Protect Your Wardrobe Against Moths

Photo via Eric Bompard

Photo via Eric Bompard

It’s that time of year. You go into your closet to take out those warm snuggly wool sweaters, jackets & socks and what are you greeted with? Holes in your designer knitwear! How many years has this happened to you? In the following article I am going to help you kick the biting little bugs out once and for all and protect your designer knitwear for years to come.

To understand how best to combat moths, you have to understand their habits and what they eat. There is a huge variety of genus of moth. The most common of moth is the Tineola bisselliella, aka the Common Clothes Moth, Webbing Clothes Moth, or simply Clothing Moth. These are a type of “Fungus Moth”.

How To Prevent Moths

The clothes moth prefers moist conditions, although low humidity will merely slow development. Webbing Clothes Moths are small moths whose adults grow to between 1 and 2 cm in length. Their eggs are tiny, most being under 1 mm long and barely visible. A female will lay several hundred during her lifetime; egg placement is carefully chosen in locations where they will have the best chance for survival.

The eggs are attached with a glue-like substance and can be quite difficult to remove. After the egg hatches, the larva will immediately look for food. Larvae can obtain their required food in less than two months, but if conditions are not favorable they will feed on and off for a long time. Whether it takes two months or two years, each larva will eventually spin a cocoon in which it will pupate and change into an adult. Larvae stay in these cocoons for between one and two months and then emerge as adults ready to mate and to lay eggs.

Common clothes moth. Photo via

Common clothes moth. Photo via

This species is notorious for feeding on clothing and natural fibers; they have the ability to turn keratin a protein of which hair and wool mainly consist into food. The moths prefer dirty fabric for laying eggs and are particularly attracted to carpeting and clothing that contains human sweat or other liquids which have been spilled onto them. They are attracted to these areas not for the food but for the moisture: the caterpillars do not drink water; consequently their food must contain moisture.

These moths thrive in low light areas and love to feed on fabrics such as cotton, linen, silk, wool, fur, feathers, flour, wheat, salt, sugar and bran.

Moth Prevention & Control

Now that you know a little something about the moth it should be easier to understand how to get rid of them. Moths peak time of year to feed is during the spring and summer months so it’s a good time to start and think about this now.


Step one : Clean Everything

Before you store your fall/winter knitwear for the season, be sure to have everything washed and dry cleaned. Even if you think your items are clean, be sure to clean them anyway, there are many different kinds of stains that you may not see that will leave a layer of organic material that moth larvae love to feed on. You will want to also thoroughly vacuum and clean your hand made area rugs and carpets. A good carpet cleaning is necessary because it will help kill unseen larvae that may lay dormant when the cold weather comes. You will want to make sure you use a good steam carpet cleaner. This will help kill all the larvae and soften any stains that you may not see that will make it easier for extraction.

I know from my personal experience and thousands of dollars in oriental rugs later, that moths will thrive and destroy your wool and oriental rug. I cannot tell you the nightmares I have personally gone through to replace my own damaged rugs. You will also want to clean the areas you have stored your garments. Clean and vacuum all drawer and closet spaces. Another great way to clean your closet is to use an insect fogger. This will poision any of the left over larvae that are hard to find. You will want to remove your clothing before hand to ensure that you dont contaminate your garments. Make sure you find one that says it will kill the egg or all this work will be pointless. Be sure NOT to use insect fogger in your pantry or around animals, as it could pose a danger and be toxic if ingested.


Step Two: Throw It Out

Make sure to check your pantry for moths in your grain based foods such as oatmeal, pasta, cereals ect. Moths love to hatch in there and will often eat holes in the plastic packaging to get into it. Check the bags or boxes to see if there is webby sand or dust like deposits. If there are toss it out, that is a sure sign of moth infestation. Throw it all out and buy new stuff. When you package your new food, be sure to store it in air tight plastic containers.

Under-the-bed storage container

Under-the-bed storage container

Step Three: Store Away.

Enclose your cleaned garments to protect them from damage.  Use blanket and sweater storage bags and hanging garments bags available in cotton or heavy duty vinyl.  You can also use sweater boxes, under-bed boxes, large storage containers and show boxes in a variety of materials and sizes.  You can use breathable bags for your leather, suede and fur storage.  As a rule of thumb, NEVER HANG KNITS! Hanging knits on a hanger will promote stretching around the neck and shoulders, distorting the shape of the garment and possibly leaving holes around the shoulder areas.

Hanging cedar panels. Available at

Hanging cedar panels. Available at

Step Four: Moth Repellant

A great moth repellant is to make sure your closet is lined with cedar panels. Moths hate the smell of cedar and this will help defend against moth infestation. If you don’t want to spend money on actually  adding cedar panels to the walls of your closet, you can simply go and purchase blocks of cedar attached to hangers and hang them amongst your clothes. Cedar, which comes in hangers, boxes, blocks and drawer liners, should be sanded with fine-grade sandpaper after each season because otherwise the surface oxidizes, eliminating the moth-repelling scent. You can also purchase moth balls, pellets, or powdered crystals to put in your droors and closets.


How To Wash Wool

  1. Make sure you always use COLD water to wash wool. Never use hot water because hot water will promote shrinking.
  2. Wash on a gentle cycle only and never allow the garment to go through the agitation cycle, fill the washer up and use wool wash, add garment and allow soaking for 30 minutes. Then put the machine on spin cycle.
  3. After it has finished in the spin cycle, place in dryer for 10 minutes on its lowest setting to allow it to fluff. Take it out and then lay the garment on a flat surface with a towel underneath to complete drying. Remember, do not hang on a hanger, this will stretch the garment.
Victor Chang