How to Naturally Repel & Get Rid of Clothes Moths

A note : This post is long enough without me going into how to store your off-season clothes so that they don’t get nibbled, or to go into the specifics as to what actually does the nibbling! I’ll be putting that into my next post instead, so make sure that you come back on Tuesday!

For something that’s pretty much just a flying bit of dust, moths can be a big problem when it comes to your wardrobe. Their larvae has expensive taste, with their favourite snacks being natural fibres – cashmere, silk, wool and feathers for example – meaning that it’s usually our priciest garments that end up with a million little holes. Why couldn’t they just eat that horrendous jumper that someone forced on you last year instead?

I think we’ll all agree that it makes much more sense to prevent the damage caused than to sit mending little holes for hours on end, right? I know that it might be tempting to go out and buy every single moth repellent available, but the truth is that a lot of the chemical moth repellents end up more of a literal headache than the other methods at your disposal. Their, let’s say, ‘potent’ aroma can cause dizziness and headaches for humans, with a lot of mothballs on offer being filled with carcinogens and highly toxic to children and pets. They can also leave your clothes smelling pretty nasty. So how can you avoid chemical pesticides without sacrificing your clothes?

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Keeping our clothes and the places in which we keep them clean is our best line of defence.

Natural moth and insect repellents, such as cedar and lavender can be really useful, but nothing is going to put them off as much as banishing dust and storing your garments in the right way.

Moths don’t like bright light, so they rarely attack clothes that you wear often – hallelujah! But what do they like? I think that the best way to figure out how to get rid of moths is to start by understanding what attracts them:

What Clothes Moths Love to Snack On:

  • Dust and dirt
  • Natural fibres – wool/ cashmere
  • Undisturbed corners that are dark and warm
  • Food proteins in wool, fur, pet dander & other animal-based materials
  • They thrive on clothing that is hidden away and carpet that’s hidden under furniture, especially if there are food spills
  • Human hair
  • Bits of spilled food
  • Food, skin and sweat particles
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Image source: How Does She

Preventing a moth infestation:

As you can see from the list above, moths are big fans of anything a bit dirty.

Vintage Clothing:

A lot of the time, moths are introduced to a wardrobe via one garment – and it’s usually something vintage! Make sure that you wash any vintage or second-hand clothes before you let them cosy up next to your expensive fabrics and most-loved dresses. Usually, vintage items need to be handled with a little bit more care when it comes to washing, so if you’re not confident in washing them yourself (there’ll be plenty of posts in the future about caring for and washing vintage), getting them specially cleaned might be a safer bet.

Lavender & Cedarwood:

There’s a lot of talk about natural ways to prevent insects from munching on your clothes, with lavender and cedarwood being amongst the most popular. They’re known to be ‘highly repellent’ to moths and other insects, but a professor in textiles and clothing has said that what “most people don’t realise is that the fumes… are toxic to moths only when in very high concentrations”, so they wouldn’t be able to get rid of moths and larvae that are already enjoying a snack, but might stave off any future visitors.

Lavender – Using lavender to keep moths away from your wardrobe is a homemaker’s trick that’s been sworn by for decades, so it’s definitely worth giving a go! It does need to be in high concentrations to work the most effectively, so keeping the lavender as close to your clothes as possible is important for this method – you can put lavender sachets around your hangers or tuck a few into your drawers to keep moths away, and you get the added bonus of your clothes smelling lovely! Lavender will not kill or get rid of moths or larvae that are already on your clothes though, so make sure that the space is moth-free first by keeping the area clean and following the instructions below if you find any evidence of moths.

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Cedarwood – Like lavender, cedar has been long-recognised as a moth repellent. The smell of the wood is what puts them off laying their eggs on your fabrics, but you have to keep on top of it because it fades fast! All you need to do to keep the scent going is sand the wood (if you have the cedar as a block, hanger or balls) when the smell starts to disappear or, if it’s a sachet you’re using, top it up with some cedar oil.

Found evidence of moths? Here’s what to do:

  • Sub-zero temperatures kill larvae, so put any clothes that you think might be contaminated into a ziplock bag and keep them in the freezer for 24 hours. When you take them out of the freezer, remove the item from the bag and hang outside of the wardrobe for a few hours, so that any moisture on the garment can dry out before you put it away.
  • Hoover again! Take your clothes out of your wardrobe and vacuum all around the inside to get rid of any scraps of dust; with any luck, you’ll be able to suck up some of the snack-happy larvae too.
  • If you have a steamer, make use of it! Steam all garments that can be steamed – moths generally don’t go for synthetic garments, but give them a go with the steam if the fabric can handle it.
  • Take any garments that can’t be washed at home to the dry cleaners, whether it’s part of the infestation or not – the scent of dry cleaning fluid will mean that no clothes moth will venture anywhere near it! Keep the dry cleaning to a minimum though, as it’s bad for the environment, the fibres of your clothes and your bank balance. Wash what can be washed at home.
  • Hang your clothes outside in sunlight. Moths don’t like bright light, so this will be a a good last step in getting rid of the infestation.

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