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How to get rid of clothes moths: effective strategies Mumsnet users swear by

Stressed out by moths or moth holes in your clothes? You've come to the right place. Here's our guide to getting rid of clothes moths for good.

By Poppy O'Neill | Last updated Feb 21, 2024

Clothing hanging in a wardrobe

Clothes moths can be a frustrating and revolting issue. These tiny, elusive insects have a knack for infesting our clothes, leaving behind small holes and potential damage. If left unchecked, clothes moth infestations can quickly become a major headache. But fear not! This guide will take you through the most effective strategies to identify, prevent, and eliminate clothes moths, so you can protect your favourite clothes and keep your home moth-free.

Related: The best moth repellents, tried and tested

Identifying clothes moths and their damage

First things first: clothes moths, also known as webbing clothes moths or Tineola bisselliella, are small, golden-coloured insects that infest natural fibre materials such as wool, cashmere and silk. The adult moths are small in size, with distinguishing brown heads, and it is the moth larvae that are responsible for fabric damage. These larvae, often mistaken for small worms, feed on and digest keratin, a protein found in animal fibres, causing holes and weakening fabric. 

Identifying clothes moths

common clothes moth

Adult clothes moths have a wingspan of about half an inch and are typically pale gold or buff in colour, with distinguishing brown heads. The male moths are usually smaller than the female moths.

The life cycle of clothes moths consists of four stages: egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. Female moths lay small, white eggs, which adhere to fabric fibres. After hatching, the larvae spin silken cases, which they reside in as they feed and grow. These silken cases can often be found near the damaged areas of infested clothing. Male moths are often seen flying around searching for female moths to mate with. The entire life cycle, from egg to adult, can take anywhere from two months to two years, depending on environmental conditions.

Here’s an in-depth clothes moth identification guide from the Natural History Museum.

Recognising moth holes in clothes

One of the telltale signs of a clothes moth infestation is the presence of small holes in your clothes, especially those made of natural fibres like wool, cashmere and silk. These holes may appear irregular in shape and can be found anywhere on the garment. 

It's important to recognize moth holes early, as this allows for prompt action to prevent further fabric damage. If left untreated, clothes moth infestations can not only ruin valuable clothing but also destroy soft furnishings such as carpets, upholstery, and curtains. By being aware of the signs of moths, you can take immediate steps to address the issue and protect your textiles.

moth holes in knitwear

Preventing moth infestation

Now that we know how to identify clothes moths and moth holes, let's move on to effective strategies to prevent moth infestations. Prevention is the first step in keeping these pesky creatures at bay. By implementing a few simple measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of moth infestation in your home and wardrobe.

Proper storage of out-of-season clothes

Properly storing your out-of-season clothes is crucial for preventing moth infestation. Here are some tips to ensure your clothes remain moth-free when not in use:

  • Store clothes in vacuum storage bags or airtight containers to prevent clothes moths from accessing them.

  • Before storing, make sure clothes are clean and free from food sources, such as perspiration or food stains.

  • Vacuum cracks, crevices, and carpeted areas in your storage space to remove any eggs or larvae that may be present.

  • Choose undisturbed corners or areas away from windows, as clothes moths are attracted to light and open windows can inadvertently invite them into your storage space.

  • Consider using moth traps, which are designed to attract and catch adult male moths, disrupting their mating cycle and reducing the risk of infestation.

Read next: The best vacuum cleaners, as recommended by Mumsnetters

Deep cleaning tips to keep moths away

Deep cleaning your storage areas and clothes regularly is key to keeping moths away. Here are some effective deep cleaning tips to prevent moth infestation:

  • Regularly vacuum cracks, crevices, and corners in closets, cupboards, and attic spaces to remove any moth eggs or larvae lurking in these hidden areas.

  • Clean and dust your storage areas, paying close attention to shelving, hangers, and other surfaces where moths may lay their eggs.

  • Take advantage of warm weather by airing out your clothes outside on a rotary washing line, as moths dislike direct sunlight and ventilation.

  • Consider using pheromone traps, which release a synthetic replica of female moth pheromones to attract and trap male moths, effectively reducing the risk of infestation.

  • Regularly washing your clothes, especially those made of natural fibres, in a washing machine helps remove any food source that may attract moths.

  • Consider dry cleaning wool, cashmere, and vintage textiles, as moths are less likely to infest clean, well-maintained clothes.

  • When storing clothes, ensure they are completely dry, as moths are attracted to moisture - investing in the best dehumidifier you can is a great investment for your home.

Maintaining cleanliness and practising good wardrobe hygiene go a long way in keeping moths at bay and protecting your clothes.

Read next: The best budget washing machines for your home

Natural solutions for clothes moths

If you’ve already spotted some of the little blighters in your home, there are plenty of deterrents to encourage moths away from your clothing. These are the best natural moth repellents Mumsnetters use to ward off clothes moths:

  • Place cedar blocks, balls, or chips in small cloth bags and hang them in your closets or store them with your clothes. The natural aroma of cedar helps repel moths.

  • Similar to cedar, lavender sachets can be placed in garment pockets or hangers to deter clothes moths.

  • Bay leaves, known for their strong scent, can be used as a natural moth repellent. Simply place bay leaves in small cloth bags and tuck them in corners or among stored clothes.

Related: The best washer dryers, trusted by families

The best moth repellents for clothes moths

If you want to use something a little stronger, there are a number of effective options available. Here are some of Mumsnet users' most highly-recommended products:

Dealing with a moth infestation

Despite our best efforts, sometimes moth infestations occur. When faced with a clothes moth problem, it's important to take immediate action to eradicate the infestation and prevent further damage to your clothes. Here's how you can deal with a moth infestation effectively.

Check your local council website for guidance

If you suspect a clothes moth infestation, your local council might provide pest control services for a small fee - there’s often a discount if you’re in receipt of certain benefits too. Search your postcode here to find details for where you live

Eradicating moths and their larvae

When dealing with a clothes moth infestation, there are various methods worth trying to eradicate moths and their larvae:

  • Identify the source of the infestation and remove any affected items such as clothes, carpets or soft furnishings.

  • Consider using natural insecticide sprays specifically formulated to target clothes moths. These sprays can effectively eliminate adult moths and larvae.

  • Placing infested clothes in a freezer for a few days can kill moth eggs, larvae, and adult moths, effectively halting the infestation.

  • Subjecting infested clothes to high temperatures, either through washing, dry cleaning, or using a hot steam iron, can also eradicate moth larvae.

  • Ensure thorough cleaning of affected areas, including vacuuming cracks, crevices, and other hiding spots where moth larvae may reside, to eliminate any remaining infestation.

By using a combination of these methods, you can effectively eradicate clothes moths and halt their destructive impact on your clothes.

Protecting wool and cashmere from moths

Wool and cashmere are particularly susceptible to clothes moth infestation, as moths are attracted to natural fibres. To protect these textiles, it's important to take extra care in their storage and maintenance.

When storing woollen items, follow these tips to prevent moth infestation:

  • Store woollen knitwear in vacuum storage bags or airtight containers to prevent moths from accessing them.

  • Use cedar blocks, balls, or chips, or lavender sachets, which have moth-repellent properties, to deter clothes moths from your clothes.

  • Regularly vacuum and clean your wardrobe and storage areas to eliminate any existing moths or larvae.

  • Dry cleaning cashmere before storing helps remove any traces of food that may attract moths.

Repairing moth damage

Sometimes, moth damage is unavoidable, and you may find small holes in your clothing caused by these pests. However, there are ways to repair moth holes and salvage your clothes.

Fixing moth holes in clothes

If you want to salvage your clothes after moths have munched holes in them, Mumsnetters recommend the following options:

  • “Discovered this amazing way to repair jumpers using old felting technique. It really is ridiculously easy. I chose a contrasting colour repair but you can colour match as well. The wool fluff I was supplied will do many many repairs as you only use a wee bit.” TheCliteratti recommends Wool Filler.

  • Traditional darning patches up large and small holes quickly - try a darning mushroom kit for great results.

  • For the sewing-averse, this fabric repair powder is an iron-on option.

  • To give your clothes 5-star treatment, get the professionals in. Nearly New Cashmere’s mending service is Mumsnetter-approved.

Are moths really gone or just hiding?

After implementing preventive measures, eradicating moths, and repairing moth damage, it's natural to wonder if moths are really gone for good or just hiding. While it's impossible to guarantee they'll never darken your door again, you can take steps to reduce the risk of moths returning. 

  • Keep clothing clean - especially natural fibres

  • Store out-of-season clothes in vacuum storage bags or airtight containers

  • Vacuum regularly, paying particular attention to edges and corners

  • Deep clean your wardrobe

  • Keep an eye out for moths at all stages of their life cycle, and don’t hesitate to up your moth repellent game if you spot one

Read next: The best budget dehumidifiers under £100

About the author

Poppy O'Neill is a Content Editor at Mumsnet and a mother of two. She's been researching and reviewing baby and child products for 2 years, with a particular focus on baby essentials, toys and books for toddlers and outdoor play equipment. From potties to paddling pools and bunk beds to bedtime stories, she loves to deep-dive into research and find the best products out there.

Poppy is also an award-winning, best-selling children's and parenting author of books such as Don't Worry, Be Happy, The Extraordinary Book That Makes You Feel Happy and Mother Power. She specialises in children's mental health and her books are used by therapists, teachers and SENCOs across the UK. She won a The Week Junior Book Award in 2023, her books have been translated into several languages and she's been featured in The Guardian, The Sunday Times and The Sun.

After earning a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Leeds and a PGCert in Fashion and Lifestyle Journalism from University of the Arts London, she worked in fashion for most of her 20s. When her children were young, she undertook an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Chichester and re-trained as an author and freelance writer.