sounds like you deserve some stash replacing time now. ;)
It’s definitely good that you’re keeping an eye out already, that’ll probably save you from ever having to deal with a nasty infestation. I think that was my initial problem–I didn’t worry enough! ;)
hi haley! thank you for the great guide! i was always wondering who chewed little holes on my sweater! i must tell you again how much i like your drawings, you should make a book with them! xx
Aww, thanks Ananda! Glad you like them. :)
this article is awesome, thanks so much! WHen I had my infestation last year, I struggled to find good resources on how to curb the slaughter, but not poison my infant daughter or my 2 cats. I had a lot of luck with the freezer method, and the pheromone moth traps, and sticky bug catchers in the closets. There is one thing I’d like to add, not relevant for everyone, but was an unfortunate discovery for me- feathers aren’t’ safe, either. I had some vintage feathered headbands, didn’t think that I had to worry about them, then found them thoroughly chewed by moth larvae. It’s amazing how something so small can cause so many tears- I literally wept over some of the things I lost.
Oh, yes! Thanks for bringing up feathers. We discovered much the same, but, luckily, our problem items were all just cat toys. So sorry to hear about your vintage headbands!
Am dealing with my infestation right now, and it’s extra hard to do everything while taking care of my new baby. I noted that you dealt w yours when your daughter was new – any tips for finding time for cleaning, prioritizing, cleaning a pack n play, etc? Did you get rid of your moths for good (really hope so!)? Thanks for anything you can share!
Moths are so frustrating! I thought I was done, but forgot to check shoes… and re-infestation all over again! Thanks for the thorough tutorial!
Oh man, that’s rough. It’s so hard to get everything!
Thank you so much for this! I tried to ignore things this summer, but a few weeks ago discovered holes in handmade items and had to deal with it. I had no idea what I was looking for or how to handle things other than to wash items and spread sachets of lavender and cedar blocks around. While I am not looking forward to the next few weeks, this guide will make things SO MUCH easier and give me such peace of mind!
So glad I could help! Wishing you the best of luck!
This is a fantastic resource – I wish I’d had this when we were dealing with an infestation last spring (I was already keeping my knitting things in sealed bags after a moth problem 10 years or so ago, but part of our oriental rug got eaten :\ ). One question – do you have a link for sealable garment bags? I’m exceptionally careful about storing out of season/infrequently worn clothing at this point, but I have yet to find a reasonable storage solution for suits. The various sizes of ziploc storage bags are my best friends, but I’d like to keep the suits wrinkle-free if possible, which means hanging them up.
Thanks for the post!
I don’t have a specific garment bag to recommend–we keep our suits and gowns in regular zippered garment bags (the heavy vinyl kind with closed bottoms, zippers all the way up the front, and additional flaps that cover the shoulders). I also hang cedar around the hanger and place a handful of cedar blocks in the bottom of the bag.
After googling around quickly, I found hanging vacuum seal garment bags (I haven’t tried them), but I’m not sure that they’d help with wrinkles: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MOXFAJ2/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00MOXFAJ2&linkCode=as2&tag=thzeofma-20&linkId=BWBNAKCQFQQTJVU6
Thank you for this! It’s so refreshing to find a solution that doesn’t just say “throw everything away”! I’ve had to deal with a couple horrid moth infestations, and most recently I’ve had to battle carpet beetles, which are just as destructive. I keep all of my yarn in freezer bags now, and some of it in the freezer!
Thanks, Bobbi! It drove me crazy when everything I found said to throw it all away–for me, that just wasn’t an option. I definitely hope this guide is helpful to other people dealing with this kind of thing. :)
Just the moral support alone! Thank you. I live in Alaska where I thought we were immune. Luckily, winter temps are well below zero so there is a deep freeze right out the door. I didn’t know about vinegar; that’s great. But – everything I could read on cedar plus talking with AK Cooperative extension folks says that cedar really doesn’t work. Other than smelling clean.
I’ve been frustrated by cleaning and cleaning but apparently missing something because one or two still show up. I miss having my yarn stash available to my fingers and eyes without having to plow through the unyielding plastic bins and bags.
When I first found them in my yarns I went through every skein, froze most but found the buggers on last skein of expensive luscious chocolate alpaca. So I froze and froze the alpaca then spent an entire afternoon spit-slicing the gazillions of pieces together then froze again and bagged. Sigh….this is a scourge. I’m glad I found you; no one in my knit group has ever had any problems. I believe I brought it back from a trip to New Hampshire.
Oh man, I hope you make something really, really special with that chocolate alpaca!
Re: Cedar: In blocks/sachets, you’re right–it’s one of those things where the scent *can* be a deterrent for adult moths (this could-help-and-definitely-doesn’t-hurt reasoning is why I use it), but it doesn’t always work, and it won’t do a darn thing about the larvae once they’re in your stuff. But, cedar chests do work when properly maintained (read: sanded to refresh the oil), because, from what I understand, the larvae can’t survive on the surface of the cedar because the oil in the wood kills them, making it unlikely that they’ll infest what’s stored inside the chest.
Best of luck!
Just to add a small point, as a student boat builder in college, after sanding the cedar boat I was building, my eyes swelled and watered, and I could barely breathe, waking at night gasping (I am not asthmatic) so went to doctor, who told me cedar is carcinogenic, so guessing moths succumb quicker than we do. Sanding cedar regularly is definitely the key, as it really is toxic, so make sure to not inhale the dust!
Not to be a downer, but I have to say that sometimes all the above steps aren’t enough. I first discovered my rampant infestation in October 2013 and am sadly still dealing with the moths. I’m also in Brooklyn and live in an apartment in an old brownstone, and despite cleaning every single surface and item in our home, they keep coming back! After trying everything on my own, I’ve had 2 different kid/pet-friendly “less toxic” exterminators come. They have done their own investigation and treatments, but the moths keep showing back up. Their theory is that the moths are either coming from a neighboring apartment or living on decades of accumulated pet hair under our floorboards. And there’s just no way to deal with that!
If anyone finds themselves in a similar situation, this is what I’ve done: Any animal fiber yarn/fabric/clothing that I want to keep was cycled through the freezer and/or microwave, individually plastic-bagged, put into plastic bins, topped with “old-fashioned” mothballs, and then the bins were sealed with packing tape. The bins now wait until we move to a different apartment or somehow kill off all the moths in this one. Sigh!
Thanks for letting me vent, I’m glad you were more successful in fighting your infestation! It really is a nightmare.
Oh man, that IS a nightmare–I’m so sorry.
I’m sure you’ve already tried just about everything, but just in case: If you’ve got hardwood floors and think they might be in the floorboards, have you tried waxing the floor to seal those buggers in? Seems like it might help. (It’d also be an epic pain in the butt. But, alas.)
Thanks so much for sharing your story and tips. I hope you’re able to figure it out and/or get the heck out of there soon. You must have the patience of a saint!
Yes, we’ve had a similar problem in our old house – an exterminator suggested that they are likely in the walls as well, which contain 100+ years of dust/feathers/horse hair (from the old plaster). Moving to escape them isn’t really a good option for us, but we’re trying to focus on keeping them from being a Problem again. Mitigation, not elimination, basically. Not ideal, but the best we can come up with for now.
I’ve had good luck with putting wool sweaters in the microwave. I put them in for a minute & a half. I read somewhere that it should be 3 minutes, but that is too long! It burned holes in my beautiful Pendleton suit
Sorry to hear about your troubles. It certainly is horrible to deal with these moths. I think I am lucky that I have found mine early but I do have a friend who has had it for a very long time and had real difficulties getting rid of it.
Thanks as well for the thorough list of tips . I just wanted to share one that my friend used and seemed to have reduced her infestation significantly. Indeed she put a net On each of her windows. (like the ones to prevent Mosquitos coming in) . Basically she bought a roll of the material and strips of Velcro. A cheap way to ‘net’ all the windows and easy to remove.
Now she is able to contain it as the moths can’t come through her Windows.
Hope this helps.
Hi Haley. Thanks so much for this post! I’ve been at a real loss to know what to do, and your article is very helpful. I’ve just discovered webbing clothes moths on a wool carpet that was rolled up in a closet upstairs. Before I found the moths the carpet was moved to the living room. I have a new baby and have to direct my cleaning time to the highest priority items to try to control the moths. Though I don’t doubt it’s true, it’s scary to hear the I’ll have to clean and wipe everything in my house because we are lucky enough to live in a 4 bedroom 3 level house, but with the baby there’s not a chance I can be that thorough. If you have any thoughts that can help me target the most important steps to take considering my situation (more info to follow) I would appreciate it so much!
