You Found Moths in Your Winter Clothes! Now What?
By Chris Williams on September 21, 2016.
I’ve been unpacking my family’s sweaters and other winter clothes that were stored in the attic. When I opened one box of sweaters, I saw a couple of what looked like tiny beige moths running around inside the box. I’m assuming that these were clothes moths since, sure enough, I found holes in some of the sweaters! What do I do now? Is there any way to treat the other boxes to kill the moths? Could there be eggs in the clothes? H. P., Bow, NH
Unfortunately, the time to prevent clothes moths and other fabric pests, such as carpet beetles, is when the clothes and woolens are first stored. The way you prep your clothes before storage and the manner in which you store them makes all the difference.
Storage Preparation is Everything
Basically, everything should be cleaned before it’s stored since fabric pests prefer to chew on clothes that are soiled, even just with perspiration (see Why Do Fabric Pests Prefer to Dine on Dirty Clothes?). You also need to store clothes in tightly sealed containers, not cardboard boxes. And you need to understand that tossing a few mothballs into a box that’s not airtight will offer virtually no protection (see How Can I Protect My Clothes From Clothes Moths?).
This little lecture isn’t going to help you now that the damage is done. The only way to reliably kill any clothes moths in other boxes is to have all of the boxes fumigated. That could be a pricey resolution. Extended time in a clothes dryer on high is known to kill most insects and their eggs, but you run the risk of damaging certain items that may not be able to take the heat.
You may have to resign yourself to unpacking box by box and checking every item and the containers for evidence of clothes moths. If the boxes are cardboard, get rid of them. To be very sure that there are no moth larvae or eggs lurking in the garments, you should bag up all the clothes and have them dry-cleaned before you even put them into bedrooms or closets (unfortunately, that can be pricey, too).
Consider Protective Insecticide Treatment for Storage Areas
You should contact us for an area treatment in your attic to kill any clothes moths remaining in that space. You may also want to have a treatment of the closets and dressers where the clothes will be stored in your home once unpacked (especially if they are not dry-cleaned first). Consider placing some clothes moth pheromone traps in areas where you have susceptible clothing. The traps capture male clothes moths, letting you know that you have an infestation requiring attention.
For more information, check out these Colonial blogs: