British clothes under threat from more moths

Figures released today by Rentokil Pest Control suggest moths are on the rise across Britain, as callouts regarding the fabric-destroying clothes moths increased more than 110% from April to May. The data also shows a longer term trend in the rise of moth numbers, with callouts increasing by 60% from May 2014 to May 2018.

According to the Met Office, this year's May was the hottest on record and experts believe the unseasonably high temperatures are a contributing factor to the surge in moths. Clothes moths’ reproductive cycles are boosted by warm weather, so the early start to summer could provide the insects with a period of warmth long enough to produce an extra generation in one season.

A study of 2,006 consumers also released today by Rentokil Pest Control shows how Britain's changing laundry habits and decreasing desire for fast fashion, may be contributing to the moth epidemic. This research found that 54% of those surveyed are more likely to wash their clothes at 30 degrees now than they were five years ago. Some pest control treatments involve heating fabrics to 55 degrees, which is the temperature required to kill clothes-eating moth larvae.

Over half of the survey respondents (52%) said they buy fewer items of clothing than they did five years ago, and just under three in five (59%) said they prefer to buy good quality clothes they know will last them longer. However, these higher-quality clothes are often made with natural materials such as wool, silk and fur which contain a protein called keratin, the preferred food for moth larvae.

The survey found 13% of respondents have had a moth problem, suggesting more than 6.8 million Brits have experienced damage due to larvae feeding on their belongings. Of those who have had a moth problem, the top five most moth spoiled items are below:













The most common DIY treatment Brits use to treat an infestation is moth balls, with 26% trying this. This is followed by natural remedies such as lavender, rosemary and cloves (25%) and vacuuming (20%). Just 6% of Brits have tried freezing any clothes suspected of being home to moth larvae, while 5% admit to microwaving them.

David Cross, head of the technical training academy at Rentokil Pest Control comments: “May’s unseasonably warm temperatures and the early start to summer has helped to create the perfect conditions for moths to breed and potentially thrive in British households. With a prolonged breeding season, clothes and soft furnishings in British homes could be at increased risk to damage caused by moth larvae feeding on the natural fibres they contain.

Consumers should be on the lookout for tell-tale signs of infestation such as damage to natural fibres around the home, including clothes, curtains and carpets. At this time of year, it is also common to see the adult insects in your home. If you can count five to six moths in a room, then it’s likely you are experiencing a serious infestation".

Washing clothes at high temperatures or having them dry cleaned are practical methods to help remove moth larvae from clothing. However, this may not address the entire population. In cases of a serious infestation, it is advised to seek professional help. Rentokil today launched Entotherm Connect, a new treatment to kill moth larvae in fabrics. It uses an energy efficient infrared heat to quickly and safely warm fabrics to 55 degrees.

Five clothes moth facts

  1. Adult clothes moths do not feed, rather it is their larvae that do the damage to personal belongings
  2. Larvae can be 10mm long, and are creamy white with a brown head
  3. The adult clothes moth is the most commonly seen, though it is not attracted to light and will hide in wardrobes, in and among items of clothing
  4. Clothes moths are easily identified, typically running rather than flying away
  5. They are 6-8 mm long and have straw coloured wings with no markings