An older woman dressed in Mission Impossible-style black clothing stands in her closet

Protecting Against Clothing Moths: The Mission Immothible Protocol

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Have you noticed signs of clothing moths moving in on one of your more valued assets: your wardrobe? Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to use a combination of natural repellents that discourage their breeding, then you’ll rid your wardrobe of their unwanted presence and ensure it’s guarded against future invasions. 

Read on for the steps to stop these household pests before it’s too late, Agent. But don’t worry: this message won’t self-destruct. As for your clothing’s destruction, well, that’s what you’re here for, isn’t it?

Identify the Enemy: Recognizing Moth Damage in Fabrics

The real threat to your clothing isn’t moths, it’s their offspring. The Larvae Syndicate works in the shadows but the adults don’t even eat.

Clothing moth larvae will feast on anything with animal fibers like wool, silk, and even your cozy leather jacket. They’re not picky, either. Give them a fabric blend or something plant-based with a dash of protein in the form of a food spill, sweat, or other bodily fluids, and they’re all over it. 

But these offenders don’t limit their turf to just your closet. They’ll expand their destruction to include carpeting, upholstery, blankets, soft decor, even stuffed animals coated in grime or snot. That’s why I want you to take their threat seriously: any delay can lead to bigger problems.

Arm Yourself: Natural Clothing Moth Repellents

Some scents throw off clothing moths, messing with their food-finding and mate-meeting radar. Camphor is a biggie for keeping moths at bay, but it can be toxic for humans and pets. Plus, it smells awful.

More appealing scents that repel clothing moths include cedar, lavender, rosemary, thyme, peppermint, and eucalyptus. Here’s how I use them to protect my clothes:

• Sachets: Add them as dried herbs to small muslin bags or cheesecloth squares. Kick it up with a drop or two of essential oil. Stash the sachets in your drawers, closets, or storage boxes and replace or refresh every 3 months.

• Spray: Mix 1 cup of distilled water with 10-20 drops of essential oil and 1 tablespoon witch hazel or rubbing alcohol to help things combine. Shake well and spritz the closet and clothes storage areas, steering clear of direct contact with clothes.

• Fresh: A bundle of fresh rosemary, thyme, or eucalyptus, tied up and hung in your closet looks good, smells great, and keeps clothing moths away. 

• Cedar classics: Cedar is a traditional way to protect against clothing moths. Use cedar planks to line your closet walls and swap shelves for cedar boards. Sand them lightly once or twice a year to revive the scent.

Pro Tip

I buy bags of fresh cedar shavings at pet supply stores where they cost far less, then stick a bowl on my closet shelf for protection that lasts for months.

Clean Sweep: Ridding Your Closet of Moths

A closet crammed full of clothes is the exact type of humid, undisturbed environment moths look for when they’re ready to reproduce. That’s why it’s important to empty and clean your closet top to bottom at least twice a year. I do it when it’s time to change from cold to warm weather clothes and vice versa. 

As you’re working, look for signs of moth activity: 

  • Single holes or tunnels containing debris the larva leave behind as they eat
  • Adult moths that are smaller and more pale than pantry moths
  • Moth droppings that looks like small grains of sand clinging to fabrics
  • Silk webbing or cases in corners or attached to fabrics
  • Unpleasant odors from moth droppings and degrading fabrics

Put any clothes infested with clothing moths into a bag until you’re ready to wash them. Use plastic for washable items and seal it tightly. Put non-washable things like silk or leather in a paper bag and stick it in the freezer for 48 hours to kill the larva or eggs. But don’t forget about them!

Lock ‘Em Up: Protecting Clothes in Storage

Putting out-of-season clothes in storage containers frees up space in your closet for better air circulation, but not all storage is created equally. The fabrics which most attract clothing moths — leather, wool, furs, feathers, and silk — also need air to keep from drying out or becoming brittle. 

For those, use canvas storage bags or cedar boxes and save the air-tight containers for clothes made of synthetic or plant-based fibers. Then add a moth-repellent sachet or a chunk of fresh cedar wood to the container for added protection. 

Pro Tip

If you plan to keep clothes in storage for longer than one season, add a note to your calendar to revive your moth repellents every 3 months.

Now that you’ve accomplished your mission of protecting against clothing moths, Agent, here’s your next missio: keep your clothes looking new longer than a movie star’s facelift.

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