How to Get Rid of Moths in Your Home

When moths invade your home, they do a lot of damage. Moths destroy clothing, bedding, and carpets. They can make their home in a box of your favorite cereal. They’re a challenge to get rid of, and even when you do, there may be a new generation of larvae ready to emerge from their hidden cocoons. But don’t worry: there are effective ways to rid your home of moths and keep them away for good.

1. Types of Moths

While there is a great variety of moth species, the moths found in your home culprits are commonly called clothes moths and pantry moths. Clothes moths can destroy a drawer full of your most prized cashmere sweaters. Pantry moths make their home in everything from boxes of rice to sacks of flour. They’ve even been known to snack on chocolate!

Clothes moths comprise several species, but in North America, the most common is the webbing clothes moth and the casemaking clothes moth. They are both around half an inch long. Webbing moths are all one color, either beige or buff with a tuft of reddish hair on top. The webbing clothes moth is similar but has dark specks on the wings.

Pantry moths include four different species, but the most common is the Indian Meal Moth. By the time you see pantry moths flying around, you already have an infestation. They chow down on your dry goods as larvae, which look like little worms or caterpillars around half an inch long with five legs. Adult females can then lay as many as 400 more eggs.

2. Where and How Moths Enter a Home

The first step in eliminating moths from your home permanently is figuring out how they got inside in the first place — and then blocking their access. Some moths may enter through an open door, a hole in a screen, or gaps and cracks in your home’s construction, but most of them use more effective means. The way they normally arrive depends on the type of moth.

Clothes moth typically enter your home on thrift store clothes and furniture, garage sales, and consignment shops. Larvae can hide in second-hand furniture, furniture bought online, or they may even be hiding in your dry cleaning.

Pantry moths arrive in grocery bags, items stored in your garage, and even food packed in luggage. Pantry moths that fly into your home through a window or crack will move in as soon as they find food.

3. How to Get Rid of Clothing Moths

The first sign of an infestation of clothing moths is usually irregular-shaped holes in sweaters. You may also notice damage in silk and even leather garments. As soon as you’re aware, break out the laundry bag and the vacuum. Carolyn Forté, Director of the Cleaning Products and Textiles Labs at the Good Housekeeping Institute, recommends collecting all your washable clothing and washing them in the machine with hot water and detergent. Then tumble dry on low heat to kill any larvae. Whatever isn’t washable, take to the dry cleaners.

Wash or dry clean curtains, bedding, and upholstery. Take everything out of your closet, and vacuum thoroughly. Do the same with your dresser drawers. Vacuum any rugs and carpet. Vacuum the baseboards and as much of the walls as you can. Then put the vacuum bag or empty the canister into a garbage bag and put down the incinerator or in a trash can outside away from your home. Place things that aren’t typically washed or dry cleaned, like hats, shoes, and handbags, in plastic bags and freeze them for 48 hours. This will kill any larvae. Finally, wash the closet shelves, walls, dresser drawers, and wipe down your furniture.

4. How to Get Rid of Moths in the Kitchen

Start by emptying out the pantry, drawers, and cupboards. Pantry moths can eat through plastic and paper, so even if packages of dry goods are unopened, they may be infested. Look for any holes in unopened packaging. Then seal everything infested in a garbage bag, and take it out of your home. To be safe, it’s recommended that you throw out everything, whether it’s open or sealed, but you can also put unopened boxes and bags in the freezer for four days. Just be sure to inspect them before using, and discard anything with dead moths inside.

Then it’s time to deep clean the kitchen. Vacuum every surface in the pantry and cupboards; remove shelving if possible. Empty the vacuum bag or canister, tie off the bag tightly, and remove it from your home. Then clean every surface with either bleach solution followed by soap and water, or mix a 50-50 solution of vinegar and water. Adding a few drops of peppermint oil if you have it. Then mop the floor with the solution, and finish by soaking the mop head in bleach. It’s a good idea to wait a few weeks to restock the shelves to make sure that you didn’t miss any.

5. How to Prevent Moths from Coming Back

To keep moths away, store out-of-season clothes in vacuum-sealed storage bags. Spray closet walls, shelves, carpet floor, and baseboards with a moth-repelling product (but keep pets out of the room and air-out with an open window). You can also use cedar products in closets and drawers. For extra protection, put moth traps in the closet and on shelves.

For pantry moths, start by sealing up any holes in screens or gaps. Store dry goods in air-tight containers. Before you put any jars that were open back in the pantry, remove and wipe the inside of lids and the rim of the jar with a damp cloth.

Pantry moths frequently hitch a ride on grocery bags, so inspect jars, cans, and packaging before putting them in your cart, and rinse cans and jars at home before putting away. Do not use shelf liner or contact paper with adhesive as pantry moths love to lay eggs when the edges loosen over time. Finally, scatter bay leaves on the shelves; you can also use pantry moth traps.