From what I’ve read, I need to treat / clean all fabric items that were in the closet with the carpet, even of there’s no sign of larvae on the item, just to be safe, do you agree? Do I also have to throw out or clean non fabric items, like open boxes containing gift bags and wrapping paper? What about a hat box? Will wiping the inside of the closet (walls, shelves) with straight vinegar be enough? The closet and the room it adjoins have (synthetic) wall to wall carpeting – will vacuuming the wall to wall carpet be sufficient? The rolled up (mothy) carpet was in a plastic bag open at both ends, standing up in the closet on that wall to wall carpet. The closet door was often left open and the room the closet is in is the baby’s room. Do I have to wash clean cotton baby clothes that were sitting right in front of the closet in laundry baskets? Do indeed to wash / treat stuffed animals, cotton quilted wall hangings, and toys in the room? Any thoughts re what I need to do / clean in the living room where the carpet sat for a week before I noticed the moths? I’ve seen a flying moth in the living room downstairs, and another in the nursery on a baby towel hanging in the back of the nursery door. So sorry for all the questions – am just so overwhelmed trying to figure our how to tackle this! Any advice would be a huge help! Thank you.
First, to prioritize your cleaning, I’d go through each room of your house and check for any signs of moths. It’s possible that you’ll get lucky, and the problem will be contained to just one or two rooms. If you think you’ve got a room that’s clear, you can place a few hormone traps in nooks/closets that room–if they don’t pick anything up after a month or so, you’re probably fine. (Hormone traps are great alarm systems, and can alert you to a problem before it gets bad while also helping to eliminate it. I swear by these: http://www.amazon.com/Pro-pest-Clothes-Moth-Packs-Traps/dp/B002YAEA1Y/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1427472215&sr=8-2&keywords=Pro-pest+Clothes+Moth+Trap)
Next, in the baby’s room, where you know there have been moths, do an extremely thorough check. Because baby clothes generally get washed frequently, there’s a good chance that they’re fine. Moths like dirty things and animal fibers, so check laundry bins, folded blankets, coats and other seasonal items, and on/around the mattress and curtains. Vacuum/wash/wipe down anything that you can, including the closet walls, with white vinegar. (If you’ve got wallpaper/paint/surfaces you’re not sure about, try the vinegar on a hidden spot first.) Definitely wash all stuffed animals–they tend to get dirty from being loved up by kids, making them potentially attractive to moth larvae–in the washing machine and use the dryer to dry them where possible. If there are decorative toys that can’t be washed, vacuum them thoroughly. In the closet where the carpet was stored, yes, you’ll definitely want to do an extremely thorough cleaning, including non-fabric items. And, to be safe, I’d put any newly-cleaned fabric items that are usually stored in the closet in plastic bins with lids. Then, once you’ve done that initial cleaning, keep at least 2 hormone moth traps in the closet to alert you to any future problems.
In your case, I think your vacuum is going to be your best line of defense. Vacuum all of the carpets/curtains/furniture in rooms where you suspect/find moths, and do it often. Empty and change the bag each time to get any eggs/larvae out of the house.
You should also regularly wash all throws and blankets, especially if you have pets that shed. Moths think pet hair is delicious.
Hope this helps!
I’ve had a horrible time and after spending a fortune in the last 2 years washing and drycleaning and vacuuming, most but not all are gone. All my yarn and sweaters are in plastic and I’m always checking and shaking out.
However, the traps really helped last year but now they are NOT getting any customers and I have several different kinds placed all over. Anyone have this problem?
If it’s winter where you are, the process of moths going from larva to adult moth slows way down when the environment is cooler and dryer. You might just be in a slow cycle, so you’re not getting any adult moths emerging from cocoons right now, and thus no moths in the traps.
Well there are certainly much less than before but this winter, we have killed about a dozen moths just flitting by but none in the traps
Hello. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m currently going through the horrifying experience of dealing with clothes moths. I’ve been a knitter since I was a child and more recently a spinner.
I brought a bag of unwashed alpaca into my home that had been in the trunk of my car for most of the winter (because I didn’t want it in the house!), but then I was going on a trip and needed the space in the trunk of the car. The room where I stored the alpaca is very bright and sunny, but, I stupidly threw the bag into the closet at the last minute so that my cat wouldn’t get into it. She chews on plastic all of the time. Oh, wow. Big mistake! Like you wrote, what does it matter from where the moths came at this point. I can’t be certain the first arrived with the alpaca, but they got into a “closed” bin of alpaca in addition to the bag that I brought in. In all my research on the subject, these unwelcome pests seem to prefer alpaca, cashmere, silk among other fibers. I threw the alpaca–container and all–right into the dumpster and am now dealing with the aftermath of all of this. Fortunately, the majority of my yarn/fiber stash (I have a huge stash) was already in freezer bags inside plastic, closed bins, so I haven’t found any damage to my stash or my clothes for that matter (knock on wood). Everything wooly has gone to the dry cleaners or is hanging outside closets and has been taken outside to beat and hang in the sun.
I have read from others to do all of the things that you suggest, which I’m in the process of now (for about four weeks now). My one big question is around the traps. I bought them in the grocery store and then ordered some online, but they don’t work for casemaking clothes moths, and I do know that’s the type of moth I have in my home. What kind do you have and are your traps just general clothes moth traps or specific to one of the two types of clothes moths?
The only positive out of this disgusting experience is that I’m paring down big time. I just wonder, do you or anyone else here have any thoughts on open storage? I’m contemplating taking the doors off of my closets and leaving them off.
I used the Pro Pest brand clothes moths traps that I linked to in the recommended supply list in my post. They’re for webbing clothes moths, which were the kind of moths I had. I’m sorry to say that I don’t have any recommendations for casemaking moth traps, but maybe someone else will join the conversation who does?
Sorry I can’t be of more help–wishing you the best of luck in getting everything sorted out!
No need to be sorry. From what I have read, management of getting rid of the moths is the same for both types. I appreciate that you blogged on the subject and shared your experience. I think the webbing moths cause more economical damage to clothes; perhaps the reason I have no holes in mine (yet!).
Sending another quick message to say thank you again and to click the boxes that will notify me of further discussion on this subject.
I just discovered your article from a Ravelry link. I’ve just been through remediating years of living in a 100+ year old house while accumulating yarn and vintage clothes over the years. Nonetheless, I learned a lot from your article and your process and thank you very much for the information.
I have 2 questions: 1) now that all the “at risk ” stuff is sealed in plastic, what do you do when you actually pull out and wear a woolen item or even make a swatch with your skein of merino? Do you wear the hat, scarf, sweater, etc or sample the skein and simply put it back in the plastic bag/bin? Do you wash it and freeze it again (after each wearing or using)? This problem deters me from wearing my woolens as freely as before when they were stored openly. What do you do?
2) My second comment is about moths. We many have different moths in different seasons. Only specific moth species eat fibers. I’m not sure the goal is to kill all moths but rather to protect our precious fibers and clothes. Do you have any additional information about this?
I was considering writing a post like this, but I think I will just link to yours on my blog! Excellent and thorough job.
My own personal moth hell started last October. I thought I got ’em good, but in the past month I’ve started finding two or three moths per week in my traps. NOT GOOD. I’m concerned they found refuge in the insulation of the crawlspace or some such spot, and I’m not sure how to deal with that. So far they seem to be isolated in a single room, and I can’t find damage (yet) to my yarns and shawls–just my husband’s tux. (I don’t feel super bad about that because he left it lying on the floor after unpacking it from an out-of-state wedding.)
It is so discouraging and stressful to see them back. Hopefully this time I find whatever I missed before. And I will try the white vinegar–it will be better than the chemical cleaner I used last time!
Thank you so much for having the courage to write this post. I am not having a moth problem, hopefully not anyways!, but we found ourselves dealing with another bug- I believe it is a cereal bug. It seems to have started in a bag of wholewheat flour which my daughter purchased and then stored in a large cupboard where we store extra groceries which we purchase when they come on sale. Since the cupboard is massive, one shelf holds bed linen, and another is used to store some of my stash. (I bet you were wondering why my issue in any way related to your specific one but hopefully it is beginning to clarify) We have been dealing with this for about 5 or 6 weeks now. Its good to know we did many things correctly- isolation of the problem and treating my stash in the freezer, and the fabrics in the washer/dryer, but I have learned some new strategies- vinegar, the sun, and treating yarn in the oven. Since these bugs seem to have the ability to slither into the tiniest of spaces, (ie behind the paper on tin cans as well as into unopened paper packaging), it has been a slow process to eliminate them. Like you, and anyone else for that matter, I only want to do this once! I will be going through the rest of my stash to check for moth problems, doing a thorough inventory, and repackaging my stash as per your suggestions – after we have successfully eliminated these bugs. Hopefully I do not have a moth problem , but I need to make some changes in order to prevent a problem in the future. In the past I also worried about moths, but knew nothing at all about how to prevent having a problem other than to “use cedar or mothballs”. Because of your information and links I can perhaps prevent a problem in the future. I do have a question. Where do you buy silica pouches and the O2 ones you were suggesting? A big thank you for your post, and a thank you to the many others who wrote about their own experiences.
Thanks for the well-written and informative info. Yesterday was my hell, having noticed some weird things in one clear decorative cubicle. I actually used the strategy you mentioned-quick decisions (yes or no) on as much as I could after segregagating all the obvious problems. No stopping to feel emotional ties. Worked outside. Then bagged all the skeins that were nearby. A very small portion of my stash. My plan is to get more quart size bags to wrap indidual stuff and then the oversized bags for grouping. Buy hormone traps. Get some cinnamon sticks and cloves since any perfume or fragrance bothers me. And do the freezer and hot car trick. I live in Texas and the sun is very strong. Today I’m looking forward to buying a few skeins as a reward.
Have you ever tried placing some shavings of white unscented soap as a deterrent? It was mentioned someplace.
Again, thanks. What you wrote here is better & more comprehensive than my hours of Internet research. And you compiled it into a fabulous source.
First of all thank you SO MUCH Haley for your post! It brought me sanity during a very insane week of dealing with a moth infestation. Also thank you Hilary for mentioning the hot car trick! I don’t have a frost free freezer and I didn’t want to risk my fibers in the oven. For anyone who wants to replicate it in Canada,
you need: a hot day, a car and a thermometer
1. put your wool, fur etc. into sealed plastic bags.
2. load them into your car on a hot day (30C or 86F) and park in full sun
3. put a thermometer in the car (if you’re using a meat thermometer instead of an outdoor thermometer, put it in a cup of water in the cup holder to make sure you get an accurate read) I had a digital meat thermometer so I put the probe in a cup and left the wire trailing outside the car door so I could take the temp without opening the door.
4. leave them in the car until it gets up to 48C or 120F and stays there for about an hour to make sure the heat penetrates all of your fibers. (I went to work and got back around 5 and the clothes were at 58C, 138F)
5. Take your fibers out of the car and continue on with Haley’s amazing instructions.
@ Laura Dunn – did the hot car trick work? We wondered if that might be an option for wool (without washing it in hot water), but then worried that if there were eggs in the material that we hadn’t seen, that the heat might speed up the hatching into larvae?
It worked SO well!
I think it worked because the weather was unbearably hot all day 35C (95F), so the clothes and moths heated up quickly. There wasn’t much time in between the temperature at which the moths like to hatch and the temperature that is deadly. I wouldn’t risk the car method on anything other than a scorching hot day in July/August when you’ll have many hours of hot sun. Using the thermometer gave me peace of mind to know that the clothes definitely hit 138F, well beyond the 120F needed to kill eggs/larvae. Thanks for asking!
Thanks – I think that window of extreme heat has passed. We are scrambling to get everything out into the sun while there is still sun in the yard, but it takes so much time and we keep finding “evidence” in random parts of the house that the moths have been there at some point (so it’s impossible to isolate them/seal off a room), but they haven’t done much damage (they’ve done some) and we don’t see them flying around. We have caught nothing in traps in the past 6-8 weeks since we’ve started this. I’m finding it hard to figure out whether we are on top of it or whether they are lurking and munching away and we will have a big future problem. I read somewhere that the larvae can live 1- 29 months (!). Does anyone have tips for assessing when you might be close to “done” with this process, and when you can start to be hopeful that it is over? We’ve wondered if things will get worse if we take away their “favourite” food sources (leather slippers trimmed with animal fur that I had forgotten about) – will it just force them to go elsewhere? And how do the larvae move around so much from one part of a house to another without being seen?
Thanks so much for your article! It’s nice to know that we’re not alone!
We’re dealing with an infestation right now and it is a total pain in the neck! So far we’ve found damaged clothing in 3 bedroom closets and counting…. Ugh. I can see how this is going to take weeks and weeks to clean up.
We have a small home, so use our bedroom closets to store many things in addition to our clothes including board games, boxes of old school work papers from the kids , etc. Any ideas on how to clean these? Would it be obvious if a moth had gotten into the boxes?
Also, since we’re going to clean room by room and we sleep in those rooms, I’m afraid they can’t be sealed off. If we keep the closet doors closed, do you think we’ll be OK until we can get in there and clean up or will the moths try to fly our and see what else they can munch on?
Finally, do the clothes you’re wearing need to be cleaned any time you’re throwing another potentially contaminated load in the washing machine? I just didn’t want to take a clean load of the dryer and possibly cross contaminate, but right now am changing my clothes a lot since I have lots of clothes I now have to launder.
This is an amazingly useful site. I have one small piece of information to add, about a danger of microwaving. I had read an article written by a museum fabric conservationist, about microwaving fabric to rid it of moths. So I tried it on a ball of recyled merino yarn. After 2 minutes, a disgusting black goo blebbed out of the ball, like lava, and the house smelt awful for about 6 hrs. There was so much of it that it couldn’t have been dead bugs–I guess it was the lanolin in the merino? Maybe microwaving for 30 sec or something would be ok> But I am no longer allowed to use the microwave, so I can’t test that.
I’m so sorry this happened to you. And me.
When I took one of my mothers handknit mohair sweaters out of an *opened* bag that was lying on my shelf, and saw the moths had attacked it years ago, I went into shock. I haven’t opened up any other bags with her sweaters in years.
But it’s time to face the (possible) horror. You’ve given me the tools and steps I can take so thank you. I gotta put on my biggirlpants and face it! AAK!
I have been dealing with this in Alaska for 4 years. This is a new pest up here. My experience is that the freeze thaw works very well – I can just put them outside in winter but I still see occasional flying monsters from ???? I keep an eye out and one of my cats is a pro at pointing me to them. But, unfortunately, I have noticed that when the moths are flying, they do land on things that I wear often, even on a coat rack. I don’t know if that includes laying eggs but I have even inadvertently transferred them to my office, on a scarf, I assume.
I have also had an infestation this winter in a heavy plastic snap lid box!! How they got in I don’t know. I found big plastic boxes with 6 snaps that are absolutely air tight. All of my yarn stash is in them and all the sweaters I have made. I have moth traps all over and I have put lavender bags and cedar balls everywhere to discourage the flyers.
I think it is never-ending.
Thank you for all your wonderful tips and writing about your experience as it has kept my resolve and spirits up as I have been dealing with a severe infestation. I have so much wool as living on the west coast is damp and wool is the best fibre for keeping cosy. I really appreciate your approach. I have been using vinegar, washing endlessly, sorting some finer items for dry cleaning and vacuuming daily. I am resorting to using trichogramma wasps to beat the moth life cycle. They are used extensively in Europe and the UK. Luckily I have found after much googling and a week of research, a Canadian supplier. The practice of this is not well established here despite being a successful method and an amazing natural solution for a severe infestation like mine. I have them in my carpeted space as I had a wool rug stored rolled, not a good move, under my bed, which seems to have been the source which then moved to closets. I wanted to share this with you as with the help of nature and your post I am finally able to sigh with relief and have become a fastidious cleaner and am much better organized. Your photos helped enormously. Thanks again. I love your info.
Sandra, if you see this – would really love a follow-up about your experience with the wasps!
Hi Marisa, The wasp “armies” of trichogramma brassicea will come in 4 days and so I will keep you posted as to how they work. I was assured they had worked very well in Northern Ontario for severe infestations and that nature does its wonders very well. You have to use them for 8 weeks and put new cards out every week ( rest kept in the fridge) in order to ensure you have beaten the moth life cycle and eggs that lay dormant. Trichogramma only eat moth eggs and smell them so search them out as they are hungry when they hatch. This can get rid of them even in clothing where new eggs could have been laid or if my cleaning didn’t get them all. (almost impossible as still found a live adult flying!!! yikes) When I found a supplier in my area they were just used for handling moths in farms and green houses and came on cards with 100,000 eggs per card rather than the household 2,000 per week so not appropriate. Trichogramma are not interested in humans or cats so completely harmless on that front and not even noticed by humans as so tiny.Planetnatural.com ships for household use in the US. Thanks for your reply as this has been such a saga for me and extremely worrisome to get rid of eggs. Again I appreciated your blog as it really kept my spirits up and gave me strategies when I was overwhelmed. I read it so many times. Have a great day.
Any updates on how this worked?
I am in British Columbia and I just found a whole more batch of the darn things in my basement…I am in fear of all my fabric and crafting items……can you provide the link where you found a Canadian supplier? I just contacted Planet Natural and they only ship domestically. Thanks!
Hello there! I’ve been searching for a way to purchase (in the USA) trichogamma to combat clothing moths. Ialso find it bizarre that although they are obviously used in Europe (Germany and England for example) they aren’t used here in the U.S. I contacted the German company but they can’t ship to the USA. I also found one seller in Montanna but they only sell trichogramma that target pantry moths. Can you give me the name of the Canadian supplier and I will contact them and hope they will ship to me in the US? thanks!
Sandra, would you be willing to share your source of the wasps? I have read about this natural option and might have located a source in Vermont. It is nice to hear direct from a user that this method works. My only concern is what if one has cats and they kill all of the wasps?
I found them at Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Orcon-TR-C3SQ-Live-Trichogramma-Squares/dp/B0050QK6YE
I haven’t tried them yet, but am planning to order them. I’ll post an update here after I give it a try. (I think this blog post may be the best source for clothing moth info on the internet!)
Thank you for sharing the link. I contacted PlanetNatural directly before seeing your post. It will be interesting to see how you two ladies make out. I am definitely ordering some from somewhere as soon as I hear back from PlanetNatural, and then I plan to call them as well.
Re: the Trichigramma wasps… I found http://www.arbico-organics.com sells more than one species depending on where you live, you can buy a minimum amount and they are much cheaper. They werent able to answer all my questions when I called them. But they said when they are done with the food source they die or leave. So there is a potential danger of them becoming invasive in the environment when they leave your house. There are many Trichogramma wasps in the environment and they are not all specific for clothes moths. They are used for agricultural pests which means they may also go after butterfly larvae.
I called my Cooperative Extension who said that biological controls are not without potential hazards. I can say from experience. I did have a problem several years ago with aphids in my small home greenhouse. I bought some sort of parasitic wasps, they did their job but because they lay their eggs in the host’s eggs, they leave the shells. After a short time, I had egg corpses all over my tomatoes and that caused a mess with mold on the leaves and I lost half of the plants. Just saying…
I am really looking forward to feedback from the folks who have tried them. I will try almost everything… I just found a larvae on
a polyester dust cloth on an empty shelf!!! Wha???
I realize this is a years old thread. But we have had impossible to eradicate clothes moths living in our horse hair plaster walls, so I have used T. brassicae from Arbico for 4-5 weeks, placing half a card in a location that I thought was close to where the eggs would be or where I wanted to prevent any. I feel fairly confident that we have beat them back. I haven’t seen a flying adult in over a week now. Prior to this, we had moths congregating inside nested pots and pans, plastic ware, on the ceiling of our stairwell and hanging out in our curtains (cotton and linen nonetheless!). Now I am not finding them in these places.
Thank you so much everyone for writing about this problem! I have been dealing with a webbing clothes moth infestation and have been embarrassed and pushed to my breaking point both mentally and physically. Took a week off from work to clean every single item in my apartment. Then saw a couple on a floor vent…never thought of that so ripped them all out, vacuumed, sprayed with vinegar. But they may have spread to another area in the meantime. Good luck to all! This a living hell I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Update on the wasps:
We ended up having better luck with the ones from PlanetNatural actually hatching (the ones from Amazon must have been exposed to either heat or cold – they never hatched). We’ve been ordering new ones every 2-3 weeks from PlantetNatural (shipping is free). It’s definitely reduced the number of moths, but so far doesn’t seem to have eliminated them.
Hi Everyone, I was asked about an update since I began using the Trichogramma wasps in March after finding a severe infestation throughout my apartment in every closet hidden away in many cases. For those interested in Canada, I found a wonderful supplier at Anatis BioProtection in Quebec. The woman to contact is Roxanne Bernard at 1 800 305 7714. Anyone I found that had Trichomites in BC were using too large a number for organic crops. They are delivered in cold packs the day of shipping and go immediately into the fridge for an 8 week period where I put cards out weekly. We in Canada,are unable to order from the US as they are too sensitive for any time at borders. I would not recommend Amazon. The trichomites are working very well although it has taken longer than expected and I have reordered as some recent though minimal activity in one closet. They are not harmful to pets or people, become hatched in about 3 to 5 days according to Roxanne, and live about 5 days. Then they are dust and vacuumed up. I have been leaving cards out for 2 weeks as still sometimes seeing the pencil dots (size of wasps) moving on some cards so takes more time sometimes. I am happy with how things are working. Generally you don’t see them. All my other closets have had no activity now for many months after the inital 8 weeks of cards.
BioProtection has been wonderful and very supportive. I will add more later as I finish with this batch o f cards. All the very best as I know how how troublesome it is to have an infestation. Have no idea how I got them since I have never had them before. I hear of more stories here in BC though of late.
All the very best everyone.
I also used the tricho wasps from the supplier in Quebec and I am also in BC. We have had a total of 4 (perhaps 5) kinds of moths–pantry, case-making, webbing and believe it or not either the monopis crocicapitella or monopis obviella. A mouthful. We had the whole house heat treated and some spray around the baseboards. Everything g was gone and then we began to see them again. No idea how we got them again. I am hoping they were a few strays that escaped the heat because I have any seen any for a few days now–but am too paranoid to relax. We have used our last tricho cards (I actually caught one accidentally , which was sad but comforting to know they were hatching). All my fabric has been put into sealed bags and I have had to toss over half my clothing including a precious vintage fur coat I’ve had for over 30 years. I hate moths. If they come back in the spring I am moving.
We got our first shipment of moth cards today, and I am very excited to try them out. Still haven’t figured out how to fully eradicate the larvae that might live for up to 29 months (that scares me), although we haven’t found a live one yet, but I feel better knowing that the moths will hopefully destroy any eggs that we can’t see. Thank you so much Sandra Jones for the Canadian reference!
Just to clarify on my post. I will leave a further comment when this batch of cards are done.
I have WAY TOO MUCH needlepoint yarn.
I store it on a heavy duty clothes rack In the basement, in hanging vacuum garment bags. They hang vertically, it doesn’t take a lot of room, and has been way easier than bags in tubs (those always seem to poof up).
Great idea! Also a good option if you’ve got more extra closet space than shelf space. :)
Oh to have too much of either….wouldn’t that be great!! My 1963 ranch has shoebox size closets. my mom says she never had as much stuff as I do. I believe her.
You mentioned the oven? I also use the dryer- 30 mins on high, you can put yarn in those small round bra bags, or in old pantyhose if you think it will unravel. I don’t know where I read that but I do it before packing with new yarn (just in case, I get a lot from eBay).
I LOVE reading these tips, I hate to throw away my treasure!
Thanks for all the fantastic advice re de-mothing. I have a sizeable stash of sock yarn which tends to have 25% nylon in it. Most of it seems fine, but I want to ensure that it’s fine and stays that way. Since you don’t recommend the oven treatment for blends, what can I do to save my blends?
Oh dear. I have to do better. I’ve been finding some in clothes in the last 4~6 years after , day before yesterday in wool roving for felting, yesterday in actual yarn. I put the yarn in the freezer on the theory I was at least slowing down and trapping the %#¥*!?•€< since I had to get ready for a party.
It's ~ 0° F and I'm wondering about putting my better wools outside until I can do more but we'll have those below freezing temperatures only two days, then days above freezing, nights below.
I've used many Gardens Alive products so I checked what they have: an herbal repellent in sachets. Any guesses about the herbs? Anyone try those, good or bad?
As a group, clothing moths move away from light, suggesting dark closets are more appealing. Has anyone tried installing lights in their storage? I might run some "cold white" = full spectrum LED Christmas lights I thought I was going to donate and leave them on full time.
This is a great article. Recently I have found clothes moths in my house, amongst other bugs. My mother leaves the sliding glass door open all day every nice day, so I will never truly get rid of the moths.
I have found that putting a few unused SCENTED dryer sheets in the bins with fabric and/or wool tends to keep them bug free. Also, heavily scented soaps/bath bombs also keep out bugs.
Great advice, great article!
Question: We went to Cuba in late December and I brought back some beads (pic here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adenanthera_pavonina) called Red Sandalwood or Adenanthera Pavnonina. Noticed moths in my house something like 6 months later, and ascribed to my thrift store habit.
In the cleaning adventure, starting around July, I put the red beads with some other things in a box that has been on my patio (north of NYC) for the last 6-8 weeks as I de-tox the house. Opened the box today and found the red beads, in a small paper bag, have major yellow-sandy-type egg-ish things. All over. Some live critters hatching, too. Wanted to take a pic, but wanted more to not take phone near these thousands and thousands of egg-y things, and potentially bring them elsewhere.
Question: Is it possible to know if the red beads brought in some Caribbean variant of moth? Or did our indigenous moths find the beads tasty and choose to multiply there? The internets are of no help.
Any wisdom appreciated!
Gosh, I have no idea. I suppose it’s possible that you brought back an insect or eggs with the beads. But, unless that’s a common thing that happens with those kinds of beads, I’d probably guess that maybe local moths were somehow attracted to the paint or varnish used on the beads. I hope you were able to get it sorted out!
I take it this tree also lives in Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Tobago, Venezuela and other places, including South Florida.
These are good tips! Now that I’ve lost a small fortune of woolens brought back from living in the UK I got really serious about this problem. Someone who raised alpacas uses dryer sheets–another friend who owns a high end yarn store keeps her yarn moving around frequently! We have also had good success with moth traps–$8.00 for two and you use one only per room; replace every three months. Pricey but not when compared with what you lose with an infestation.Good luck!
Thank you for this article, it is one of the best I have read. It is full of a lot of great ideas I will implement right away. Another idea to add to this is the use of tricogramma wasps. They are super small (about the size of a small pen dot) and you don’t even know they are around. But they feast on moth eggs and larva. They hunt them down and kill them. It helps to break up the breeding cycle of the moths in addition to the cleaning. Sticky pheromone traps get the males, wasps eat the young, after that all that is left is to kill off the females with dedicated cleaning.
Hello, I live in Australia – southern part with milder climate. Last year I opened a wardrobe with not much used clothes in it and found two jackets, one wool, one beige wool and mohair which I had spun and knitted hanging – what was left of them, in tatters. At least a quarter of them eaten. Talk about voracious appetite! Also a pure wool coat had nibbly lines through the top layer but not through it. All I have done is remove them of course, and put my ‘best’ coat in another place after checking it and put 2 chemical hanging blocks in there. I hate chemicals but this is serious stuff. Seems to have worked so far. I have 2 full wardrobe size cupboards full of alpaca, one fleece ginger, another jet black. natural silk, mohair and lovely fleeces moorit and white etc. etc. so I am terrified after reading all this.
What I really want to know is what these moths look like. I did read that they are very small and pretty unnoticable – anyone help with this.
The only suggestion I can offer is to impregnate some fabric with an essential oil with strong fragrance, maybe eucalyptus. Some research there would be good. Do not put it in direct contact with clothing as it may leave an oil spot. Maybe make little balls of cloth to hang in cupboards.
PS Just consulted Herb book which is very comprehensive but only recommends BAY specifically for moths.Happens to be one of my favourite essential oils.
Try putting Epsom Salts in the last rinse of any yarns or fabric you wash. I read somewhere that bugs don’t like the taste. When I went overseas for a year, I sprinkled up some sort through boxes that had books in them. It’s certainly stopped was eating the paper. And it’s very safe. We were living in Melbourne, Australia at the time.
We are on our 3rd summer of moths. Getting a little tired of it. I’ve resigned myself to ordering the tricho moths from April – October every year, in the hopes of preventing a full infestation. We rarely find damage to clothes at this point (fingers crossed!) but do find random live larvae from time to time, and have seen a few moths flying around this spring as things warmed up. We have not been able to find a trap that actually catches the male moths, so I hope that the tricho moth approach keeps them at bay. The company that I buy them from told me that it’s possible that the moths come from outside each spring…so it might not even be an ongoing problem in the house. Hang tight everyone! The other thing that I have resorted to doing is keeping the a/c on more frequently in the summer, trying to keep the house humidity below 60%, and keeping the house cool since they love hot and humid weather for breeding.
Oops – I meant tricho wasps, not tricho moths…
Another update – this started for us in summer of 2016 (found them then but don’t know when they started). All my wool sweaters, etc are in plastic, which drives me nuts, but I am trying to save them. I am no longer finding damaged/eaten clothes in the house (because they are in plastic), but that doesn’t mean this is over. Last summer I finally had the idea to hang fly strips around the house – while they don’t prevent moths from breeding, they gave me a LOT more information about where the moths are in the house. I was stunned at how many I caught in areas where I didn’t think there was a problem. When we swapped out the fly strips again in the fall we caught far fewer moths, which gave me some hope. I’ve decided to keep these up around the house as my early warning system. And I decided to keep the tricho wasps going year round, as maybe my previous decision to stop them in the winters let the moths get a foothold. That said, I found a larvae just last weekend. I have a video of one in action if anyone is interested – not sure how to share here. Maybe we need a Facebook support group?? :) The other tip I have is that if you have a pet, there is guaranteed to be fur shed in various places in your house and that is all the moths need to stay happy…
My second summer and I too figure that it might be time for Trichomites. They are a godsend as I am sure I would have had a nervous breakdown last year without the knowledge that they were working with me. I saw a couple of larvae (ugh) and have trapped one adult so I know they still lurk somewhere. Just call me ConstantCleaner.
Thank you for this article. My mom and I both have moths. I’ve been putting off dealing with it because my mom is disabled and I will have to clean 2 houses while caring for my 2 small children. The situation seems impossible .
We are pretty certain that they came from some pure wool she had for spinning. So discouraging. Thank you for sharing your story. There is so little info for what to do. We are crafters and sewers. We sell our products. Having to throw everything out would be the end of our business, but we also want it handled. I can’t imagine selling things that were possibly infested. This situation is a nightmare.
Strongly suggest you get some trichogramma wasps – they give you some piece of mind as they work with you. If you can roast things in a hot car, that should help, as does a deep freezer.
Some information that might be of use to people: I have a lot of wool and silk yardage in my fabric stash, so I’m trying the hot car method. To be sure, I’m using a thermometer to be sure I get things up over 120F. The results have been surprising.
On a 95F day, in full sun, in a navy blue car, the center of the pile of dark wool on the front seat reached 90F. So just putting things in the hot car doesn’t cut it.
The center of the folded piece of fabric on the *dashboard,* however, reached 130F. I have taken that piece of fabric out of the car, rolled it onto a bolt, and sealed it in plastic. I will cycle the rest of my stash onto the dashboard over the rest of the summer.
So while the hot car can work, it’s a much more precise process than I had imagined. I will go back to my original intention of putting my weaving fiber through the oven
That’s great information (and I LOVE me some solid numerical data)—thanks so much for sharing!
thank you. I feel like someone is out there who understands what I am going through currently. I have read over 20 different websites about clothes moths, but none of them mention ironing as a way to kill larvae. Is it not effective? Irons heat to 445 degrees, so it seems like it might be more effective and safer than baking things in an oven… Anyway, I am trying it. In addition to freezing, soaking in vinegar, washing, dry cleaning, Etc! I cover whatever I am ironing with a towel and then spritz with a white vinegar and lavender oil solution. I am using a wool setting on the iron, since most of the items the moths seem to like in my wardrobe have wool content in the fabric. I’m also using this as an opportunity to get rid of some things, while also storing things In a more protected and safer way. Thank you again!
Thank you so much for this post! I have been searching for hours online reading “meh” articles that all repeat the same information. Yours has been the best by far.
I have wool fabric stashed, most of it is in totes in a close. A couple were on cardboard bolts, though, and I discovered a couple suspicious holes. I haven’t seen any moths, no caterpillars, no webbing, nothing – just two or three small holes in four lengths of wool. I have put them all in the freezer, am currently vacuuming out the closet and hoping that I caught it very early. Luckily I don’t have much by way of wool clothing.
I am hopeful as I have never, ever seen a hint of a moth. Should I have seen them by this point? Is it a good sign, or am I deluding myself? I have ordered some pheromone traps in the hopes that it will alert me to any trouble and suss out any moths that are lurking that I can’t see.
Hi Bess – this is a late response, but once I decided to hang fly glue strips up all over the house it gave me a lot more information about where the moths are. Before that I would have said that I thought they were gone or on their way out…but these glue strips showed me otherwise! The pheromone traps have never worked for me. I’m still using the tricho wasps and hoping that one day this will be over.
Thanks for the wonderful post.
If I put an infected item or skein of yarn in a ziploc bag, will that alone kill the moths or larvae? Or do you have to freeze it or put it in the oven?
Putting the compromised skein in a ziploc bag would isolate the problem, but it won’t kill the moths/larvae/eggs. You’ll definitely need to clean/heat/freeze it in some way. (Be careful if you use the oven–it’s dangerous, and definitely not the best choice.)
How do I clean suede boots in the closet that got clothes moths? Thanks.
Hi.Great Article. Would someone explain please what’s meant by a bin with a “tight-fitting” vs an “air-tight” lid? I’ve skimmed through lots of msgs—bins & lids are mentioned often. I have 100+ high-quality polypropylene bins w/lids. If the point is that the lids are air tight, I’m suddenly very nervous. The design of the “handles” may hold the lid in place, but an overpacked bin’s lid will bulge open along the rims. There’s no gasket to maintain an airtight seal. So I will be adding large sealed plastic bags to bins containing animal fiber*** yarn—while I invent a foolproof gasket ;-). I also have a huge stash of cotton quilting fabric. I learned that ***cotton should not be stored airtight—cotton needs to “breathe” & will rot if it’s packed airtight. So Plan A is that wooly/cotton skeins will be washed, stored in mesh bags along w/herb & cedar sachets. If someone has tried this system & it did/didn’t work please let us know. Next: In messages from 2016 there are discussions of a wasp. Some writers say they are great; others say they’ve been denied shipments. If a wasp breeder refuses to ship to you, please thank them. They are protecting environments outside the wasps’ natural habitat. This is neither a joke nor a lecture. One example: a population of locally harmless bugs in the northeast suddenly multiplied in size. The bugs expanded their territory until national/international airlines were having to treat their plane’s cargo bays to kill the bug infestations—before the planes were allowed to take off. Those bugs, harmless in the NE, could destroy the wheat crops in Texas. And then: We don’t have winter much in Texas. I do, however, have an acrylic bathtub I could fill w/ice water, dip wool skeins in it & then let them hang to dry in the unheated bathroom. Has anyone tried this? I have three fears: this approach wouldn’t kill the larva (although they would be nice & clean), the constant load of ice & water might crack the tub, my fingers would become hand-dyed while my fingernails froze off. Suggestions please…will the larva drown before they freeze? How long might that take? Does acrylic (the tub, not the fiber) absorb dye easily? Can someone recommend a good acrylic tub cleaner please? Many thanks, Pat
Although they are hard to find, Sterilite produce a storage container with both a gasket and four clips to hold the lid down. My really good yarn is kept in a ziplock bag and inside the Gasket Box.
I have used trichomites for two summers in succession as a back stop to my continuous cleaning. They are short lived, eat only specific types of moth eggs and are a biological control used for various types of infestations. We had far fewer moths last summer. We also use sticky traps as a warning that they are about. The mites cannot be shipped across international borders.
Re freezing – your best bet would be to buy or get use of a deep freeze. All my yarn and other hard to clean items like suitcases had a week in the deep freeze at coldest setting, a day out, and then another week. I have LOTS of yarn so the process took an entire summer. I believe it was successful. Most things in storage in my home is now stored in plastic bags. Large ones can be obtained relatively cheaply from dollar stores.
My fabric has been systematically washed in hot water and dried in a hot dryer. I have kept some cotton fabric in plastic ziplock project bags for years and not noticed deterioration, but perhaps I have been lucky on that.
My main goal is to use what I have now before buying anything. I am extremely leery of anything in a thrift store, as that may have been the source of the infestation.
I also travelled to the UK the year before I discovered moths – there is a big moth invasion there and many of the old Victorian homes that I stayed in (all apparently spotless on the surface) showed signs of moths. I stayed in one B&B where I actually saw a clothes moth disappear into the baseboard. That was before I knew what they were. Just a word of warning for anyone travelling.
Thank you for this terrific post and all the helpful comments.
Oddly, I first noticed a moth when it fluttered out of a cotton dish towel. I had just cooked quinoa and thought It was a pantry moth. About 3 weeks after throwing out ALL food, cleaning every surface, removing and replacing all cabinet liners, and buying airtight food containers….I saw my second moth. In the bathroom…fluttering out of a cotton towel. I now know that the ‘fluttering’ rather than actual flying around generally indicates a clothes moth. I hired a house cleaner, someone I trust absolutely to help me clean my home as thoroughly as if it were her own. She starts tomorrow but I have already been bagging things, etc. I plan to have her return regularly to help me do thorough cleanings. It will cost a lot but I’m almost 70 and it would take me forever to do it alone in my house.
One big question I have is: how are the successful people cleaning walls and ceilings? Are you using vinegar and a mop or wiping with a cloth or paper towel and vinegar ( after thorough vacuuming of course)? If you have them, how are you cleaning radiators? (Ok, that was 2 questions, I know; sorry).
Any tips are welcome. Thanks!
This is my third summer working on complete eradication once and for all. I am ever vigilant, do a deep clean when and where I can (I am 65 with some arthritis happening so I do my best but I can’t constantly work at cleaning). We have a pheromone trap in each room and our main closets – they alert us to existence of the dreaded beasts. I decided to get trichomites every year until I no longer see a single rotten moth. Don’t be discouraged – you can keep on top of clothes moths if not eradicate them entirely but it takes a system, eagle eyes and a generous helping of obsession. We are decreasing the number of clothes we have and I am focussed on destashing by actually using my fabric, yarn and other supplies and actually finishing UFOs that have been around for years.
Good luck and don’t get discouraged. I was a raving lunatic at first but have come to accept the situation and take comfort in cleaning and sorting as preventive measures.
Brilliant blog so glad to have found you!
I’m a self employed crocheter and work from home so you can imagine the size of my stash! Two days ago while starting to reorganise my craft room I found some white teeny eggs on a ball of cotton.
I must first say that I stored all my good wools, silks, alpaca and cottons yarn in 8 wicker picnic baskets just outside my work room, and all my acrylics and acrylic/wool blends in wooden cubby hole shelving in my work room, all open to everything. I never even considered moths, in my naivety I thought it was an old wives tale! So I feel I only have myself to blame as I sob through this disaster!
When I opened the first wicker basket, my cottons were all covered in eggs!!! (only found 5 larvae!) went through the other 7 baskets and they were all the same! So after the initial panic….google! Got bin liners and binned all those yarns (4 bin liners full…I’m still sobbing lol) took the baskets outside and left them there. In my craft room shelving I went through each and every ball, a few had eggs so I didn’t bin many, but bagged up the rest. When I moved the baskets I found some larvae and silk trails? on the carpet where the baskets had been sitting. Now going through a deep clean as you’ve shared and then go through each room of the house.
My problem is I now have 14, 12inch by 18 inch full clear bags of yarn to deal with that I’m hoping to keep (the bin liners are going to the skip!) I can only freeze two of these clear bags at a time due to freezer space, the rest I’ve put in the garage. If it takes 2 weeks to freeze each bag it’s going to take me months to freeze everything. Also the yarn that is waiting to be frozen…..some do have a few eggs on them…..will the eggs hatch out and start munching while they’re waiting to be frozen? Does it really need to be 2 weeks? I’m in such a panic/meltdown/teary state as this is how I make a living and I have no yarn to use :( :(
This blog post is brilliant! I wish I had the ability to clean everything as instructed, but I did my best and the little wasp army from Planet Natural did the rest. I used white vinegar to clean for a while, but the fruit flies were driving me nuts (they came in through the window!) so I switched to vodka. I also caulked up every single hole and crevice I could find just for good measure. I ordered and released the moths every other week for a few months and by winter I finally had a few months moth free. Alas a few have crept back, (nowhere near the previous level) but that’s to be expected with carpeting, pets, and lax housekeeping. Oops. BTW, Planet Natural is unfortunately currently out of business. Hopefully they will be back at some point as they were by far the best company out there for this problem, IMO.
I have come to report after I have been fighting a mild moth invasion in my one-room studio flat. I googled a lot, and found a few blogs that actually talked about people’s experience with the issue, but it seems that most people had not actually permanently gotten rid of them. So in case another person finds this, I can report on the success of the trichogamma wasps!
A little background. I live in a small studio flat, just one room and a bathroom. I discovered moths about 3 years ago, and first didn’t really do anything because I didn’t know what it was, and I had not found the damage. And when I did, it was just one dress, so I washed it in the hottest temperature I could, and ironed it, and thought that was it. Wrong. Then they came back the next year with a bang. I found some mittens that were affected and threw them away (I was grossed out). Then I started studying the options. I got a spray I got from amazon, which you can use to spray the room, leave for 15mins or so, and come back and ventilate. This definitely reduced the numbers. I also got some traps. This reduced the numbers, but again, the next spring suddenly I got a score of them in the traps. Literally within a week one of them had 30 or so! So I got more regimented. I cleaned all the corners, sprayed the corners, packed woollen and silks in vacuum bags (do this first thing guys!). Then I did this 3 times with a few week’s interval and thought I had beat the little buggers.
But no, my traps started to attract new ones as soon as the temperatures rose this spring. Not many, but they were there. I did another spray & clean and still I would see about one moth per week (which means they have 100 siblings somewhere). Then I thought I’d give in and look for the trichogramma wasps. I was so tired of the fight that seemed impossible – I had been using the spray and traps for 2 years with varying levels of success. I had dismissed the wasps as a last resort treatment because I thought they were very expensive. Nope! It’s 10GBP per card, and one treats a small room. So I got one for my small flat. When you have the little wasps flying around you can’t keep the pheromone traps around, so I’m not 100% with evidence that it’s working its magic. But since I introduced them, I have seen 3 months in a month, which at least means they are not copulating somewhere and producing a lot of offspring. It’s warm enough for them to really get going, so I think it’s been really good. The trichogramma wasps lay their eggs into moth eggs, therefore killing them, and the new generation of wasps then do the same thing, until there are no more moth eggs around and then there’s no more trichogramma generations. I have just bought a second card of the wasps, because I’m afraid the first card I got a month ago may not have produced enough to kill the moth cycle. But I think this is mostly just paranoia at this stage. I think I will keep periodically buying the wasps from now on, at least all through the summer, and maybe one in the autumn when the potential moths are laying the last batch of eggs before they wait out the winter. Summer is the peak period, so if I can keep them away with just the wasps, i.e. not see any flying around, I think I’ll skip the other stuff. Honestly, give this a go. (Obvs I have also cleaned everything many times, and hoover the corners regularly to make it more difficult for the moths to settle in).
I will bookmark this page and come back later in the summer when I remember. Honestly, we all need some success stories, or at least reviews of the different methods, but there’s so little around there! Hang in there guys, and keep vacuuming those corners hahah. And seriously put everything you’re not using regularly into those vacuum bags.
I’m back to report on further success with the Trichogramma wasps. I kept buying a new card of the wasps at roughly 1,5 month interval since the late spring. Man, there has been an incredible decrease of moths during that time. Last time I saw a moth was a month ago. 2 weeks ago I put a new batch of pheromone traps, just to see if they’d catch any. Nope. None.
But I have been so traumatised by all this that I just placed another order for the wasps, so that those little buggers don’t creep back in.
The wasps are absolutely tiny and only once have I actually seen one around, when it landed on a white sheet of paper I had next to me on my desk. They are incredibly small, so if you are weirded out by the idea, don’t worry!
By all means, you need to do a very thorough clean, several times and regularly, and pack everything risky in vacuum bags, but get these moths. They are the best thing around!!!
Wow, this is really interesting, I have also had multiple failed attempts at de-nothing. And they were obsessive full time attempts, I will look into this,
I’m back to report further. I kept buying one card of the wasps at about 1-1.5 month interval through the winter. I was gutted when I saw 3 moths in March (killed 2, the third got away). I put my pheromone traps out for a week and caught one. So it seemed I was at the start of a cycle (or, rather, an end of a cycle for the moths, but the start of a cycle when I notice them). I proceeded to spray the flat, clean every crevice again. And after a few days, I ordered some more wasps.
It’s now June and I have not seen any moths since March. I am now going to move to a new flat (not for moth reasons), and I am paranoid about bringing the moths with me. Because of Covid19 I have had so much time on my hands, so in March I started a major project of washing all my clothes (in 60C if possible) and packing them in vacuum bags. My radiator gets very hot, so I also placed all clothes on it for 30mins at a time, as a makeshift heat treatment. I inspected all items for eggs. Then back in vacuum bags. Then I started the cold treatment: all items in a freezer for 2 days, then 2 days out, and 2 days in freezer again. I have a small freezer with 3 drawers so it has taken a long time, but you can fit more clothes in there in the vacuum bags.
I will do a full flat spray treatment before I start moving things. I’m paranoid that the moths will travel with my books.
When I get to my new home with all clothes in vacuum bags (will spray moving boxes before transport and get rid of boxes asap while at destination), I am going to open a vacuum bag one by one and steam iron every single item before I put them in a new wardrobe. I’m also thinking of buying those wasps in the new house as well, just in case. Perhaps for a few months’ intervals.
On these moth battle -forums I’ve read disappointing stories of people taking their moths with them when moving. Since I have not seen any damage on clothing for over a year, I’m hoping my moths are living in the (very old) building and the newbuilt I’m moving into will have much fewer options for them to thrive if I’m super careful when moving.
It’s so much hard work, but I’m hoping that a) this will be the one productive thing I succeeded in during the lockdown, and b) this will be the last time I have to fight against moths in my life.
I will try to remember to report back a few months after the move. I think we all need success stories hahaha.
Keep up the good fight, don’t give up! :D
I’m in the trenches of my fight. This has been the best information! I have some additional thoughts.
Fly swatters are the best for killing flying moths or those you see alive on a door, dresser, etc. Plain glue traps for mice with a vitamin D pill split open in the middle will also attract moths. These are good in areas the cats don’t go.
I make crafts from sweaters. I guess I was just an infestation waiting to happen. Now I’ll wash every single thing coming through the door.
I think my cats were spreading the moths. My poor older female cat kept scratching her back end and matting her fur. I would cut the matts and shave her fur. I had no clue it was likely related to moths. Sure enough, under my bed where she likes to sleep was an infestation. I keep bathing her and even cut the fabric at the bottom of the box spring. It had eggs and casings all over it. I bought a hand steamer from Walmart for $20. Isolating rooms, but I’m late in the game. I have moth sitings in 5 rooms.
I’m learning a lot and look at my sweater, both wool and cotton, very critically. Thanks for all of the great tips and info!
I am wondering if you were still moth free. When I first had a clothes moths 10 years ago, I have Obsessively cleaned and froze everything I owned. I would use every single method you mentioned and I would use as many methods as possible on every item. Like I would freeze/thaw cycle something during -30 Fahrenheit weather, and then wash it on high heat and then dry it on high heat. I cleaned every thing that I owned. A few years later, the moths came back, and I personally don’t think they ever really left. I think their numbers were down and they were maybe in the walls or floors or something. I have read different things about the longevity of larvae and eggs, too. So I did the same thing again. They seemed gone, and then I moved apartments, and when I moved there was an obvious new infestation. But I had a few boxes that had gone to my parents, and never made it to the new apartment, and when we finally bought a house, I found that one of those boxes had a dead moth. It contained a couple picture frames that I’ve been given to me many years ago and that we are the sort that was paper backed, so I didn’t think a moth could get inside of them, nor did I think I could get inside of them. But I found that there was a tear and the moth must have made it was for inside. (I have noticed that moths like picture frames, I’ve seen a lot of dead moths when I bought frames at the Goodwill talked in the lint and pet hair somehow accumulates in between the glass in the backing. Makes sense, hung pictures do not move and the back is dark.)
When I bought the new house, I froze everything in our chest freezer before taking it out of the double plastic bags. I washed everything as well. I thought we were moth free, but 14 months later they are moths again. I’m not sure if they came with the house or not. The previous owner was a professional cleaner, but I have some reasons to think that they were already here.
I know so many people who have been incredibly thorough and still been unable to eradicate the moths. I know a few older people that seem to think that I am overzealous in my goal of eradicating them permanently, that traditionally you just cleaned well every week and stored are closed properly, because you just assumed the moths could be around. But I have a lot of moth food on display, like wool pillows, or random butterflies that I found dead stuck to my car grill (moths love dead butterflies.) these things are not easy to protect because they’re out in the open.
So that’s why am wondering if you still are moth free? If so, that might give me hope. I’m beginning to feel like that isn’t a possibility! If that is true, I don’t know if there’s a point in doing the whole thing a fourth time. I was so very very thorough, as thorough as could possibly be. Because I didn’t want to have to do it again!
I tend to go along with the old way of thinking–clean well and regularly, and store items properly. Because moths are pesky, and sometimes they just show up. But, to answer your question directly, I haven’t had another infestation, but I do live in a pre-war building in NYC, so there are some aspects of moth-proofing that simply aren’t possible. I sometimes see a moth flutter out of our pocket doors, because the walls aren’t sealed behind them. But, hormone traps (and smacking them out of the air if I happen to see them) plus regular cleaning that includes vacuuming the furniture has prevented additional problems.
Hi! I first want to thank Haley for the moral support you took time to give me last summer. I have discovered cloth moths last summer in my apartment and I have been cleaning and washing everything and everywhere since then. And they are still there somewhere or just few left from that last summer episode I don’t know.
I just want to add that they can live in soft toys too and that you can wash those toys in the washing machine whatever the tag says. I have washed them at 60 degrees and only one of them came out looking a bit like a sheep. I also discovered that I have carpet beetles in addition to the moths that I discovered after so much cleaning.
One more advice I would give is to wash all at 60 directly and use a dryer after if possible. I haven’t seen any shrinkage in my clothes at 60. Of course the woolen ones went to the freezer and the few that I didn’t want to risk too.
I have washed according to tags everything twice and now restarting again at 60. Everything in my home (or almost) is in a plastic box with lead. They are not air tight but I hope it prevents more than doing nothing. I can’t afford putting all in airtight boxes.
