Posts Tagged ‘clothes moths’

How to get rid of clothes moths!

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

In May 2008 I wrote my Clothes Moths Attack! post about my attempts to get rid of clothes moths in a friend’s home. It soon became clear that many other people were hard at work battling the seemingly indestructible clothes moths as many comments after comment started to roll in.

clothes moth in carpet

After receiving over 100 reader stories about your attempts to get rid of clothes moths I thought I should put some of the collective wisdom together and produce a page of tips for getting rid of clothes moths (although much of this advice will apply to other types of moths as well).

Know your enemy

Common clothes moths (tineola bisselliella) appear in the Spring, Summer and Winter. The larvae which look like white maggots eat your carpets or clothes. You’ll see them crawling in the carpets, up walls, and over your fabrics. They later turn into flying moths. The flying moths don’t cause any direct damage to fabrics, but they can each lay many 10’s of eggs. Their numbers can multiply very quickly and you can soon end up with a very bad infestation.

Daily tips to reduce moth numbers

If you already have clothes moths you are going to have to work to keep the numbers down. If the infestation is bad this could turn into a war!

  • Vacuum the carpets regularly. Especially in any areas that you know the moths gather, such as under the bed, in quiet areas of the room, and around the skirting boards.
  • Immediately kill any live moths or larvae that you see. The larvae will eat your clothes and carpets, and the flying moths will lay eggs. Neither is good to have around!
  • Keep doors, windows and cupboard doors shut. You want to make it difficult for them to move around.

clothes moth larvae in carpet

Creating a less attractive home for moths

  • If the moths are eating the carpets then either remove the carpets completely, or replace wool carpets with synthetic ones.
  • Fill in small gaps around the walls, floorboards, and cupboards. You want to reduce the amount of places the moths have to hide, feed and lay their eggs.
  • Further reduce the number of places that moths can hide themselves or their eggs by keeping your home tidy. They love dark undisturbed areas under the bed, or behind junk that you may leave on the floor. If your home stays uncluttered and clean there are fewer places for them to go.
  • Keep windows shut so the moths can’t get in. Consider putting an insect screen over windows that you regularly open.
  • Open curtains and let as much natural light into the rooms as possible. Clothes moths seem to prefer it when it is darker.
  • Don’t leave clothes or other natural fabrics in the open unless necessary.
  • Keep the doors of clothing cupboards and wardrobes shut. Ideally they should be sealed shut so that a live moth or larvae can’t crawl through the gaps. You could make modifications to your wardrobes using rubber strips (e.g. like the ones for excluding draughts from windows) so that they have a near air tight seal when closed.
  • Vacuum regularly as stated in the daily tips. A vacuum cleaner with a rotating brush in the head may be better than a suction only vacuum cleaner at dislodging eggs that are in the carpet.

clothes moths eggs

clothes moths eggs under carpet

Protecting clothes and fabrics

  • Store fabrics and clothes in sealed wardrobes or behind sealed cupboard doors.
  • If you aren’t going to wear certain natural fibre clothes for a while put them in one of those vacuum bags so there is no way for any insect to get in them.
  • If you have to store rugs then roll them up with some moth balls inside.
  • If you suspect that an item of clothing may have got moth eggs in it you can put it in the freezer for three days to kill the eggs.
  • Or alternatively give the item a hot wash (if it is suitable for hot washing).
  • Dry cleaning may help to remove the moth eggs from more delicate clothing items.
  • Use moth balls or lavender moth repelling scents in the wardrobe to reduce the chances of them going near the clothes.
  • Get rid of old clothes that you don’t need or aren’t going to wear again. If you keep unnecessary clothes lying around you are only increasing their potential food supply.

Home extermination and prevention options

You have a number of options for killing moths and their eggs in the home. Some are free and other will cost money.

  • Squish the larvae!
  • Sweep or vacuum up any lose eggs.
  • Swat the moths!
  • Use moth traps or moth killer strips to catch ones that are flying around.
  • Use direct moth insecticide sprays on the moths or eggs to try to kill them. I’m not convinced that the consumer poisons are very effective on the clothes moths eggs – they seem fairly indestructible :( If you do try them the most effective thing seems to be to spray the area, wait a few days and spray again, and then keep repeating.
  • Moth balls, cedar wood balls, lavender smelling fragrances, or moth killing hanging units can be used inside cupboards and wardrobes to keep moths away.
  • Fumigation kits are available which release a poisonous gas into the room. I’m sceptical about their effectiveness – they may kill some adult moths, but I doubt they do much harm to the eggs.

Here are some more links to moth killing products on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Professional moth extermination options

If your moth prevention and elimination attempts aren’t working you may have to call in the professionals. This is where you may end up paying big money.

First you might want to check in your lease if you or your landlord is responsible for pest problems. If the landlord is responsible for getting rid of pests, and doesn’t then you may well be able to claim some form of compensation off him for damage to your clothes or fabric items.

You might also want to try contacting your local authority to see if they have a free or cheap professional moth extermination option. If not you could end up spending hundreds of pounds or dollars to call someone in.

If you do call in the professionals make sure they give you some kind of guarantee that if the moths aren’t eliminated they will come back to deal with the problem again. You may well need two or three (or more!) visits.

If the infestation is very well established then multiple visits may not be effective. For example if the eggs are deeply embedded in carpets or floorboards then it is unlikely that any professional spraying will get rid of 100% of the eggs. You may need to do something more structural (removing carpets, filling gaps) to get rid of them.

The nuclear option!

Move out to a new home. You wouldn’t be the first person to abandon a home because of moths.

However it you do this there is a high risk that you will transport the eggs to your new place in your clothes and fabrics. Do thoroughly wash and seal all clothes away so you can try to eliminate the chances of transporting them to your new home.

