6 Resourceful Ways to Repel Moths and Keep Your Clothes Smelling Fresh in Storage

Dawn M. Smith
Written by Dawn M. Smith
Updated November 23, 2021
A woman storing seasonal clothes in boxes
Halfpoint - stock.adobe.com

Before you pack your clothes away, learn to avoid pesky moths and add your signature scent

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It’s a little nerve-wracking to store away beloved clothes and hope all is well when you return. You certainly want to come back to fresh-smelling clothes that are free of any holes from moths munching on them, but may not know how to make that happen. These are the six best ways to ensure your favorite little black dress or cashmere sweater collection is in perfect condition when it's time to unpack.

1. Start with Clean and Moth-Free Clothes and a Tidy Storage Space

You can’t expect to find fresh clothes waiting for you if you don’t clean them well or store them with existing moths or moisture. So, you’ll have to do a little prep work before loading in your clothes.

Wash Your Clothes Well

Make sure you clean your clothing with a good-quality detergent prior to packing. Smell transfers between clothing, so this step helps prevent stronger smells later when you pull the clothes out of storage. Plus, if you use your favorite detergent and fabric softener, you’ll add familiar scents to your wardrobe.

Rid the Space of Moths

If you have tell-tale signs of a moth infestation, like holes in your best wool sweaters, you’ll have to get things under control by vacuuming and using insecticide so you don’t transfer the moths into storage.

Clean Your Storage Container

It doesn’t matter if you use a storage box, container, or unit; you’ll have to make sure it's clean and moisture-free. Mold and mildew are two of the top causes of unwanted smells and ruined clothing. Vacuum any dust from the storage area and consider cleaning with a deodorizing recipe that calls for:

  • one-half cup distilled white vinegar

  • one-half cup water

  • 12–24 drops of essential oil (if you prefer)

Wait long enough for everything to dry and for the vinegar smell to dissipate before loading your clothing.

2. Invest in Dehumidifiers and Moisture-Reducing Products

Moisture is the enemy of proper storage. It’s responsible for odor, mold, and destruction, so you’ll want to do your best to keep it at bay. Depending on the size of the space, a dehumidifier is an ideal option. Or, if you choose a storage unit, pick one with climate control and air conditioning.

If the space is small, or you’re using boxes and bins, you’ll have different options to keep your clothes dry, like:

  • Using multiple boxes of contained baking soda

  • Bunding chalk sticks in a bag

  • Purchasing activated charcoal products for closets and storage 

3. Use Lavender or Cedarwood Essential Oils to Pull Double Duty

Moths apparently hate lavender and cedarwood oils, which are both believed to have some anti-fungal properties and can freshen your clothes. Here’s how to include the oils in your storage space:

  • Add or hang breathable cotton or linen bags of wool dryer balls soaked with a few drops of oil to your storage containers. Don’t oversaturate; the oil could stain your clothes. 

  • You can also use paper towels and dryer sheets instead.

Remember that this method is best for repelling moths and shouldn’t be used for an active infestation.

Use More Cedar Products

A cedar wood disk on a clothes hanger used as a moth repellent
pinot-noir - stock.adobe.com

There’s a reason custom cedar-lined, organized closets are so popular. Not only is cedar believed to repel moths, but it also absorbs moisture and smells lovely. If cedarwood oil isn’t an option, you can purchase cedar hangers for your wardrobe or invest in affordable cedar blocks to layer in your clothes or hang in the storage area. If the cedar block’s scent fades, rub it with sandpaper to coax it back to life.

4. Layer Dryer Sheets in Your Clothes

Place the dryer sheets you like best into your folded clothes for a whiff of a familiar scent when it comes time to open the container again. Don’t toss used dryer sheets; you can recycle them to keep clothes smelling fresh in storage. You can also get the same effect from tissue paper sprayed with your favorite cologne or perfume. Make sure you let it completely dry before tucking it into your clothing. 

5. Infuse Pretty Scents

There are plenty of ways to keep your clothes smelling fresh in storage. Some, like, bars of soap, are affordable, and you probably already have them on hand. Here are some more options:

  • Perfumed soaps wrapped in thin material

  • Scented paper products like drawer liners for storage bins

  • Potpourri bags

  • Eucalyptus sprigs

6. Hang Moth Balls

Tried and true, mothballs work if you use them correctly. Use an old sock and hang the mothballs high in the storage area so the vapors will float down and protect your clothes. You won’t be able to use them in bins or boxes (even secured in a sock) because they could damage your clothing. You should also be sure to use these with care, as mothballs can be dangerous to have around children and pets.

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