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?
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. But it can be done.
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. Do you know what that means? 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.
Throw Away Opened Dry Goods
If you’ve found one pantry moth, you can rest assured there are several more. You should also assume they’ve been busy reproducing in any opened dry goods, so your choice is to eat them or toss them.
What are “Dry Goods”?
And by “dry goods,” I mean anything that’s not in a can or jar. If it’s in a previously opened plastic bag or a box (even if there’s a plastic liner inside), it’s a potential breeding ground for pantry moths.
- Flours of any kind
- Bulk grains
- Nuts, seeds, cereals
- Crackers, chips, bread
- Sugars, baking powder, or baking soda
- Coffee, tea, or other products in bags
Freeze Unopened Dry Goods for 2 Days
Freezing kills pantry moths and their larvae. So, for dry goods that you haven’t opened yet but don’t want to throw away, chuck them in the freezer for a couple of days. Inspect them before use and discard anything containing dead pantry moths.
You can also freeze opened dry goods to kill any pantry moths if you don’t want to throw everything out, but if you have an active infestation, you’ll likely find them throughout the food.
Clean the Pantry Properly
Tossing opened dry goods, and freezing unopened ones can only do so much. You need to thoroughly clean your pantry to remove any pantry moth cocoons, eggs, and larvae.
- Remove everything from your pantry. Vacuum both sides of the shelves, including the doors and walls of your cupboards.
- Wash all surfaces 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!
Here’s a thorough pantry-cleaning checklist if you need one!
Wash Things Before Putting Them Away
Don’t reinfect your shelves now that you’ve worked to get rid of pantry moths! Be sure to wash and dry all food storage containers before returning them to your clean pantry, even the ones that show no signs of infestation. Washing will ensure that you’re not overlooking hidden eggs.
If you chose to keep and freeze your dry goods, you should transfer their contents to air-tight storage containers before putting them back in your pantry.
Empty the Trash Can
After 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.
You should also wash your kitchen trash can, inside and out, including the lid.
Wait to Restock
Wait a week or so before restocking your pantry so you can be sure you’ve thoroughly conquered the infestation.
If you must restock right away, be sure to follow the steps below to keep pantry moths away, 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 with our groceries. Taking some time to do the following tasks before shelving items helps keep your pantry moth-free, saving you both time and money in the long-run.
Wash Things You Buy at the Store
Although we don’t like to think about it, grocery stores can be pretty filthy. Those cans, bottles, and other packaged goods don’t teleport from the factory to the store’s shelf.
Packaged Goods are Playgrounds for Pests
First, they sit on pallets in warehouses waiting for transport. Then, they take a long ride in the back of a semi-truck. They may or may not have another wait at a transport hub, too. Eventually, they’re unloaded in the store’s backroom waiting for shelf space, however long that takes.
You’d be shocked to learn how many rodents, spiders, and insects crawl all over food containers during the transport process — that includes pantry moths.
Wash or Wipe Things to Prevent New Problems
To prevent pantry moths and other pests from entering your home via store-bought goods, you need to wash cans, jars, and bottles as soon as you bring them home.
As for food in boxes, plastic bags, and cartons, wipe them with a disinfecting wipe or soapy washcloth before putting them away.
This step may sound like overkill at first, but if you’d ever seen how rodents and bugs scamper across pallets of canned goods during shipment, you wouldn’t think twice about doing it.
Freeze These Before Storing
Even with washing containers, 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 kill pantry moths that may be hiding in your newly-purchased foods, along with their eggs and larvae, freeze all grains, flours, nuts, seeds, coffee, and tea for two days before putting them on your shelves.
Transfer Dry Goods to Other Containers
Transferring flours, grains, and cereals to air-tight storage containers or Mason jars will protect them from future infestation.
This step also ensures that if pantry moths do hatch one food, they can’t escape and infest others.
Try the Bay Leaf Solution
Pungent bay leaves aren’t just for spicing stews — they deter pantry moths, too. Scatter a few on your shelves or keep them in a shallow open container to prevent insects from making your pantry their home.
Fresh or dry bay leaves both work though you will need more dry leaves than fresh ones. Replace bay leaves when they lose their fragrance.
Consistency is Key
Getting rid of pantry moths, and keeping them away for good, takes consistent effort.
Once you’ve emptied and cleaned the pantry, then discarded opened dry goods and cleaned the packaging of unopened ones, you still need to diligently clean store-bought items to avoid reinfecting your pantry shelves.
Considering the alternative is eating food riddled with moth carcasses and eggs, it’s worth the effort.