Clothes moth - Guide to combat

Clothes moth traps and moth bags is recommended for the prevention and control of clothes moths:

Facts about clothes moths

Occurrence: Clothes moth (Tineola bisselliella) is together with fur moth the most common pest moths in Denmark. They originate from warmer countries but have been here since the 1700s.

Food: It is the clothes moth caterpillars that are the real pests. They feed on animal products such as wool, fur, silk, feathers, hair and the like. They can also attack plastics and plant materials.

CombatSince clothes moths only thrive in animal textiles, this is also where they need to be controlled. The control itself consists of inspecting and cleaning all textiles that are infested with the moths. If the problem is recurring, all textiles in the home should be cleaned. Read more about clothes moth control below. 


Clothes moth control

The best way to control clothes moths is to remove all eggs and larvae. Since they live in textiles, all infested textiles should be dry cleaned. If the moth problem is persistent or recurring - or if the infestation is heavy - all textiles in the home should be cleaned.

If you encounter adult moths, you should immediately euthanize them to actively limit their population. Textiles should be treated as follows:

  • Smaller textiles such as clothing, bedding, linen, etc. should be washed in a washing machine at a minimum of 50°C. You can also freeze the textiles at -18°C or lower for 2 days. In addition, you can also heat them (e.g. in an oven) at 60°C for 1 hour.
  • Larger textiles that are more difficult to handle such as carpets, curtains, duvets, etc. should be dry cleaned at a dry cleaner. Carpets can also be beaten, brushed and vacuumed, but dry cleaning is most effective.
  • Furniture textiles such as upholstery, linings, coverings, etc. should at least be knocked and then vacuumed thoroughly. In frosty weather, it's a good idea to leave furniture outside overnight and bring it back inside during the day for 2 days. This alternating heat and cold kills all eggs, larvae and moths.

To prevent future moth infestations, you can store clothes that are rarely used in tightly sealed plastic or paper bags. Another very effective tip is to hang moth bags in cupboards and place them in drawers. We especially recommend the clothes moth trap and moth bagsseen here:

We recommend the clothes moth trap and moth bags above as they are effective, but also safe for both the environment and health - note that there are two variants of the moth bags; one for closets and one for drawers


Signs of moth infestation

Clothes moths lay their eggs on animal products such as wool, fur, silk, feathers, hair, etc. and prefer dirty textiles to clean ones because their larvae have used up moisture (the larvae do not consume water).

When looking for signs of moth infestation, look for the pupae of the larvae in particular. They are usually found on organic textiles that are not used often and are not completely clean - such as clothes in closets, carpets, curtains, upholstery, etc. On clothing, they are often found in folds or in places where clothing overlaps, such as rolled-up sleeves, collars, etc.

In addition to the pupae, textiles will have more or less visible damage in the form of deep grooves (where the larvae have gnawed) or even actual holes. Larvae and eggs are difficult to see, but excrement - which most people assume are eggs - can easily be seen with the naked eye. They are whitish and round. Larvae are easier to see than eggs.

If you see adult moths running when detected, they could very well be clothes moths. Always remember to kill any adult moths you find.


Description of the clothing moth

Adult clothes moths

Clothes moths are approximately 0.5 - 0.9 cm long and have a wingspan of 0.9 - 1.6 cm. The wings are golden and have long fringed hairs on the edges. The head is covered with reddish or bronze-colored hairs.

Both male and female moths are shy, which is one of the reasons why you may not notice their presence right away.

Adult clothes moths also tend to run rather than fly when detected. However, males fly more than females and if you see a flying clothes moth, it's most likely a male.

Clothes moths have golden wings with hair on the edges

Clothes moths have golden wings with fringed hairs at the edges

The clothes moth can easily be confused with the fur moth as the two species are similar in size and appearance. The two main differences are that the fur moth is slightly browner in color and has 3 black spots on each wing - but these spots can wear off and are therefore not always present.


Clothes moth larvae

Newly hatched clothes moth larvae are very small and adult larvae are usually 8-10 mm long. However, in some cases, full-grown larvae can reach up to 13 mm in length.

The larvae are whitish to slightly yellowish (often cream-colored) and have brown or dark heads.

The larvae first live freely on their food and later in individual cocoons, which consist of their webs, excrement and parts of the food source (i.e. fur, textile, etc.). The larva spins its cocoon on top of the food source itself and feeds on the food from there. The larvae can turn around in their cocoons and feed on the food at both ends without changing the orientation of the cocoon.

Clothes moth larvae are 8 - 10 mm long

Clothes moth larvae are 8-10 mm long and whitish to slightly yellowish in color

Clothes moth larvae usually only feed on animal products such as wool, fur, silk, feathers, hair and the like. However, the larvae can also start feeding on plastics and plant materials (such as cotton) if they run out of food. This can also happen if the plastics or plant materials:

  • Blocks the pathway to animal products (e.g. a down jacket filled with feathers surrounded by plastic)
  • are mixed with animal materials (e.g. a half wool - half cotton jacket)
  • contains body oils (e.g. laundry or unwashed laundry).

Unlike fur moth larvae, clothes moth larvae don't wander, but they can leave their cocoons to find new food. Of course, they also leave them when they reach adulthood.

Clothes moth larvae are often found under overlapping pieces of clothing such as collars, rolled-up sleeves, etc. The larvae, like the adult moths, are very shy of light and will immediately head for the dark if they find themselves in light.

Read more about other moth caterpillars here.


Life cycle

Female moths generally have a very short lifespan; typically 3-16 days after egg laying. Males live a little longer, but a maximum of 1 month.

The life cycle of the clothes moth is as follows:

  • Eggs: The female moth lays 30 - 200 eggs*, which stick to the textiles that will become the larvae's future food. The eggs usually hatch after 4-10 days in summer, while it can take 3 weeks or longer (even months) in winter.
  • LarvaeThe larval stage lasts between 50 and 200 days. During this stage, the larva feeds on textiles and grows to become ready to pupate.
  • Puppet stageThe pupal stage lasts 10-50 days and consists of the caterpillar spinning a pupa (cocoon) in which it pupates.
  • Adult mothWhen the pupal stage occurs, the adult moth emerges from its pupa. It usually only takes 1-2 days from emergence to mating and laying eggs.

*The amount of eggs varies in several sources and our numbers are minimum and maximum of all sources.

The total development time - from egg to larva to full-grown moth - is usually between 2 and 3 months, but can take over 1 year in some cases. How many generations develop per year depends on the temperature and humidity of the home, but 4 is the maximum number.

Read more about the moth life cycle on this page.


The history of the clothing mill

Although the clothes moth and the fur moth are the two most common pest moths in Danish homes today, the clothes moth does not belong in Danish nature.

The clothes moth originates from the warmer parts of Eurasia and first came to Denmark in the late 1700s when it became common to have tiled stoves in the home. In other words, the efficient heating of Danish homes made it possible for the clothes moth to thrive here.

From the early 1800s to the early 1900s, the clothes moth was a major problem in Danish homes, mainly due to a combination of insufficient heating in the homes and problems with dampness. In addition, people generally had a lot of woolen clothing, which contributed to providing moths with near optimal living conditions. At the time, the well-known naphthalene-containing mothballs were used, but these have since disappeared from the market because they are suspected of containing carcinogenic substances.

Since the mid-1900s, clothes moths have been on the decline, which is probably related to the fact that:

  • better moth repellents have become available on the market (especially those for impregnating furniture and home textiles)
  • our homes have become less humid
  • we have vacuum cleaners that effectively remove certain mothballs Eggs and larvae
  • we have less wool clothing and more synthetics

In addition, today we have more knowledge about moths and moth control and this information is more easily accessible to everyone, which probably also helps to limit the problem of clothes moths.