q + a: open closet = moths?

Danielle asks: ” I used to store my garments on a rack, which was beautiful and very convenient, but then I started to find holes in my clothes! I’ve been told these were definitely caused by silverfish or moths (my home is very clean! I just like fresh air and keep my windows open most of the time). From that point on, I stored my clothes in cheap wardrobes and it’s quite ugly. My question is how do you cope with moths and such? I would be too afraid to ever store my garments outside of the closet without closed doors…”

First, are they holes or tears? Natural fibers tend to break, to tell, grip the fabric to try to ‘close’ the hole by bringing the fabric together. If there’s a piece missing that’s a hole and you may have moths, but you may not. I have tears in several of my pieces but I’ve never had moths. Clothing moths usually create several holes next to each other and you’ll see the cocoons or dead moths that look like sawdust near the holes. Did you see any dead moths or casings on your clothes?

Clothing moths are not like other moths that are attracted to light; they like dark, closed, humid spaces and are attracted to what we leave behind on natural fiber clothing such as our oils, hairs, and skin cells. They love it when we wear something once or twice then put it back in the closet or drawer not to be touched for a while.

Do you have wall to wall carpet? I had a client who’s home was also very clean but had moths living in the carpet. They tend to be near the baseboards where you don’t spend too much time really vacuuming (corner of closets, behind furniture). Another client has a reoccurring problem and we suspect someone in a nearby apartment is infested and they’re coming into her space.

The point is that having your clothes out is not the problem. Keeping your space and clothes clean is the only solution. If you really think you have clothes moths you need to have ALL your clothes cleaned; dry cleaned or laundered as needed. I’m assuming you didn’t clean ALL your clothes when you suspected you had moths. I assume this because most people don’t because it’s annoying and expensive but it’s the only way.

Edit out the pieces you don’t love and wear and make sure you regularly clean the clothes you do have. For most I generally don’t recommend cleaning clothes after every wear, but definitely at the end of the season even if you’ve only worn it once. But for those who have had moths in the past, regular cleaning is a must.

But you may not have moths. People see a hole and they immediately think it’s moths (silverfish leave stains not necessarily holes). Not sure what clothes you have but that can make a difference. My wool and cashmere get tears because I don’t have a lot of clothes so things get worn a lot. Vintage clothing can tear because over time fibers break down. And if you tend towards fast-fashion (like from H&M, Target, Forever 21) the inexpensive synthetic clothing breaks down much faster, usually after a few wearings.

Let me know what you think Danielle, I hope this helps!!

7 responses

  1. interesting. my wool curtains are ruined with holes. my mom suggested it might be moths. one sits behind a cabinet. i recently pulled it out and it's so riddled with holes i wanted to scream. didn't notice bug casings. they're beyond repair.

  2. Hi Laura,Thank you to D for asking the question. Thank you, Laura, for a great post. I've been going through my closet this year and "downsizing" — it's amazing what happens when I finally let go of one thing. The next thing gets easier. My green DC had a good year $ from all the dry cleaning I did. I bought cedar hangers, and cleared out a cedar chest to store seasonal things. I see, though, that I need to create and follow a routine as you mentioned. Thanks, much, for helpful advice. Pati

  3. belledame: i'm assuming the curtains are stationary? sitting behind a cabinet (dark) and not being moved (no air) would be a good place for moths…but if the holes are behind the cabinet, can they be seen? i would clean them and put them back if you can't see they're there but that's just me!

  4. So if its one "hole" and is likely a tear I should be able to have it repaired. Will that work for sweaters if I didn't save the extra threads that come with it?

  5. the original thread would be best but your tailor may be able to match it depending on the color and texture of the sweater. it's not a perfect solution either way but it's worth a shot!

  6. it's a traumatic nightmare – you as Laura said must clean all your clothes, and probably, get a professional company to treat the areas – and then put up traps to monitor the pests.

  7. i know, it is traumatic to say the least. it's such a personal invasion, these little pests. the best advice i can give is go thru your wardrobe, editing out which is not worn, wear what you have and routinely clean everything…