Do Closet Moths Eat Silk? Protect Your Valuable Garments

I used to think my silk blouses and dresses were safe from closet moths. After all, I had heard they prefer to eat wool and other animal fibers.

Recently though, I opened my closet and noticed holes in a beautiful silk cocktail dress. 

Further investigation revealed larvae and messy webbing – clear signs my closet had become infested with moths!

This discovery prompted me to do more research to understand if closet moths eat silk, and most importantly, how to protect my precious silk garments.

In this article, I’ll share what I learned about these fabric pests, whether they consume silk, and most importantly, practical tips to moth-proof your silk clothing collection.

moth holes in silk fabric

Do Moths Eat Silk?

The short answer is yes! I was surprised to learn that while moths prefer wool, they will also feast on silk.

The larvae of common closet moths like webbing clothes moths and casemaking clothes moths produce enzymes that break down protein fibers.

Silk contains a protein called fibroin, making it a potential food source.

That said, in side-by-side testing, wool garments tended to show more signs of moth damage compared to silk items stored in the same conditions.

It seems while not their first choice, hungry moth larvae will still gnaw through silk fabrics if wool clothes are not available.

The takeaway – silk is not immune to clothes moths. While they may attack wool first, they can and will eat holes in silk garments given the opportunity.

holes in silk fabric from moths

How Do You Protect Silk Clothes from Moths?

Since moths consider silk fair game for eating, preventative steps are essential. Here are some tips to moth-proof silk clothing:

  • Clean silk thoroughly before storage – Use a gentle silk detergent and allow to fully air dry. Moths are attracted to stains and perspiration residue on fabrics.
  • Use cedar in closets and drawers – The strong scent naturally repels moths. Use cedar blocks, chips or hangers. I recommend placing cedar near silk storage areas.
  • Inspect regularly for signs of infestation – Check silk items and storage areas every 3 months for larvae, cocoons, eggs, holes or webbing. Catching infestations early is key!
  • Limit light exposure – Install blackout curtains/blinds if silk clothing is stored in bright spaces. Light can fade fabrics over time.
  • Control humidity – Use silica gel packs to prevent dampness. Moths thrive in humid environments. Ideal is less than 55% relative humidity.
  • Clean and vacuum storage areas – Vaccum closets, drawers and baseboards to remove hair, debris and potential moth eggs. Keep areas clean.
  • Use protective storage – Seal clothing in airtight containers or bags to limit moth access. Breathable fabric like cotton muslin also works.

I found some effective methods for keeping moths away from silk, and I’m excited to share them.

cedar blocks and silk

Following these best practices will help moth-proof precious silk pieces in your collection!

Natural Ways to Repel Moths from Your Closet

Here are some of the most effective natural moth repelling options I discovered:

  • Cedarwood – The strong scent of cedar repels moths. Use blocks, chips or cedar storage items.
  • Lavender – This pleasant aroma deters moths. Use dried buds or essential oil in sachets near silk.
  • Eucalyptus – Moths dislike this plant’s scent. Use leaves or oil similarly to lavender.
  • Rosemary – Another herb with aromas moths avoid. Hang bundles or make clove sachets.
  • Rue – A bitter herb used to naturally deter moths. Place leaves near silk storage areas.

I like to use a combination of cedar and lavender to keep moths at bay. The pleasant natural scents keep my closets and dressers smelling fresh too!

silk stored with lavender

Is Silk Moth Proof?

Unfortunately silk is not innately resistant or “moth-proof”. Silk fibers contain proteins that clothes moths can digest once hatched.

So while silk may not be their first meal choice, moth larvae will munch through it given the opportunity.

There are however some fabrics closet moths avoid or at least have minimal interest in. These include:

  • Synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon, acrylic etc.
  • Plant-based fibers like cotton, linen, hemp
  • Leather
  • Rubber materials like latex, spandex

The good news is these moth-resistant fabrics can be safely stored alongside vulnerable silks.

For example, packing wool coats with cotton sweaters and silk blouses provides a fiber buffet for moths.

The wool and silk will likely show damage first. But storing silk alongside synthetics and plant-based textiles reduces this risk.

