What Is Eating My Clothes in My Closet?

Insect larvae from clothes moths and carpet beetles are known for their clothes-chomping capabilities. Tiny holes found in clothing -- often after it has been washed or dry-cleaned -- are evidence of these hungry insects. Aside from moth and beetle larvae, several other insects may be feasting on your favorite garments in the closet.

Moth and Beetle Larvae

Adult moths and beetles aren't the guilty suspects in this case -- it's their larvae. The adult insects lay eggs around the house -- amid carpet fibers, behind baseboards, or even in between floorboards. The eggs hatch into larvae that eat wool, fur, feathers and down, or most any animal-based fabric they can find, if they're hungry enough. They occasionally chew other fabrics as well.

Other Hungry Insects

Many other insects find fabric tasty as well. Roaches, silverfish and even crickets may chew holes through your clothes stored in the closet. These creatures are not so much interested in the fabric itself but in something on the fabric, such as starch or spilled food. Prevent the attraction by not putting items you've worn, unwashed, back in the closet. The clothing may look or smell clean to you, but the insects may find otherwise.

Preventing the Problem

  • Vacuum carpet, rugs and upholstery regularly to remove insect larvae and eggs.
  • Dust or vacuum shelves and the floor within the closets; cleanliness helps cut down on insect problems.
  • Brush off items that are not washed regularly, such as a mohair sweater or wool jacket, then air them outdoors in direct sunlight for an hour or two.
  • Clean stuffed animals or other fabric-covered items stored in the closet by vacuuming them, or washing by machine if the care tag indicates they are machine washable.
  • Store wool, leather, fur, silk and similar natural-fiber clothing pieces in a cedar chest or cedar wardrobe with an airtight seal.
  • A plastic storage bin with an airtight lid -- or a vacuum-style storage bag -- can also be used to store garments out of harm's way. Open the plastic bin once in a while to ensure no moisture gets inside from humid conditions, as this may cause mildew or a musty odor.

If Insects Are Already in Your Closet

  • Get rid of clothes moths by using a pheromone moth trap specifically designed to attract male clothing moths. Place the trap wherever you've noticed moths, such as in the closet or in a nearby room. Pheromone traps are a safe alternative to mothballs, which contain toxic chemicals that can potentially pollute your home. The traps do not get rid of larvae, but will help prevent future larvae.
  • Wash any clothing item that you suspect isn't completely clean, or if you've noticed tiny worm-like larvae or rice-like eggs on it. Wash items in the hottest water recommended on the care tag, or dry-clean items if the item indicates it should be dry-cleaned.
  • Hang sachets of cedar shavings or lavender to help repel moths and other insects.