How do you kill moths?
February 19, 2005 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Killing, not just deterring, moths.

There are moths in my clothes closet. I want to protect my clothes. My landlord/roommate will not allow an exterminator (discussed earlier here). I am already using cedar, but it doesn't seem to be working very well, probably because moths have been living here peacefully for countless generations. I will buy insecticide and use it but I'm concerned about getting it (or even just the smell of it) on my clothes. I could use moth balls in garment bags, I guess, but I would be opening those bags at least daily in some cases, which would be unhealthy for me, and make the mothballs less useful (and more noticeable to my roommate), right?

This closet is really the only storage space that I have. If I get insecticide, or the stuff that affects the wax in the insects' throats (does that apply to moths?), is spraying it on the walls and floor of the closet enough to actually kill the moths that are already there, and to prevent moth eggs that are inevitably there (or in my clothes) from hatching?
posted by bingo to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I used to leave a little plate of beer out. This attracted and killed a great many moths (for me). The rest I killed by hand, with a paper towel, and patience.
posted by AlexReynolds at 10:45 AM on February 19, 2005

Or if you'd rather save beer for drinking, we've had good luck putting a bowl of dish-soapy water under a light. That worked in the kitchen anyway, although I could see rigging something like this for the closet.
posted by bibliowench at 12:05 PM on February 19, 2005

I would use something with permethrin and a growth inhibitor in it and just get it over with - if I had to choose between my cloths and insects, the insects are gonna lose. I use something every year for fleas and their eggs, the chemical smell is strong while it is being applied but I never noticed a smell in my home or on my clothing afterwards. You could also try using diatomaceous earth which is non-toxic, it comes in powered form, can be dusted over the area. There are moth traps you can get but they aren't effective against the larva. Or you could buy some plastic bins with tight fitting lids and store your clothing that way.
posted by squeak at 12:19 PM on February 19, 2005

When you see a moth, the damage has already been done. They hatch from eggs and feed on your clothes as larva. Then they pupate into moths, screw, then lay more eggs.

The good news is that they can't live on clean clothing. They feed on globs of food, sweat and other stains in the cloth. They also live on dust and hair in the carpet and corners of your closet.

Sunlight will kill them, and shaking your clothes vigorously will shake the eggs out (the eggs are barely visible), therefore, shake your clothes outside then hang them in the sun. And wash your clothes before storing them.

People used to put DDT dust into their clothes. This was a bad idea. So are mothballs. Mothballs release nasty, toxic chemicals that are harmful to humans. Also, they need to be used in a sealed space in order to be effective.

Camphor is also harmful to humans, but it doesn't get stored in our fatty tissues. But camphor will make your clothes smell.

Your best bet is to keep your clothes clean and vacuum often.

Oh, but first make sure you have clothes moths and not pantry moths. They look the same so see if your clothes have holes.
posted by recurve at 1:39 PM on February 19, 2005 [2 favorites]

I buy those little traps that are sticky on the inside and all the moths stick to them. These were pantry moths, but they have the traps in both pantry moth and clothes moth varieties.

I've also bought the cedar *spray* that you're supposed to use to recharge your cedar bars/balls and just sprayed it all up and down doors and walls.

I also kill moths by dust-bustering them. THis might work for you with the eggs as well...take your vacuum to your wool/linen clothes.
posted by duck at 3:11 PM on February 19, 2005

You can also get rid of moth larvae by putting your clothes in the freezer for a couple of days, then washing them. Requires a big freezer or small wardrobe, obviously.
posted by jack_mo at 12:55 PM on February 20, 2005

Oh, but first make sure you have clothes moths and not pantry moths. They look the same so see if your clothes have holes.

It's hard to say. There is a pantry a short distance down the hall, and I see moths there, but I also see them in and around my clothes closet.

The clothes I'm worried about are certainly clean, (those are the clothes I wear and I send them out for cleaning regularly). And there's no 'dirty' clothing in the closet, but there is dust, and some old luggage (hmm, how to clean that?), and some clothing that hasn't been washed (or worn) in a very long time even though it's technically clean. I'll go through the closet and clean what I can. Maybe I can store the luggage somewhere else. I live in a sixth-floor apartment here in wintry new york, with a busy sidewalk below, so taking anything 'out in the sun' at this point would be difficult (though admittedly not impossible). How much sun exposure is necessary?

I will also vaccum thoroughly. Recommendations on where to get the moth traps and cedar sprays would be great (in New York. I can find some mail-order ones googling, but I'd rather go somewhere and just buy it directly and have it immediately).
posted by bingo at 2:13 PM on February 20, 2005

If your clothes are clean then you don't have much to worry about. The clean cloth can't sustain them--they need the minerals in soiled clothes to grow.

Don't use any pesticides until you know what your trying to kill.

And if you've got cedar bricks or something then you can sand them down a little to make them more pungent.
posted by recurve at 2:25 PM on February 20, 2005

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