And when you arrive at your new home be vigilant for signs of new moths. Deal with them as soon as you see them so they don’t spread.

Let us know how you get on

There are 150 comments and reader stories on my previous Clothes Moths Attack!. There is some great reader advice amongst those comments. I’ve had to close that post for new comments as it was getting too big! But please do continue to share your stories and tips on this page instead.

Good luck :)

Clothes moths attack!

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

I have spent a lot of time in the past few weeks helping a friend whose flat is under attack by clothes moths. The species in question is known as the common clothes moth, the webbing clothes moth, or if you are really posh, as tineola bisselliella.

There have been clothes moths in this property for many years eating the carpets but it is only recently that damage to clothes was spotted. This initiated a massive operation in order to protect the remaining clothes and get rid of the moths. Here are some photos of the chewed up carpets and clothes. The carpets here are wool and they really like them!

carpet damaged by clothes moths

If you don’t know what a clothe moth look like here are some images. They are only about a centimetre long but are very destructive. They lay their eggs on cotton or wool clothes and carpets. The clothes moths themselves do not eat the clothes. It is what hatches from the eggs that causes the damage.

clothes moth in carpet
common clothes moth on wall

The larvae are a bit over a centimetre long. They are white with a brown / red head. When they hatch they start eating your clothes / carpet. Later they turn into moths.

clothes moth larvae in carpet

The clothes moths and larvae like dark undisturbed places such as under your bed, desk or in your wardrobe. When I closely inspected the carpets I spotted hundreds of eggs along the edges of the carpet under a desk. The eggs are tiny – much smaller than a pinhead.

When I lifted the carpet there were thousands more along under the skirting board. I tried to vacuum the eggs up but this required a lot of scraping with the hoover as the eggs were well stuck on. Even after a lot of vacuuming I still couldn’t remove all the visible eggs.

clothes moths eggs

clothes moths eggs under carpet

I tried getting rid of the eggs, moths and larvae by using moth sprays from Robert Dyas. They do kill the moths and larvae but not the eggs. You can kill all the moths and larvae but then the next day there will be a whole load of fresh larvae to take their place.

In order to protect the clothes I took them all to a laundrette in black bags. They were then hot-washed them to remove any eggs, the black bags were thrown away (in case they contained any moth eggs) and then the clean clothes were put in new black bags. I then took the clothes to my (non-moth infested) flat to keep them safe until the problem is sorted.

When it became clear that the home sprays weren’t able to get rid of them completely, the landlord was contacted who arranged for a professional to come into the flat. When the pest control guy visited he explained that the eggs are virtually indestructible. He said he would spray the carpet with a chemical that would kill any live clothes moths or larvae. The chemical would remain on the carpet for two weeks (no vacuuming in the mean time) killing any larvae which subsequently hatch. After two weeks the carpets would be sprayed again. He was very confident that this would get rid of the problem. We’ll have to wait and see.

Lessons learned

  1. Deal with any clothes moth problems right away before they cause real damage.
  2. Household moth killers may work against small numbers of moths but are unlikely to help if you have an established infestation.
  3. If you have clothes moths then consider replacing and wool carpets with synthetic ones.
  4. You can use lavender scented moth repellers in wardrobes to keep the moths away. However they are not fully effective – some moths don’t seem bothered about the scent!
  5. Vacuum regularly to increase the chances of removing eggs. However even vacuuming won’t get rid of all of them as the eggs are usually stuck to the carpet fibres.
  6. Try to avoid having dark undisturbed areas in your rooms. e.g. if you have lots of junk under your bed try to move it elsewhere or get rid of it. This will reduce the number of hiding spaces for them.
  7. If the infestation is established then you may have to get a professional in. This could cost many hundreds of pounds. Try to get a guarantee that if they don’t get rid of the infestation for a certain length of time they will come back for free.
  8. If you are not going to be wearing certain clothes for a long time – e.g. your winter wardrobe – consider putting them into storage in sealed vacuumed packed bags.

Moth Update – 2nd June 2008

The flat has now been sprayed twice with a two week interval. I have found out that the chemical is called Ficam W. After each spraying moths started re-appearing after 5-6 days. There will be a third spraying in a few days and maybe even a fourth!

Moth Update – 11th August 2008

The first two spraying failed to get rid of the moths so my friend decided to move out. I gather from the remaining flat mates that the moths are still there and the landlord didn’t bother to get a third spraying – even though it wouldn’t have cost him any more!

Unfortunately the problem is not over. It seems that the clothes moths have transferred to my friend’s sister and parents homes! Sometime in the next month or two I’ll probably try out one of those home fumigation kits that you can get at Robert Dyas to see if it will kill the moths. When I do try out the fumigation kit I’ll write a post about it.

Moth Update – 30th June 2009

I never did try the fumigation kit out. My friend’s sister moved to a new place – not because of the moths though. Occasionally moths are spotted at my friend’s parent’s house but as far as I can tell they haven’t taken hold there – yet.

If you want more information on what other people are doing about their clothes moths problem then I suggest you read the comments to this post. This has now become one of the most popular posts on this blog, and the post with the most comments. Clearly these creatures are causing misery for a lot of people!

Moth Update – 25th July 2009

I’ve uploaded a videos showing a carpet moth larvae, a carpet moth, moth eggs and carpet damage to YouTube – you’ll find it here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mALtFjCLQIE. The quality of the video isn’t very good but it may help you to recognise them.

Reader’s clothes moths stories

If you want to know more then do read the reader stories in the comment section below. Loads of people have been writing in to share their battles with the common clothes moth. Please feel free to share you own moth stories by adding a comment to my new ‘How to get rid of clothes moths‘ post.