A pile of folded jumpers.

Avoiding and dealing with clothes moths

Many of us have encountered problems with moths making holes in our clothes - especially woollen garments. Try our tips to avoid them!

We can't guarantee the following tips will stop clothes moths, but they should help to avoid them and prevent damage to your clothes caused by moths. If you already have moths, you may need to contact a professional to help remove them altogether.

What are clothes moths?

You are unlikely to see clothes moths as they don’t like the light, but if you do spot them they are a buff colour and around 1 cm long. The larvae are small, white and worm like, and these are what do the damage to your clothes. You know you have a problem when you find holes in your garments. You may also see silky webbing or small cigar-like cocoons.

Top tips for avoiding moths

  • Put lavender bags next to your woollen garments to deter the moths in the first place (this does not kill the larvae). You can also wipe your wardrobe with hot water containing a few drops of lavender oil and add a few drops of lavender oil to the conditioner compartment of your washing machine - or to the final rinse when hand washing.
  • Cedar wood balls (readily available) kill the young moth larvae. Put them in the areas where you store woollen garments. The balls do need refreshing as their effect wears off with time. To do this either lightly sand them or put cedarwood oil on them (do not put in direct contact with garments as the oil may stain).
  • Make sure garments are clean and dry before putting them away, and keep your wardrobe and surrounding area clean and fresh too.
  • If you tend to store your warm woollen garments away for the spring/summer, put the clean, dry garments in a sealed plastic bag. It's a good idea to give garments stored in this way a good airing, and to avoid storing them in plastic bags for more than a few seasons between airings.
  • Clothes moths do not like light – so well-used garments are unlikely to have a problem. Check anything you're storing away for a longer period every now and then to make sure they're moth free.

If you already have a moth problem

  • Freeze your garments in sealed bag for a few days to kill the moth larvae. You need to freeze the garment twice for this to work, ensuring it gets back to room temperature before re-freezing.
  • Wash all of your garments to remove the larvae and then air well. If you have a garment that can’t be washed, if it has been worn, get it dry cleaned. If it hasn't been worn – hang it outside on a sunny day and thoroughly brush the garment all over from top to bottom – getting into all areas – to dislodge the moth larvae (you are unlikely to be able to see them). You could also try vacuuming the garment. Store away from other woollen items just in case you haven’t removed all of the larvae.
  • Before returning your garments to storage, vacuum and thoroughly clean the areas where you store them. You also need to thoroughly clean the surrounding area, ensuring you get into all the corners/gaps. Pay special attention to cleaning nearby carpets.
  • Leave cardboard moth traps in the room so you know if any moths remain. If they do, you may need to use a chemical moth repellent or contact a professional to get rid of the moths.

Tip: Always wash or dry clean recently acquired second-hand woollen garments to ensure they're 100% moth free.

Repairing moth holes

You can repair moth holes in garments by darning them with a similar coloured yarn – see our tip on mending holes and tears in clothes.