How to Get Rid of Pantry Moths

Pantry Moths (Indian Meal Moth)
••• Pantry Moths (Indian Meal Moth). Antagain/E+/Getty Images

Dealing with a pantry moth infestation? Get rid of them without the use of pesticides. Here's how.

What You Need:

  • A vacuum cleaner
  • Vinegar
  • Soap and Water
  • A mop

What You Do:

  1. Inspect all food in your pantry for signs of infestation. Look for larvae in and on food packaging. Also look for webs (as these may belong to moths and not spiders). Grain-based products like flour, cereal, pasta and baking mixes are a moth favorite, ditto for nuts and sweets. But don't limit your search to these items. You may find larvae tucked into the edges of cans, on spice jars or even in unopened packages and sealed canisters. If you have pets, check their food, too. Toss any infested foods that you find, and wipe down any affected cans with undiluted vinegar.

    Note: Infested items should go straight to your outdoor trash can. Placing them in your kitchen trash will only spread the problem.

  1. Give your pantry a thorough cleaning. Pull out your shelf liners (and wash or replace them). Vacuum the shelves, paying special attention to the corners, undersides, shelf brackets and mounting hardware. Vacuum the walls, baseboards, trim, floor, ceiling and door (including the inside edge, hinges and knob). Then, wipe down your pantry shelves with hot, soapy water or vinegar; and mop the floor. When you're done with your clean up, remove the vacuum bag, and take it out to your outside trash bin (wash out the dust compartment, if you used a bagless vacuum). You don't want to harbor moth larvae in your vacuum.

  2. If you have the space, place your grain and nut products in the freezer until you're confident that you've eliminated the problem. This will prevent further contamination. Also consider storing new groceries in a different spot (a good distance from the pantry) until you've had time to monitor things for a few weeks. This simple move will keep you from having to throw out (and replace) more food.

  1. Still seeing moths? Go back over your pantry, and look for spots that you may have missed in your previous clean out. Are there cardboard boxes (opened or unopened) that they could be living in? Have you opened all sealed containers? Did you look behind the paper labels on candy bars and jars? Could they be lurking inside the pages of cookbooks? What about tea bags? Have you checked all of your candy, dried fruit and nuts carefully? Did you check all pet food? Have you thoroughly inspected all food items that you haven't used in a while? Do you have any kids' artwork in the kitchen that includes macaroni? What about play dough?

  1. No more signs of moths? Restock your pantry, but continue to check for moth activity on a regular basis.

How to Prevent Pantry Moth Infestations

  1. To avoid future infestations, consider storing your flour, baking mixes, oatmeal and nuts in the freezer, or freeze these items for a week before moving them to your pantry. This will kill any larvae that might be present in the foods that you bring home from the store, so you don't introduce them to your pantry.
  2. Also consider storing your grains in mason jars or other tight-sealing containers. If you bring something home from the grocery store that contains eggs, the moths won't be able to get out of the jar when they hatch, so you'll only have that one jar of food to throw away.
  3. Bay leaves, lavender, cedar and mint are known to repel moths. Fill sachets with one of these, and tuck them inside your pantry as a deterrent.
  4. Clean up food messes in your pantry as soon as they happen, and give your pantry a thorough scrub several times a year. This will help you to avoid infestations and alert you to any potential problems before things get out of hand.
  5. If you maintain a grocery stockpile, remember to inspect it regularly for moth activity, and be sure to follow the same food storage practices.

    How to Eliminate Other Kitchen Pests

    Save money and keep harmful chemicals out of your home by handling your own pest control. Here are tips to help you eliminate other common kitchen pests: