How to Get Rid of Moths

How to Get Rid of Moths

Moths seem harmless at first glance, especially if you see only a single one. But together, they could easily cause a destructive house infestation. You have to act quickly as soon as you spot the earliest signs. But, don’t worry. With this handy guide, the Fantastic Services team explains how to get rid of a moth infestation and prevent the emergence of a new one.

Table of Contents:

How to Recognise Moths?

Most species of moths are nocturnal, so you’ll spot them when it’s dark outside. They tend to be attracted by bright artificial light. The most common species in the UK are:

  • The Brown House Moth. Brown in colour, no more than 15mm in size, feeds on wool fabrics, so can be often found infesting closets and carpets.
  • Common Clothes Moth. Brown in colour, no more than 10 mm in size, the most common culprit behind holes in your clothes.
  • Indian Meal Moth. Bronze in colour, no more than 15 mm in size, usually infests kitchens.

These are the most common species that infest homes. However, bear in mind that the UK is home to more than 2500 moth species, varying largely in size, diet and colour decoration (and yet, only 70 species of butterflies).

Signs of a Moth Infestation

Chances are if it’s night, the lights are on and you see something fluttering around the bulbs, it’s most probably an indoor moth. They don’t produce a buzz when flying, but you might hear a silent click if they happen to bump into walls, ceilings or other hard surfaces. With bigger moths, you might be able to hear the sound of their large wings fluttering if there’s complete silence in the room.

If it’s a fairly sizable infestation, you might spot moth larvae crawling on flat surfaces. They tend to take a stroll across walls and ceilings where they’re easy to spot. Fabric-feeding moths usually hide where the fabrics are, so you don’t notice them until you check. Pantry moths leave behind damaged food items, webbing and droppings.

How do moths infest your home?

Moths usually come into your home through open windows and doors, which is why most people recommend using mosquito nets to prevent the problem. Sometimes, we bring inside moth eggs that got attached to our clothes, backpacks, suitcases, etc. They can even come in through infested food. If you buy grain products in bulk, there’s an increased risk of bringing the pest insect into your home.

It’s possible to also get an infestation if you bring home infested second-hand furniture. Not all species of moths are troublesome, so homeowners don’t usually notice the ones that just flutter around aimlessly. They end up dying on their own at some point. People, however, notice the clothes moths and the pantry moths, since they cause serious damage.

Damage by Moth Infestations

Clothes moths larvae (not the adults) are responsible for damaging clothes. They eat wool, silk, hairs, felt, fur, feathers and any fabric made from organic material. The extent of problems, they could cause, will depend on the size of the population. Just as an example,  your fabrics may not only end up with lots of holes but can be also easily covered in faeces stains. In addition, the closet is not the only target for clothes moths. They can also attack chests full of blankets or storerooms that don’t get opened often.

Pantry moths cause serious damage to your stored food products. If you suspect that your food has been contaminated, you should immediately throw it away, because the moth webbings, droppings and cocoons inside the packaging make it unfit for human consumption.

How to Get Rid of Moths in the Closet

  1. Inspect. If you aren’t sure whether you have an infestation or not, you don’t have to go on a moth hunt. Just inspect the vulnerable areas. Start with the closet and see if there are holes or droppings on your favourite clothes. If you spot a hole or two on a piece of garment, chances are there’s more. It might be the very beginning of the infestation, so you have to act quickly.
  2. Use sticky traps. The first thing to try is to set sticky moth traps. You can buy them at your local supermarket. Place them on the door of your closet and let them work their magic. Sticky traps contain an oily substance that attracts moths, but once they land on it, they can’t get out and end up starving to death. Sticky traps are easy to make at home,, as well. You’ll need flypaper and fish oil.
  3. Treat clothes. Once the adult moths have been captured and disposed of, you have to kill any larvae or eggs on your clothing. Empty the closet and wash all your clothes. If some are too damaged, you might have to throw them away. If you do, seal them in a plastic bag and dispose of it immediately. If possible, put your clothes through a dryer, too. Items that can’t be put in the washer, like suitcases and bags, need to be thoroughly washed with a soft brush.
  4. Clean the closet. Now that your closet is completely empty, it’s time to clean it on the inside and outside (just in case), for any remaining eggs. Dip a kitchen sponge in a cleaning solution and scrub everything. The solution can be a mixture of water and dish soap or you can try to use some rubbing alcohol or even vinegar. Pay special attention to the corners or if there are any cracks or crevices on the inside.
  5. Inspect other places. The infestation might not be contained only to your closet, so it’s advisable to inspect other places in the room, too. If you have another closet, check it. Check every wardrobe, drawer, carpet, all drapes and curtains, basically everywhere that you keep items, made of textile. Even if you don’t find anything, you should still thoroughly vacuum the entire room.

Prevent Future Clothes Moth Infestations

Now that you got rid of the clothes moths, it’s important to make sure they don’t come back again. There are a few easy things you can do:

  • Only washed clothes go in the closet. Moths are attracted to fabrics with food stains on them, so never put dirty clothes in the closet. Furthermore, you may inadvertently bring moth eggs from outside into your home. The only clothes that should go in your closet are the ones that just came out of the wash.
  • Store winter clothes in plastic bags. Winter clothes are often made from wool or have decorative fur on them. Since you use your coat only in winter, it’s important to store it in an airtight bag to prevent the item from moth damage.
  • Use cedar or lavender in your closet. Moths can be repelled by the smell of cedar and lavender. Purchase scented wardrobe moth repellents and place them inside your clothes storage unit. They would keep moths away and your closet will smell nice, too.

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How to Get Rid of Moths in the Kitchen

  • Inspect. It’s doubtful that you would see pantry moths fluttering around your kitchen cupboards. However, a sure sign of a moth problem is the webbing and droppings the insects leave behind in food packages. Moth secretions tend to leave a sticky residue that you may notice on cupboard shelves. In addition, you may also sense an unpleasant smell of rotten food. If it’s been a while since the insects have entered your food cupboard, you might even spot caterpillars.
  • Throw away infested food. It’s not healthy to consume anything infested with moths, so better throw every opened food package, especially items that you’ve bought in bulk, such as grains, nuts and rice. Food in cardboard boxes should also be discarded because moths can eat through cardboard. If you’re not sure that an item has been infested, throw it away just in case. Seal everything in a plastic bag and take it out of the house immediately.
  • Use sticky traps. As with the closet, sticky traps can easily catch any remaining adult moths, so you prevent them from laying any more eggs. Place the traps not only in the cupboards but in other places around the kitchen, as well, as the pests might be hiding after your attack on their offspring.
  • Clean the kitchen. Finally, it’s time to clean your kitchen so that you eliminate any leftover eggs that you may have missed to notice. Focus on the pantry, where it is most likely to have food infested by moths. Dip a kitchen sponge in soapy water or a solution, made of vinegar and water, and scrub all the surfaces and shelves. Then, thoroughly vacuum the kitchen. In the end, dispose of the sponge and the vacuum bag.

Prevent Future Pantry Moth Infestations

  • Place all food in the refrigerator. Kitchen cupboards often contain unsealed packaged food that can become an easy target for pantry moths. If possible, keep your food in the refrigerator. And of course, make sure that you store dry food in airtight containers.
  • Buy smart and store smart. What does this mean, you ask? Buying smart would be buying fewer items so you would have more storing space in the kitchen. And storing smart is a way of organising the food you already have, so it doesn’t take up too much space. Also, keeping uneaten food in airtight containers, plastic bags or foil wrap is always recommended.
  • Control the humidity in the kitchen. Moths adore warm and humid places. Unfortunately, your kitchen often provides that sort of environment. Boiling water for tea, for instance, is enough to raise the moisture level in the air. So, make sure that your kitchen is well ventilated to keep the moths away.
  • Seal cracks and crevices. Moths are tiny, so they can easily get through cracks and crevices in your pantry. And once inside your food storage unit, they will most certainly lay their eggs in there, too. In order to eliminate the risk of moth infestation, block their entry points right away.
  • Lavender and cedar aroma. You can place a lavender-scented candle in the kitchen. Or just put a lavender or cedar tablet on top of your fridge. You can also place freshly picked lavender in a vase on the table. It’s lavender – it smells nice and keeps moths away.

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How to Get Rid of Moths in the Carpet

Carpets, made of natural materials, are also at risk of a moth infestation. This one, however, is tricky to deal with, since you most probably don’t want to dispose of the infested rug. You want to save it, of course. After all, natural fabric carpets are expensive. You would have to treat it with a specific type of commercial product and possibly try to fix any damage by hiring a professional.

  • Inspect. Look over your carpet and see if you’ll be able to catch any caterpillar squirming on the fabric. If there is one, there are definitely more. If you notice holes, droppings or fine webbing, then your carpet is infested.
  • Vacuum. Vacuum the rug thoroughly on both sides, including the space around it. Also, ensure to vacuum all the furniture in the room, too. Vacuum around and under the furniture.  Remove the vacuum bag outside of the house and dispose of it in an outside rubbish bin immediately.
  • Use a commercial carpet moth killer. Some are sprays, but most of the carpet moth killers come in the form of a powder, similar to the powder used for dry cleaning of delicate or bright-coloured carpets. Rub the powder thoroughly into the carpet fibres and don’t forget to use a face mask while doing it. Leave the product to sit as long as it says on the instruction label. This could be from 30 minutes to 2 hours. If you suspect a moth infestation on your upholstered furniture, you should treat each item, as well.
  • Vacuum again. Vacuum the carpet and furniture thoroughly until there’s no trace of the powder. Remove the vacuum bag outside of the house and dispose of it immediately.
  • Place a sticky trap. Just in case of any adult moth being left behind, hiding somewhere, you can use a sticky trap with female moth pheromones. Place it close to the carpet and furniture for a few days. Inspect again after two days. You might have to repeat the procedure if you were unsuccessful.

The best prevention of a carpet moth infestation is a frequent inspection. As soon as you notice any signs of crawling caterpillars on the fabric surface, retreat your floor covering again. Also, when you store your carpet, make sure it’s wrapped in an airtight bag.

A moth infestation can be extremely troublesome if left untreated. Make sure to act quickly at the earliest signs with preventative methods. If the problem persists and gets out of your hands, there are always pest control services that would fix the problem for you. Sometimes a professional approach is the only reliable option.

Image source: Alonso Aguilar/shutterstock.com

Posted in Insect Infestations

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