5 Insects That May Be Eating Your Clothing

You pull your favorite sweater out of storage and discover there's a hole. A jacket stored in the same bin also has a few mysterious holes. You may think moths are to blame, but there are other insects that eat clothes. Here's a look at five insects that may be eating your clothing.

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Carpet Beetles

While adult carpet beetles only live for 20 to 60 days, Terminix notes they can lay up to 100 eggs. These eggs only take a week or two to hatch into larvae that can then be present for up to a year. It’s the larvae that feed on fabric such as wool, fur, feathers and mohair. The adult carpet beetle has a round, hard body with wings beneath its shell. Their larvae look like fuzzy worms.

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Case Bearing Clothes Moth
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Case-Bearing Clothes Moth

The case-bearing clothes moth may look more like a worm than a moth, but it can do damage to your clothing and carpeting. The Butterfly Conservation Organization notes that this insect can cut holes in your clothing as it feeds on wool, flannel, fur and hair. The adult moth is a pale silvery-gray-brown color with dark spots, and is a little more than 1/4 in. long. The larva uses wool and other fibers to make a portable case to protect itself.
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Silverfish are attracted to a wide array of food sources, including your clothing. These wingless insects are about 1/4 to 1/2 in. long and have a silver body. Waltham Pest Services notes silverfish eat clothing not for the actual material, but for the nourishing substances often found on the fabric. “Because their mouthparts are only capable of taking small bites and scraping edible material from various surfaces, silverfish create holes in clothes and yellowish stains that typically make up the majority of the damage left behind,” the company notes.

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While crickets normally live outside, their food sources can dry up late in the season and these insects may migrate into your home. Once inside, they can chew damaging holes in everything from your carpets and linens to your clothing and fabric window coverings, according to Traffic Pest Solutions. “Both natural and synthetic fibers are chewed or eaten, especially articles soiled with food, perspiration or grease,” the company says.

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While termites are generally associated with damage to homes, these pesky insects can also damage clothing. “Termites are attracted to your body oils and any food or drink you’ve spilled on your clothes. If they found their way into your closet, drywood termites are probably munching away at your home as well,” according to ABC Home and Commercial Services. As the termites eat away at food spills, they can cut into the fabric causing holes in your clothing.

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Prevention Tips

To prevent insects from eating your clothing, Terminix recommends:

  • Vacuum carpets, rugs, furniture, wall hangings and fabric window coverings thoroughly to help remove any larvae.
  • Inspect your clothing regularly, including items that are stored away, so you catch the problem before too much damage is done.
  • Clean all clothing before storing it.

Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham spent years working in newsrooms, for television and newspapers, and has won several awards for her writing. In 2015, she left her full-time job as a newspaper editor to focus on freelance writing and editing. She has been a Family Handyman contributor since 2017.
In 2019, Rachel lived through a major remodeling project on her home, and she uses that experience to inform her Family Handyman content. She's also an avid gardener (both native plants and vegetables), enjoys keeping up with decor trends and spends a lot of time traveling, cooking and hanging out with her family and their giant dog.