How to Fight Clothes Moths
Clothes moths are one of the most feared varieties of moth. Although harmless to humans, they are anything but when it comes to fabrics. The tiny caterpillars will chew holes in your jumpers and can decimate carpets and soft furnishings.
Luckily, we have all the knowhow you need to control these hungry pests.
“What do Clothes Moths Look Like?”
There’s more than one sort of moth that could infest your wardrobe, but the most likely is the common clothes moth (Tineola bisselliella). It’s a distinctive creature. The adult is a small moth (around 5mm long) with a dirty golden sheen to its wings. It likes dark, undisturbed places, which is why infestations are often left undiscovered for months, and you’re likely to find them at the back of wardrobes or in under furniture. They’re not great flyers, but prefer to crawl around on the floor.
The larvae are what do the damage, and these are tiny white caterpillars, about the size of a grain of rice. They live in silken tubes which they drag around with them, and have a brownish head. The pests are sometimes known as webbing clothes moths as they leave their webs in areas they’re infested.
There are a few of other moths with a taste for clothes. One is the case bearing clothes moth (Tinea pellionella), which is greyish brown in colour with a couple of dark spots on the wings. Its larvae live in a case made of hair and fibres. Other suspects include the brown house moth (Hofmannophila pseudospretella ) and the white shouldered house moth (Endrosis sarcitrella), which are larger and have a more varied diet. The white shouldered variety has a taste for cork, so it’s sometimes found in wine cellars.
Why Do They Eat Clothes?
Whatever species of moth it is, the reason they eat clothes is that their diet consists primarily of keratin. This is a protein found in a wide variety of organic materials, such as hair, fur, feathers and natural fibres like wool and silk. In the wild, the moths are found in bird’s nests or infesting scraps of fur and wool. In our homes, however, clothes and carpets are a great alternative food source.
Unfortunately, this means clothes moths are attracted to the most expensive of garments, like cashmere sweaters, woollen suits and silk wedding dresses. They also like clothes which have been worn and are damp with sweat or spills, so it’s best to make sure things are put away clean.
What Time of Year am I Most Likely to See Moths?
Clothes moths usually appear in the spring as the weather gets warmer. This is partly because they need warmth to be active, but as so many houses have central heating these days, they are increasingly being found in the winter as well.
Another reason many infestations are discovered in spring is because people go looking for clothes they haven’t worn over the winter and find the moths as well. Moths love quiet, dark places to lay their eggs, so discarded clothing at the back of the wardrobe is perfect for them.
I’ve Seen a Moth, What Should I Do?
First of all, don’t panic. There are thousands of different varieties of moth, and very few of them eat clothes. If the moth is flying about, it’s probably not a clothes moth, as these like to crawl. You should be able to simply shoo it out the window.
On the other hand, if you have damaged clothing or carpets, or lots of moths infesting a dark area of the house, get in touch immediately. Our pest control experts identify insects for free, so you’ll know what you’re facing almost immediately. Holes in textiles can be caused by moths, but can also be caused by carpet beetles or simple wear and tear.
I’m Scared of Moths. What Should I Do?
Most moths are harmless, and even clothes moths won’t actually hurt you. However, there are a few simple steps you can take to stop moths infesting your home:
- Buy synthetic fabrics or cotton instead of wool, leather and silk, as clothes moths don’t eat these.
- Vacuum regularly.
- Put unworn clothes in sealed plastic bags, or sort and refold them regularly.
- Turn the radiators down in unused rooms.
- Use deterrents like cedar balls and lavender oil.
- Recycle unwanted clothes, or take them to a charity shop.
How can I Get Rid of Clothes Moths?
Getting rid of clothes moths is a tricky process, so it’s important to call the experts as soon as possible. Council pest controllers often refuse to deal with moths as they’re not a health risk, so call a reputable company like us instead. We will use special pheromone traps to ascertain the level of the infestation, and treat the affected rooms to remove it. As the moths lay their eggs in dark, inaccessible places and they’re difficult to destroy, it often takes a few treatments to completely remove the infestation.
While we undertake the more technical work, it’s essential you remove and clean as much of the infested material as you can. That means washing clothes at high temperatures or putting them in the freezer for a period of time. You may even want to dispose of certain items entirely.
Regular and thorough vacuuming is also a good way to control moth infestations. Just remember to empty the bag each time so the eggs don’t hatch inside.