Clothes moths, a wardrobe pest
Have you spotted clothes moths while putting your clothes away ? Are they starting to invade your wardrobes and dressing rooms and you don't know where to start ? An invasion of textile moths can cause serious damage to your wardrobe if you don't take action. In this dossier, you'll find a range of answers and natural products to help you combat this insect.
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Latin name : tineola bisselliella
Order : Lepidoptera
Family : Tineneidae
Size : 1.2 to 1.5 cm
Location : any habitat
Period : all year round
What you need to know about the clothes moth
Like the food moth, the clothes moth, which comes from hot countries, can only live in heated places where the temperature is around 25°C. It can easily withstand temperatures of 35°C and a total absence of humidity. Feeding mainly on dry animal matter, the larva can attack fabrics, leather, feathers, furs, wool and occasionally flour or dried meat.
The females lay between 100 and 200 eggs on a support that can feed the future larvae, and then die. The larvae hatch around 2 weeks later and reach adult size after 3 months. In good heating conditions, you can therefore have several generations per year. In unheated premises, this cycle can be reduced to a single generation, which appears in July.
Female moths don't fly much, but tend to walk. It is mainly the male moths that we see flying, and which we will try to eliminate.
But it's the larvae that cause the damage. To feed and form their cocoon, they dig tunnels in the surface where they were laid. Beware: when they are born, the larvae's small size means they can pass through holes as small as 1/100 mm. If your clothes are in slipcovers, make sure they are completely airtight. As the moth does not like to be disturbed, it is mainly textiles that are not used very often that are attacked.
Depending on the region and climatic conditions, the first moth flight takes place in May, with a second, generally weaker flight at the end of the summer (August/September).
As well as the clothes moth, we can also find the carpet moth (Trichophaga Tapetzella) and the fur moth (Tinea pellionella).
A - As a preventive measure
1. Place a few anti-moth sachets on the shelves of wardrobes or cupboards (cedar essential oil disturbs their olfactory receptors).
3. Place a few moth traps in cupboards and wardrobes. By catching male moths, you can determine the level of infestation and reduce the population by limiting reproduction.
4. Only store very clean clothes (human odour attracts them) and treat clothes before storage with anti-moth spray.
5. Discover our Armoire d'Antan synergy (composed of lavender, cedar wood and lemon). A few drops on coat racks, cotton wools slipped into a wardrobe or drawer and you're pleasantly protected.
The products you need for preventive treatment against clothes moths
Go directly to the detailed product sheets for preventive treatment against clothes moths.
B - Curative treatment and in the event of heavy infestation
1. Empty your cupboards completely.
2. Treat the entire cupboard with our 4J insecticide diluted at 5%, not forgetting the cracks and nooks. Allow 500 ml for 5 m² of surface area to be treated. For larger areas, use our 4J concentrate and dilute it with 5% water. Don't forget any spaces to increase your chances of eliminating both eggs and adult moths that may be present.
3. When it comes to fumigation, Habitat fogger complements the contact treatment of 4J: Insecticide based on active ingredients of plant origin (pyrethrum + geraniol), designed for basic treatment of the home. Highly volatile, the solution settles in the smallest nooks and crannies where parasites and insects live. Immediate and prolonged action, for up to 4 months. This fogger comes in 3 different sizes: 75ml for treatment of less than 15m², 150ml for treatment of less than 30m². Finally, 250ml, for a treatment of more than 30m².
5. Place a textile moth trap in each cupboard.
6. Wash all woollens and natural fabrics or treat with moth repellent spray anything that cannot be washed. Note: Cold (<0°C) kills eggs, but also moths and larvae. Heat (>40°C) is also an extermination solution.
7. Put your belongings back in the cupboard.
8. Once a week, you can treat the volume of your cupboard with either Ecodoo insecticide or Aries flying insect repellent, which are pyrethrum- and alcohol-based products that are volatile and do not wet surfaces. Close the cupboard tightly and leave the insecticide to work for several hours.
The products you need for curative treatment and heavy infestations of clothes moths
Go directly to the detailed product sheets for curative treatment against clothes moths.
*PAE : ready to use.
Many people contact us every year because of an invasion of clothes moths in their raw wool insulation. This seems to be a fairly common problem and one worth addressing.
Wool is essentially composed of keratin, a protein also found in hair, nails, feathers, etc., and on which moths feed. In the absence of protective treatment, moths can wreak havoc.
In theory, raw (unwashed) wool is protected from insects by soot. In practice, however, this is not always true, as many people have found moth infestations just one year after installation.
On the eco-bio forum, we found this text by Jean-Pierre Oliva, author of "l'isolation écologique" published by Terre vivante :
"I mentioned in this book that raw (unwashed) sheep's wool was protected from moths by the ooze, which acted as a repellent.
There are hundreds of self-built houses insulated in this way that have not caused any problems for decades. But after reading this book, I learnt of a few cases of serious moth infestation (sometimes requiring the whole insulation to be redone).
I don't have a definite explanation for these attacks (nature and origin of the wool, climatic conditions, etc.), but the fact remains that you can't claim that soot provides lasting protection. In any case, all potential users of this material should be warned.
It's a shame, because using a local resource was very attractive.
You should also be aware that wools that have been washed and treated with synthetic products have sometimes also been infested.
To my knowledge, the only long-lasting and effective mothproofing and fireproofing treatment for washed wool is one based on boron salts".
see also the Terre vivante website.
The problem will be different if your insulation is under the eaves or the roof. In summer, the temperature behind the slate can become very high (50 to 60°C, or even higher in full sun in some parts of France). Few products can withstand these temperatures for several months.
Boron salts and moths
Boron derivatives are mineral products known for their fire-retardant and fungicidal properties. They therefore offer a really interesting alternative to chemical insecticides for treating wood against wood-eating insects. Some manufacturers of wool-based insulation use boron salts to provide effective, long-lasting protection against moths. The wool is soaked in a solution of boron salts so that the fibres are impregnated evenly and in sufficient concentration to provide lasting protection.
Boron salt or sodium tetraborate or borax (cas: 1303-96-4) is not classified as an insecticide. On the other hand, disodium tetraborate or boric acid (Case: Cas 1330-43-4) is authorised as an insecticide, but only for treating wood.
If you consult the product data sheet on the European Commission website, they are classified as Toxic, R60 and R61 in low concentrations.
Anti-moth treatment for sheep's wool
Preventing moths : There are several solutions for treating sheep's wool :
- the sulcofuron (mitin ff) CAS : 3567-25-7 (risk phrase 20/22-51/53), which inhibits the synthesis in moths of the enzyme that enables them to digest keratin. Note: as this product no longer appears in Annex II of biocides, it may no longer be authorised, at least in this case.
- The konservan. Despite our research, we were unable to find the composition of this product, but it would appear that permethrin is its active ingredient. A member of the pyrethroid family, this light-protected insecticide can have a very long, but not unlimited, residual effect. Ask about the anti-moth guarantee when you buy your wool.
- Boron salts, by soaking, to ensure uniform impregnation (see above).
Moth repellent :
Unfortunately, there are few really effective solutions. Some of our customers have treated with our 4J insecticide by spraying it directly into the wool from holes drilled in the partition (allow at least 1 hole per metre). According to their feedback, they've had good results. But realistically, if you want to be on the safe side... you'll have to repeat this operation regularly.
Treating a yurt against clothes moths
We were contacted by someone who owned a yurt and whose wool (insulation) was infested with moths. We recommended a complete treatment of the "walls" with our pure 4J insecticide, diluted to 5% (one 250ml bottle of concentrated 4J in 5 litres of water treats 50 m²).
A few months later, this person contacted us again to tell us about his experience and the results.
1 - Complete treatment of the wool, then rolled up like a carpet and set aside for 3 months.
2 - Complete reassembly of the yurt.
3 - The moths completely disappeared.
4 - A strong odour was noticed, which persisted.
Our opinion : We think it's a good idea to treat and then roll up. This allows the product to retain its properties for as long as possible. On the other hand, we think 3 months is too long.
Don't forget that 5% concentration indicates 95% water, and it's never advisable to store natural materials, especially damp wool, especially in hot weather. Heat and humidity naturally lead to the development of bacteria and the risk of mould and fungus (campers know that you should never store a damp tent... if it's made of cotton, the next time you unfold it, it'll smell of mould and tear!) We think that a few days are more than enough to destroy the moth colony.
Frequently asked questions about clothes moths
Q: Can I use 4J insecticide to spray my carpets and wardrobe bottoms to repel clothes moths ? If not, what do you recommend apart from small bags of moth repellent, which are too expensive (large house with lots of items to protect) ?
A: You can, but 4J is more of an insecticide than a repellent. If there are any, you'll kill them, but 4J biodegrades quickly and lasts no more than a day. You can use moth traps to check for the presence of moths and kill the males, thus preventing reproduction.
Q: I insulated a room in an old house with 20 cm of raw (unwashed) sheep's wool. The facing is plasterboard. In June, a lot of moths were coming out of an outlet. The surface area of my 2 walls is around 20 m². What moth-proofing treatment do you recommend ? I could drill holes in the plasterboard and cause seepage.
A: We've already had customers who've contacted us with this kind of problem. They solved the problem by injecting our 4J insecticide into the holes in the partition, at least 1 hole/m. It's important to remember that a single treatment may not be enough to completely solve the problem.
Q: Moths have invaded upstairs, causing major damage: holes in Lacoste T-shirts, among others! and food moths in the kitchen! EVERYTHING has been emptied, cupboards, linen rewashed, multiple cedar plates installed and it's WORSE; fear that all the beautiful clothes are ruined and entire wardrobe! can you recognise the cocoon? THANK YOU for getting back to me as I'm desperate.
A: For food moths, don't hesitate to consult our thematic file on this subject. Customers who have followed this page have got rid of food moths for good. For clothes moths, it's the same principle but it's more complicated in the sense that it's impossible to protect clothes in watertight boxes. For clothes that you can't wash, you can 'treat' your clothes with our Ecodoo insecticide or the pyrethrum-based Aries flying insecticide before putting them in airtight plastic bags to kill the larvae. As with food moths, you can install anti-moth clothing tags.
Q: How long does clothing moth repellent last in sachets ?
A: It's an essential oil-based product, so the shelf life depends on the temperature, 3 weeks on average.
Q: I'd like to insulate an attic with sheep's wool. But moths are a serious problem ! Could treating the wool with a dilute insecticide spray be a viable solution ? How long would your product last ? Does the product remain effective in temperatures below 0° ?
A: We regularly have customers who contact us about moths in raw wool insulation. Our product doesn't last long enough to be used on a long-term basis. Most current insecticides don't last more than a few months (especially in summer, when you can have high temperatures behind a roof). I wouldn't recommend this solution; look into hemp instead.
Q: I have a one-year-old child and a pregnant woman at home. What insecticide can I use against moths that won't be dangerous for these fragile occupants of my home ?
A: We have a special page on moths on our website. All our products are safe under normal conditions of use.
Q: What advice can you give me on how to get rid of moths in fairly large quantities in a house in Angers ?
A: First of all, you can apply a basic treatment of liquid insecticide and then use Penntybio anti-moth granulated sachets. You can find all this on our website
Q: I'm a private individual and I've noticed that there are moths in my house and I don't know what to do. I've already put mothballs outside the rooms (bedrooms) and in the wardrobes: nothing works. In my bedrooms, the wall covering is half paper and half fabric, is that it ? I don't understand ? Can you shed some light on this ?
A: Here's what we can say about clothes moths: Development: The clothes moth does not have a sheath, so this is a useful criterion for differentiating the two species at the larval stage. However, if it does not construct a sheath, it leaves behind a silky trail as it progresses. She can also weave silk tunnels where she will feed. In both cases, the female lays her eggs (40 to 50) on the seams of fabrics, in piles of dust or on a dead animal. The eggs adhere to the fabric and hatch after 4 to 10 days. The larvae live for 30 to 40 days. In some cases, it may last only 8 days. The adult lives for 15 to 30 days. A complete life cycle takes between 6 and 12 months. Habits: Clothes moths attack a wide range of fabrics, furs, pet food, powdered milk, stuffed animals, hair, woollens, carpets, draperies, etc. They have a preference for soiled clothes, but also for clothes that have been moth-eaten. They have a preference for soiled clothing. If clothes moths have a choice between sugar-soiled table linen and a clean jumper, for example, the decision won't be difficult for them. Moths don't like light. So if you see moths flying around light sources, don't worry, they're not moths. Control: If the infestation is heavy, we recommend treatment with our 4J insecticide.
Q: We live near an old flour mill (10 m) and have renovated our home by insulating it with raw sheep's wool. We've noticed a heavy presence of moths, with larvae in the wool. The surface area affected is around 40 m² under the roof. How can we take sustainable action ?
