Classic moth damage on wool fabric
Can you tell I hold a grudge here? Hmm. Well, let’s get down to it. There are a lot of confusing “facts” and misinformation about clothes moths out there. I’ve developed a system for dealing with them that works well for me, but I still wanted to know, from a scientific perspective, what actually kills them? What temperatures can they tolerate? What about water, can you drown moth eggs? Etc. Some of these questions remain unanswered, and I’d still like to team up with an entomologist some day and nail down some specifics. BUT (this is a big but) not long ago I stumbled on this post at Juniper Moon Farm. They are doing some great stuff over there, and this was no exception. The author, Lisa Stockebrand, lays out some specific advice which I heartily agree with: cleaning is the best response to finding moths in your wool, and you can kill all stages of them with heat or by freezing.
UPDATE: Big thanks to astute reader Gabe, who pointed out that even though this blog has vanished, you can still read the original post in the web archive here: https://web.archive.org/web/20150612112534/http://www.fiberfarm.com/2013/03/moths-a-public-service-announcement
After I read this, I told Bryan about it, and how, even though of course I’d like it if our house was 100% moth-free (it’s not—they were here when we moved in—and it won’t be until all the old carpet is gone, all the baseboards are removed and cleaned behind, etc.) and of course I’m bummed that they have done damage in the past, at this point I’d rather have a system that works for dealing with them. Sure, it’d be great to have a completely moth-free home, but as soon as one of my knitting buddies accidentally brings over an infested ball of yarn, it’s not moth-free any more, and so I would stick with my system even if I did think we were free and clear.
Less than a week after this discussion, I took a bunch of my felt samples to a small event, where they were displayed right next to an item which had clear moth damage, cocoons on it, etc. So I had a bunch of felt to treat when I got home, and that got me thinking that now is as good a time as any to let you all know what I know about wool moths so far.
They Do Exist
Unfortunately clothes moths are alive and well in the 21st century. I guess people who have never heard of them grew up in the age of acrylic (actually worse than moths in my opinion). Those folks definitely have not cleaned out the houses of older relatives who worked with wool!
Although the moths themselves are definitely up to no good, scouting around for your most precious garments to lay their eggs on, it’s the larvae that actually eat the wool. They also eat fur, and mixed fibers containing wool or other animal fibers, and can survive on dust bunnies alone, especially if said dust bunnies contain pet hair. Supposedly they also eat silk, although I have never seen one on a pure silk garment. There are two common kinds of wool moths (at least here in the US) and they both look pretty much alike: usually tiny (less than a centimeter long) shiny golden moths with tattered-looking edges to the wings, and red eyes. The eggs are incredibly tiny, and the larvae, when they first hatch, are practically transparent, and thinner around than a sewing thread.
How, pray tell, do I know that last part you may ask? Well, one time, years ago, we came back from a long trip and there were quite a few moths flying around the house (the woolens were packed away but I was still pretty mad). After crushing the first couple dozen I could catch, I decided to capture a few and leave them in jar to see what would happen, in the spirit of “know your enemy.” Probably the most interesting and disturbing thing I found out was just how practically invisible the larvae are when they first hatch. I could easily give an item a thorough inspection and not see one at all. Probably the second most interesting thing I found out was that yes, a couple of days in my freezer does seem to kill them.
If you click on the links at the bottom of Lisa’s post, some of them have photos of actual moths.
They Can’t Eat It if You’re Using It
This is the most important thing I’m going to write in this post, so take note: moths are not a threat to woolens you’re using, only those you’re storing. I have lots of wool clothes, and I just love them. I wear them all winter long, without worrying a bit that little things with wings will attack them. That’s because if you’re wearing something, it’s out and about, it’s in the light (which clothes moths don’t like), it’s brushing up against other things, it’s being cleaned and then worn again … in other words, even if a moth did lay eggs on it, chances are very high the eggs would be destroyed or brushed off before they hatched.
Store it Well if You’re Not Using It
When the weather warms up, I wash my woolens, bit by bit usually, and store them for the summer, in a suitcase in the garage. Dirty clothes are more likely to attract moths, not to mention it’s not good for the fabric to let stains and oils just sit there. In a weird way I kind of love doing this, and especially love opening up the suitcase in the fall when it’s full of wonderful things for winter. I hand wash everything except a large rug and my not-me-made coat, which go to the cleaners.
I also use plastic tubs to store yarn and fabric scraps, and some plastic bags inside those as well. When I worked at a museum, I learned that airtight plastic bags are not really a good choice for long term storage of textiles, you want some airflow, otherwise the air in the bag will become different enough from the air outside that just taking the textile out can damage or destroy it. But while plastic bags aren’t the best choice for preserving your grandmother’s wedding dress, they should be fine for keeping your yarn stash organized, as long as you open them now and then. In my mind, the absolutely ideal container for wool storage is one that seals tight to moths but not to air, which is why I use a suitcase (with a tight closing zipper) for summer storage. Whatever you use, make sure it closes tight enough to keep a little moth from wandering in. Moths can eat through paper bags and cotton to get what they want, but they only will if what’s in there really grabs their attention.
Cold definitely slows moths down, and may kill them if the conditions are right. I’ve had good results storing wool for felting, and materials for making my cashmere hats, in big plastic tubs that stay on my back porch year round. About half the year, it’s pretty cold out there, and usually freezes at night. I keep my knitting yarn bin out there for part of the winter too. The rest of the time it stays in the garage. I’ve also had good results storing wool yarn and fabric scraps that I’m not going to use right away in the garage, either in plastic tubs or in a cardboard box with the seams taped shut. Again: treat/clean things, then store them.
Two Mistakes You Don’t Have to Make
As my friend Tom says, “You don’t have to make this mistake, I have already made it for you.”
1. Don’t bring home a new wool rug without having it cleaned, especially if it’s imported and/or has been stored for a while. Seriously, take it straight to the cleaners when you buy it, then bring it home. Same thing with any old yarn or sweaters someone donates to you. Treat them (see below), then wash them, then use them.
2. Don’t assume that something which has been hanging in your closet for a while is moth-free, and put it away. Treat it and/or clean it every time before you store it.
How to Kill Clothes Moths
If you find moths in your house, I can’t recommend a better strategy than what’s in Lisa’s article, which I linked to at the top.
It appears, from the incident with the jar of moths as well as other anecdotal evidence, that the ordinary freezer attached to my fridge is enough to kill moths, although that has not been scientifically proven for all stages of moth life. There was also an incident in which a moth attack got started in a storage bin (see 2. above) but then halted, and the larvae appeared dead when I found them. I have a theory that, while the temperature was not low enough to kill the eggs, at some point it did freeze hard enough to kill the larvae. This was in the garage. This is just a theory.
When I brought home my felt samples that were possibly exposed to moth eggs, I decided to try treating them with heat, since I could cycle through everything I needed to treat in a day, rather than over weeks if I used the freezer. Lisa recommends temps over 120° F for at least 30 minutes. Washing in water over that temp also works, but I decided I’d rather keep the wool dry so that I could store it right away. I’ve also steamed small amounts of yarn above boiling water, the way you would a vegetable, and that should work as well, as long as the heat penetrates to the middle of whatever you’re steaming.
I did put a pan of hot water on the lowest oven rack, so that the heat I was exposing the wool to wouldn’t be completely dry. The lowest temperature my oven will set at is 170° F, and I went for 200° just for good measure. I put an old towel directly on the middle oven rack, and put the wool items, not too many at a time so that the heat had a chance to penetrate, on top of that, and set the timer for 40 minutes before taking them out and putting in the next batch. At the end, the only thing that showed any signs of scorching was where the towel touched the sides of the oven, so I suggest folding your towel so that it doesn’t touch the oven walls. I keep a baking stone on the top rack of my oven, and I left it there to hold heat. If you wanted to, I think you could also do two racks of wool at a time, as long as you allow time for the oven to heat back up after you load everything in.
When one batch was done, I put it somewhere clean, and while the last batch was heating, I wiped out the plastic storage bin I keep the felt samples in with a damp cloth, and let it dry in the sun. The cleaning part always seems like no fun at first, but once I’m doing it, it occurs to me that it was high time anyway, and it feels good in a spring-cleaning kind of way. When I put the samples back in the bin I felt confident that they were good to go.
This is in Lisa’s article, but I’d like to emphasize it: please please do not use mothballs. This is another thing I learned from working at the museum: mothballs are truly horrible, they are toxic to all kinds of creatures, including me. I’m pretty sure I left a few brain cells behind while going through their collection of furs.
And Finally, Spiders
A thought about spiders: another time we returned from our summer journeys to find that moths had hatched in the house, but this time most of them were in a spider web in the studio. Ever since then, I have let spiders be in the house (except if they’re in the sink, the bathtub, or building a web somewhere very inconvenient) instead of trying to relocate them outside. It started me thinking that the spiders, being so much smaller than I am, and adapted to eat bugs, and hungry, might be much much better than I was at finding moth larvae under the edges of the carpet, etc.
I can’t say for sure what difference leaving the spiders has made, but I will say that over the past few years, all these strategies combined have meant that I only see a couple of moths a year (and, um, SQUASH them) and more importantly, I’ve managed to keep all the things I care about from getting munched on.
There’s a lot here (phew!), but I still promise to update/post more as I learn more!
Love reading your posts!
Aww, thanks Rebecca!
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Thank you. I had a most infestation recently. They got my stash, my handknit lace shawls, and my husband’s stack of sweaters. I cleaned the house thoroughly and all of these things have been in the freezer until I get up the energy to deal with them. I am a little nervous about sticking them in the oven but plan on trying your technique!
Oh no! If they’ve been in the freezer for quite a while, the moths are probably dead already. You could just get out a few things at a time, repair and clean them, and then store them carefully. Of course, you can put them through the oven as well to be safe. Good luck!
Hi It is 2 degrees outside!!!
If I bring some clothes out and my fur coat (that I never wear) will that kill the moths and how long would it take?
It will certainly kill adults and larvae. I’m not so sure about eggs. If I were you I’d leave them out at least a few days/a week/as long as it stays really cold … you could also put the clothes out for a couple days, bring them in to warm up for a couple days, and then put them back out, on the theory that the eggs might hatch once they got warm again. Good luck putting the cold to good use!
Hi Tasha. Thanks so much for this post, and for your link to Lisa’s helpful article. I’ve just discovered 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. 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 and hats it contained? How do I clean those? What do you recommend wiping the inside of the closet with? The closet door was often left open – do I have to wash clean cotton baby clothes that were sitting right in front of the closet in laundry baskets? 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. The room the carpet was in is supposed to be the nursery and am just so overwhelmed trying to figure our how to tackle this! Any advice would be a huge help! Thank you.
Hi Sarah, sorry to hear about your moth problem! So, first I would get the carpet out of the house if you haven’t already. Wrap it in plastic if you have a some big enough, and take it to the cleaners. If it’s still freezing at night where you live, you could leave it somewhere outside for a couple of nights first to kill any live moths/larvae.
I would clean all fabric that was in the closet, starting with anything wool. I would also wash non-wool fabrics that have been in the closet, just in case they have eggs on them. Moths can’t eat plant fibers like cotton, but I’ve seen them perch on cotton towels etc. at my house when they couldn’t find any wool, and probably lay eggs there. I’d imagine your piles of baby clothes will get washed/worn pretty quickly, in which case I wouldn’t worry about giving them an extra wash, unless they’re going to be stored for a while.
For the rest of the items and the closet/living room, you shouldn’t need to wipe things down, just vacuum and dust as thoroughly as you can, and send any other wool carpets to be cleaned as well. Anything in a sealed container should be safe. I’ve had good luck with wool hats by vacuuming them for dust and any possible moths, and storing clean in something with a tight-fitting lid. If you find moths in a box with wool hats, I would freeze, heat treat or send the hats to be professionally cleaned. As far as things like paper, I would just go through them and make sure there aren’t any moths currently hiding there. Any larvae that hatch in a bag of paper shouldn’t survive because they won’t have the right proteins to eat.
Be extra careful with other wool items in your house, like sweaters, especially if you’re storing them for the summer, clean every one before putting it away, and make sure the storage box is moth-proof. Since you’re going to need to do this in stages, you might consider putting anything wool that you’re not currently wearing in a freezer (or a bin outside if it’s cold) and then getting things out and washing them a few at a time as you have time (or send the whole bunch out to be cleaned).
I just finished reading The Intentional Spinner by Judith MacKenzie McCuin, which has a section on the back about moths and mice, including some good suggestions on chemical treatments if you decide you need to go that route, and I found her thoughts very complete and helpful.
I hope that helps! Good luck!
Thank you so much for all this advice! It’s super helpful and much appreciated 🙂
Sarah I am so sorry you are going through this with a new baby! Tasha, I purchased two moth traps. I have two clothes closets next to each other. One closet I found three moths (in one month) in the trap and the other closet none. One time in my living room I found one on my window in the living room (only one so far) why would that happen? I vacuum every day. My question is, right now it is 28 degrees, unfortunately it is going up to 45 degrees in a few hours, but for the next few nights it will be in the 30’s. Is that cold enough to kill moths? I live in a high rise so I don’t have a garage that I have access to, but I have a balcony. I just put an empty suitcase out on my balcony so if there are any moths they will die? I am using the suitcase to store my wool sweaters for the summer. I am going crazy, first time I every had moths and I have been around for a long time. lol I can’t bring myself to put items in my stove or freezer, I don’t want moths anywhere by my kitchen.
Thanks for your help!
I understand being squeamish about the moths, but they aren’t the same kind that eat flour or food, so it doesn’t really matter if they are in your kitchen …
As far as I know, freezing kills adult moths and larvae. If I were you I would wash all the woolens that you want to store for the winter, and as they are dry, put them in the suitcase on the balcony. Once everything you want to store is in there, you can put the suitcase wherever you want, although it wouldn’t hurt to leave it on the balcony as long as it’s freezing at night. I hope that helps!
I have been battling clothes moths since March. I thought I had gotten rid of them but I found them again last month. The first time around I had put all the clothes in the laundry at 60 degrees but this time around I am trying the oven method. I bake each batch of clothes at 70C for an hour or two and I must say it is a heck of a lot easier than washing everything and waiting for it to dry. I really really hope that it works because I am so sick of those disgusting larvae…
Hi Ariana, yeah it’s totally gross and disheartening when you find the larvae! Keep in mind that they could be hiding somewhere (like under the baseboards, eating pet hair, etc.) and could come back again. The best advice I can give you is to make sure you clean the area as thoroughly as you can, as well as the clothes.
I wouldn’t say that I’ve reached peace with the moths, but I have accepted that they live pretty much everywhere. Since I have friends who also do fiber arts, and so wool and textiles coming in and out of the house, I do think it’s better to expect that moths could and probably will show up again, and prepare accordingly. The good news is that since I started being very careful about how things are stored, nothing has been eaten, even though I’ve seen moths in the house since. Good luck!
i had moths get hand knits and yarn that was in 2 tight fitting bins, including an airlock bag inside one of the bins! I am beside myself. I wear something and immediately put it back in the bin.. can they really get into plastic bins???
Argh—how frustrating! They can’t eat through thick plastic, but they can crawl through the tiniest holes. Sometimes bins that look like the lid fits tightly actually have little fins of plastic that keep the lid from making contact with the top of the bin all the way around (in which case I choose a different bin for wool storage). Or they may have air holes made on purpose, often under the handle (which I usually cover with thick tape).
The other possibility (unfortunately this has happened to me) is that something you thought was clean when it went into the bin actually had moth eggs on it already. Obviously you’ll need to treat everything that was in the bins when they were contaminated as if it has eggs before storing it again. The oven or steamer method is probably the best for yarn.
When storing yarn or things you don’t need access to all the time, it may help to find a cold place to keep the bin, like the garage, shed, back deck etc. Moths move much slower in the cold, and if you live somewhere with cold winters, freezing temperatures can kill larvae and adults.
If you have a bin that you’re moving garments in and out of during the winter, it’s still important to wash everything and clean out the bin before you store it over the summer, or for more than a week or so, just in case something made contact with moth eggs.
I hope some of that helps!
I have found a few balls of stored yarn with a few shredded strands on the outside of the balls. I also have several balls with no apparent damage. What is the best way to purge the nasty critters? Can I leave the yarn as is or do I have to open each one up? Also, is there a concern with using a dryer for heat? If put in the freezer, how long is a sufficient amount of time to kill everything off?
I would steam the yarn balls, both those that have shredded strands, and any that were stored with them, even if they look Ok. Steam them like you would a vegetable, suspended over boiling water in a pot, and try to make sure that no hot water can wick up into the yarn, since that can cause colors to run if the dye isn’t set. Or use the oven method to heat treat. It should be alright to leave the yarn in balls, as long as you allow time for the heat to penetrate to the center. This is probably obvious, but, remove any paper bands/labels from the yarn balls before you try either of those methods. The dryer won’t get hot enough to kill moth eggs and larvae, you need temperatures above 120° F.
Freezing things kills moths and larvae, but not the eggs. An alternative (which I just read in The Spinner’s Book of Fleece by Beth Smith) is to freeze for a couple of days, take things out of the freezer for about 2 weeks (long enough for any eggs to hatch) and then freeze for a few days again. Hope that helps!
Hi, It’s amazing how hard it is to find good information on this topic. Appreciate your article. We recently discovered moths in our wool rug only the part that was under the couch. It is a knotted rug, so there are lots of good hiding places. 😦 We vacuumed out all we could, then wrapped it in plastic and took it to the dry cleaners. Got our rug back after about 3 weeks (combination of cleaning time and us not picking it up) to find last night that there are still eggs on the one side – no moths and some dead looking larvae. Part of me just wants to throw it out before it causes the entire house to be infested. Was my rug not cleaned properly or does dry cleaning not get rid of it? I would really appreciate your advice as putting it in the freezer is obviously not an option and we are in the South…so it’s going to be a few months before we get to freezing at night. Thanks!
I know! I’ve been getting a lot of questions/comments on this post lately, and I think I need to contact an entomologist. There must be some basic proven science about what kills moths and what doesn’t, but there sure are a lot of myths circulating.
In the meantime, Judith MacKenkie McCuin says in The Intentional Spinner that dry cleaning works because all the oils and any stains from the wool are removed, meaning that the moths lack an essential part of their diet and can’t survive by eating your rug. It doesn’t sound like the cleaners did a very good job though, if there are still larvae on it. I think you’d have a case for taking it back and asking them to clean it again. You could also ask them to steam it thoroughly, since again the high heat should kill all stages of moths.
After being worried about it for a while, I’m comfortable having wool rugs in my house now, even though I know that we still have a few moths (see above). I have wool rugs in the open, where they get a lot of light and traffic. You do need to be able to vacuum the whole surface of the rug regularly, even if that means moving the couch. I vacuum my rugs about every week, and have them cleaned or wash them at least once a year, and right away if I ever suspect any moths may have laid eggs there. Good luck!
Hi, Tasha, I too am grateful for your article as it is so helpful to read about someone’s personal experience with these awful pests. I’m dealing with an outbreak — first ever in the almost 20 years I’ve been living in my house, and I have no idea where they came from! Based on all I’ve read, I *think* I’m killing off the first generation of larvae…which means, there are probably adult moths in my house, ughh, and they’re laying eggs somewhere… I have what I thought was a mild phobia of insects but every encounter has had me in panic and even just reading about it is stressful. 😦 Anyway, to get to my point — do you think tumble-drying clothes on high heat would kill the eggs, and would it be worth doing, for the entire contents of the infested closet? I feel I should do it, if only for my peace of mind. I suppose even wool could be tumble-dried on high heat without damage, as long as the clothes are dry to begin with? The majority of the clothes are cotton, viscose etc blends; fortunately most wool sweaters were in plastic sealed boxes with lids, though sadly the moths ate a couple that were not. I’m most alarmed at seeing a site of infestation in two different rooms although they could have been carried there on infested clothes… I haven’t seen any adult moths at all, but I suppose they fly around in the dark.
Hi Lin, sorry about your moths! It is icky and stressful, especially the first time you figure out what’s going on.
Unfortunately, the heat of a dryer just isn’t hot enough to kill the eggs. For peace of mind, you could wash and dry anything/everything in the closet as you normally would. But you don’t have to, the moth eggs aren’t a danger to cotton/viscose, and can’t survive if they hatch on plant fibers, so only do it if it makes you feel better. Of course, anything wool that might have been exposed you should definitely wash, steam, and store carefully. Incidentally, I wouldn’t put wool in the dryer, even dry, just the littlest bit of moisture combined with all that heat and tumbling around could cause felting.
The adult moths are sneaky little buggers, hiding from the light and scurrying around the floor rather than flying, so they can be hard to spot.
I hope this helps!
How do you remove the eggs and larvae from the inner seams on clothing once they have been washed in HOT water and dried on HIGH heat for entire dry cycle and then agsin for 20 mins HIGH timed heat?
Usually I just brush off remaining moth materials with my fingers or a brush, outside, away from the house a bit, where there’s nothing for any that might still hatch to eat.
As an aside, as far as I’ve been able to tell, a dryer isn’t hot enough to kill them, although the wash water might be, depending on how hot it is. I do think that most eggs are either destroyed or removed by washing … but it never hurts to check again.
I live in a high rise and the hallway carpets and wallpaper are being removed. The past few weeks I noticed a few moths, so I bought moth traps and only caught one. I have not noticed any changes to my wool sweaters so far. Summer is coming should I send my wools to the dry cleaners (I usually hand wash in cold water), if I have any moths, eggs etc. will the dry cleaning kill them? Since plastic containers are not moth proof what should I store my dry cleaned sweaters in. Thank you so much for the info.
Hi Christine! If the moths are coming from the carpet, it’s probably good that they’re taking it out. Dry cleaning is only better than hand washing if it removes more dirt & sweat etc. so that the moths can’t survive (they can’t actually get the nutrition they need from absolutely clean wool). I hand wash my woolens every spring, and as each round of washing dries I put it away as soon as possible. I use a suitcase to store wool clothes over the summer, I figure with the zipper tightly closed there’s no hole big enough for a moth to crawl in. I’ve also had good results using plastic tubs to store yarn, wool for spinning, etc.—just make sure there aren’t any holes in the tub (or cover them with tape) and that the lid shuts tightly. Good luck!
Thank you so much for taking the time to get back to me. I will just wash them instead of the dry clearing them.
Thank you so much for the information. I looked on line but could not find an answer, If I put my clothes outside, how cold does it have to be to kill the moths? I thought I would put a lot of my clothes out on my balcony over night.
I appreciate you help!
As far as I can tell, freezing temps (below 32° F) kill adult moths and larvae. Of course, if the clothes are all packed together in a suitcase, that provides some insulation. It wouldn’t hurt to leave the suitcase out as long as it’s freezing at night where you live. I hope that helps!
Thank you Tasha!
You need to freeze items for at least a week, then take out for a day then put back into freezer for another week. Any larvae that survive the first freeze will rally then the second time they are gone. Everything I have found says it is important to do this to make sure.
Hi Tima, thanks for chiming in! A friend of mine who works in a university library said that they use a similar system, only 24 hours in the freezer, 24 hours out, then 24 hours in again. I think I get a similar effect by leaving things outside where they will freeze & thaw multiple times. My only question about the one day out of the freezer is: is there a trigger that means any eggs that survive will definitely hatch within the first day of thaw? If I wanted to be extra sure, and use only the freezer method, I would probably leave things out (still sealed/in plastic) for a few days, then put them back in the freezer … at this point I think heating is the surest method, since it kills the eggs, which the freezer doesn’t. But I’m definitely up for more research!
Hi there! So glad I found this post. In 2014 we found out we had a major infestation of clothes moths, and let me tell you, those jerks have expensive taste. If the price tag was $100 or higher they liked it. (Idiots even ate the inside of a good pair of my leather shoes!). They didn’t touch the cheap stuff. We believe they had laid eggs in a couch we bought new from Macy’s (of all places) and they seemed to love our clean house because they had tons of crevices to hide their tiny children in. (Plus we have cats and no matter how much I clean, they do shed.) I feel as though I logged more miles on my vacuum than my car trying to rid our lives of them.
I spent a ton on terminix to rid our home, and they had no clue what they were doing. So after almost a year of them treating and more and more showing up, I booted them. We then found a decent exterminator who spoke to entomologists regarding the matter and she seemed to rid us of the issue. That being said, I was still finding empty squished cases every once in a while. Could they have been old and I’m just finding them now? Who knows.
My question is this: we recently moved and while most everything had already been cleaned and put into storage tubs, my husband had a bunch of stuff from the basement he just threw in boxes and moved over without cleaning. The other day I found one of those little morons flapping in the basement and then one was on my kitchen wall. Should I be afraid we moved them or would they have just slipped in in the warm weather? I tried to vacuum everything and anything I could that was moved, especially the furniture. And would you suggest calling the exterminator again to treat as a precaution? This is a new home that I do not want covered in these little brats. If it needs to be contained it needs to be now.
I have no tolerance for these little critters and I’m at the end of my rope after over a year of them messing with me. Hope you can help and also keep my designer suits safe too!
It’s possible that the moths moved with you, but it’s maybe even more likely that they were already in your new house. They’re pretty ubiquitous, and as you know they can survive on very little. If you want to get an exterminator, I don’t see any reason to wait.
Personally, I don’t want pesticides in my house. At this point I’ve accepted that moths live here too (although you can’t call it a truce since I kill them on sight, and I still hope that whenever we finally finish remodeling they may disappear for good.) I’ve had good success protecting my treasured woolens using the methods outlined above.
PS You’re right that moths like the good stuff, anything that is pure wool. Items that you dry clean may be especially vulnerable, since they’re more likely to be put away after wearing without being cleaned.
Hello Tasha, very enjoyable and informative information! We’ve lived in our home for 26 years, and never had a clothes moth problem until two years ago. I found a beautiful, large, hand knotted rug at a thrift store and brought it home. Two weeks later, I noticed several moths crawling on it. Thus began the invasion! We threw the rug out, cleaned, put clothes into sealed containers, bought moth traps (they work really well but don’t attract all the males unfortunately) and we put lavender oil on cotton balls in dressers, etc. We still have them of course. Our first thought was to contact an exterminator. We were told that we would have to essentially take clothes, rugs, tapestries, upholstered furniture, etc. out of our home and have them cleaned and stored, a huge undertaking. The exterminators would then do their thing with chemicals, and it would cost us $2,500 – with NO guarantee, they said, that this would be successful!
The odd thing this is this: even after two years, we haven’t seen any moth damage, nor was damage evident on the rug that they likely came in with. I’ve read online that it’s possible for clothes moths to live off human hair, dirt, etc. that’s on floors, and you’re right, they do go behind baseboards. I vacuum with a wand attachment and then have the pleasure of seeing the little critters crawl out of the vacuum. Another oddity is this: the moths in our place don’t seem to dislike light. They do tend to fly around at dusk, but will also fly near lamps – not flutter around them like other moths, but certainly not avoiding them. If we watch television in the evening now, our routine consists of commenting on what we’re watching and pointing and yelling, “Kill it! Kill it!”. As an aside, I’ve read in a number of places that adults moths aren’t the ones that people should be worried about. I beg to differ. They create new ones.
Have others who have shared their stories with you also experienced an apparent lack of damage to clothes and fabric items? We’ll continue to try to keep the moth population down, for even without apparent damage, they’re annoying – I took a book off the shelf to read in bed last night and a moth came crawling over the top of it! (If it’s any comfort to folks, Buckingham Palace has a clothes moth problem too.)
I was told to throw away the vacuum bag after each use. I vacuum 4 times a week (condo 1300 sq.feet) and it was starting to get costly. Now I throw the bag out every week, that seems to be ok. I know these critters like it in there, lots of dust, hair etc. I have been bringing my clothes out on the terrace every few weeks to shake them. So far have not seen any in my clothes, but one in a pocketbook, Yet catching them in the traps. I have not caught any in 2 weeks, praying that is a good sign. Thanks for all the information, so appreciated
Hi Gunnar, thanks for the entertaining comment!
Most people who’ve written me have only noticed the moths after they eat something (otherwise I think it’s easy to mistake them for grain moths or other tiny critters). In my own case, as I mentioned above, I haven’t had any clothes moth damage in years, even though I see them and I know they’re still around my house. They’re eating something and hiding somewhere, but having cleaned everything I could I’m at a bit of a stalemate—hoping that by killing the ones I see and depriving them of stored woolens to eat I’m slowly reducing the population. Since what I really care about is that they don’t eat the things I care about, I’m happy with this system. I’ve also seen that, especially on fuzzy items, the moths can eat along the surface, not making holes or visible damage, but still getting enough to keep them going.
The fact that they’re in Buckingham Palace doesn’t surprise me at all, I think they would be nearly impossible to get rid of in a huge historic building!
I have a similar issue to that of the previous 2 posters in that I have clothes moths but have not found any damaged garments. My first problem began last summer when I began seeing moths in my small 1 bedroom condo near the kitchen. Of course I initially believed they somehow flew in from outdoors and smashed them and thought nothing of it. As time went on the problem became more pronounced. I initially thought they might be food moths but being all gold they looked nothing like them. I began cleaning out all my kitchen cabinets, finding dead moths inside bowels, vases, etc., as well as and these tan-colored “mystery crumbs” waaaay in the back. It wasn’t until I reached the last cabinet that I found a commemorative Coke bottle leaking on some cotton dinner napkins, and the messy source of the problem. Inside the hinges of the cabinet they had spun cocoons and made an awful mess that looked like a cat had been living back there. Once I cleaned the area the moths went away. Until now.
It’s 8 months later and they’re back. I live in Southern California where the weather is mild year-round, so believe this must be a fresh infestation. It probably doesn’t help that one of my nearby neighbors mentioned she has lots of moths (!!). I’ve laid traps and caught a few, primarily in the area of my kitchen and living room and once again I found the “mystery crumbs” in my kitchen cabinets so I believe the source must be nearby. I’ve been cleaning profusely for a week and completely emptied my closet and took all my shirts, suits, slacks to the cleaners–the rack is empty. I haven’t even picked them up yet and most now a moth flew by! Clearly I haven’t found the source. I have a 12′ long entertainment center bolted to the wall that sits about 1′ from the wall. My cat once believed it was his sanctuary and I see dust and fur in there that may be near-impossible to access without destroying the custom unit; however, I’m running out of places to look. I doubt the moths would be attracted to the insulation from the dishwasher, but pet hair is probably more likely. I have a couple more places to look but am running out of ideas. I read here already they don’t subside on paper. My place is cleaner than it ever has been but I can’t keep throwing things away in hope that the moths might go with it! Exterminators are of limited value unless you can point to the source, and that’s my problem.
Hi Nick! To be honest I’m not sure these are clothes moths … they need protein to survive, which is why they eat animal fibers in the first place. They can definitely eat cat hair, but shouldn’t be interested in spilled Coke or cotton napkins. The “crumbs” are probably frass (bug poo), which most moths leave no matter what they’re eating. Cleaning things out and taking your clothes to the cleaners are good steps. When you get them back, make sure to store any wool/cashmere garments in a container which seals tightly enough to keep the moths out (no holes). That way at least you won’t need to worry about your clothes getting eaten, and hopefully you’ll figure out what’s up with the moths, whether they’re eating pet hair or your food. Good luck!
Hi Tasha. Thanks for your informative and detailed posts.
When we first moved into our first condo couple years back, we noticed some bugs and didn’t realize they were clothes moths. We had a lot of them and just killed them as we saw them. Like the above posters, we never saw ANY damage to our clothing at all. We cleaned the entire place and could not for the life of us find where they were coming from. They loved our bath towels even when we were constantly using them and washing them (eeck!!) because when we squashed, they would leave that shiny, tan residue (ICK!). They would be on our bedroom walls every now and then. We had cleaners even come in and couldn’t find anywhere that they were stemming from. No eggs and larvae that we ever noticed either. After 2.5 years living there, we had to move out as the owner sold the unit, and we found a new place. I’m pretty sure we didn’t bring them with us (but who knows right?) as we cleaned and thoroughly scanned all our clothing before we moved. When we got to the new place, it was much older..holes in the walls, scratches on the floor that we didn’t notice during the showing unfortunately. The old tenant also had a dog and when we moved in, we noticed it wasn’t cleaned very well. There’s also Silverfish near the kitchen, bathroom and under the walls (that’s a whole other story). The day we moved in, I already noticed a moth flying around. I was so disappointed. Was hoping to get away from those nasty critters but alas, here we are. We live in a loft, and with our bedroom upstairs – I noticed that’s where all the moths were heading (into the closet where all our clothes were). When we turn on the lights, they would flutter around (not a lot – maybe 1-2 every night). I try to kill as much as I can. I even sprayed the entire closet with flea spray (Siphotrol). The last tenant left some moth traps for us and I KNEW they had a problem as well. I even talked to the landlord and she said to keep the windows closed (UGH!). I’ve been trying to find out where they are coming from again, I looked in our closet – took all the clothes out and put them on our bed (saw a moth fly out – couldn’t kill it 😦 ) I fully inspected the carpet and crevices and the corners – but I see nothing. Maybe 1-2 dead carcasses of full clothes moth adults but no eggs or larvae.
I see 1-2 from from time to time in our bathroom towels (bathroom is now downstairs though in the loft) but there’s definitely more in the closet. Not a big infestation but I see like 1-2 a day. Every time I turn on the light, they start to fly and try to get away from it.
I have no idea where they are coming or spawning from.. and I’m not sure what to do. I bought some Greenway Traps that attract both male and female clothes moths so I’m waiting on that but currently I’m stumped on really what to do. 😦
Hi Amanda, and sorry for your moth troubles.
It certainly sounds like the moths were there when you moved in (they were in my house too). Does your new (older) place have carpet? Old carpets sometimes are made of wool and/or have a wool pad underneath, and if moths get established in one of those they can just keep eating for ages. If there’s any old upholstered furniture (or newer furniture if it’s stuffed with feathers or wool) they could be coming from there as well. The eggs are basically too small to see, but you should see cases—little tunnels or tents that look like they’re made from spiderwebs—and probably adult moths crawling around if you find the source.
Other than that you’re doing all the right things; cleaning, killing the moths you see, and putting out the traps. If there’s no major place for them to feed, repeating those things should get the numbers down over time. Obviously you’ll need to be careful how you store any wool clothes in the meantime. If you still can’t find the source and it’s driving you nuts, you could try a professional heat treatment like is used to get rid of bedbugs, that should be enough heat to kill them, and it’s not toxic.
The good news is: I can’t see any reason to keep the windows closed. Unless you live next to an old wool mill or something that’s totally infested with moths, the odds of them flying in from outside are super low—they live where there are things for them to eat. They’re not the same as the little light-seeking moths that flutter around outside at night.
PS If you do decide to use insecticides, make sure you choose one that includes clothes moths on the label. I don’t know much about those chemicals, but I do know that not all of them work on all bugs.
Thank you for all the wonderful tips and strategies in dealing with clothing moths. I have found many of my questions answered with your posts. However, I do have a question about the oven method. I just put two exercise wool sweaters in the oven as they are part
of the reinfestaion I discovered two days ago. I have no concern about them as many holes and the wool can be washed regularly.
I had a very severe infestation 4 months ago in 3 closets. It was overwhelming to say the least and after much dry cleaning, washing
and vacuuming I thought they were gone. Oh dear not the case and so discouraging. However, finding your site has helped a lot.
Unfortunately, they have attacked my very good cashmere cardigan. Will the fine wool items like this be okay in the oven? Have you
experienced any shrinkage from this method? Just a bit nervous to try until I hear from you.
I wouldn’t worry about shrinkage in the oven, only about scorching. If you keep the oven temp pretty low, and avoid having anything touch the oven walls, it should be Ok, particularly if your exercise sweaters came out fine with the method you used. An alternative would be to steam your sweater in a pot over boiling water, like you would a vegetable. The moist heat is kind to wool/cashmere fibers, but if the fabric has never been steamed during its construction or cleaning before, it could shrink slightly. Make sure not to agitate it while its hot, or let the boiling water wick up into the fabric. Another alternative would be to have to dry cleaned. Or you could hand wash it with a long soak, then once it’s dry freeze/thaw/freeze to kill off any eggs that aren’t washed off. In any case, you have options!
In my experience, the most important thing is careful (ie moth-proof) storage of any woolens that are left alone for a while. That way even if the moths come back, you know they won’t eat your precious clothes.
Hey Tasha or anyone that has any input –
I threw away 2 vacuums (they were cheaper than your average high end vacuum) due to not wanting to deal with what was inside – yes moths were breeding and I saw larvae in there. UGH. I just threw away one that was quite new. They were both bagless. I am now going out to buy one that is bagged canister vacuum. My question is – I can just throw away the vacuum bag after awhile right? The moths won’t be breeding in the tubes and other areas of the vacuum? The reason I am now buying a bagged vacuum is because of the moths as I don’t want to deal with moths breeding in bagless vacuums. In buying a bagged vacuum – do I need to check other areas? If so, which areas and hopefully this adds into solving my problem.
So from the point of view of controlling the infestation, either type of vacuum would work, as long as you empty it regularly. With vacuum bags you might be more likely to remove all the moth eggs/larvae when you get rid of the bag, but you still need to do that before they can mature (because adults could fly out). I would change the bag every couple of weeks if you’re dealing with a lot of moths right now. Check the rest of the vacuum to see if there are any spots besides the bag where the stuff you vacuum up can accumulate, since the moths will hang out where there’s food for them, and if so, clean those out when you change the bag.
I hope that helps!
I was told to discard the bag after every vacuuming. An expensive and wasteful thing to do, but it makes sense I guess. Also, larvae hatching in the bag and then crawling out isn’t the only problem. I’ve seen adult moths that were sucked into the bag crawl out of them! Weird that they can survive the whole experience. We store our vacuum on a porch, or in an unheated back hall in the winter, to minimize the chance of moths in the vac from reentering.
The thing is I vacuum every other day when I shower because I shed a ton of hair.. so throwing out the bag every time I vacuum is a huge waste.. I’ll be careful not to have them fly out.. or at least try but definitley will throw out the bag more often than normal.
Also live in a small condo so need to keep the vac in storage area. 😐
Today, I found a larvae under my IKEA laundry basket.. there was just one.. and I scanned the area for more, but couldn’t find any.. should I be worried that there is a nest around? I’ve look all around and don’t see anything else moving … ugh.
Hmm, the larvae don’t usually travel very far. If there’s nothing for it to eat under the basket it probably wasn’t living there … my first guess is that it came into the basket on a piece of clothing and fell off … but it’s hard to know. I would definitely vacuum the area, clean out the basket and wash whatever’s in there, etc. If you see more larvae around there then they’re probably feeding on something nearby.
Hi. Wow. So much info. My questions will probably sound dumb but oh well. I moved to NW Montana a little over a year ago from Texas. From huge city to mountains. It is awesome but I am not used to all the little critters. The past couple of weeks moths have been suddenly just been appearing one at a time. Today there were 2 smallish moths on my living room window which I immediately dispatched. My cat on the other hand absolutely loves them. She loves to catch them and then just hold them under her very strong paw. She is a large very strong blue russion. All the moths I have seen do not all look the same. My home is an old mobile home that I did a lot of remodeling on before moving up here, including all carpeting removed and new flooring. The bedrooms are the only place I put new carpeting and padding. Carpet is flat not shag (yuck). My closet has no doors because they sucked. I have my windows (new and new screens) open almost all day and all night. I do not own any wool (can’t have it touch my skin). I am sorry for rambling but want your opinion on whether you think I need to worry about these moths. I am disabled and a veteran and cannot keep home near as clean as I would like. Cannot afford my clothes to be ruined. Also I am unable to handle most chemicals(burned the inside of my chest cavity with ant spray in Tx trying to kill fire ants). So, I am sorry to take up so much of your time here, but really anything you can inform me about this would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Sydney, I’ll try to help at least with this part. There are many kinds of small moths in addition to the clothes moths; different kinds that live outside, and some others that can breed inside eating grain or nuts etc. The clothes moths only eat protein fibers (wool, cashmere, alpaca, or anything else that grows on an animal). They can also eat feathers, like in down comforters. I have heard that they can eat silk as well, but in my personal experience I’ve never seen them eat a hole in a silk garment. They cannot eat plant fibers like cotton and linen, or synthetics like polyester and nylon. If you do have wool rugs, down pillows, etc., clean them as regularly as you can, and store them in a tightly sealed container if you’re not using them for a while. Otherwise I wouldn’t worry, unless you start seeing a bunch of small shiny golden moths that hide from the light, then they are eating something nearby. Good luck! Also, having a cat that likes to chase them can’t hurt.
Thank you so much. You are very kind to help with all your info.
Just wanted to provide an update here. Still suffering 😦 (I have both casemaking both and webbing moth – the dark-colored moth and golden). Both fly into my moth traps.
Apparently my building has had a problem with clothes moths but my floor was never checked because no one complained about them.. (honestly though, I’m not sure if it’s because of the building, I think it is the condo itself). We are having pest control come check out my place and they will be applying Dragnet (permethrin 0.5%). I will have to vacate the home for about 4-6 hours. The strata is covering it so we are moving forward. I wouldn’t say my infestation is huge, but just seeing clothes moth each night is disheartening. I am honestly not sure how much the spray to my condo will help. What they are using is what I used as well (in my previous post I mentioned Siphotrol that I used, which is a flea spray but also contains permethrin which kills fabric pests and larvae – also I think stops eggs from hatching. I will need to discuss with the pest control guy when he comes on Monday. With this spray comes a lot of prep work. We basically have to take everything out of our closet, dressers and drawers. Our place is super small so it’s hard to put them anywhere that is not being sprayed, but this is what I have done so far:
I had professional cleaners come to clean the entire place yesterday paying attention to crevices and cracks and getting them to vacuum the wardrobe and everywhere. When they left, I also vacuumed as well just in case for spots they might have missed. Did what I could for under the bed as well – it’s hard to lift the mattress and vacuum at the same time! I was a little sad when I had to kill a moth on the wall and then saw two fly into my moth traps (I have like 7 placed around my 570sq ft loft) – both near my bedroom. So that’s already 3 in one night.
Over the weekend, I bought a ton of Ziploc Vacuum Space Bags / Hangers and started placing all our clothes in there. For clothes that I couldn’t wash/didn’t wash – I used an iron and heated and ironed the clothing before putting it in the bag, making sure the temperature was hoooottttt. Even burned myself in a few spots (ouch!). Gross thing is – I found and ironed at least 2 moths in clothing – not sure if those suckers were alive when I ironed, ended up ironing one to a dress I liked and ended up having to wash it because the wings were stuck to it due to ironing.. (eewww…). Saw a moth in one of my boyfriend’s cashmere so we ended up having to wash that too. Everything in our closet is almost all in vacuum sealed bags now minus a few clothing items we need to wear during the week.
I hate to admit it.. but I am desperate: I put two mothball packets in each sealed bag hoping the vapors will kill anything inside those bags that may still be in there. The bags are sealed shut so no vapours are pouring out right now. That night I also killed 2 moths.
Up next is to take everything out of our dressers and drawers which probably will be a bit easier as its just tshirts and jeans. We haven’t seen much moth activity around there although our place is so small and the moths are lingering there. I have a moth trap right on top of the dresser, and the moths do fly into there. But haven’t seen anything inside our dresser when we pull out clothes.
I vacuum every other day but not the whole place – but I will probably do another big vacuum and upstairs before our pest control guy comes as we can’t vacuum for 2 weeks after he does his spray..
I see and kill at least 1-2 moths each night currently.. not a big infestation but there is definitely a problem. No idea where they are coming from still..saw that one larvae underneath my laundry basket one night, but haven’t seen any others since.
Oh Tasha – Forgot to mention: after you have this system: how many moths are you killing/seeing a day?
Hi Manda, sorry you are still dealing with the infestation. It does sound like you have quite a few moths, and I would think after all the measures you’ve taken, plus professional treatment, they will be gone.
In my house, most of the time I don’t see any moths. There a couple times of year when they’re active (right now is one actually), but I still probably only see one or two per week. I am especially careful to keep up with vacuuming and washing during this time, so they don’t get established anywhere, and of course I try to squash any I can. All the wool/cashmere clothes which I’m not actively wearing are already stored away, so really I don’t worry about them eating anything, as long as I keep the rugs clean. I do have hope that someday when we finish remodeling the house we’ll get rid of whatever they feed on … but I’d keep up my system anyway.
Fabulous article! I am wondering if you’ve heard of anyone having luck ridding these pests by putting a stash in the car in the hot summer sun? Thank you for sharing this info.
Thanks Judy! I haven’t heard anyone say that first hand, but if it got hot enough in the car it should work. I think it would depend on your climate. If you had a thermometer inside the car you could see if it was getting up to temp. If you do try it, I would spread things out inside the car so that the insulating power of the wool won’t keep the heat from penetrating to the center of the items. I keep thinking that a solar oven would be ideal, but I don’t have one so I haven’t had the chance to try it out yet … good luck!
I tried it! The temps got up there: 140+ F on a 90 degree day in New England!I have a large sun roof and dark car. I left them in the car loosely packed in open bins for 6 hours. I was doing this more as a preventative measure, I saw two moths, but when going through my batt and roving, I found no evidence of eggs, larva, casings or frass. I hope this helps someone who may not have a thermometer for the car. I guess I have a convenient solar oven!Thanks again!
Fantastic, thanks for sharing Judy! I love that this method is convenient and chemical-free. It also makes me want to get out a thermometer to see how hot my car gets on a sunny day …
Your post is very helpful and soothing for those of us facing moth infestations, big or small. One idea that I saw elsewhere, that I thought might be helpful to your readers is that a car parked in the sun on a hot day can get as hot as an oven. Usually this is cited as a cause for concern over the safety of children and pets, but it seems to be excellent news for those of us wanting to kill moth larva. Do you think we can just place bags of clothes in the car and leave it parked in the sun for a day? If it’s 75 degrees outside, it will get to 120 degrees in one hour, according to this chart: https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Estimated-Vehicle-Interior-Air-Temperature-v.-Elapsed-Time.aspx
Hi Sandra! Yes, we’ve been talking about that, see the comments above! Thanks for the link to the chart, that’s helpful. I think the amount of sunlight influences the temperature inside the car as well, but it certainly seems like parking in the sun on a hot day would do it. My best advice would still be to spread things out inside the car so that they all get hot, and put a thermometer inside if you can to verify the temperature.
Hey guys – back again. I’m at a loss at what to do now..
