Moths are not the only insect that can destroy clothes. While they attack wool, fur, and hair fibers, other bugs—including termites, cockroaches, beetles, crickets, silverfish, and firebrats—can attack cotton clothes, linen fabrics, and even synthetic blends in closets or storage. They are after the "food" that we leave on our clothes through stains, body fluids, and body soil. Unfortunately, they most often find their way into heirlooms that are in storage.
There are, of course, chemical insecticides that can help control the infestations. If you don't like to use petroleum-based chemicals, there are also some organic natural or green methods of pest control that can be used. These treatments are typically much safer around children and pets and can be effective when used with attentive sanitation and repeat treatments.
01 of 06
Organic Control of Carpet Beetles
To control carpet beetles, there must first be a thorough cleaning of baseboards, corners, and edges of carpeting where debris accumulates that feeds the beetles. If beetles are detected, all clothing storage areas should be emptied completely to ensure proper cleaning.
Vacuum thoroughly by going in different directions on the floor and carpet to remove adults, eggs, and larvae. The vacuum bag should be disposed of outside of the home as quickly as possible or the vacuum cup emptied into a plastic disposable bag to prevent reinfestation.
Check other areas in your home for infestations—especially food storage areas—and discard anything that is infested. Items that cannot be discarded must be treated to kill eggs and larvae.
You can freeze small items for 48 hours or heat them to a temperature above 120 F for several hours to kill the beetles. Wash or dry clean infested clothing before returning them to the clean closet.
02 of 06
Organic Control of Clothes Moths
Clothes-eating moths can be repelled naturally in different ways: with dried lavender, essential lavender oils, and cedar blocks or chips. For these to be effective, the storage area must be tightly sealed and the natural products fresh. Cedar that is more than three years old is no longer effective. Cedar chests used for pest control must be sanded and oils refreshed at least that often.
No fabrics should touch the cedar directly or staining can occur from the natural oils in the cedar. Place cedar chips in a cotton bag and hang it where the bag will not be touching other fabrics. Always wrap folded items in a cedar chest in acid-free tissue paper before storing.
If you suspect an infestation, freeze clothes for 72 hours to kill the moth eggs and larvae. High temperatures can also kill insects in woolen materials. The temperature must be 110 to 120 F and maintained for 30 minutes or more. Take woolen garments outdoors every month or so, brush them, and expose them to sunlight as an effective method in controlling moths.
03 of 06
Organic Control of Cockroaches
Non-pesticide methods of controlling cockroaches must be an ongoing process of sanitation and good home repair. All windows and doors must be kept tightly closed and any outdoor and indoor cracks caulked. Openings, where electrical lines or water pipes pass through walls and floors, should also be sealed. Plumbing leaks should be repaired and other indoor moisture sources eliminated. Food crumbs and garbage should be removed from the home daily and soiled clothing washed promptly.
20 Mule Team Borax can be used as a relatively safe roach control that kills roaches by dehydrating the bug's exoskeleton. Small children and pets should not be allowed near the application because borax is toxic if ingested. Sprinkle the borax powder mixed with a bit of sugar (three parts borax with one part sugar) in roach hiding places. It is slow acting and can take up to a week to control the roaches. Reapply as roaches consume the borax mixture to keep infestations under control.
04 of 06
Organic Control of Crickets
Natural control of indoor crickets begins by removing sources of moisture and food. Wash soiled clothes promptly and seal any outdoor openings that may draw them inside. The use of glue-based bait traps is the best way to control crickets indoors without the use of pesticides.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
Organic Control of Silverfish and Firebrats
To control silverfish and firebrats naturally, you must first remove moisture and food that these insects crave. Do a thorough cleaning and empty the vacuum container outside or into a sealed container. Discard disposable vacuum bags immediately.
Apply a desiccant like silica powder to absorb moisture in the area of infestation. Lower the temperature to below 60 F to slow reproduction. Use sticky insect paper to capture the insects during nocturnal activity.
06 of 06
Organic Control of Termites
If you have termites inside your home in a closet, the problem is widespread throughout your home. You can improve the situation by cleaning closets well and washing soiled clothing promptly.
Removing outdoor debris and firewood from around the foundation of your home and reducing moisture levels will also help. However, you will need commercial pest control to rid your home of termites.
Hadrup. N., Frederiksen, M., Sharma, AK. Toxicity of Boric Acid, Borax and Other Boron Containing Compounds: A Review. Regulatory Toxicology Pharmacology, 121:104873, 2021, doi:10.1016/j.yrtph.2021.104873