How to Get Rid of Pantry Moth Infestations Naturally

This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure page.

Pinterest hidden image
Closeup of a small brown pantry moth on a woven backgroundPin

Small tan or brown moths near your food storage and kitchen areas are signs of a pantry moth infestation. They’re not a sign of bad housekeeping, but they do require some cleaning efforts to get rid of them for good. In this article, I’ll explain what those tiny moths are, how they’re getting into your home, and the steps you can take to get rid of them for good.

What Are Pantry Moths?

Pantry moths, also known as “Indian meal moths,” are common household pests in the U.S. These small gray, tan, or brown flying nuisances can be found in various areas of your home, such as the kitchen or even the bedroom.

One of the most telltale signs of a pantry moth infestation is the silky webs they leave on food packaging and nearby areas. The good news is that they don’t bite or carry diseases. Although they do leave larva and eggs in your food, those aren’t harmful, either, just upsetting.

Where Do They Come From?

While you may need to clean your pantry to get rid of them, your housekeeping isn’t to blame for pantry moths. Most of the time, they get into your house because they’re already inside dry food packaging or have built a cocoon on cans or jars. Sometimes, they might fly into your home through gaps in window screens or open doors, then stay because they’ve found food.

Places Where Pantry Moths Hide

Most people don’t realize pantry moth larvae can actually chew through food packaging. They can get inside plastic wrappers and paper boxes and will weave webs in your food items. You may find bits of cereals or flours clumped together. They sometimes leave a strange smell.

Also, their larvae crawl into cracks and holes. You may discover dusty-looking webs in crevices around your cupboards, behind light or electric switch panels, even in the gaps between your cupboard and wall. Then, you’ll find little brown moths flying around your house. That’s because, despite their name, pantry moths do not always remain in the kitchen. They’ll breed wherever they can find shelter.

Steps to Get Rid of Pantry Moths Naturally

When it comes to pantry moths in your kitchen, avoid pesticides. Instead, investigate and clean. Check every dry food item, discard affected ones, and thoroughly clean everything before restocking. No need for chemicals—just be thorough and persistent to evict those moths!

Step 1. Freeze dry goods

Dry goods, such as foods sold in plastic packaging or boxes without plastic inner liners, can be a paradise for pantry moth larvae. These sneaky pests can eat through paper or plastic, so any food that isn’t stored in cans or jars becomes a potential food source and breeding ground for them. Yes, even unopened boxes are not exempt!

If you discover pantry moth larvae or eggs in your opened dry goods, one option is to freeze them for 2-3 days. Freezing can kill the pests, but it won’t remove them entirely. Now, here’s the important decision: are you comfortable eating dead pantry moths? If the thought makes you squeamish, discard the opened items instead.

Dry goods that provide a food source and breeding ground for pantry moths include:

  • Flours and flour cereal of any kind
  • Dried fruit
  • Bulk grains
  • Nuts, seeds, cereals
  • Crackers, chips, bread
  • Sugars, baking powder, or baking soda
  • Coffee or tea
  • Pet food, including birdseed
  • Other food items in boxes or bags

Step 2. Clean the pantry thoroughly

When it comes to getting rid of a pantry moth infestation, a thorough cleaning goes beyond just wiping shelves. Remember, those sneaky things can find their way into even the tiniest crevices to create their cocoons. Skipping steps in the cleaning process won’t effectively eliminate them all, and you’ll find yourself having to repeat the task. So, be diligent and meticulous in your cleaning efforts, ensuring you cover every nook and cranny to successfully banish those pantry moths for good.

Empty your pantry. Take out all of the foodstuffs and stored items. Remove shelves from supports, including the pegs that hold shelves in place. If your pantry has drawers, pull them out completely and set them to one side. Pull up shelf liners or contact paper you’ve laid on the shelves. Gaps between shelves and liners are a favorite spot for pantry moth cocoons.

Vacuum everything. Once you’ve removed the drawers, vacuum the space where they go along with the slides they rest on. Clean the drawers, inside and out and on their underside, too. Also vacuum including the doors and walls of your cupboards.

Wash all surfaces. Use a two-step cleaning approach to eliminate pantry moth eggs: first, wipe wash everything with hot, soapy water to remove food residue, then go over it using a 50-50 solution of white vinegar and warm water to kill pantry moth eggs. Clean crevices and gaps with a cotton swab or toothbrush, including the shelf-support peg holes.

Empty your vacuum and toss the trash. After you’ve discarded the infested food and emptied your vacuum, seal the trash bag tightly. Put it in a second bag and knot that to ensure they don’t escape, then take the entire thing outside. At this point, it’s also smart to clean your vacuum thoroughly so they don’t breed in it. (Yes, they’re that sneaky.)

Step 3. Caulk or seal gaps

When dealing with a severe pantry moth issue, or if cleaning alone hasn’t solved the problem, take a closer look for hidden gaps and crevices. Readers have discovered cocoons and moths in gaps behind cupboards and appliances, behind electric outlet covers and light switch plates, and the empty holes meant for shelf pegs. Seal any gaps or cracks you find using caulk to keep them at bay.

Step 4. Transfer dry goods

Remember, anything not in a bottle or can is a potential food source and breeding ground for pantry moths now or in the future. So, transfer all of your dried goods to airtight containers to keep out pests. If you prefer glass jars, look for ones with air-tight hermetic seals. Avoid screw-on caps since pantry moth cocoons can occur even in the tight space between the jar and lid.

Step 5. Inspect nearby rooms

Pantry moth infestations can spread beyond the pantry, reaching nearby closets and adjoining rooms, even bedrooms and bedroom closets. Look for them where ceilings and walls meet at right angles, as well as around door frames and window trim, as these spots provide ideal locations for cocoon-building. Use a powerful flashlight to spot them in darker areas, then immediately vacuum and clean the area with a 50-50 vinegar and water mix.

Step 6. Use Pantry moth traps and solutions

If you see moths flying around after you’ve thoroughly cleaned, consider using pheromone moth traps which combine attractants with a sticky surface to lure and kill them. Old-fashioned fly strips and bug zappers can also work, but since they don’t have attractants, they’ll take longer.

How To Prevent Pantry Moths

Pantry moths often find their way into our homes through the groceries we bring in, but taking a few preventive measures can keep them at bay.

  • Transfer food into airtight containers: When you return from shopping, transfer dry goods from their original packaging into sealed containers. Freeze bulk dry goods for three days before placing them on your shelves.
  • Wipe down canned and bottled goods: Prior to placing products on your pantry shelves, use a damp, soapy cloth to wipe canned and bottled goods. Inspect the lids for any signs of pantry moth cocoons.
  • Avoid adhesive shelf liner or contact paper: Shelf liners create spaces where pantry moths and other pests can build cocoons or lay eggs. Steer clear of using them in your pantry.
  • Use scents disliked by pantry moths: Scatter fresh or dried bay leaves on your shelves as a natural deterrent. Pantry moths and other pests find the scent of bay leaves unpleasant, encouraging them to stay away. Alternatively, you can add a few drops of bay leaf essential oil (Laurel Nobilis) to a homemade all-purpose spray and use it for cleaning.

By implementing these simple steps, you can minimize the risk of pantry moths invading your home and ensure a pest-free pantry environment.

Hand-Picked Posts

Comment Policy

Comments are moderated and may take 72 hours to appear. Not all comments are approved. Comments may be removed in the future if they are no longer relevant.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Moths hate lavender, cinnamon, camomile, and I had both cinnamon and camomile tea in my pantry and they never laid eggs in or near the box. As a matter of fact I’ve used the tea bags to prevent any more moths in my pantry and cabinets along with lavender cakes. Try these natural solutions around your foods it’s safer than chemical solutions.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Good to know!