I’ve had pest control come twice now to spray but moths are still appearing, more so in my traps. After the spray – 5-6 still appear in my moth traps at night particularly. The tech even sprayed my couch where they are trapped. I have 10 around my loft, but two near the bottom beside the couches get the most (caught 30-40 in a trap in a span of 2 weeks!). Would they be coming from outside? I have not seen any larvae or cocoon shells and both webbing clothes moth and case making clothes moth are being caught… 😦
It’s so depressing 😦
Yuck—sorry that you’re still having trouble with the moths! It seems very unlikely to me that they are still actively breeding in your apartment after being sprayed twice. It also seems unlikely that they are coming from outside, unless there’s something nearby they can feed on. I have heard that having too many moth traps can make your place attractive to any moths that happen to be in the area, because all of the pheromones. The only thing I can really think of is that the moths are continuing to fly into your place from other parts of the building (especially since you know that there have been problems there in the past). Have you talked to any of your neighbors, and are they having moth issues? You might try setting out fewer traps, and see if things calm down?
Other than that, unfortunately we’ve pretty much exhausted what I know to do … if anyone else out there has any suggestions feel free to chime in!
Hey guys – quick update. The weather has been cooling down here and cool enough that I can finally close the window and it’s not an oven in my loft. Guess what? I haven’t seen a moth in my trap in 3 days since I’ve closed the window… not sure if it’s just an end of a breeding cycle but I haven’t even seen ONE or caught ANY in my traps for 3 days which is.. a record.
I’m hoping I’ve solved the case. Definitely need to get the landlord to put up some bug screens on the window. Yikes! Crossing my fingers!!
That’s crazy! But I hope it works. Maybe they’re coming out of wherever in the building the problem is, and flying back in through the windows … tight bug screens sound like a must!
I’ve had moths come through normal screens, so tight screens indeed. The piece about the traps attracting them from outdoors is a really good piece. Many thanks for all the info.
Hi, I am so glad I found this info, but I have a couple questions:
I don’t have a chest freezer so I am wondering if I can put the infested yarn (noticed that my yarn were eaten away but don’t see any larvae or moth) in individual ziploc bags and leave them in the regular freezer for a week? And then take them out in the warm place for a bit and put them back in the freezer? Would that kill the larvae?
Also, I have a gas oven: can you heat your skeins of yarn in the gas oven?
I am so surprised that these yarn are moth attacked since they are brand new – maybe one or two skeins are from a couple month ago but mostly bought very recently. I thought moths like used and old wool… Now I wonder how much of my yarn nearby is affected even though they all seems fine.
The freeze-thaw-freeze method should definitely kill the larvae, but whether it kills moth eggs is up for debate. If you do it I would leave the yarn out for a few days in between, to give any eggs a chance to hatch, and then freeze again.
I’ve heat treated things in my oven, which is gas, just make sure that they don’t touch the oven sides, or they can scorch. Steaming the yarn is another good option, or even putting it in your car (see comments above) if it’s still hot enough where you live.
I would definitely treat any and all yarn that may have come in contact with the yarn that was eaten, just to be on the safe side. Clothes moths are wily and good at hiding. If you don’t see any larvae then they have probably gone on to the flying stage. My guess would be that the moths came with the yarn from wherever you got it. They will eat any wool that’s been undisturbed for a while, although they are more attracted to anything that’s dirty or smells like sweat.
PS If you never see moths but do find beetles, the culprits might be carpet beetles instead, and I don’t think freezing works on their eggs … so I would keep an eye out and see if you can find bugs to identify while cleaning things out.
Hey… such great info, thanks for all your time building this resource, Tasha!
We’re in London in the UK, about to buy our first apartment (which is a brand new build) and we’re desperate not to take any clothes moths from our current, infested Victorian apartment… it’s massively dusty and difficult to properly clean as the wooden floors have huge gaps between them throughout. We’d been seeing 3-4 moths on a bad day but they’ve perhaps disappeared recently because of their cycle. Above I’ve read some very familiar stories.
It’s a shame and feels wasteful by we’re desperate so throwing out any clothes with signs of larvae or damage and washing everything else at 60 degrees Celsius (hotter than 120F) and storing it directly with friends.
My question is, do you think other, non-clothing items might transport eggs to the new place? Like in books or CDs or boxes of stuff? I’m so paranoid that I’m just throwing away everything. Thanks for your opinion x
It’s possible that eggs or larvae could fall into something, but without protein fiber to eat they won’t survive. If I were you I would vacuum and/or wipe down whatever you’re packing, keep clothes separate (which it sounds like you’re doing), and you should be fine. Mainly you want to avoid packing any dust/pet hair etc. which moths could live in. If there’s nothing for them to eat close by, any larvae that hatch will die.
Also, you really don’t have to throw clothes away, heating and cleaning them should take care of any remaining moths. I do think storing things off site once they’re clean is a good idea!
Awesome, thanks Tasha…we’re going to work through methodically with antibacterial spray and the hoover!
We’re not too handy with fixing clothes so it’s mainly the holey stuff that’s gone in the recycling
@Luka – I’ve had an egg drop I think and it hatched on my laundry basket – but just 1. And I saw the larvae wiggling around. It was gross – so I think if you move stuff that has eggs, it may drop onto different items. But again if you’re moving things from area to area (old apt to new) the eggs might just drop off those items.
It’s hard to say – I think it can happen but rare? Larvae also needs to feed off fabric once it hatches. Maybe inspect closely those items if you’re super worried and wipe them down.
Great, thanks for your input Amanda. It’s reassuring – we have wiped stuff like CDs before putting in boxes.
We’re worried that when we pack this stuff up now and leave it in the old place for a few weeks until we move, that a moth might lay new eggs on or in the boxes – but I think we’re being super-paranoid and like you say, there’s not actually anything to eat in the boxes so I’m sure they probably wouldn’t bother…I hope!
Just finished hot washing and tumble drying most of our clothes at the laundrette – and sent them directly to our friends place today, so feels like a good quarantine situation with clothing!
Fingers crossed, thanks x
@Luka – Please let me know how you make it out when you’re at your new place. I am moving next year as well and want to get rid of these f-kers!
I will do Manda…
So far it’s been slow progress – the majority of our clothes are being washed and dried hot out of the house and going directly to friends. CDs and DVDs have been inspected and wiped with anti-bacterial spray before being sealed (every conceivable gap covered in tape!) in cardboard boxes. We’re going to work through the books the same way.
It’s extreme but anything that can be thrown away or recycled will be!
All our furniture is staying behind.
We’re also going to get a pheromone trap as an indicator for the new place and absolutely keep on top of cleaning, inspecting and airing once we’re there.
Good luck with your move!
About 2-3 months ago, my husband and I started seeing moths in our 2 bedroom apartment. Unfortunately, it took us a few weeks to fully realize what a moth infestation was. We started with 2 Green Way pheromone traps – in the living room and bedroom where we saw moths. After tearing closets etc. apart, we found several infestations. Disgusting!! We have 2 cats and a lot of closets so we’re still cleaning.
*** I’ve been scouring the internet for information and I hope this helps everyone. I recently bought Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth and an applicator. It’s very inexpensive. Make sure it’s Food Grade, especially if you have pets. With the applicator, I’m putting it at the bottom of all the closets around the corners and in the cracks. It’s perfectly safe, but avoid inhaling it. From fossilized diatoms, this silica product is a natural pesticide. It kills a wide range of bugs – fleas, ticks, bed bugs and will get the moth larva. Leave/sprinkle a small amount on for 3 days. Then you can vacuum. I’m just trying it now so I don’t know if it will permanently banish them, but for all the desperate people commenting, it’s a great alternative since not everything can fit in the freezer or oven!
I use Green Way Moth Traps too – they work wonders and its great because they also attract the female clothes moths as well. I’ve been using them ever since I started and had like 40 moths in one trap. I have like 7 around my one bedroom loft. My moths are gone now – just maybe 1 appears in my trap a week or less. Might be dormant since it’s Winter but ever since I closed the windows, we haven’t seen many.
But yes, GreenWay Traps are the way to go!
Interesting idea with the diatomaceous earth! I’ve heard of it for other bugs, but it hadn’t occurred to me for the moths, since they do most of their moving around in the adult, flying stage. If you could get it into the places where the larvae are, it could help. Thanks for leaving your thoughts!
I have several wool sweaters I have ordered from Austria and Germany. Moths are killed on sight even if I have to chase them around the house. I don’t see many though and none have gotten to my treasured sweaters.
Before storing them for summer, I get out the vacuum cleaner with a furniture attachment that has a small rotating brush operated on the vacuum at the attachment hose. I thoroughly vacuum down all of my wool before sealing in plastic garbage bags with a pull-top . Hefty 13 gallon bags to be exact. After they are bagged they go into a cedar drawer.
No moth damage yet. I really think the vacuuming is a good idea.
Hi Michael, thanks for your ideas! Vacuuming can’t hurt, and I’m glad you haven’t had any issues. I don’t know if the vacuum alone would remove all moth eggs if there were any on your wool. As far as I know, the safest bet is still to wash sweaters before storing, and make sure they are sealed inside a container with no gaps that a moth could crawl through.
I took two cashmere sweaters that I keep in my dresser to the dry cleaner to get cleaned. I picked them up, tried them on and find over 15 different size small holes. The owner at the dry cleaners said that this is textbook Moth damage. The owner also said that Moths can eat just a thread or two and you wouldn’t notice anything until it’s been washed. So my first question is, is he giving me the correct information? I have checked all my other clothes in my dresser and found no other signs of moth infestation. I am having a hard time believing his explanation. Can you offer me a list of any unseen signs of Moth damage or anything like that?
Hi John, it’s unfortunate but yes, it seems likely to me that this was caused by moths. Or maybe carpet beetles, but probably something taking bites out of your sweaters. I can’t think of anything in the normal dry cleaning process that would result in lots of small holes … if you’d like you can email me a picture of the holes (my address is on the contact page) and I’ll take a look. The moths themselves are small, and the larvae and frass are even tinier, so they can definitely be hard to spot. If I were you I would take precautions with any other woolens that are stored nearby, and check any that you haven’t used in a while, even if they’re in other parts of the house.
Hi, we have had a moth infestation for over a year. We were at first totally unaware of it until we noticed a wool rug had been eaten but could not actually see what had attacked it as there was no evidence of any life form. Then we noticed moths on the join of the walls and ceilings in a couple of rooms. On further inspection we found evidence of moths in practically every wardrobe and cupboard in bedrooms that were hardly ever opened, there were casings on clothes, under beds etc.
I started investigating how to kill them online using various websites.
We have thrown all our wool rugs away, woollen clothes, infact anything made of wool that was in our home. We have also inspected and cleaned thoroughly every piece of furniture and thrown away everything that was contaminated including some furniture. We have disposed of 5 skips of our belongings, heartbreaking to say the least.
All feather pillows and duvets have been replaced with man made filled ones.
We have two long haired dogs and we threw away their beds and bought new memory foam ones as they are made of man made material.
We wipe down objects with white vinegar as this kills larvae and eggs. I have put things in the freezer where they have been for a few months, I am going to take them out soon for a few days and then refreeze.
We vacuum clean everyday including using the nozzle hose attachment around the skirting boards, which we still do daily, but we were still seeing moths on a daily basis. We use pheromone traps and have done for a few months now.
I got to the stage where the worry of the moths began to make me ill mentally and it was then that we decided to call in the experts.
Our home has been sprayed with a chemical and we had to empty wardrobes, chests of drawers, dressers etc so they could be treated too.
All our clothes have been washed at 60 degrees and bagged up in plastic bags and sealed plus most of them stored in plastic crates, I continue to wash everything at this temperature. The walls, carpets and furniture were then sprayed with this chemical which is safe for us to return after 6 hours. We returned with our dogs after 24 hours. We were unable to vacuum clean for 5 days.
Unfortunately both our dogs became ill on our return and one was rushed to the vets where he had to stay for 24 hours on a drip. The vet checked with the poison unit but the unit said the chemical should be safe.
After a couple of weeks, I started to notice new casings appearing next to the skirting boards, and eventually moths appeared on the ceiling.
We decided to wait for the few weeks that the experts told us to wait for the insecticide to work before calling them in again. We did this but more moths started to appear and so the pest control people were called in again.
Meanwhile we took every picture down and checked, cleaned with white vinegar and sealed the backs of every one to ensure that there were no casings, larva etc which we did find a few of.
Again we emptied the few pieces of furniture that we had put bagged up articles away in.
I asked the pest control man where he had sprayed the last time and he agreed not to spray the middle of carpets in the rooms as this is where the dogs lay.
This time we did not return home until 7 days later when we could start vacuum cleaning the chemical up. My husband returned after 5 days and vacuum cleaned where we and the dogs walk thoroughly as I did not want the dogs made ill again. The dogs were still ill but not to such a degree of ill health as previously but are still being monitored and treated by our vet, 4 weeks after the spraying. We are not totally convinced of the safety of this insecticide now.
After a week of being home we found a male moth on the lounge ceiling which was instantly killed but have found no other evidence in nearly five weeks of the spraying except I vacuumed up an old casing yesterday, hopefully one that had been dislodged from the edge of the carpet that had been there for some time.
After all of this we still have to wait to see what happens in the next few weeks. We have promised our vet that there will be no more chemical insecticides used in our home but after discovering a casing yesterday I have contacted a company that uses heat treatment to exterminate the moths and if necessary we will use this company.
We continue to vacuum clean daily in every area of our home, work surfaces are washed down daily, dusting is carried out at least once a week, our tiled floors are steam cleaned weekly or when necessary, our wardrobes and cupboards remain empty as we want to be sure that there are no moths in them, all our clothes continue to be washed at 60 degrees and then are bagged up and sealed as are all our towels, bedding, throws etc. This will continue until we are sure that the moths have gone.
This has been one hell of a learning curve and I hope that we have been successful in getting rid of these pests, but if they are still here at least I have hopefully found a safer way of exterminating them in the near future.
I wish everyone luck in there mission to be moth free.
Sorry you had/have to go through that ordeal with the moths. They are so persistent! And it sounded like my situation but 10x worse! Thanks for sharing your story. One thing I noticed is you didn’t mention emptying out your vacuum so make sure you do that especially if you are vacuuming the casing because you may vacuum eggs and they are a sure way to hatch in there. If it is bagless, make you sure clean it thoroughly and if its bagged, throw the bag out!
I hope you’ve resolved your moth troubles though 😦 They are absolutely the worst!
We empty our vacuum cleaners every time we use them they are emptied out side away fro our home. we have Dyson cyclinder cleaners which are great. We have now had heat treatment twice and it has failed twice we will be having it again on Monday as it is guaranteed to kill all stages of moth life. We will be having our carpets replaced with solid flooring which uses a latex leveller on the floor which should go under skirting boards and then the flooring will be stuck down and sealed around the skirting boards! We may have to go to small claims court to get our money back as the heat treatment has failed. We will be filling in any holes around the building in the ceilings around heating pipes and the floor area. I have been treated now by our doctor as this has caused me to have a breakdown.
We refuse to accept that these pests cannot be exterminated We will be successful as we are determined to beat them.
Hi Sue, yikes! That’s definitely one of the scariest moth stories I’ve heard. I hope you don’t have to use the heat treatment, but I agree that it should work, and that it’s safer. Pesticides are of course designed to be toxic, and in my opinion the less of them we use the better. I’m glad your dogs are OK!
Also, I understand this has been a traumatic experience, but I do think it’s worth mentioning that it’s impossible to get rid of these moths in the world at large, but that it IS possible to live happily, with many wool clothes and rugs which are never eaten, in a house where there are still moths. That’s my situation now; I know a few are still around, I’m careful when I clean and store things, and I haven’t had anything eaten in years. I was definitely freaked out at first, but at this point I’ve accepted that moths live here too (although you can’t call it a truce since I kill them on sight … ). I’m committed to using and wearing natural materials for a lot of reasons, I’m totally in love with wool, and after some definite bumps in the road, I’m confident that all these things can coexist in a way I’m comfortable with.
I can not live with these moths and we will exterminate them from our home. They have made me ill , my dogs Ill and my husband is totally sick of living with them. Our home is spotless and the next step after the heat treatment which has failed will be to get rid of all our carpets and replace it with sealed in and stuck down hard flooring. We will get rid of them nothing is impossible Tasha!
Hi Tasha, thank you for your article it’s really helpful. We have a moth problem and during the summer I washed ALL our clothes on 60 degrees including curtains, bedding and sprayed everything else. The moths have a penchant for my children’s school uniform and i’ve just got out their school jumpers after the two week Christmas holiday to find massive holes. Btw the jumpers are cotton :0
I will heat treat everything I can in the oven as probably easier than washing and drying everything again in the winter! My question is – will heat steam kill off moths/ eggs/ larvae and can I do this with a domestic steam cleaner as it’s going to be much cheaper than a professional fumigation?
Thank you so much for your advice!
BTW heat steam rugs, curtains, sofas and hard flooring 🙂
Last question 🙂 Once everything is heat treated, steam cleaned etc… how often does this need to be done again??
Hi Lucy, I’m glad this was helpful. I’m a little bit confused since everything I’ve read says that moths can’t eat cotton and/or won’t survive if they do …
In any case, the best recommendation I have above is to heat items for at least 20 minutes at temperatures 120 F or higher. If you can do that with a steamer then it should be fine. You can also steam things above boiling water (like you would veggies, but ideally not in a pot used for cooking, in case the dye bleeds).
If all the moths/larvae on an item are dead after you steam/heat/clean them, you shouldn’t need to do it again unless more moths come in from somewhere else. Since I know there are still a few moths in my house, I wash all woolens before putting them away, and store them carefully over the summer, and that’s pretty much all I have to do at this point. Again, I really don’t think these moths can eat cotton, so I wonder if something else is going on with the jumpers …
Anyway, best of luck!
thanks Tasha I will investigate the maximum temp of steam cleaners. I know it’s strange all the experts say the same thing about cotton but we had a pretty big infestation and it was mainly the cotton items that got munched. I heard they will ‘chew’ through any fabric on the search for more sustaining fabrics!
I’ve definitely seen clothes moths eat cotton. I don’t understand why, but they seem to literally eat anything I care about. Still never seen them eat acrylic, though. Basically, I think they can eat any organic fiber, but strongly prefer animal fibers. I think it has to do with oil, which animal fibers have (lanolin, etc) but dirty cotton works, too. 😦
Interesting … I do think they need protein, but maybe if there is some in whatever stain is on the cotton they can get by on that?
Best article on moths we have read. Thank you for all your ideas and strategies!! It has helped build our confidence in ridding them as best we can.
Thank you for all the information on this page! It is very useful. I wonder if you have an opinion about using moth traps. I have found 5-6 moths in my house over the past month. What I can’t tell is whether I already have an infestation or whether they are getting in (through the window or doors). I live in an area with a lot of outdoor bugs, so it is possible they come in with me when I open the front door. Thus far, I have not noticed any in my closet or any holes in my clothing. I’ve been debating using the traps as a way to catch any stray moths that might come in with me. But I am afraid that, by doing so, I may be attracting even more! Kind of like the way a baited mouse trap might attract a mouse that you would not have gotten otherwise. Any thoughts on using traps as a preventative measure? Thanks!
Hi Julie! The moth traps I’ve used before have a recommendation on them for how many to use in a given area, and as long as you don’t put out more than that, you shouldn’t be attracting moths from outside. Clothes moths are pretty reclusive, so it’s unlikely that you’re getting them coming in with you through the door, unless there are a whole bunch outside near you for some reason. If they are clothes moths, it’s more likely that they came in along with some kind of woolly item. There are a also a whole bunch of different tiny moths that eat other stuff (grain and who know what else). I see all kinds inside and out in the summer, but most of them are harmless as far as I can tell. If you can get a really close look at one of them, you may be able to see some identifying features and figure out if they are clothes moths or not. In any case, setting out a few traps and seeing what you get shouldn’t hurt. Good luck!
I can’t link to the article you referenced. I’ve been dealing with moths for over a year now. I can’t figure out where they are coming from. I have gotten rid of every rug and have dry cleaned and bleached all my clothes, put them in bins, etc. Can you tell me what that original article said?
Hi Josie, thanks for letting me know that the link isn’t working. I’ll try to update this post soon with that info. The main thing I remember about that article (aside from what’s been mentioned above) is that it talked about how freezing in a regular household freezer wouldn’t necessarily kill off the eggs, you might need a deep freeze or to do a few cycles of freeze and thaw. Someday I would really like to talk to an actual entomologist about all of this, it seems like the truth of what kills the moths and what doesn’t shouldn’t be that hard to figure out, despite all the swirling rumors …
As it happens, for the last couple of weeks I’ve been teaching and taking class at a wonderful place called the John C Campbell Folk School in NC. Just today we were talking about moths with Martha Owen, who’s teaching the spinning and dyeing class I’m taking. She’s been working with wool for decades, and has met and taught with many of my textile heroes. To her, moths are a fact of life, and I’m coming to have this view more and more myself. Of course I will always store my precious woolens carefully when I’m not wearing them, and I do squash any moths I see, but I don’t expect to ever have zero moths around. I’d rather live with a few of them than take on the amount of toxic chemicals it would take to get rid of every last one in my house.
Hi Tasha, thank you for this very informative post! I found some moths, larvae in some roving I have had for years, and am now scared to death to examine my yarn stash. I have it in three different rooms and some in my dresser drawers sitting alongside my hand knits. Since I live in Utah, cars do get very hot, definitely over 120 F. One thing that I have heard about the hot car approach is to put the yarn in black bags in the car. Do you know if it matters if the yarn is balled or skeined?
Also I have some serious health conditions and several cats and my house isn’t very clean. Housekeeping is not even at the middle of the list when getting out of bed is difficult.
The thought of my yarn stash being ruined is horrid. I am considering having a housecleaning service come in and deep cleaning the entire house although the money is going to be awful.
Can you offer any additional advice to help me out?
Thanks again for all the great information.
Hi Nanci, I feel for you that it’s scary, but the sooner you can take a look at the rest of your stash and clean/treat it the better from the point of view of stopping the damage. I don’t think it matters what form the yarn is in, but it does matter that it gets hot right to the center of the ball/skein, so if it’s in dense balls or tightly twisted it would need to be in the hot car longer. It definitely does help to keep things clean and turn over everything often. If you can’t do it yourself and decide to hire someone, make sure they take everything out of all the drawers etc., and clean the drawers themselves thoroughly, and that you heat treat any yarn/knits that have been anywhere near moths before storing them again. Anything that you can’t get to right away or are scared to look at now you can put in the freezer, which will kill moths and larvae and maybe eggs (see above) but at least stop any more damage and spread and let you get things out, heat and wash them a few at a time. When you get things clean, store them in tightly sealed containers out of season, and I would recommend separate bins/storage for your yarn stash and your finished knits. Best of luck!
Really great information. Thank you so much. Have you heard anything about neem oil or essential oils? Neem is supposed to be a hormone disruptor for soft-bodied insects–maybe that means moths, too? I’ve seen some websites say that it works but have yet to try it. The smell is pretty intense though, so maybe I can add lavender essential oil.
Forgot to include this. From https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK234642/ . “Webbing clothes moth–Inhibits feeding, disrupts molting”.
Hi Erin, and thanks for the link! I haven’t used neem oil, but anything that disrupts the moths without being toxic to us and and other critters seems worth a try, and that article definitely makes it sound promising. If you decide to use it please share your results, I’d love to know how it works out!
This is an amazing line of conversation!
I’m in Massachusetts (and co-existing with webbing moths), and this long spell of “record setting” cold temperatures bouncing between 0 and 15 degrees seems like a golden opportunity to disrupt my moth population! Anyone else putting all their wool rugs etc outside? Seems like I need to treat everything in a similar time period – freezing, cleaning, etc. – if there are hopes of possibly eradicating them. Also, if anyone has a copy of the original article, I’d love it. The link still isn’t working.
Thx for all the gerat info Tasha!
I found what I think is the original article referenced by Tasha here: http://www.planetauntie.com/?author=50 – by simply googling “lisa stockebrand moths”
Unfortunately I couldn’t get this link to work either. Googling her name is a good idea, but all I got were links back to the original article, which still isn’t coming up. If anyone finds it archived somewhere, let me know!
Thank you Tasha for this detailed post and for all the additional information you’ve shared in the comments.
I have kept my woolen sweaters in a cedar chest for years. About six weeks ago I realized that my cashmere sweaters had developed holes 😦
The other woolens, which are mostly merino, seemed fine. I tried putting everything out in the sun and carefully vacuuming the chest. But more holes are appearing in the cashmere.
I have not seen any moths or larva, although I’ve looked closely. I guess my next step should be to put everything in the freezer? Or would the dry cleaner be better? We have a small crotchety oven, so I can’t use that.
The other thing that is unclear to me: how does one wash woolens to get rid of moths? I thought they aren’t supposed to be washed in warm/hot water?
Thanks in advance for any advice you can share.
Hello and sorry about the holes in your sweaters! Either taking them to the dry cleaners or freezing should work to kill any live moths. I would definitely treat any other woolens in the same chest assuming that they have moths too, whether or not you can see any damage. All it takes is a couple to escape and they’ll come right back.
As for washing, I hand wash all of my woolens in warm water (scroll down in this article to see my method: https://www.seamwork.com/issues/2015/11/from-sheep-to-steam ). When people say not to wash wool in hot water, they’re trying to make sure that you don’t felt it, but actually what causes felting is agitation. Being warm and wet definitely helps the felting process, but gently soaking your wool items in even the hottest water won’t felt them, unless you are rubbing them around vigorously and/or rapidly changing the temperature from hot to cold. I find that my cashmere/merino shirts start to felt under the arms from wear (that’s where they get heat, moisture and rubbing), but not from hand washing. Also, it’s difficult to felt cashmere, although it certainly can be done! More about felting here: https://tashamillergriffith.com/2014/01/16/how-to-felt-basics-and-felting-faq-part-1/
A final thought about washing; I keep wondering if a long soaking in water dissolves/drowns moth eggs … certainly it should drown adults and larvae unless they can get away somehow. I have no scientific evidence for the egg theory, it just seems unlikely to me that they would survive long periods underwater … if anyone out there knows an entomologist, it would be just amazing to get a professional’s take on some of this!
For now, freezing, then hand washing with a long soak, then storing somewhere moths can’t get into is a good method.
Thank you so much Tasha for responding to my questions!
I love wool and so very appreciated your article from sheep to steam.
A follow-up question: to get rid of moths, will I have to wash my woolens in 120 degree water? That is a pretty hot bath and I would’ve thought that could shrink them. I ask since your article mentions washing in warm water, which I think of as being maybe 100.
I also have a steamer that I use usually for non-wool clothes (I’m too lazy to iron). But since it’s handheld, I wouldn’t be able to steam an item for 20 minutes.
In terms of drowning bugs and eggs, I don’t know the answer but if the eggs are attached to the wool with “glue,” I would think that hot water might dislodge them. Agree it would be great to find an entomologist. Thanks again for being so generous with your advice!
Yeah, wool is the best!
I wouldn’t worry about getting the water hot enough to kill the bugs, it’s hard to keep it that hot for long enough using water from the tap anyway. The more important factor as far as not shrinking/felting the wool is to avoid sudden changes in temperature. Rinse with the same temperature water as the wash, don’t agitate it any more than needed, and you should be fine, even if the water is quite warm. Also, a quick steaming once the wool is dry can only help, and it makes your sweaters look great if nothing else.
Good luck, and if you meet any entomologists please send them this way!
Just my 2 cents….I have been battling them for 5 years. Occasionally see a moth that I kill; I have non-toxic moth traps all over, the amount of kills is down but still continues. I have all my yarn and sweaters in plastic bins or with clip on lids (The cheap ones don’t fit tight enough), or ZipLock bags. Once, last month, I found a larvae in one of these bins so somebody must have gotten in before I latched it. Shake out anything before you store, even if you have just set it down
And I have been very successful freezing for a week or so, then bringing to room temp for a few days, then freezing again. Space-wise, it helps that I live outside of Fairbanks Alaska. Vigilance pays off….
Great article and very entertaining. I haven’t ever noticed any issues in our house in Reading, PA. No moths flying around and no eaten linens. I recently started to collect old flags. Some of the flags I’ve gotten in have already been subjected to snacking as seen in the moth holes on some. I am hesitant to put them into storage without knowing if there are eggs waiting to hatch unexpectedly. Most of the flags are old and I am worried about some of the methods. Once in storage they will be in a clean dry place with layers of fabric and a box to protect them. What should I do before I store them? I was toying with putting them in a tote with mothballs for a bit till I know everything is dead, then on to safe storage. Any advice would be appreciated.
Hi Andy, I would think that freezing would be alright for the flags, although as discussed above it’s not clear that freezing kills all eggs. You could try a few cycles of freezing and thawing, to let the eggs hatch and then kill the larvae. Whatever cleaning method you might ordinarily use for these items would help too. Putting the flags in a hot place (over 120° F for at least 20 minutes) would probably be the safest bet for killing eggs, if you can do so without scorching the fabric.
Textile expert Judith MacKenzie McCuin has a good section on textile storage and bug prevention at the end of her book The Intentional Spinner, which might help you decide what to do. As she points out, any chemical that can kill moths can also harm you, so if you do decide to use mothballs or other pesticides, make sure to air out the flags thoroughly afterwards before storing them, and limit your exposure as much as possible.
I’ve got a dining room chair in my car, parked in the sun, right now. Hoping that 5+ hours of outside temps over 90 degrees will raise the indoor temp enough to kill the pesky buggers. My chairs got a moth infestation while being stored at my in-laws. Yesterday I put a bottle of water in the car and it reached 160+ degrees.
Great idea to test the temperature with a water bottle! Good luck!
I have been dealing with a moth problem for years. I have tried everything. I have come to the conclusion that they are living in the insulation in the walls. My house was built in 1925 so who knows what type of insulation can be buried behind new? Horse hair and wool was commonly used….. There would be NO way of getting rid of them except to tear down the walls!
I have phermone traps and am still trapping since hiring exterminator. Now I am treating a 5X8 storage closet space with no windows, cracks, etc. It was always empty until I moved everything from attic (main area of infestation) to this area in order for exterminator to treat attic.
I transportated them here! It is now empty and the traps have been filling for 2 months. There is nothing for them to eat! I have vacuumed and resorted to insecticide spray. I am still trapping them! I don’t know what to do.
I have brown house moths that will eat anything including cotton.I have thrown away so many cotton clothes. What is weird is that none of my wool sweaters have ever been touched
It has gotten to the point that I am now moving.
I am currently treating clothing AGaIN!! Can’t u tell I’m frustrated?
My question is this: How do I treat a large sectional couch? I have resorted to using a spray called Bedlam that is safe for fabrics, mattresses, etc. It is used a lot for bed bugs, but moths are listed also on can.
I am afraid of transporting to the new house. I love my couch, but is $2,000 worth my sanity? I would ditch the 4 year old couch, unless anyone has ideas.
I really am desperate….for me to sell my house I have lived in for 15 yrs should say enough!
Dana, sorry for your troubles! The only thing I can think of for a big couch is to see if you can find a place that heat treats things. I know they do it for bedbugs, and some facilities exist that can heat treat things like hospital beds … If your moths are eating cotton but not wool, I’m not sure what kind they are, or if any of my experience will help, but, good luck!
Thanks Tasha for the advice. The type of moth I have, after much research, is the case making moth. They eat anything! I dont know of anywhere that would heat treat, so I may just have to bite the bullet!
I have never seen any holes in the couch, but just very paranoid of bringing to new house. I know the eggs alone can be dormant for up to 2 years. What a nightmare!
I cannot seem to find the link to Lisa’s post on moths. can you email it to email@example.com
Yes, as mentioned above it has apparently vanished. One of these days I’d like to post a more thorough update of my own, but that will have to wait until I have some more scientific info, and some space for another project …
Update from my posts 8/2018
I was so traumatized w the moth problem that I did end up moving. I threw away all of my furniture.
Every piece of clothing washed in hot water. Other things were kept in freezing cold temps on back deck in winter.
All other packed boxes were placed in my car in summer that reached 140 degrees.
The other night a moth flew out of my closet at the new house.
Everything was taken out and washed in hot.
I scrubbed closet w vinegar solution and vacuumed ceiling, walls, floor.
I set up pheromone traps. This morning there was a moth in it!
I am beyond upset. Like the above poster, I am traumatized.
I used hair dryer on every piece of clothing that I had washed in hot water over the weekend. Luckily I had an empty freezer in basement. All of those clothes are now in there.
I am beyond upset. I was so careful when I moved. Seeing a moth again brought back so many awful memories.
No wool clothes in the closet. No damage to any clothes, yet still adult moths???
The moths I have eaten cotton before. They ate case making moths.
I’m at the point of desperation. I just don’t see an end to this!
Hi Dana, I’m really sorry to hear that this has been so upsetting for you. I’ve been thinking about it, and I don’t have anything to offer besides my own experience, which may or may not be helpful. For me, I’ve accepted that these moths live more or less everywhere that humans do, they’re just part of our ecosystem. I haven’t had anything damaged in years (knock on wood), but a few moths still live in my house. I don’t know what they eat, maybe pet hair from previous residents behind the baseboards?! I squash them when I see them, I pack my wool clothes away for the summer, and that is enough to prevent anything being eaten. Although the adult moths will land on cotton and probably lay eggs there, to the best of my knowledge the larvae can’t survive on cotton. I hope that you’ll be able to find some more peace around all of this!
I have been battling them for years. Frequent vacuuming, clothes shaking (one item at a time), steam cleaning, no wool clothing at all, Bedlam Plus, and pheromone traps. Now here is the scary part. The moth catching traps somehow attracted brown recluse spiders, in my New York City apartment! How do I know? They eat dead insects and were drawn to the traps. Once stuck I put the whole trap in a plastic container and had the spider identified by, not one, but two entomologists. After that two more spiders showed up in traps. Thank goodness they were limited to one closet. I threw away half the stuff in that closet, ripped out all of the shelving, and used serious poison to bomb the closet while we were on vacation. I have gotten used to the constant moth battle but poisonous spiders were too much for me.
My advice: don’t let those pheromone traps sit around too long after catching moths.
Really great info. I wish I could use the hot car method but not the right season for it unfortunately. I don’t want to go the oven route since some of my clothes are synthetic blends or have sequins/buttons and I’ve heard those can singe/melt. And dry cleaning everything is too expensive. So washing + freezing is my plan.
But! I’m wondering about the durability of the eggs. I washed all my woolens by hand (presumably not in water hot enough to kill the eggs) after having frozen them for a few days first, so I should be good with adults and larvae. But let’s say there were eggs on something I washed, and they weren’t killed or removed – can I now wear that stuff? Will the act of wearing the garment squish/kill the eggs? How durable are they? The idea of it really grosses me out but I did wash everything so it should be clean… (?)
If I were going to be storing these garments I’d want to put them through another couple freeze cycles as described above to be safe, but since I want to wear them, I’m wondering if I’m in the clear now.
Thanks again for the helpful info / moral support.
The short answer is yes, wear them! I’ve never seen anything that’s actively being worn or used get moth damage. My theory is that any eggs/larvae that may be present get squished or brushed off. If it makes you feel better, you can tell yourself that any eggs either dissolved in the water or washed off—it’s not 100%, but I would say more likely than not.
I’m glad you found the post helpful!
Also, an update; astute reader Gabe pointed out that you can still read the original Juniper Moon Farm post in the web archive here: https://web.archive.org/web/20150612112534/http://www.fiberfarm.com/2013/03/moths-a-public-service-announcement
Hi, what an excellent resource this is, thankyou! I live un the UK and being elderly now, feel the cold so I bought some second hand sheepskin coats. After that I got holes in my cashmere knitwear. I read that dry cleaning sheepskin can dry it and make it stiffer, which I don’t want. Will I need to use up everything out of my freezer to make the space and treat them in there? I wiped them over with a damp sponge with Lavender essential oil on, would this drive out any lurking in the pile or would they just burrow down and live against the skin to get away from it? I have an essential oil diffuser, will running this with lavender in just drive the moths and larvae further into garments and crevices where the scent is not penetrating? Is there anything I can diffuse that is harmless to us but lethal to moths? Does anyone actually know the answers to these question?
I have been successful in freezing, taking items out of freezer a few days, then refreezing. No re-occurrence in these items. Since it’s cold here-currently-30F, I initially put everything outside. I have pheromone traps around and catch a few and occasionally see a few I dispatch with a mosquito paddle. All sweaters and yarn are in tubs with locking tabs. Ziplock makes great tubs. So far I have seen minimal damage, mostly on felted wool shoes not protected. But it’s been about 5 years I’ve been battling and I have no expectation that I can relax vigilance. I’m just not panicked like I was being a lover of cashmere and an avid knitter
Hi Connie and thanks! There are lots of things that moths don’t like (such as lavender) but don’t actually harm them. Unfortunately I doubt that lavender oil would be enough to get rid of moths when they are already settled on an item. Cedar oil will kill larvae (at least small ones) and as far as I know is pretty harmless to humans, but it needs to be quite concentrated (the items would need to be sealed up with the fresh wood shavings). You might try vacuuming the pile of the coat if you can do so without damaging it, to pull out whatever critters may be hiding in there. Many people have had good luck with freezing, like Tima below. (I found out first hand that steaming leather is a bad idea, so I don’t recommend that!) You could also have the coats cleaned by someone who specializes in leather, although I know that can be expensive. Another idea I read recently was to seal your infested item inside a bag or bin with dry ice, which will remove all the oxygen (moths need oxygen to live too) and leave it for a few days … but I haven’t tried this myself and I don’t know how it would affect leather. Maybe try it on something you aren’t very attached to first—probably a good idea whenever you try out a new method.
I had this battle with carpet beetles over many years and many moves. Exterminators, dry cleaning, throwing items out, removing carpet… nothing really worked. Now I have moths in my closet. It saddens me to see people saying it is affecting their mental health. Throw out what you need to, clean up as much as you can, and try to be careful. But remember, these things are harmless to humans. We might just have to coexist.
Important question, from someone who loves all things wool. I am a rug hooker, rug braider, I knit with wool, I wear wool, I love wool! I have been battling wool moths for 5 months. I no longer love wool. I could tell you my story, but my question is: Do I tell my friends? they also love all things wool. We have a group that meets to rug hook, knit, braid and socialize. Assuming that some day we will be able to get together again, (Covid 19) do I tell them? I’m actually horrified and embarrassed that I have this problem. What if I inadvertently took a moth to their house or if they were in my house and they saw one or one of the devils got into their wool? I know one friend for sure that I would lose, she has a wool business. I am traumatized and so sad. p.s. at this point I think I have won, only to see one fluttering by.
Hi Linda, I’m sorry for your moth troubles (on top of everything else this year no less)! First, it’s important to understand that this was not your fault or something you did wrong. Moths are everywhere, and they can end up in anyone’s wool in any number of ways.
I think it’s a symptom of how disconnected many of us have become from the natural world that we have lost awareness of moths and how to deal with them, as we largely switched to synthetic fibers (which are now turning out to have terrible consequences for the environment and our own health). Now we’re rediscovering wool, which is wonderful! And all that comes with it, even the moths, which can indeed seem tragic when we’re unprepared. In my vision of a healthy fiber future we use, wear, and love wool—and everyone is aware of moths and takes precautions to keep them from becoming a big problem.
It’s up to you how much outreach you want to take on yourself. On one level, the more people know that moths are still around and how to deal with them, the better, since that can help others spot an issue early on and take preventative measures so they don’t have to deal with what you went through. On the other hand, I certainly understand being reluctant to bring it up. I highly doubt that you are the only one in your wooly group who has ever had a moth issue. Personally I’ve more often seen the opposite, where someone brings a wool item with what is to me obvious moth damage to share, apparently with no idea that they have a problem.
On a practical level, it’s very unlikely that you would spread moths to anyone else either from them being in your house for a short time working on their project, or from you taking something you are actively working on or wearing to a gathering somewhere else. As we know, moths don’t like light or being disturbed. I would only worry if one of your friends left something in a dark corner for weeks … which is not a good idea in any case.
A small silver lining of not meeting in person right now may be that it affords some time and space to think through how you want to handle it before you start to meet again. As I’ve said, it took me a while after my moth damage to get comfortable with having wool rugs out again, having a pillow stuffed with wool etc. And I still really thoroughly think through how I can clean any new wool item I add to my household and how I will store it if it isn’t used all year (this often turns out to be easy, I just need to have a conscious plan). I still see (and squish) a few moths in my house every year, especially in the spring. And I still haven’t had anything damaged in years.
I wish you all the best, and hope you can come to some peace and balance!
Tasha, thank you so much for responding. You have given me some confidence and peace. I did nothing wrong? I didn’t cause this? That makes me feel so much better. On the positive side, if there is any, my husband and I did a thorough cleaning and downsizing room by room. We found several “hot spots” the worst being a 8 x 11 room sized rug in our living room. We got rid of it, along with some old suit coats never worn, a couple small rugs and some yarn. Every piece of anything wool was inspected, treated and protected. The wool I work with and wear is all encased in plastic zipper bags. The homemade rugs on the floor are vacuumed more frequently and inspected. Between Covid and moths, it’s been one heck of a year. I am 70 and have a bad back, but slowly and surely we went through this house with a fine tooth comb. I am still grappling with the question of what to share with my friends. Another question if you wouldn’t mind, since I am now so vigilant, and I think everything is protected, where is the occasional moth I see fluttering around coming from? Are they hatching from somewhere? I haven’t seen any added damage for a couple of months now. It’s October, when does it end? Again, thank for you valuable input. Many blessings.
Hi Linda, I’m so glad you’re feeling a little bit better! In my house, my guess is that the moths I see are hanging out eating some pet hair behind a baseboard somewhere, or maybe under the old carpet in the back room … it’s nothing major, but I think a few will probably be around until we finally remodel the rest of the house … if that ever happens! Be well!
I had a horrible infestation years ago and felt the same way – embarrassed and what do I tell my knitting group (preCovid). And then, I heard from the Cooperative Extension that they’re seeing a lot of moths. I’m in Interior Alaska where we were immune from most posts until Global Warming. Then while walking through the rug aisle at a Target type store, 2 moths few out from the stacked rugs right in front of me. So it’s not a source of shame. I have two theories of where mine came from – either from a lodge in New Hampshire or from a yarn order from Seattle. Both items – yarn and sweater had the worst damage and larvae. Fast forward, 5 years and I kill the occasional moth but haven’t found recent damage. I hope. My yarn and sweaters are in Ziplock sealed tubs. And I have I haven’t done a super intense cleaning in quite a while . There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Hang in there.
Tima, thanks so much for sharing your story and your kind words!
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I just came across your story and I plan to use some of your suggestions. I particularly like the idea of putting items in a hot car. I have a black Volvo Wagon and here in Southern California it will easily reach oven temperatures inside. I heard that putting small items in a microwave for 3 minutes will kill all larvae also but I also heard that microwaving completely dry items could damage the oven so I’m thinking about spraying some water on them or placing a cup of water inside along with the wool socks. Do you have any experience using a microwave for this.
Thanks Steve, interesting idea! I haven’t tried this myself, but I think it sounds promising. And as discussed above steam is great for wool and for killing moths, so putting water in there as well should be fine. I did a search and got tutorials for dyeing wool with Kool-Aid in the microwave, as well as a caution not to microwave wool blends, since the synthetic fibers could melt. Good luck!
I tried it yesterday to experiment. I placed a bowl 1/2 full of water in the microwave and placed an all wool hat on top of the rim. It already had moth damage so I wasn’t really concerned about it, just wanted to see how it would affect the wool. All went well. I nuked it 3 times at 1 minute, 2 and 3 minutes checking it after each time. It was left slightly damp from steam so I believe it’s the steam but mostly the micro wave radiation that does the trick. I don’t think there were any live eggs or larvae as I had removed all that by brushing it well months ago so not the best test but at least I discovered it didn’t cause any further damage. So simple and fast. Hopefully others will try it for things that fit like socks, hats, and skeins and report how it goes.
Great information, I’m in the UK currently in the process of using a combination of methods on clothes. One of them is ironing garments that aren’t damaged but have been in wardrobe where I’ve seen moths, on steam setting- what do you think of this?
I also have damage in my fitted carpet and been spraying that with vinegar water mix which has been making the larvae emerge then I pick them out. Also have moth traps. I will be replacing the carpet at some point but can’t let them multiply meantime.
Hi Julie and Tasha. I have discovered a massive infestation of case bearing moths in carpets and also have standard clothes moths which I think are much easier to control. For clothes moths just plastic bag everything, work through and wash hot or harder material. wipe with vinegar and water mixed when you can find time. Keep wardrobe doors open during the day and give a quick swipe along hangers with your hand daily to move the clothes. Let sunlight into the wardrobe. Close at dusk. Currently, I am deep cleaning. I have sprayed one carpet 50/50 white vinegar and water and not really seen any cocoons since-only about 3/4. Probably cos I missed a bit. I also then covered the carpet with boric acid, which isn’t supposed to work. That was brushed in deep into the carpet. It is still there whilst I deal with a adjoining room. From a month ago, so it seems to be doing something. However, I noticed they moved to another different room after I sprayed with vinegar, which is uncarpeted so vigilance is needed. I think some get away when sprayed if near to another room, which it is probably why it is hard to get rid of them. I sprayed that adjoining room with vinegar/water and found a case bearing moth on the window trying to escape! I think that is why they are hard to get rid of as those near other rooms can escape. I am referring to case making moths in that regard. I have purchased pest expert moth killer but not used yet as I think the same problem will occur-migration to another room. Plus I have to leave it 3 hours which is enough time for them to move. I have tested vinegar and water with cocoons/ larvae and also bleach/ water both 50/50., Bleach killed instantly. So testing this on other infested carpet today. Just bleach and water, however I noticed one got away and climbed the wall!! I was hoping this was a instant kill! I still think bleach may work though, but I will check tomorrow.I have kept the heating off since mid March to buy time and since then kept all windows open during the day tho feel freezing, apart from when I was working at home .Luckily, I was on holiday most of March. I also peg out on old fashioned washing line, not rotary, so clothes etc kept apart. Also, using Persia lavender snd chamomile, so strong had 4 queen bees in my kitchen! Lavender repels clothes moths. Looks like this thread is not active but I will post update. Also using citronella candles for few hours to confuse scents. Also cedar oil etc.
I’m starting to see some moths again so as soon as the summer heat arrives I’ll be loading the car with woolens to kill any eggs or larvae that might be on them. Last summer’s experiment seems to have worked well.
I was putting Xmas decoration in the crawl space and moved a Persian carpet and it basically fell apart. it was completely eaten and there must have been a thousand moth larvae crawling around. I cleaned and vacuumed and picked up larvae for days and then sprinkled Lavender and DE around. Now what. When do they turn into moths and how far can these little crawlies move? Can they climb upstairs? How do I know I have been successful? Will I be needing poisons?
Bummer! I don’t think the larvae can get very far on their own, but the moths can fly a fair distance and are unfortunately quite good at hiding. This is a great time to clean and carefully store any woolens in the rest of your house that you aren’t using. If it’s cold winter where you live, it’s also a good time to put things you may be worried about outside to freeze. You could also put out a few traps to get an idea of where the moths may be. I don’t think poisons are usually necessary, but of course it’s up to you to decide what’s right for your situation. There are lots more tips above. Good luck!