The ultimate guide to getting rid of moths

If you live in the UK, particularly London and the South East, there is a strong chance you’re waging a battle (or, more likely, a war) against moths. It can feel like an insurmountable task; the casualties being all your favourite silks, knitwear and your sanity. But don’t give up – Manifesto Woman has the ultimate guide to being moth-free once and for all. The key to eliminating them is making your home as unfriendly to moth infestations as possible. Cleanliness counts and, as with everything, prevention is better than cure. So don’t wait until all your favourite clothes are ruined, take small steps now to avoid disaster later on.

Understand moths, understand how to prevent them

  • Female moths can lay up to 300 eggs over a period of several weeks, typically on natural fabrics such as cashmere, cotton, silk, fur and wool (including your curtains, carpets and upholstery… it’s not just your clothes at risk). Why do they choose fabric for their eggs? Because that’s what is going to provide food for the larvae when they hatch, eating their way out of their cocoon and into your clothes
  • The reason that May to October (in the northern hemisphere) is such a critical time is that the eggs need warm weather to hatch, taking between 4 and 10 days. Note that larvae can live anywhere between 35 days and 2.5 years, just waiting for warmer weather before launching themselves on your wardrobe
  • As the larvae emerge, they spin a web or case for protection… if you’ve seen strange white trails on your favourite winter coat, now you know what it is
  • Once the larvae have eaten their fill of your knitwear, depending on the type of moth, they either crawl into a dark corner/ crevice or spin a web right on your clothes to pupate… after which they emerge as adult moths ready to start the devastation again

Moth Prevention

The best way to get rid of moths is to avoid getting them in the first place. It may be boring, but in the long run it pays to…

  • Put any newly purchased secondhand clothes in the freezer for 72 hours, which kills off eggs and larvae hibernating in the clothes
  • Clean clothes before putting them back into your wardrobe after wearing them – sweat, urine, hair, skin particles and food stains can all attract moths
  • The dry cleaning process kills off eggs and larvae and the chemicals act as a deterrent to adult female moths so dry clean all your knitwear and coats before storing them away for the following winter
  • Direct sunlight kills off eggs and larvae so line dry in the sun wherever possible. And, if you’re feeling particularly energetic, give them a light beating, which knocks any lurking eggs or larvae to the ground
  • Put linen (and clothes that won’t shrink) in a high temperature wash, which also serves to kills off the eggs and larvae
  • Vacuum in wardrobes to suck up any eggs laid in cracks and crevices

Too late for prevention… you need a cure

When Manifesto Woman moved into our new Georgian country house, not only did we get a big garden but we inherited a serious moth problem too. We have tried and tested this process and won… you can too.

  • Firstly, you need to follow all the steps recommended above for prevention
  • Next you need to concentrate on all the areas the moths may be hiding/ laying eggs – carpets, behind furniture, curtains, sofas – vacuum them all (and don’t leave anything lying undisturbed in dark corners)
  • If you have a clothes steamer, it’s brilliant for killing off eggs and larvae – use on clothes and curtains.

Now that everything is clean, you need to focus on elimination & future prevention…

  • Spray all cupboards with moth killer spray. I use this one, but there are many others. The spray not only kills all lurking eggs and larvae but continues to work for a further 3 – 6 months, killing any moths and eggs that make contact with sprayed surfaces
  • Spray all carpets, curtains and floorboards with moth carpet spray. I have had great success with this one, but again there are many others to choose from. Just spray, leave to dry and then vacuum.
  • I have also misted this one directly on hardier clothes. It says not to on the packaging, but apparently that’s a recent change in instructions (almost certainly a result of health and safety regulations) and the spray was actually formulated for that purpose
  • Next up is a full room fumigation – I do this for any rooms containing clothes. I am a huge fan of Total Wardrobe Care’s Chrysanthemum spray. Close all doors and windows and spray all surfaces, including behind furniture. After 4 hours, it should have worked its magic, killing off all eggs and larvae. Smells incredible too.
  • Place moth traps/ boxes in rooms – these sticky pads lure adult male moths using pheromones that mimic the female moths’ and trap them, meaning that it breaks the mating cycle. I use these and these.
  • Strong smells repel female moths – everything from lavender spray to cedar oils can be used in your wardrobes to make them a no-fly zone. Total Wardrobe Care sells an essential oil formulated specifically to act as a moth deterrent.
  • You can spray your linens with a lavender linen spray – smells amazing and protects your sheets from any future infestations

A few final thoughts…

  • Although moth balls apparently do work, they make your clothes smell awful. I would avoid, particularly given the plethora of fab smelling alternative products out there
  • Cedar balls, lavender sachets, etc smell nice but are suitable only as a light deterrent and even then in conjunction with other measures. If you suspect you have a moth infestation, you need to call in the big guns!
  • I haven’t found it necessary to use a moth decoy but worth mentioning: the decoy attracts the male moth, covers him in a powder and changes his sexual behaviour, which stops the breeding cycle. You can find them at Total Wardrobe Care here

You can read up on more expert hints and tips on the Total Wardrobe Care website here.

Good luck! It may seem like a lot of hard work (and it is, but only for a brief spurt) but think of the outcome: a moth free home, forever.

If you have any tips of your own, please leave them in the comments section below. I am always all ears!