Moth Infestation! Everything You Need to Know
Updated: May 13
OK – let’s face it. We have bigger things today to worry about than moths. But a clothes moth infestation – even a small or emerging one - can be difficult to spot in your home. One small fluttering moth is cause for concern. But a few? Be wary. Now's the time to discover where they’re coming from and to carefully inspect your clothing and textiles for damage. You may not know you have a problem until you find holes in a favorite wool sweater, suit, blanket, rug or other beloved textile.
I spent months battling a moth infestation this year. The first sign: loose fibers and a mysterious hole in an antique wool rug. But when five friends at a dinner party admitted to finding moth damage in their homes, I realized the problem is more pervasive than I’d thought.
If unattended, moths can wreak tremendous damage to materials and fabrics, and they’re a challenge to eradicate. Here’s why: female moths can lay hundreds of eggs. When the eggs hatch into larvae, they seek out food sources, eat nonstop and can take weeks to cocoon and transform into adult moths, which live between 15 to 30 days. The entire cycle takes roughly 4-6 months. So, a successful moth battle is twofold: kill the tiny, voracious larvae eating through your natural fiber textiles, and kill the moths before they mate, lay more eggs and begin the life cycle again. Here’s how to do it.
How to Spot, Treat and Prevent Moth Infestations
Identify the Problem
What Clothes Moths Eat:
Animal fibers including wool, cashmere, silk, fur, leather, feathers; additionally, they may be attracted to lint, dust, cotton and linen
Symptoms of Clothes Moth Damage:
Tunnels, surface trenches or holes in textiles such as clothing, rugs, carpets, upholstered furniture
Patches of damage on rugs, particularly holes or exposed weft
Excessive shedding from furs
Tiny whitish, rice-like silken tubes or silken mats clinging to materials (these are the cases or cocoons that moth larvae create and live inside of)
Dead or live moths found when removing clothing or textiles from storage
Where to Look for Clothes Moths:
Hidden parts of clothing (under collars, cuffs, folded pleats)
Dark undisturbed places (like closets, attics, under furniture)
Undersides of rugs (particularly those not vacuumed or moved regularly)
Unlaundered clothing (especially with food, perspiration and urine stains)
What Clothes Moths Look Like:
Webbing clothes moths are quite small (approximately 1/4") and gold-colored
Casemaking clothes moths are also small and gold-colored, with dark spots on their wings
Eggs and larvae of clothes moths are tiny and almost indiscernible to the naked eye
Carefully inspect every textile in your home, room by room, including closets, drawers and the underside of rugs for damage, moth casings or moths. Specifically check hidden parts of clothing.
Isolate and bag any items that display visible moth damage in plastic.
Wash or dry clean all clothing, linens and other textiles ASAP. Eggs, larvae and moths are killed by heat (set clothes dryer to high) and by freezing (seal textiles in a plastic bag and freeze for at two days).
Send rugs out for professional cleaning. ALWAYS consult a professional textile conservator for more specialized advice in treating fragile, valuable or antique textiles.
Vacuum floors, carpets, baseboard moldings, closets, closet shelves, drawers, chests, bureaus and any surface where damaged textiles or garments have been placed or stored. Moths love cracks and crevasses in wood. Wash all these surfaces with mild soap.
Store freshly cleaned clothes, linens and other textiles in airtight containers such as cotton, linen or plastic garment storage bags with tight seals, especially out-of-season clothing. This step protects clothes from further damage and eliminates potential food sources for any moths or larvae still hiding in your house. Be prepared to keep items bagged indefinitely until you feel confident that the moths have been eradicated.
Replace rug pads of cleaned rugs.
Purchase non-toxic pheromone moth traps, which lure and kill male clothes moths, a critical step in preventing moths from mating and laying eggs. I found great success with MothPrevention brand sticky moth traps, which can be placed in closets where you store textiles (clothes, linen, coat).
Monitor your textiles, closets and cabinets for several months. Periodically inspect all textiles for signs of moth damage. Look carefully at all your rugs. Check winter clothing stored in drawers, closets and chests for moth casings or holes.
Launder or dry clean all textiles before storing away. Professionally clean rugs yearly and before storing. Consider using bags for all long-term storage of vulnerable, natural-fiber textiles.
And here’s something else to think about: some traditional moth preventatives should be used with caution.
Mothballs and moth cakes do effectively repel and kill moths but contain chemicals that evaporate and produce vapors toxic for people and animals. I’d only consider using them with items placed in tight enclosures and later aired out in a space with good ventilation. Lavender and cedar storage chests and closets are also traditional repellents, but aren’t always fail safe, especially if the scent diminishes with time.
Don't lose hope! It’s all about vigilance. A moth infestation is expensive and time-consuming to eradicate. Recognition is the first step in successfully eliminating them from your home. Procrastination will only prolong the problem and result in more ruined textiles.
If you have questions, let me know. I’m available if you’d like personal guidance battling moths or other infestations affecting your home or collections. You can always sign up for a free 30-minute consult.
Be well, Shelley New York City #clothesmoths #mothtreatment #clothesmothtreatment #webbingclothesmoths #casemamingclothesmoths #mothlarvae #motheggs #mothdamage #textiledamage #naturalfibertextiles #mothtraps #mothproblem