  2. Thanks for the article. I, too, had contaminated birdseed ( 20 lb bag) in my sunroom which started it all. Sunroom was added on to the end of the house so that wall in the sunroom is brick. I have maintained a rigorous schedule of vacuum, clean the vacuum, and then washing with hot sudsy water and follow up with vinegar–I am now using an Ortho sprayer to spray the brick wall, ceilings, windows, etc as it is quicker and it can get into all the corners and edges. I also had the sunroom re-caulked (where walls meet tile floor and also all the wall edges). I had the ceiling fan taken down and that ceiling spot closed. There has been no food sources in the sunroom since I threw out the birdseed in February ( it”s now May). I maintain the pheromone trap ( Professor Killamoth from Amazon). In March I called Terminex–their trap did not lure any moths and the spray they used was futile. If I continue to vacuum daily and spray vinegar and wipe down , then I can go 3-4 days without seeing moths, HOWEVER, if I miss 2 days of vacuuming, then they pop up again–usually 1-2 per day. I am so tired of spending an hour a day vacuuming ( vacuuming a brick wall takes a long time when you go row by row) and then having to spray and scrub. Do you have any other suggestions?? I cannot understand how they keep on without a food source! I have removed everything–outlets, wall plates, window guards and cleaned. Also, took down all curtains, etc. anywhere I thought they could hide, lay eggs, and continue with cycle. Pepper mint Oil did very little–kept them away for 3-4 days. Help!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Marilyn,
      That is an enormous amount of work! I’m just astounded that you’re still having problems with them when it sounds like you’ve cleaned every surface, repeatedly. Assuming your sunroom isn’t carpeted or raised decking over a crawl space (since they could be hiding under there), I’m afraid I don’t have any more ideas, except perhaps checking behind the light switch and outlet covers? I hope you find a solution that works for you soon.

  3. Hello I have been having the same problem for months now and I’m just now like right this second finding out what they are called i couldn’t figure out what they were to save my life and then I ran across this page ong I’m so happy to finally know what I’m dealing with now comes the hard part of getting rid of them but I have a question does these moths also Bring maggots because they are in my pantry like crazy I have checked for rotted food and everything else that would bring about maggots and nothing and I only started seeing the maggots when I started seeing the moth things please help I’m at a loss they are getting on my ceilings and its pretty nasty I don’t know how to get rid of the maggots. Please Help and Thank You

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Michelle,

      I’m sorry you’ve been dealing with these, but very glad you’ve found my page. If you have pantry moths, then the maggots you mentioned may be their larvae. Pantry moths lay them in dry food, crevices, and all the other places I mentioned. So, check there and follow the steps I laid out — including freezing dried foods and then putting them in air-tight containers. That should have the problem under control in a week or so, then stick with the steps I described to keep new ones from entering your home. 🙂

  4. Natalie Smith says:

    Thank you so much. We just moved to Texas from vegas, never experienced this before. Its alot of them for months now will try this tomorrow and let you know how it worked …cant wait.

    1. Katie Berry, Cleaning Expert says:

      You’re so welcome! Just remember, it takes consistency and patience to deal with pantry moths so stick with it. You’ve got this!

  5. I have them in my basement. I can’t find a food source but have been trapping moths for two years. They have to be eating something. I have opened every container stored down there, washed the wall with vinegar solution, vacuumed etc. but can’t figure out what is keeping them alive. I am preparing to go through it all again, and there is a lot! So frustrating!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Are you sure they’re food moths and not clothes moths? Pantry moths eat and breed in food like dry goods and grains, but clothes moths survive by eating and breeding in fabrics and textiles, including carpeting.

  6. I have pantry moths in my basement. I believe they came in from some birdseed I stored there. I mostly find them among my Christmas ornaments, which I am working on eradicating by disposing of the boxes, washing ornaments in vinegar solution or freezing some for four days, or baking them in plastic storage containers in the hot sun. Then I store them in a detached garage. I have never seen any in my kitchen, which is on a different level and the opposite area of where I find the moths. But I did throw out all my food anyway (and keep new food in containers), and cleaned the cabinets by vacuuming and wiping down with vinegar, just in case. I find 1 to 4 moths daily in a trap in the basement. My question is do you think I need to keep concentrating on areas where I do not find moths – or am I a OK concentrating on the basement? By the way, I find most of the cocoons and larvae in styrofoam and corrugated cardboard.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      It sounds like you’ve been wonderfully thorough. I’d just concentrate now on the areas where you’ve seen them.

  7. Thanks Katie – I do have a dog, but she never goes into the pantry and have doors also on the pantry which I am ensuring are always closed now. Thanks for the suggestion though. Have made a note of this.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You’re welcome!

  8. Heather R says:

    For the lady saying “help!” about pantry moths. Do not have wooden panels in your pantry if you have them on the walls, as they will find a way into the lines between the wood. Smooth finish flat wall. If you have wooden shelves, remove them if you have age old sticky back plastic contact sheeting on them, and get new ones or old wood with no infestation, like old fence wood, and have narrower shelving and less of it, you do not need really deep shelving where you cannot see the back of the wall. Keep brackets for your shelving simple if metal or if wood, and put peppermint oil on everything with a cloth, including the wall before you mount the boards. Get some moth strips which are revolting but you have to get these as well if you are going to get rid of them, which means they stick to these strips, Ew! But not to your food. The amount of them will very soon drop drastically and be none!!!!

  9. Nat from Australia says:

    At first, we had the Indian meal moth infestation. We cleaned and cleared everything. Bought the traps. After that, we caught less and less – roughly 1-2 moths a week.

    BUT!! We also caught different species of moths in the traps. I think they are Mediterranean Flour Moths from the look of them resting on the wall and the colours. Always show up on the wall or ceiling. I have to look up every day and now I’m scared every time I go home and see one.

    Now 5 weeks after, we caught 11 moths including those two species. I can’t find any larvae. I looked everywhere. I have no idea where they are hiding and just popping out of nowhere.

    I think I’m going crazy and depressed.

  10. Thanks for all your suggestions. I have a huge walk in pantry which my husband built for me. Unfortunately the walls are exposed brickwork. Would have lined them if I knew about the moth problem. Had a big problem with them over this summer. I followed your suggestions on cleaning, which has taken me a week and a half to perform, as the area is so large. I used soapy water, scrubbing brush, then sprayed neat vinegar on the shelves, walls etc. Then sprayed neat eucalyptus oil on the areas. The oil cost me $100 to cover the area, but am so determined to get rid of these enemies. Washed and dunked all my baskets in water and then sprayed with vinegar. Now is the waiting game. Had 3 of the horrors on the sticky pad after a few days. Nothing today – so far. I would say something which hasn’t been mentioned before. We have an electric bug catcher in the kitchen, which I completely forgot about turning on this season. Initially, purchased to catch mossies and flies, which ended up being virtually useless, BUT it does catch moths. This prompted me to purchase a cheaper item which consists of two lights and apparently deters moths. That’s in the pantry also. Good luck with you all, we need it !!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You have definitely been working hard! Just a note of caution, though: eucalyptus oil is one of the essential oils that aren’t safe around pets, so I hope you don’t have any. But your bug catcher sounds like a brilliant solution. I bet it’s super rewarding seeing all the ones you’ve zapped!

  11. I have a second home that i leave for a week or two at a time and have never had this issue until now…came home and found a few of these pests and immediately researched what these pests could be and came upon this site. Cleaned my pantry, didn’t see any sings of the pests there but now have a very clean pantry and unfortunately threw out food that didn’t need to be thrown out. As I was cleaning, noticed several in the living room area, as I was dusting I noticed several of these moths coming our of a dried flower arrangement. A week or two ago I purchased some dried wheat stalks to add to a dried flower arrangement I had made, turns out the decorative wheat stalks were infested with the moths or larva, didn’t look too closely as I immediately got a plastic bag, wrapped the entire arrangement including the vase and took it outside, the vase had hundreds of moths inside of it. I was so grossed out. Now i am on the lookout for stray moths and killing them and hoping they haven’t laid eggs yet. Lesson learned, it is not just food items, in this case I brought then into the house in dried flowers/wheat stalks.