How To Tell If Holes In Clothes Are From Moths?


The clothes we wear say a lot about us. As humans, we are conditioned to think well-dressed people are responsible, able to take good care of themselves, trustworthy, and perhaps even economically well-off. On the other hand, walking around in torn clothes or clothes with holes in them can make people think you are irresponsible, unable to take good care of yourself for one reason or another, or perhaps struggling to make ends meet. This is why for a lot of people, pulling out something from the closet only to find a gaping hole in it can be quite disheartening. It feels even worse when it is their favorite article of clothing and they have no idea how the holes got there.

How can you tell if the holes in clothes are from moths? The damage shape made by moths presents as irregular holes and the sizes are depends on how long the moths have been feeding.

Many things can result in cloths having holes in them. For example, activities such as heavy lifting can strain the fabric and cause tears and holes to appear. This is actually why there are different clothing options for different activities to minimize unnecessary damage to them. However, one of the reasons for these holes is the presence of moths. This article will cover everything you need to know about these pests and how to identify the damage they do to clothes.

Moths and clothes

Moths are insects that look like butterflies. However, other than their appearance, the similarities end there. It is this distinction that may help one to know exactly what to look for when dealing with a moth infestation. While butterflies are active during the day, moths are nocturnal.

Also, in their development to adulthood, the moth’s larvae or caterpillars are encased in a cocoon that is wrapped in silk coverings while the butterflies’ metamorphosis happens in a chrysalis that is hard, often smooth and doesn’t have silk. Physically, moths appear larger than the butterflies and while the antennae of the butterfly are thin and have small balls at their ends, the moths’ antennae are feathery with no ball ends.

Of essence to note though is that it is not the adult moth that feeds on the cloth and fabric, cutting these holes, but rather the moth at its larvae stage. The larva will appear as a worm-like with a hard shell that looks like a flattened case measuring ¼ to ½ inch long. Most adult moths do not eat at all with some types not even having mouthparts.

Therefore, ridding your household of adult moths will not necessarily clear the issue. While most moths are hazardous to humankind and considered as pests, there are different types of moths and some like the silkworm ironically do provide the raw materials used in making clothing and other types of fabric. These are farmed for their economic value.

The cloth damaging moth is known scientifically as Tineola bisselliella and is a species of fungus moth. Primarily, there are two types of clothing moths – the case-making clothes moth and the webbing clothes moth. The life cycle of these insects begins with a female laying a cluster of between 30 to 200 eggs that attach themselves to surfaces with a substance this gelatin-like and these hatch after 4 to 10 days into larvae or caterpillar that immediately begins to feed.

Typically, the moth will look for dirty and dump clothing or fabric on which to lay her eggs as these provide the moisture required for sustenance as the larva do not require liquid water to survive. The larvae are near-microscopic hence hard to spot and white. They spin mats that appear as mucus like in which to feed on. This is to feed without being readily noticed. Feeding is often in the dark and the larvae may take 10 to 50 days before they fully develop into adults where they will no longer feed but only mate and reproduce.

As technology in the clothing industry advances, clothing is not only made of natural fibers derived from living organisms but also synthetic fibers resulting from human-made chemical synthesis. Such clothing is like nylon and polyester among others. As adult moths do not feed, the larva acquires all its nutrients and moisture in the larva stage.

The larvae are attracted to natural fibers emanating from plants and animals such as wool, cotton, silk, linen, and fur. However, they can also consume synthetic fiber blended with the natural fibers. Complete synthetic fibers are also at risk of food particles or other sources of natural dirt like human sweat is left unwashed on the clothing for some time. It is however the protein keratin that forms the bulk of their diet and can easily be extracted from these natural fibers.

Unfortunately, the holes made by moths often damage the cloths but the extent of the damage usually depends on how long the moths have been feeding. The damage presents itself as irregular holes in the clothing the size of which is again determined by how long the larvae have been left unchecked eating the protein fibers in the cloth. These holes are unsightly and most often render the clothing unfit to wear.

How to get rid of moths

All is not lost when you do discover the ghastly holes in your favorite piece of clothing. Simple steps can be taken to restore these clothing depending on the size of the hole. For starters, darning is a do it yourself remedy that can be done in the house and is also a common way of mending these holes.

All you need is a large needle, a yarn of the same color as the clothing, darning mushroom, and scissor. Patching can also be an alternative to darning and involves the use of a patch over the hole as well as needle felting. In all these remedies however, sewing skills are required. But to avoid all these fixes and ensure your clothing is spic and span, less extreme measures can help prevent these moth holes from occurring in the first place.

Moth larvae normally feed in dark, warm, and damp places. As houses now have all year-round heating systems, this means the moths can survive in all the four seasons. Before damage is done, clothing should be well cleaned and stored in lighted and aerated places. If you have confirmed the presence of cloth moths and the clothing has been damaged beyond repair, then you need to discard these damaged items immediately. What is left should preferably be dry cleaned as this is the most effective way of killing moth larvae, and worth the expense for wool items you don’t want to risk ruining.

As closets are usually dark and damp, vacuuming could be a better option as well as the use of detergent to clean. Afterward, the contents of the vacuum bag should be discarded as they will probably contain hatched eggs and larvae. Clothing items kept in storage for long periods should be hanged out in the sunlight. This is because the larvae do not like bright light and will tend to either die or migrate to much darker places.

Freezing of clothing items is also a remedy that can work but only if done abruptly. The recommended time is usually two days or 48 hours. These abrupt changes in temperature effectively kill off the eggs and larvae. Ultimately, it should be made a prudent habit of regularly shifting clothes to freshen up the area and limit exposure of clothing to moth larvae by hanging clothes in cedar wood hangers.

Other remedies include the purchasing of mothballs from the store. These are then placed in the clothing wardrobes to ward off the adult moths from laying eggs. As the chemicals used to manufacture them are toxic, great care should be taken when handling these. Natural remedies are those with particular scents known as pheromone traps that repel the moths. They are advantageous in that they are non-toxic, natural, and safe to use in any room of your home and are also long-lasting, making them a cost-effective way to get rid of moths. If all fails, fumigation can be recommended as the last option.

Final Thoughts

The earliest signs of cloth moth infestation include silky tunnels found on wool products, and excessive shedding from furs. Small crusty accumulations on fabrics, rugs, and clothing are also a sign and these will be the same color as the fabric. If no wool, silk, cashmere, or furs are present then you may spot damage to cotton, linen, and other less-desirable clothes moth food sources. Finally, the physical appearance of moths when you remove fabric from their storage areas is a sure sign of infestation.

With the tips outlined here, it should now be a lot easier for you to identify signs of moth infestation and to figure out what to do about it.

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author. She enjoys traveling, reading and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC. Connect with her at [email protected]

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