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

Paige Bennett
Written by Paige Bennett
Updated July 25, 2022
A woman storing seasonal clothes in boxes
Photo: Halfpoint / Adobe Stock

Keep your stored clothes moth-free and smelling fresh

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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 14 best ways to ensure your favorite little black dress or cashmere sweater collection is in perfect condition when it's time to unpack.

1. 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—and your stored clothes. 

If you have an active infestation, it’s best to hire a professional exterminator in your area to effectively kill the moths and their larvae.

Aside from mothballs, which include a number of different chemicals to repel and kill moths, you can use pyrethrin insecticides to spray directly on clothing (only if the clothing cannot be laundered or dry cleaned). 

Permethrin insecticides can be sprayed along the baseboards and carpets of the storage area to control moths. Insecticides can be toxic, so be sure to wear gloves, safety goggles, and a mask while you apply these chemicals to the storage area. You’ll also want to keep children and pets away from this area.

2. Wash Your Clothes Well

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.

If you suspect a moth infestation in your storage area, you’ll need to wash your stored clothes in hot water, at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 30 minutes, to kill off any eggs or larvae. If things are really out of hand, contact a local emergency pest control company to help.  

For any clothes that cannot be washed, you’ll need to consider applying permethrin pesticides.

3. Add Moth Traps

You might not spot them when you’re putting away your winter sweaters, but there could even be just one or two moths in your storage area. A moth might also sneak past you while you’re sorting and organizing the space or find an entry point into a closet or storage bin. 

To catch any moths that make their way inside, hang up sticky traps from the ceiling, wall hooks, clothing racks, or set one inside each storage bin. This allows you to catch these pests without the use of harmful substances or chemicals. 

4. Clean Your Storage Bin

It doesn’t matter if you use a storage bin, 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 stored clothing. 

Vacuum any dust from the storage area and consider cleaning with a deodorizing recipe that calls for:

  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar

  • 1/2 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 storing your clothing.

5. Invest in Dehumidifiers

Moisture is the enemy of stored clothing. 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.

6. Make Use of Baking Soda 

You probably already keep a box of baking soda in the fridge to ward off food smells. This powerful household cleaner works well for absorbing both odors and moisture to keep stored clothes smelling fresh. 

In closets or storage rooms, place one or multiple boxes of baking soda around the area. You can also add baking soda to an open jar or bowl. Replace the baking soda every two to three months.

7. Place Bundles of Chalk in Storage

One of the best odor-busting products is hiding right under your nose in the kids’ playroom. Grab a bundle of chalk sticks and place them in a cloth bag to place in the storage bin or area. Chalk works well at absorbing moisture that can cause mold and mildew, and their accompanying stinky smells.

8. Try Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal can do a lot more than just brighten your teeth. The charcoal is “activated” with the addition of more oxygen to boost its odor-absorbing properties. You can add activated charcoal disks to your stored clothes. 

For closets, use a hanging activated charcoal deodorizer, or fill a bowl or jar with granulated activated charcoal to fight off odors.

9. Use Essential Oils to Pull Double Duty

Moths dislike 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 stored clothes. 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. Essential oils cannot kill larvae and will only deter moths while the scent is strong. 

10. Try Cedarwood Oil and Hangers

A cedar wood disk on a clothes hanger used as a moth repellent
Photo: pinot-noir / Adobe Stock

There’s a reason custom cedar-lined, organized closets are so popular. Not only is cedarwood oil 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.

11. Layer Dryer Sheets in Your Clothes

Place the dryer sheets you like best into your stored clothes for a whiff of a familiar scent when it comes time to open the bin 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. 

12. 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

13. 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 float down and protect your stored clothes. You won’t be able to use them in bins or boxes (even secured in a sock) because they could damage your clothing. 

However, you’ll want to use these with care, as mothballs can be dangerous to have around children and pets. The chemicals and pesticides in mothballs may cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness. And if kids or pets ingest mothballs, they can lead to kidney and liver damage. 

Mothballs are also flammable, so keep them out of areas near open flames or high heat.

14. Add a Dish of Coffee Beans

The nitrogen in coffee beans helps absorb strong odors, so your stored clothes will smell nice, and maybe a bit like your favorite morning brew, when you remove them from storage. 

Place an open container, such as a bowl or jar, in the storage area. You can also use fresh, dry coffee grounds, but keep them in a jar with a ventilated lid to minimize the risk of spills.

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