How to Fight a Moth Infestation Fast

Jul 12, 2021

man vacuuming floors

Moths aren’t dangerous to humans or pets, but that doesn’t mean you want them squatting in the darkest spaces of your home and chewing on your clothing or food. When moths are in your home, you’re going to find that your cosiest cashmere and wool clothing has dozens of holes; the cereals and oats in the pantry are home to wriggling larvae; and there is webbing, excrement, and cocoon casings everywhere. Sounds horrible, right?

Discovering the signs of a moth infestation can be unsettling, but knowing whether you have an infestation and what type of infestation you have will help you take swift and effective action. You need to enact a multi-step strategy for dealing with moths that is more than just tossing a few moth balls into a room and hoping for the best.

We’ve got the answers on how to fight a moth infestation fast.


What Attracts Moths?

One of the best ways to prevent a moth infestation is to be proactive and eliminate the things they like. Moth infestations occur when the temperatures are warm and the humidity high. During these periods, adult moths seek out places to mate and lay eggs any place that is suitable to their larvae. Depending on the type of moth, that could be among the dried grains or pet kibble in the kitchen, among the upholstery or carpets in the spare room, or even in the folds of your favourite wool socks and pullovers.

What do all those locations have in common? Food. Moths, regardless of their type, are all searching for the food their larvae need to survive. For clothes moths and carpet moths, the main source of food is called keratin, which is a protein found in human hair, wool, cashmere, and similar natural fibres. For pantry moths, such as the Indian Meal Moth or the Mediterranean Food Moth, grains and dried foodstuffs are what they want.

labrador dog tucking into his kibble


Signs of Moth Infestation

Although different species of moths look and act different, there are some overarching signs that you have a problem. Look out for the following:

But how do you tell if it’s a clothes moth, carpet moth, or pantry moth infestation? Take a look below.


Signs of a Clothes Moth Infestation

Most people first notice that they have a clothes moth problem when they find holes in their clothing that weren't there before. Or you might notice the larvae or case trails in the drawer or adult moths flitting about.

clothes moth on knitted woolen garment

As mentioned earlier, clothing made from natural fibres and materials, such as silk, leather, wool, angora, alpaca, and cashmere, are the primary targets. You might find that a cotton shirt here and there has been eaten, but that is normally caused by stains from food and perspiration. Even damp clothing will attract moths, no matter the material.


Signs of Carpet Moth Problems

Carpet moths are often adept at hiding, much like clothes and pantry moths. The problem is that you won’t notice the infestation until most of the moths have hit the larval stage. The carpet will suddenly look threadbare, since the larvae are chewing through the fibres. You might also spot tubular case trails. 

If you suspect that you have a carpet moth infestation, look around the darker sections of the carpet or room, such as the baseboards or under furniture that is pushed up against a wall. 

Need help figuring out what kind of cloth-eating moth your home is infested with? Check out our tips for identifying clothes and carpet moths.


Signs of a Pantry Moth Problem

You know those old cartoons where someone goes to a bare cupboard and a little moth flies out? A pantry moth infestation is a little like that—you often find an adult moth flitting around when you go to grab a midnight cereal snack. But you might not think anything of a moth in the kitchen until you find that very box of cereal is home to hundreds of wriggling white or pink larvae. You might also find clusters of eggs or larvae in the shadowy corners of the cupboard or pantry.

There are three kinds of pantry moths—Indian Meal Moth, Mediterranean Flour Moth, and Brown House Moth—but they generally display the same behaviours. No matter which kind is in your home, you can use the same prevention and removal methods for each species.


How to Remove and Prevent Moths in Your Home

woman sorting through her woolens

Treating a moth infestation can be a long road, especially if you aren’t thorough. Moths might not be as indestructible as other insects, but they are persistent, and they’ll hide their eggs where you wouldn’t think to look. Be sure to first identify the type of moth you have in your home then decide how to proceed. Also, if you use the tips below proactively, you can prevent a moth infestation from ever occurring!

So take notes if you have to, because you’ll want to start doing these things right away:

Now let’s look at the ways to fight a moth infestation in closer detail.

lavender bags with sprigs of lavender

1. Brush clothing made from wool or fur after wearing the articles outside.

Believe it or not, moths can be little ninjas that infiltrate the fibres of your wool sweater or jacket, so you carry them into your home, none the wiser. One way to prevent this from happening is to routinely brush clothing made of animal-based fibres, effectively scraping off the eggs.

2. Store your seasonal clothing, belongings, and also foodstuffs in airtight containers.

When you’re not wearing your cashmere pullovers and wool socks, store your cashmere and wool in plastic containers, fabric garment bags, and cedar chests to keep moths at bay. If the containers are airtight, moths can’t get inside to lay their eggs. The same is true for your foodstuffs. Never leave dried grains, rice, pasta, pet food, dried fruits, or anything similar out in the open. Always store them in something secure.

3. Use herbs, spices, and essential oils around the house.

If you have a spice rack, you already have the moth-fighting essentials! Combine lavender, cloves, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves into a little cloth sachet that you can hang in your closet or place in your room. Moths dislike the odours of these herbs and spices.

Another option is getting essential oils—lavender, peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus—and dilute them with water. Spray the solution around your house or add to a diffuser for a longer lasting (and lovely scented) moth repellent.

4. Use sticky pheromone traps.

There are numerous moth traps out there. Some are plain sticky traps that work like fly paper. Others have moth pheromones that attract the sexually adult males to the trap, so that eggs can’t get fertilised or laid. Once the moths are stuck, they’ll die in due time.

Keep in mind that the pheromones that attract pantry moths do not always work on carpet and clothes moths and vice versa. Make sure you are purchasing the correct pheromone trap, whether a clothes or carpet moth trap or a pantry moth trap, for the occasion.

a sticky pheromone trap being placed on a closet shelf next to woollens

5. Dust and vacuum your floors, carpets, and mouldings.

Cleaning your home is one of the best things you can do to quell a moth infestation, because you are actively sweeping up the things moths feed on, as well as the eggs and larvae.

Always empty the dust and dirt from your vacuum cleaner outside as soon as you can. Any swept up eggs or larvae could hatch and multiply in the vacuum cleaner (and there’s plenty of stuff for them to eat in there).

6. Wash clothing that contains eggs and larvae.

If you have a trusted dry cleaner, now is the time to bring your silks, wool, cashmere, and alpaca garments to them. Dry cleaning can kill moth eggs, and some dry cleaners will even repair holes made by moths.

7. Scrub down infested areas with vinegar.

Have you found signs of moth eggs and larvae and cocoons in your house? After vacuuming the affected areas, mix together a water and vinegar solution. Spray the solution wherever you found the eggs—carpets, shelves, baseboards…all of it—and then scrub it all down with a sponge.

8. Grab some cedar hangers, blocks, and shavings.

No one can deny the power of cedar as a moth repellent. It’s one the reasons why cedar hangers, blocks and balls exist. You can put the blocks, balls, and shavings in your wardrobe and bureau drawers, and the scent keeps moths from feasting on your clothing.

Now, a quick note. Cedar is often thought of as the be-all-end-all in the war against moth infestation, but it does have a limited lifespan.

Fortunately, you can always refresh and replace any cedar products in your home. You can purchase cedarwood oil to rejuvenate your cedar products, use cedar oil in a diffuser, or mix some cedar chips into a bowl of seasonal potpourri (remember: herbs and spices work like magic at repelling certain bugs).

a heart shaped cedar block with white tulips 

You're not alone in the battle to fight a moth infestation in your home!

Do all these things before, during, and after a moth invasion, and you should have things under control faster than you thought possible. Even if it doesn’t seem like your moth problem has gotten out of hand, make sure you are vacuuming and cleaning regularly. Seal up your knitwear when they’re not in use, and utilise cedar, herbs and spices, and also sticky moth traps or pheromone traps.

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