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Help! My Clothes Have Moth Holes

By Chris Williams on October 30, 2015.

Yesterday I was taking my winter clothes out of storage and I noticed a couple of little moths in the box. Sure enough, two of my best wool sweaters had holes in them. I’m guessing these were clothes moths. I stored my clothes in cardboard boxes with mothballs that were taped tightly shut. I thought I was doing everything right. Where did I go wrong?

P.P., Brighton, MA

1. Don’t Store Woolens in Cardboard Boxes – Your first mistake was using cardboard boxes. Cardboard boxes are not a deterrent to any pest, let alone clothes moths. They are also not airtight and so won’t work with fumigants like mothballs. Instead, you should use an airtight container such as a large zip-lock bag, or a plastic tub with a tight-fitting lid.

2. Don’t Store Woolens That Haven’t Been Cleaned – You don’t say whether you dry-cleaned your sweaters before storage. If not, that was mistake number two (see Keep Woolens Clean to Avoid Clothes Moths). Clothes that have even undetectable stains from food, perspiration or other body fluids such as urine are much more likely to be infested by clothes moths. The moths are attracted to the extra nutritional value, as well as the wool (see Why Do Fabric Pests Prefer to Dine on Dirty Clothes?).

3. Don’t Rely on Protection From Mothballs or Cedar – Mothballs are not as reliable a moth repellent as some would have you believe. People don’t read the label of this pesticide (yes, mothballs are pesticides) and almost always use too little to repel moths, or use them in an unsafe manner. Mothballs will never work if the container is not airtight to contain the mothball fumes. It’s the same problem with cedar, it doesn’t work. There is no way to get a high enough concentration of the cedar oils in a tightly enclosed space to kill pests (see Does Cedar Repel Clothes Moths?).

If you haven’t already done so, you need to carefully unpack the rest of your winter clothes, checking each item for evidence of clothes moths or their larvae. Discard the cardboard boxes in sealed garbage bags. If you’re discarding damaged clothes, place those in sealed bags, too. I recommend that you dry-clean any clothes that you are unpacking ASAP since dry-cleaning will kill clothes moths and their eggs.

You’ll need to be extra diligent to make sure that clothes moths have not escaped to infest other woolens in your home. It would be a good idea to install pheromone traps that monitor for the presence of clothes moths. Give Colonial Pest a call if you see any further evidence of clothes moths or their damage.

For more on how to properly store winter clothes and woolens, check out these Colonial blogs:

  • Clothes Moth Prevention Tips
  • How Can I Protect My Clothes From Clothes Moths?

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