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How To Get Rid Of Silverfish & Moths Naturally | The Laundress

If you keep finding mysterious holes or tatters in your clothes, you may be dealing with moths or silverfish—little critters that eat away at fabrics, especially fabrics that are high in protein like silk and woolens. If you think you’ve got ‘em, there’s need to bug out! We’ll show you how to get rid of bugs that eat clothes with a few easy moves.

Silverfish and moths are two common culprits responsible for damaging linen, silk, rayon, cotton, cashmere, wool, and other fabrics in your closet and in off-season storage containers. They may be small, but these pesky bugs can do big harm to your favorite fashions. While some fabric damage from these closet bugs can be remedied, at times the holes and discoloration are too severe, rendering clothing and household items unusable. Luckily, this type of damage is easily preventable with proper storage and treatment measures.

Having been victims of silverfish and moths in the past, we specially formulated a line of plant-derived products and garment & home storage solutions that are great alternatives to mold-prone plastic bins, icky mothballs, oily, fabric-staining cedar blocks, and other toxic moth and silverfish repellents.

Your Moth & Silverfish Toolkit: Scented Vinegar, Wool & Cashmere Spray, Lavender Pouch, Lint-Free Cleaning Cloths, All-Purpose Storage Bag, Canvas Large Zip Storage Bag

Creature Feature: Silverfish

What are they?

Silverfish are tiny light grey and blue wingless insects that can grow to ½ inches long. Found anywhere humidity levels are high, they thrive in cool, dark, damp locations like attics, closets, baseboards, and bathroom fixtures. Silverfish do eat clothes, and they love to nestle into your warm bulky textiles as much as you do.

What do silverfish eat?

Silverfish feast on a diet of starch, sugar, and protein making linen, cotton, viscose, rayon and silk prime targets. Never store items starched—always wash before tucking previously-starched fabrics into your drawers or closet. Keep in mind that our sweat contains proteins, so putting worn garments away is also a no-go.

What's the damage?

Silverfish gnaw at the surface of textiles, leaving garments with a shaved appearance. Other signs of damage include irregular holes and small yellow silverfish stains.

How to protect clothes from silverfish?

When it comes to preventing silverfish holes in clothes, proper storage is key. First, always wash your garments before putting them away with the right fabric-specific detergent. (You can even wash silk and handwash wool without dry cleaning with our guides.) These insects are attracted to perspiration, perfume, and body oils, so not washing your clothing is like inviting them to a delicious dinner!

After washing, make sure your storage area is completely clean and dry. We love wiping closets and storage areas often with our high-powered home cleanser, Scented Vinegar. For long-term storage, it’s a good idea to wrap storage boxes in nylon netting to prevent silverfish from entering. There is no protein in nylon, which makes it indigestible to silverfish. Avoid cardboard, paper, and plastic storage. Silverfish love snacking on paper and cardboard, especially those with glueing, and plastic encourages mold-inducing moisture buildup.

Does washing clothes kill silverfish eggs?

Washing and drying your clothing at high temperatures will help kill silverfish and silverfish eggs in your clothes. (Avoid washing delicate fibers like silk, woolens, and delicate synthetics with hot water and always air dry.)

Remember, what smells sweet to you is toxic to them.

Cedar and lavender emit a smell that is noxious to silverfish, and will prevent them from eating your clothes. These aromas act as a natural moth and bug repellent. Try adding Lavender Pouch to your garment storage to drive them away, and spritz items often with our Wool & Cashmere Spray, which has a cedar-based scent.

What is the silverfish removal process like?

Silverfish can't withstand freezing temperatures. To get rid of silverfish in your wardrobe, and closet isolate the affected garments immediately, then freeze them for 72 hours in plastic storage bags or containers. After, wash with the appropriate fabric specific detergent to get rid of silverfish residue.

Creature Feature: Moths

What are they?

Moths are a group of flying insects related to the butterfly and moth larvae that have a big appetite for garments.

What do they eat?

Moth larvae have a specific diet and typically nosh on clothes made from animal fibers such as silk, wool, cashmere, angora or fur, and materials that contain keratin. Keratin is composed of fibrous structural proteins and can also be found in our skin and hair.

How to keep moths away?

Regularly wash everything in your wardrobe and clean coats and jackets at the beginning and end of each season to keep perfumes, body oils, and food stains from becoming a yummy food source. Save on your dry cleaning bill by cleaning woolens and silk with our plant-derived dry cleaning alternatives.

Reorganize and clean once or twice a year to keep everything fresh and monitor for damage. Take all of your garments out of the wardrobe or drawers, then wash them as you vacuum your storage space. Wipe surfaces down with a Lint-Free Cleaning Cloth saturated in Scented Vinegar. Get the lowdown on how to tidy up your closet in 15 minutes the Laundress way.

A note on mothballs:
Moth balls aren’t the best moth repellent—they are extremely toxic and leave behind permanent odors. Also avoid cedar wood blocks and chips, which can transfer oil to your favorite fabrics and create stubborn stains. Instead, store items with Lavender Pouches and spray items, and the insides of drawers and closets regularly with Wool & Cashmere Spray, which we at The Laundress call silverfish spray. While we love the scents of lavender and cedar, moths and critters don’t!

Pack it up:
Never store clothes in plastic or cardboard. Bugs and critters love to eat cardboard, and plastic storage can encourage humidity, which can warp and stain clothing (hello, mystery mold spots!). Instead, pack garments and linens in breathable cotton or canvas fabric pouches with a zipper closure, like the All-Purpose Storage Bag or Canvas Storage Bag. Avoid storing in humid and damp areas like the attic or basement which are optimal environments for moth breeding.

Already got moths? Quarantine the scene.
To get rid of moths, wash your garments and then use disposable airtight bags to store them in the freezer for 72 hours while you clean all exposed areas, like closets and drawers. After washing garments, be sure to deep clean your washing machine using. Avoid the dry cleaner or laundromat as you may risk spreading the infestation to those areas.

Post-damage, call for repairs.
Consult your local tailor or dry cleaner to repair pesky holes in your favorite pieces, and don't leave damaged clothing in your closet. You won't wear it and neglected items could easily become a breeding ground for critters! Replace buttons, mend small holes in your clothes from silverfish, and alter clothing that is too big or small while you’re at it. Tip: Keep the extra yarns that come with your knits in one safe spot in case you need future repairs.