Moths will attack the silk only after exhausting other food sources first.

silk stored in a zippered garment bag

What Else Can Ruin Silk in Storage?

In addition to closet moths, there are a few other threats I discovered that can damage treasured silk pieces over time:

  • Sunlight – The UV rays in sunlight cause silk fabric to break down, become brittle and fade. Storing silk clothing in dark, enclosed spaces is best.
  • Humidity – Extreme moisture causes silk fibers to stretch and deform. The ideal is keeping relative humidity under 55% in storage spaces.
  • Heat – High temperatures also negatively impact silk fabrics. Avoid storing silk near heat sources like radiators or vents.
  • Pollutants – Environmental contaminants like dust and dirt can discolor silk over time. Enclosed storage containers help protect against this.
  • Pests – In addition to moths, other bugs like carpet beetles will feed on silk fibers once hatched. Keeping spaces clean and using repellents is key.

With some vigilance about storage conditions, costly silk pieces can stay protected for many years!

My investigation into bugs attracted to silk helped me understand how to keep my garments safe.

silk items folded and packed in a textile storage box

Signs of Clothes Moths in Your Closet

During my closet moth investigation, I became skilled at recognizing signs of infestation. Keep an eye out for these common clues:

  • Holes in fabrics – Jagged holes with frayed edges may indicate moth larvae feeding. Check for damage along seams, folds and hidden areas.
  • Silk cocoons or webbing – Cocoons may contain dormant moth pupae. Webs are created by larvae as they move around eating.
  • Small white larvae – The worm-like moth larvae range from 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch long. They thrive out of sight in dark spaces.
  • Moth excrement/frass – Look for grain-like black specks which are moth waste droppings found near food sources.
  • Adult moths – While uncommon to spot, seeing the 1⁄2 inch winged moths confirms an active infestation.

Noticing any of these signs means moths have already hatched and begun damaging fabrics. Take action immediately to eliminate the infestation and protect other textiles.

holes chewed in silk fabric

Identifying Moth Eggs

Catching clothes moths early is critical to save silk garments before extensive feeding damage occurs.

But at just 1mm, moth eggs can be difficult to spot! Here are tips to identify them:

  • Look along seams & folds – Adult moths prefer to lay eggs in hidden spots in natural fabrics like silk and wool.
  • Use a magnifying glass – Moth eggs resemble tiny white grains of rice. The glass helps inspect fabric closely.
  • Feel for bumps – Gently running your fingers along seams may reveal tiny bumps from egg casings glued to fabric threads.
  • Look for discoloration – The area around eggs may appear darker from secretions keeping eggs firmly attached.

Finding eggs signals moths are present and planning to feast! Act quickly to destroy eggs and kill larvae before they destroy precious fabrics.

rolled silk scarves

Other Bugs Attracted to Silk

While clothes moths cause the most damage to stored textiles, other pests are drawn to silk too. These include:

  • Carpet beetles – The larvae feed on materials like silk, wool and leather. They leave small holes similar to moth damage.
  • Silverfish – These small insects chew irregular holes, run rapidly when disturbed and shred silk when nesting.
  • Cockroaches – Roaches will snack on silk stained with food, perspiration and oils from skin.
  • Spiders – Some species nest near or inside clothing and may bite holes in silk. Webbing may also be visible.

Be on the lookout for these sneaky silk-eating bugs too! Combining vigilant inspections with preventative measures helps keep pests at bay.

Enjoy Your Silk Worry-Free!

As a silk lover, learning that closet moths consider my precious garments a yummy snack was an unpleasant surprise.

The good news is now that I understand the threats, I can take proactive steps to protect my collection.

Maintaining cleanliness, using repellents, keeping an eye out for infestations and proper enclosed storage helps moth-proof silk clothing.

A few precautions reduces worries and lets me safely enjoy these luxurious fabrics for years to come!

I hope the information in this article helps you protect your own silk pieces from damage. 

Just remember – regular inspections, quick action if pests appear, and prevention truly is the best medicine when it comes to saving silks from closet moth destruction!

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