The best way to get rid of pantry moths is by preventing an infestation in the first place. But isn’t that the way it goes with most household pests, including the in-laws?
I wish I could tell you it’s easy to get rid of pantry moths, but I’d be lying. Once they’re in your home, it takes determination and a bit of time to get rid of them. Fortunately, the work isn’t all that hard — far less hard, in fact, than getting your mother-in-law to take the hint and leave.
How To Get Rid Of Pantry Moths
Pantry moths don’t just make their homes in the crevices and corners of your cupboards: they lay eggs in your dry goods, too, where they’ll hatch into larvae, grow into pupae, and eventually burst forth as moths.
Unfortunately, during the larval and pupal stage they’re nearly indistinguishable from, say, grains of brown rice or quinoa. You know what that means, right? Yep, you’ve probably eaten them before.
Disgusting, right? Keep that distaste in mind, so you don’t skip steps when getting rid of pantry moths because, as with dropping hints to other unwanted house guests, you’ve got to be persistent, so they don’t just find another spot to get comfortable again.
Toss Opened Dry Goods
If you’ve found one pantry moth, you can pretty much rest assured there are several more. You should also assume they’ve been busy reproducing in any opened dry goods (flours, whole grains, cereals, etc.), so your choice is to eat them or toss them.
I’m not going to tell anyone if you decide to save a buck by freezing those opened dry goods to stop the eggs from hatching rather than tossing out your food. As for me, I’d rather discard and replace the stuff.
Clear and Clean the Pantry
Remove everything from your pantry and vacuum the shelves to remove any remaining moths and cocoons. Wash the shelves well with hot soapy water then wipe them down with a 50-50 solution of white vinegar and warm water to kill off remaining eggs. Adding peppermint oil to the vinegar rinse will deter future infestations of pantry moths. Bonus: peppermint oil also gets rid of spiders, cockroaches, mice, and ants, too!
Also see: Printable Pantry Cleaning Checklist
Wash Food Storage Containers
Don’t undo your pantry cleaning by returning infested containers of food to the shelves! Open each one and inspect the contents for signs of moths or other pests. Again, you’ll have to decide whether to toss or freeze contaminated foodstuff but I recommend discarding it.
Be sure to wash and dry the outside of all food storage containers before returning them to your clean pantry, even the ones which show no signs of infestation. This will ensure you’re not overlooking hidden eggs.
Take out the Trash NOW
If you’ve discarded the infested food, seal your trash bag well and take it outside to keep newly-hatched moths from heading right back into your pantry. Now is also a very good time to give your kitchen trash can a thorough cleaning. If you’ve been dumping the infested food into your garbage disposal, turn on the hot water tap and run the disposal for a minute then add a few drops of liquid dish detergent and some ice cubes to it to clean the blades.
Also see: How To Clean Trash Cans
Wait to Restock
If possible, wait a week or so before restocking your pantry so you can be sure you’ve completely conquered the infestation. If you must restock right away, be sure to follow the preventative steps below, so you’re not just bringing home a new round of pests.
How To Prevent Pantry Moths
Pantry moths don’t just appear out of thin air: the majority of the time we bring them into the house along with our groceries. Taking some time to do the following tasks before shelving items will help keep your pantry moth-free, saving you both time and money in the long-run.
Wash cans and jars before storing
If you can’t stand the thought of giving your cans and bottles a hot soapy bath, at least rub them well with a disinfecting wipe or soapy washcloth before putting them away. This may sound like overkill at first, but if you’d spent a summer working in a grocery shipment warehouse witnessing rodents and bugs scamper across pallets of canned goods, you wouldn’t think twice about this.
Freeze dry goods before storing
Fact is, there’s no way to ensure your rice, cereals and other dry goods are pest-free since the FDA allows a certain amount of insect parts and other unappetizing matter in food. To keep these nasty bits from turning into a new infestation, slip dry goods (including spices) into plastic bags and freeze them for 2-3 days before shelving them in your pantry.
Use air-tight food storage containers
Transferring flours, grains, and cereals to air-tight storage containers will protect them from future infestation. As a bonus, this also ensures that if moths do hatch in a container, they can’t escape and infest other foods. Plus, matching food storage canisters look pretty on your shelves.
Bring on the bay leaves
Pungent bay leaves aren’t just for spicing stews, they deter pantry moths, too. Scatter a few leaves on your shelves or keep them in a shallow open container to prevent insects from making your pantry their home.
There’s no doubt that getting rid of pantry moths involves a lot of work and food waste, but it beats the unappetizing alternative of serving your family insect-riddled food. (Though it might be tempting to do so if your in-laws overstay their welcome.)
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