How to Mothproof Your Closet and Keep Sweaters Safe—Without Smelly Mothballs

Updated: Jul. 16, 2021

Don't you hate when you go to put on a cozy sweater and find a hole—or six? Here's how to keep those pesky moths from ruining the wool in your wardrobe.


Moths are not butterflies without the pretty patterns—they’re pests that can infest your home, laying eggs all over your beloved cardigans and turtlenecks and that Halston Heritage wrap dress that makes you look like Jessica Rabbit. In fact, it’s the moth larvae that feeds on wool (as well as pet dander and our own dead skin cells). Closets are a hot spot for moth larvae to thrive, since the larvae lurk in dark, secluded areas. The more tucked away your sweaters are, the more attractive your cozy collection will be to pesky moths.

Unfortunately, the classic remedy named for the problem—mothballs—have such a pungent odor that even if they work to repel moths, they end up repelling people too! We set out to learn alternate moth-proofing strategies that actually work. For starters, you can’t just moth-proof one closet in your home—you’ll have to do each one if you want to truly eradicate the problem. Here’s how to prevent and treat moth issues in your home without resorting to chemical-laden mothballs.

Your first order of business: Make sure your clothes are clean—not like no stains, but also free of body odor and the dead skin cells that naturally slough off on our clothes throughout the day. That means washing them thoroughly, ideally at a temperature of 100°F or more, which destroys the larvae. That’s especially important when switching out seasonal clothing; make sure to wash and dry everything prior to boxing it up for the season to be sure that any larvae hiding in the weaves of your favorite sweaters are eliminated. Once clean, keep your prized items in sealed plastic storage bags.

If you spot evidence of a moth infestation in your closet, wash and dry the clothes. It will eliminate the issue—but only for clothing that goes through a dryer cycle. (If it has to hang or lay flat to try, consider taking it to a dry cleaner.) Don’t forget about the other areas in your closet, and run the vacuum over any carpeting inside and outside of the closet too.

Try a natural remedy. To deter moths from taking up residence in your pullovers, mix up a powerful concoction of lavender oil, cinnamon oil, and clove oil—you can add a carrier oil like vegetable oil to stretch it. Use a sponge to spread a thin layer of the oil in small areas in your closet(s) the very first time you seea moth in your home. You can also create sachets with lavender, cinnamon shavings, and cloves as a big “keep out” sign to moths, without the danger of getting the oil on your wardrobe. You could also try adding cedar (in blocks, shavings, or hangers), which repels moths.

If a moth situation gets out of hand, consider calling pest control to take care of it.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest