Prevent Clothing Moths

The warm weather makes me want to finish up cleaning and storing winter items. I typically wash all our winter coats, hats, mittens, and scarves.  The flannel sheets and heavy blankets are clean and stored away.  The next thing I need to do is wash or dry-clean all our woolen sweaters and shirts and store them to prevent damage from clothing moths.

I did a little research on clothing moths since it has been a while since we had any questions from AnswerLine callers on this topic. These moths like to lay eggs on woolen and other animal fiber articles of clothing.  There are actually two different species of clothing moths.

The case making clothes moth and the webbing clothes moth both appear very similar.  They are both yellowish in color and about ¼ inch long.  They look a bit fluttery when flying and both avoid the light.  Their fully grown larvae are about ½ inch long and white when brownish-black heads.  Both will spin a feeding tube or protective case into the fabric that they are feeding upon.

This larval stage is the only life stage when the insect feeds; the eggs and adult moths do not damage clothing. The clothing moths prefer quiet dark areas like closets, attics and seldom used drawers or trunks.  If you store an item for a long time in one of those quiet spots the item is particularly at risk.  Moths typically will not damage anything in a high traffic or use area.

You may be wondering how to prevent a clothing moth infestation. The best answer to this is to be meticulous in keeping both the storage area and the garments clean.  Vacuuming will remove eggs and laundering or dry cleaning will also destroy the eggs.  Cleaning items will also remove food stains and body oils which will also attract moths.  You may need to brush or leave items in the bright sunlight to get rid of larvae or eggs.  Remember to brush the items outdoors so you don’t re-infest your home.

Freezing is another alternative to control the larvae or eggs in an item that you cannot wash or dry-clean. You must leave the item in a freezer set at 0F for at least 48-72 hours. This will be great if you have stuffed animals or items with feathers on them.

After your items are cleaned, store them in a tightly sealed container. You may want to choose a tightly sealed plastic tub.  Cedar does contain oil that acts as an insecticide but is only effective if tightly contained.  A cedar closet is not typically tight enough to actually kill the moths.  Moth balls can be effective if placed inside a tightly sealed container but they are toxic and you may want to avoid using them.  The odor of the mothballs is very long lasting so you may choose to just use the tightly sealed tub alone.

It looks like I have a project for this weekend, but once I get everything cleaned it will be safely stored for the summer.

 

 

 

 

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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2 thoughts on “Prevent Clothing Moths

  1. I am cleaning and putting away my winter woolens. My question is: is there a season for moths to make the larvae? Should the woolens be put away in a special month to avoid this challenge? Like by May? Are there times of year when the settling of wool eating larvae is most hazardous? Thank you.

  2. Yes, I’m sure that there is a season for the moths to lay eggs. I would wash the mittens after the last wearing for the season and store them in plastic until needed in the fall. thanks

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