How To Get Rid of Moths: Simple Indoor/Outdoor Solutions

An up-close, frontal view of a brown moth on a green leaf.

Moths are unwelcome pests since they chew up food and pantry items. Getting rid of moths is simple and doesn’t take up too much time.

How do you get rid of moths? Natural options like sticky traps, cedar, and essential oils work well indoors, while citronella, yellow light bulbs, and Btk can be used outside. Pesticide sprays, dusts, and foggers are effective too. Store food and clothing properly, and keep humidity low.

Let’s take a look at how you can get rid of moths in your home and prevent them from coming inside in the first place. 

You’ll find lots more information about moths and options for dealing with infestations in our other moth articles. Click here to access them all.

Identifying Moths

Common household moths, like the ones you find in closets or pantries, are typically black, brown, and white and are about an inch long.

Their dull coloration is how most people tell them apart from butterflies. However, moths come in many shapes and sizes, and some are as colorful as their butterfly cousins.

Common moths you may see in your home include:

  • Brown house moth.
  • Indian meal moth.
  • White-shouldered house moth.
  • Webbing clothes moth.

Indian Meal Moth

An Indian meal moth on white background.

If you’re not sure if it’s a butterfly or a moth, consider the following:

  • Moths are usually nocturnal, but butterflies usually aren’t.
  • Butterflies have club-shaped antennae, but a moth’s antennae look feathery.
  • Moths have wing-coupling mechanisms that hold their front and back wings together, but butterflies don’t.
  • Moths will eat clothing, cardboard, and other carbs, so they’re often found indoors.
  • Butterflies eat nectar from flowers and organic material, so they rarely make their way into homes.
  • When at rest, a moth holds his wings flat against the body, but a butterfly folds the wings closed, keeping them upright and away from the body.

Moths begin as caterpillars, just as butterflies do. Moth caterpillars are occasionally fuzzy, but a butterfly caterpillar is never fuzzy.

Each kind comes in a variety of colors and designs, so there’s not an easy way to tell one from the other.

The photo below is a hawk-moth caterpillar.

A privet hawk-moth caterpillar.

Removal Methods

Method Estimated Cost Natural Odor Free
Sticky trap $12+
Cedar $15
Essential oils $7+
Citronella $16+
Yellow bug light bulb $15
Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki (Btk) $20
Aerosol spray $13
Insecticide dust $20
Fogger $20

The Best Way to Eliminate Moths

Sticky traps are the best way to eliminate moths that are in your home.

Most of them are free of toxic chemicals and some of them are covered in moth pheromones to attract other moths.

To use these sticky traps:

  1. Buy the appropriate trap for the location – there are specific traps for pantry moths and traps for clothes moths.
  2. Peel the protective paper off of the adhesive.
  3. If the trap folds into a triangle shape or is meant to hang on a hook, follow the directions to put it into the right shape.
  4. Place the trap in an area where the moths can easily access it.
  5. Check it frequently, and replace it when it’s full.

Basic Guidelines

There are a few things you can do to prevent moths from making their way into your home.

They only take a few minutes of your time but can save you from a lot of trouble later.

Brush Wool and Fur

If you spent time outdoors wearing wool, fur, or other animal fibers, take a few moments to brush it with a comb.

This will catch any eggs that were laid by a moth and cause hiding adult moths to fly away.

Brush your clothing outside so that you don’t knock anything onto the floor of your home.

Also check carefully when bringing any clothing that has been stored in a garage or basement back inside the house as this a common cause of indoor infestation.

(How else do moths find their way indoors? Find the answer here.)

Store Clothing Properly

Since clothing moths will chew up your clothing, you should store your things in airtight containers, like these clear, stackable containers.

Sterilite 16448012 16 Quart/15 Liter Storage Box, White Lid with Clear Base, 12-Pack

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This will prevent moths from getting in and will also stop trapped moths from getting out.

If you think your clothing may have moths before you put them into a container, try storing them with a sticky trap or mothballs to kill them.

Vacuum Regularly

Moth eggs and larvae can live in carpet and rugs, so it’s important to vacuum at least once a week.

Moths are attracted to dust and dirt, so run a duster over wood floors and all surfaces in your home, including the tops of baseboards and crown molding.

Discover what else attracts moths and what they are capable of eating in this article.

Reduce Moisture

Moths thrive in humid and moist areas and can live for a surprisingly long time (we explain here).

If you have an attic, basement, or closet that’s prone to holding moisture, you’ll need to monitor these areas closely.

Repair damage that allows water to come inside or replace carpets with a different kind of flooring such as tile or wood.

Dehumidifiers are a convenient option if you’re unable to make major improvements.

This dehumidifier is reasonably priced and removes nearly 5 gallons of moisture from the area per day.

Waykar 2000 Sq. Ft Dehumidifier for Home and Basements, with Auto or Manual Drainage, 0.66 Gallon Water Tank Capacity

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Moths live on trees outside, so make sure the trees on your property have good drainage so water won’t collect at the base after it rains.

The water will attract the moth and the tree will convince it to stick around.

Notice that using mothballs wasn’t mentioned? They’re just not safe to use, BUT there are other options. Find out what to use instead of mothballs here.

Natural Solutions to Get Rid of Moths

Natural solutions are free of harmful chemicals and are safe to use around children and pets.

Some solutions might cause allergic reactions or irritate the skin, so you should still exercise some caution when using them.

Indoor Infestations

These solutions will encourage moths to get out of your home or will kill them.

They’re perfect to use if you’re not comfortable with using chemicals inside your home.

Sticky Trap

Sticky traps are the best way to get rid of moths in your home.

They won’t eliminate eggs and larvae, but they will catch and kill adult moths, which will prevent them from laying eggs and increasing the population inside your home.

The sticky traps can be placed wherever you always find moths.

Some are meant to be placed on the ground or on a surface, but some are able to hang on hangers with your clothing.

Many traps are sprayed with moth pheromones to attract the moths to it.

Pantry moths and clothes moths are different species, so you’ll need to choose products specifically for them.

For pantry moths, TRAP A PEST Pantry Moth Traps will work well, and for clothes moths, try using TINOLA Clothes Moth Traps.

Both traps work the same way, but they’ll attract the different kinds of moths better if they’re used in the designated areas.

Cedar

Cedar is a natural solution that repels almost any kind of pest, including moths, so you can use it in your home wherever you need to repel them.

It doesn’t matter what kind or form of cedar you use – oil, hangers, planks, and sachet bags will all work well. 

An excellent option to use is Cedar Sense Cedar Rings because they’re small enough that you can tuck them into the pockets of your clothing, storage containers, or the back of your pantry.

You can also place them on clothing hangers to keep moths off of your clothing.

Essential Oils

Moths hate a variety of smells, including many herbs and spices. You can use essential oils to create a spray or use an oil diffuser to release the scent into the air.

Gya Labs Clove Bud Essential Oil and Gya Labs Lavender Essential Oil are great to use because they don’t have any additives; they’re pure essential oils.

If you don’t want to use essential oils, you can use dried lavender, cloves, and other herbs to create sachets that will be just as effective.

Outdoor Infestations

It’s important to get rid of a moth infestation when you spot them outside so you’ll have less of a chance of bringing them inside.

Citronella

Citronella isn’t just for repelling mosquitoes; it also works well for keeping moths at bay.

You can use a candle like the Coleman 70+ Hour Citronella Candle Lantern which is great for spending an evening on the patio or for camping trips.

Smaller candles work best when you use a few of them about three feet apart from each other to create a protective barrier.

You can also use UpNature Citronella Essential Oil to create a spray, just as you can with lavender or clove oil.

Add several drops to a spray bottle of water. Apply it to your skin and clothes while you sit outside, or spray it near your doors to keep them from coming inside your home.

Yellow Bug Light Bulbs

Moths most likely make their way inside when they’re hovering around your porch light and someone opens the door.

They can easily slip inside and find a comfortable place among your clothing or pantry to live.

Moths are attracted to white lights more than yellow lights, so if you have a white light bulb in your porch light fixture, consider changing it to a LOHAS Yellow LED Bug Light Bulb.

It’s not a perfect remedy, but it can greatly reduce the number of moths fluttering at your door.

You can also use these yellow lightbulbs inside your home as well if you have a room that’s prone to attracting moths.

Btk (Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki)

Btk sounds like a chemical, but it’s actually a natural bacteria that’s found in soil and on plants.

Studies show that it only kills caterpillars and won’t harm beneficial insects, animals, humans, or birds.

Many forms of Btk are registered as organic and are approved for organic gardening, which is a form of gardening that doesn’t allow any kind of chemicals. 

Monterey Bacillus Thuringiensis is an organic Btk that you can use in your yard or garden.

Mix the product with water and spray it where you find moths.

It won’t kill moths in the egg or adult stages, but it will kill them as caterpillars when they eat it.

Pesticide Solutions to Get Rid of Moths

Pesticides contain toxic chemicals, so they aren’t recommended as the first choice for battling moths.

However, they’re useful when you’ve tried everything else and haven’t been able to find a solution.

Remember to be careful when using the products and follow the directions given on the labels.

Aerosol Spray

Aerosol sprays are meant to kill on contact and any residue left behind will continue to kill moths until it’s washed away.

Reefer-Galler SLA Cedar Scented Spray will kill moths at every stage and repel them with their cedar scent.

It won’t stain surfaces and belongings, so you’ll be able to use it wherever you find moths.

Insecticide Dust

Insecticide dust kills moths when they eat the dust.

If there’s a place in your home where moths congregate, cover the area with pesticide dust, such as Delta Dust Pest Control Insecticide Dust, and the moths should die soon after.

The dust will stick to their legs and they’ll consume it when they clean themselves.

If you have an old article of clothing you don’t mind ruining, you can lay it on the floor of your closet, cover it with the dust, and allow moths to live on it so there will be a better chance of moths consuming it.

The dust can easily spread and it’s harmful for humans and animals, so don’t use it in rooms with high traffic, on hanging clothes, or in food pantries.

Fogger

Fogger is similar to aerosol spray, but instead of topical application, it’s meant to be applied to the entire room. 

Hot Shot Fogger Insect Killer is highly effective against moths.

To use it, you place it on a chair or table in the middle of the room, set it off, and allow it to fill up the room while all the doors and windows are closed.

You’ll need to stay out of the room for at least two hours before you’re able to enter again.

Foggers aren’t meant to be used in small spaces.

If you need to use it for a closet, you’ll need to use it in the adjacent room with the closet door open instead.

Be sure to read the directions carefully on this type of product because they can be quite harmful if used incorrectly.

Safety Precautions When Using Pesticides

The chemicals that are used in pesticides are harmful.

Some may cause minor reactions like skin irritation or burn the eyes, but in some cases they can cause severe or lethal reactions.

Always use the product as directed on the label so you don’t accidentally use it incorrectly.

You should always keep children and pets out of the area when you’re applying pesticides.

When to Call a Professional Exterminator

Call a local, professional exterminator if the infestation seems too large to control yourself or if you’ve tried several products without any success.

Exterminators will be able to help you determine the source of the problem and can tell you what you need to do to prevent it from happening again.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Mothballs Kill Moths or Just Keep Them Away?

Mothballs can repel moths, but they’re mostly used to kill them since they contain pesticides that can kill moths in every stage.

Mothballs are only effective if they’re stored with moths in a small area like a storage container or armoire.

The balls start as a solid and turn into a gas, which is what kills them.

How Do You Know if You Have a Moth Infestation?

Moth infestations are usually noticed when you see holes appear in your clothing.

The holes are usually irregular shapes rather than circles. There will likely be more of them on natural fibers rather than synthetic ones.

If you see small, round spheres that are white or brown, those are likely moth eggs.

Small white tubes contain larvae, and they eventually become caterpillars that will leave behind a cocoon when they’re fully grown.

You’ll find the remnants of their life stages in trees since that’s where they live outside.

How Do I Know if I Have Moths in My House?

Besides damaged clothing, you’ll see holes in cardboard and plastic packaging, damage on carpets and rugs, and eggs in dry foods like flour or sugar.

Pantry moths will leave behind material that resembles spider webs in the corners, and clothes moths will leave crusty powdery deposits behind that you’ll see as piles on the floor.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wing_coupling

https://agr.wa.gov/departments/insects-pests-and-weeds/insects/gypsy-moth/btk/what-is-btk

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