I have also had 2 poisoning by 2 different professionals. The first one was useless but the second company was very supportive. We opened all the baseboards and oh boy so much dust behind them and we poisoned there. I have dismantled the wood boxes that were holding my curtains because I couldn’t clean there. I have opened my husband big music speakers and cleaned 10 years of dust in them. I have made myself a cleaning planner so I don’t forget to clean some parts and clean something everyday. I bought 100 of plastic boxes, a dryer and traps and lavender oil and a steam cleaner.
This episode is very bad for my mental health and I learned a lot about cleaning and bugs. But I can’t give up and that is what makes me crazy. I fear the summer coming and I hope I don’t see them flying everywhere again. It is complicated to clean a place where small kids are and I am they only one who cares.
But perseverance is the key and I still have hope.
Wow. That is so much work and I have some questions.. I’ve been washing my clothes in hot water and drying them (sometimes only drying on high for 30 minutes) and then storing them, instead of hanging them. Each time I wash my clothes I find a few dead ones or pieces of them in my clothing. I found holes and larvae, but no actual moths until after washing. They were in my dirty clothes hamper and in my personal closet on the hanging items. Can they get into my chests as well? I have one chest that has a cedar lining on the bottom drawer, the other does not. And none of these clothes had dead moths on them after washing. Also, my spare bedroom is used as an office and is on the other side of my apartment. My office is full of clothes as I am a clothing reseller and a lot of pieces are new with tags so I am unable to wash them, will steaming them with a clothes steamer work? I put up traps and haven’t gotten anything yet. It has been 2 weeks. I’m wondering if I caught it early or just have a different type- the dead ones are very small and brown, possibly casemaking, which may not be attracted to the traps I purchased. I’m so confused. I also keep seeing contradicting information about the eggs..are they visible? Are they brown or white? Thank you for your in depth post though, it was very helpful!
Moths are good at getting into things, but they’re less likely to get into closed containers–chests and drawers–than more easily accessible spaces like hampers. I’d check them anyway, though, just to be safe.
As far as the the clothing resale items: If I were to guess, I’d probably say that that’s how the moths arrived in the first place, so I’d check under collars and inside pockets, and under belts, and in other hidden spaces on the garments thoroughly. Yes, the eggs are visible. I’ve seen them in brown, white, and orange. The cases and larvae will definitely be visible. I can’t weigh in on whether or not the traps indicate anything–moth eggs tend to hatch as it gets warmer, so you might not actually see an adult moth right away even if you have larvae. If you’re worried that you got the wrong traps, I’d get another kind and use them both next to each other. The most important step is looking for the evidence so you can isolate the items and clean the area. I hope you get everything sorted out!
How are the”wasps” used? Are they left out in the room or are they included in the plastic bags, or what?
Has anyone tried putting Epsom salt in the rinse water when they wash fabrics and yarn? I read it bugs the eat fabric to not like Epsom salt. Maybe you caught up by a different name in America. I’m in Australia. It’s an old fashion products but when we went overseas for 12 months and packed all the stuff up into boxes I literally sprinkled Epsom salt’s in every box. Including the boxes that had books in them. I didn’t have any problems with anything eating them while we were away. And the books and fabrics and close well all fine when we open the boxes up 12 months or even years later for some boxes. Before we went away I put Epsom Salts in the final rinse when washing things like sheets and towels.
Epsom Salts is “Magnesium Sulphate”. It’s good for aching muscles – you can put it in a hot bath and soak in it. So it’s a very safe product. Usually found in the supermarket cleaning aisle as it’s also can be used as a fabric softener. It tastes slightly bitter so maybe that’s why moths & bugs don’t like it.
This information is excellent! I’m in Adelaide, South Australia and have been struggling to get rid of case making moths for some time – and I still haven’t won the battle.
The moths infest the carpet edging adjacent to the wall skirting and consume the wool carpet. They particularly enjoy getting under furniture legs. Spraying vinegar along these edges seems to help. I find the best process is to use a torch, every few days, to check for the case moth larvae along the wall edges (take your time as they can be hard to see) and killing any I find, vacuuming, and then spraying the area. I close off rooms to try to stop them spreading, however, I think they may be in the external wall cavity and crawl out under the drywall and return to the room. Urghhh!
The hormone traps are a good early warning device – but don’t think you can set these out and they will rid you of moths – they just won’t. Regular inspections and cleaning is all that’s worked for me.
Finally, as others have said – if you find these moths in your home, get onto them early. The longer you leave it the more difficult the job will be.
I have had a problem with moths in my master closet and armoire for over three years…I have tried everything! I have had an exterminator, used pyrethrin foggers, used pheromone strips, painted the closet, vacuumed, etc. We even removed everything in the closet and put in black 55 gallon bags, and left in a vehicle when temperatures were 98 degrees. We left them there several days. What a lot of work!! We have recently taken inventory of everything in the closet, and have found some fabrics that I did not know were silk. However, these pests will also attack nice cotton fabrics for sure, as we have had evidence of that. Recently, I had my carpets steam cleaned…I am a pretty meticulous cleaner, and I have been so disappointed in our efforts to eradicate the moths…
Lately, I have put up a light in my armoire with an led light in it…..I am seeing fewer moths, but will update this post later. I am also leaving a fan on in my master closet and a light because they don’t like air movement or light…also seeing fewer moths on the pheromone strip…don’t know where they might be going though…..
I am also going to order the trichogramma wasps, but I have also tried them in the past.
I will keep coming back to this blog to see if anyone has had success with the air movement and light idea.
Thank you all for your input,
Great post! I found 1 moth a few months back and bagged up whatever wasn’t bagged then had to go through a long, grueling move. This is a perfect time to deal with it because all furniture in that room is gone.
I have one question about the freezer. How is everyone freezing things when you state you need a freezer that *isn’t* a frost free freezer? I’m pretty sure those haven’t been around for decades! Any freezer anyone would have now is a frost free freezer. So what’s the process for freezers that are frost free?
And, what about using the sun? Someone mentions putting sealed bags of yarn in a car for a day works? Safer than an oven, that’s for sure. I’m too nervous using the microwave or oven, but what about full sun in plastic? I live in a very dry, but very sunny area that’s higher elevation.
Thanks so much for sharing your ordeal with everyone!
Thank you for this helpful post, and all the comments. We live in an 1895 Victorian house—one condo each floor—and I am convinced the moths come from my neighbors too which makes it so hard to eradicate them (and vice versa).
Last year we did a full reno—emptied the apartment 100%, washed everything while packing, washed on the way back in. Floors sanded and refinished, everything painted, plus sparkly new kitchen :-), and now a few months later and I’m seeing moths in the pheromone traps we keep in closets as a warning sign. Beside myself!
Also, can’t get my husband to buy into making sure off season woolens get washed and bagged, and we share a closet. It’s such a struggle. Thankfully my stash of lovely yarns has been okay so far, keep them bagged up.
Also—another plug for the sterilite bins with blue gaskets, and the giant ziploc bags, oh! And if anyone has a Trader Joe’s nearby, they sell lavender dryer bags that are great for putting with stored clothing, in drawers, with your knitting supplies.
Hi, I had a fur coat in storage with many other woolens – all the woolens were dry cleaned, so nothing dirty. But the fur coat was infested. I was very ignorant about these things! The thing is, in my drawers in the storage unit I found several dead adult moth in each of the drawers, but no larvae, and no holes in anything – I had a LOT of clothes – most new, or clean. Why moths and no larvae and no holes? These things have been there for more than a year.
I will dry clean everything, but why is there no damage so far, and no sign of larvae? Are the larvae dormant? And why for so long? The fur coat, though, was horribly infested.
My best guess is that the moths found a good food source in the coat, so they mostly laid eggs there, and so the larvae stayed largely on the coat as a result. Of course, moth eggs hatching and larvae emerging is often seasonal (warm weather), so it’s also possible that that’s why you don’t see any right now.
Hello! I just wanted to say thank you for writing this blog, it has helped immensely! I have been struggling mentally from these closet moths. I managed to clean my place and improved my situation but haven’t been able to fully remove them. I think my next step will be to use trichogramma cards. I was wondering if anyone was successfully eliminated after 1 round of treatment.. or do they still reoccur after some time (searching for hope…)
I’m so glad you found it helpful! Moths are such a nightmare. I haven’t personally used the wasps, but I think there are other people in the comments who have! (FWIW, it’s the height of hatching season, so I’d get some hormone traps in place to take out any adults that emerge. That definitely helps break the cycle!) Good luck! If you end up trying the trichogramma cards, I’d love to hear how it worked out!
The trichogramma wasps are part of the arsenal of weapons. The first year I used them for 16 weeks and believe they brought the moths under control. Now I order them if I see more than a couple of moths as the weather warms up. They got to places you can’t. Agree that traps help too.