A: Normally there's no connection between the flour mill (flour moth) and your wool (clothes moth). Your problem is the problem of many people who have insulated with raw wool and are infested with moths, see our page clothes moth "Raw wool insulation".
Q: Can you tell me if it's safe to use the following essential oils on a small cotton pad: Lavender or lavandin, Lemon, Rosemary or Cedar as moth repellents in wardrobes to protect clothes, especially those of my children who are 3 and 6 years old ?
A: There's no danger as long as no child can touch the cotton and lick their fingers. On our website, you'll find a blend called "Armoire d'Antan", which is made up of lavandin, cedar and lemon.
Q: You suggest using 4j insecticide, but this is a contact product. I'm wondering how it can work when the female moths and larvae are hiding in the least accessible nooks and crannies ? Is it really useful ? Can clothes moths come from somewhere other than wardrobes ? I see them from time to time in the living room ? Do you have any other advice on how to get rid of them? Would you advise me to repeat the treatment ? What is the difference between the two Ecodoo insecticides and all aries insects ? Finally, is a fumigant necessary ? Aren't aerosols sufficient ?
A: As you've said, our insecticide is a contact insecticide. It will only work if you can get it to come into contact with the eggs, larvae and adult moths. The potassium soap in the formula acts in particular as an asphyxiant (by mechanical action) on the eggs. This insecticide should be applied to the inside of wardrobes and cupboards, and you're right to target corners, nooks and crannies as a priority... all of which are potential hiding places for female moths to lay their eggs. Clothes moths are so called because they mainly attack fabrics, leather, feathers, furs, wools, etc. So you can expect to find them in your wardrobes or clothes cupboards, but also in other rooms where textiles may be stored (laundry room, garage, attic, etc). Clothes that are worn less often are the first target for moths. They can then settle in undisturbed.
In your case, I'd advise you to carry out the treatment as methodically as possible.
1 - Empty all your wardrobes and cupboards (don't forget the stacks of single items of clothing) and machine wash at 60°C those items that can be washed and treat the rest with our Ecodoo All Insects spray (Put the clothes in bin bags and spray them with the spray. Close tightly to make it as airtight as possible. Re-open the bags 24 hours later).
2 - Treat the inside of cupboards, wardrobes, etc. with our 4J 5% insecticide, making sure you get into all the nooks and crannies. Aries All Insects aerosol can be used to complete the interior treatment of furniture. The fact that it comes in aerosol form means you can spray the product into places that are harder to reach. Finally, our Habitat Biovétol fogger will complement the action of contact insecticides by fumigation.
3 - Once everything has been treated (furniture + clothing), re-install everything and, as a preventive measure, spray the textiles with our moth repellent spray, then place moth repellent sachets on them to prevent new moths from settling in.
Finally, to answer your last questions : Ecodoo aerosol has added alcohol, which makes it more volatile, and therefore more effective for treating closed volumes (stays in suspension longer). As for Tous Insectes Aries, it is formulated with paraffin for a strong asphyxiant effect on insect eggs. It also has a more directional spray pattern, enabling it to reach hard-to-reach holes and crevices. If the aerosols target all the insects (from the egg stage to the adult stage), the fumigant won't be necessary. However, there is never a 100% guarantee that you will be able to hit them all. Fumigants increase your chances of eliminating them all by complementing the action of other products.
Q: I'd like to use 4-day insecticide on my wool stock, which I'll put in airtight boxes. I've just read that it's a contact insecticide. Obviously I wouldn't be able to touch all the surfaces of the balls and unspun wool because they are very thick 3-D balls, and the moths are inside. Is this product still suitable and in what dilution, and how long should I leave them locked up ? Or would you recommend another product ? Concerning the conservation of the 4j, would it be sufficient to store it in the basement without a window, illuminated by a lamp only when we pass by, or is there a risk that the product will deteriorate ? Is room temperature sufficient or is it imperative to put it in the fridge ?
A: 4J is a contact insecticide. It is therefore highly effective at eliminating insects from the moment it comes into contact with the insect. You can perhaps proceed methodically by treating the surfaces of the pellets with the 4J, then sealing them in bin bags in which you take care to use the Ecodoo aerosol (a few sprays are enough). In this way, the 4J + Ecodoo will destroy the moths both by absorption of insecticide and by asphyxiation. Close the bags tightly to make them as airtight as possible and wait at least 48 hours before opening them again.