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Moth larvae can eat through clothing, other fabrics, and foodstuffs, and these insects can also cause allergic reactions. Cleaning and storage techniques and natural products can help get rid of them.

Moths are a type of winged insect that play an important role in pollination. Globally, there are around 160,000 species of moth. In the United States alone, there are almost 11,000 species.

Here, find 10 tips for removing moths from the home. We also describe how moths can be dangerous to health, and when to seek professional care.

A moth sitting on some clothes.Share on Pinterest
Image credit: Kumar Rajeev Ranjan / EyeEm / Getty Images

Below, find some strategies for removing adult moths and larvae from the home.

1. Regular vacuuming

Dirt and dust can draw moths indoors, so keeping everything clean and dust-free can help discourage moths from entering the house.

When vacuuming, pay particular attention to cracks and crevices. Moths tend to lay their eggs in difficult-to-reach areas where they are less likely to be disturbed.

Also, be sure to empty the vacuum cleaner and take out the trash soon after cleaning to remove any eggs and larvae from the home as early as possible.

2. Moth traps

These products are designed to trap and kill adult moths, thereby preventing them from reproducing.

Moth traps are pieces of sticky flypaper covered with moth pheromones to attract the adults. Moths that land on the paper are unable to get free and eventually die.

Hang moth traps in places that tend to attract moths, such as inside closets or kitchen storage areas.

3. Cedarwood

Mothballs were once a popular method of deterring moths from closets. These small balls contained pesticides, such as naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, which experts now warn are harmful to health.

Today, they recommend using cedarwood, as the fragrant oil within the wood helps repel moths.

Hangers made from this wood can help deter moths from clothing, but a person needs to lightly sand them or recoat them in cedar oil every few months to renew their pesticidal properties.

4. Cedar oil

Cedar furniture can also help repel moths, but the fragrance of the cedar oil within it will wear off over time. For this reason, a person may wish to try cedar oil instead.

To spread the scent of cedar oil, either add the oil to a diffuser or dilute it in water and use the mixture as a room spray.

5. Herbs

Several fragrant herbs may help repel moths, including:

Try placing the herbs in a small cloth bag and hanging it in the closet. Or, dilute the essential oils of the herbs in water and lightly spray the inside of the closet with the mixture.

Take care to avoid getting the oils on clothing, however, as this could result in staining.

6. White vinegar

White vinegar is a natural cleansing agent that changes the pH levels of surfaces that it touches. Moth eggs and larvae exposed to white vinegar cannot survive in the acidic environment.

Take care when using white vinegar in the home, as it can damage certain surfaces, such as metals, stone countertops, and hardwood floors.

7. Extreme cold

Moth eggs and larvae cannot survive in extremely cold temperatures. As such, a person can try freezing any clothes that show signs of moth damage.

Seal the clothes inside a ziplock bag, and freeze them for 24 hours.

8. Extreme heat

Moth eggs and larvae also cannot survive extremely hot temperatures. Check clothing labels to make sure that it is safe to wash and dry the clothes at high temperatures. If possible, use the highest heat settings on the washer and dryer.

For clothing that cannot be machine-washed, dry cleaning can have the same protective effect.

9. Storing clothing effectively

To prevent a moth infestation, carefully seal any clothes that will not be regularly worn in airtight bags, such as vacuum-seal storage bags.

Also, try to keep the closet cool, dry, and well-ventilated to deter moths from laying their eggs there.

10. Pest control

Sometimes, home strategies are not enough to keep a moth infestation at bay. If so, consider hiring a pest control company to tackle the infestation.

Lepidopterism, or caterpillar dermatitis, is a skin condition that can result from contact with adult or larval moths or butterflies. The condition is caused by irritation from hairs on the insect’s body.

Lepidopterism typically results in an itchy or painful rash. Some less common symptoms include:

The treatment typically involves taking an oral antihistamine and using a corticosteroid cream to reduce skin inflammation and irritation.

Some people develop other health issues after coming into contact with caterpillar hairs or toxins. Examples include:

  • hives and swelling
  • skin scaling and blistering
  • eczema-like reactions
  • allergic eye irritation

Inhaling moth hairs can also cause respiratory complications in people who are genetically predisposed to allergies.

If signs of an allergic skin reaction follow any contact with moths, butterflies, or their larvae, contact a doctor. They will provide treatments to help reduce the inflammation and irritation.

In rare cases, people experience a severe allergic reaction, anaphylaxis, as a result of inhaling moth or caterpillar hairs. Some signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

Anaphylaxis symptoms appear suddenly and can worsen rapidly. Anyone who may be experiencing this reaction should receive emergency medical care.

As pollinators, moths are an important part of the ecosystem. But they can be a nuisance or cause health problems when they come into contact with people and their belongings.

Moth larvae can eat through clothing and food stores. The insects can also trigger allergic reactions, which may be serious.

There are several ways to prevent or eliminate a moth infestation, including vacuuming regularly, using cedar products, and storing clothes in cool, dry, well-ventilated areas. If these measures are not effective, consider contacting a pest control company.