Bugs are often found in new or old clothes. They can eat materials clothes or made from or nest in clothes, often making them unusable.
Eliminating and keeping bugs out of clothes involves different methods, according to each common species.
Both natural fiber clothes and synthetic materials clothes are made from may attract different bugs.
Even more, food stains on any type of fabric may also attract different species of bugs that may not necessarily feed on textiles.
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Why are Bugs in Clothes?
Bugs make their way into clothes whenever looking for food. Most species don’t eat clothes but species such as clothing moths and carpet beetles can chew their way through natural materials.
Wool and other natural fibers in clothes tend to attract various bugs. These natural materials such as fur are known to be eaten by the larvae of various bugs such as the larvae of carpet beetles.
Bugs also enter clothes for shelter. Various species found in homes are known to seek out dark damp places such as wardrobes with plenty of clothes to hide in.
- A home infestation
Bugs may also be found on clothes by accident and they may signal a larger infestation problem in the house.
Some species may not be particularly interested to move around the closet and on your clothes but they might do this looking for food.
19 Bugs in Clothes
The following species are the most likely to be found in or on clothes.
1. Carpet Beetles
Carpet Beetles are one of the common species that eat clothes and other textiles indoors. These bugs are easy to identify but it’s their larvae that feed on clothes.
Finding their larvae in clothes is mostly possible when you see their damage or when you spot an adult beetle.
Carpet Beetle larvae feed on natural fibers such as wool and silk. Clothes made from wool and silk can be completely destroyed by the larvae. Natural fur also attracts larvae, used to feed on animal-based products such as feathers.
Synthetic fiber clothes are less likely to be impacted by this species as they only like to feed on animal-origin fibers and hair.
You can identify the larvae by their elongated shape and dark brown color. Small and rare hairs cover the body of these larvae.
At most, this species tends to grow to a length of 8mm.
Spotting these types of larvae in clothes is rather difficult as they remain hidden in fibers, unlike adults that can even fly around the house.
Signs of carpet beetles on clothes
- Spotting larvae or an adult carpet beetle on clothes
- Holes and chewed-up areas on clothes, carpets, and other animal-origin fibers in the house
- Spotting a flying carpet beetle in the house
2. Bed Bugs
Bed Bugs are among the common species on clothes even if they don’t feed on natural or synthetic fibers.
Unlike Carpet Beetle Larvae, bed bugs feed on blood. They prefer the blood of a host such as an animal or even a human.
Once carried indoors, these bugs may settle in the area humans live such as beds, armchairs, living rooms, and bedrooms.
From here, they easily transition to clothes, especially when they start multiplying.
You can identify these types of bugs by their apple seed-like shape and their dark red to brown color.
Bed Bugs have an oval flattened shape and not a dome shape such as Carpet Beetles.
A size of up to 0.2 inches is specific to these bugs.
However, spotting them is generally difficult as these bugs only come out at night. Most Bed Bugs only come out to bite and feed at night.
Signs of Bed Bugs on clothes
- Finding a seed-shaped bug in dark hidden places such as under the mattress or in clothes
- Detecting red blood stains on clothes or the bed
- Spotting the larvae of the species (a slightly transparent and smaller version of an adult Bed Bug)
Termites might be interested in eating through clothes but they do not nest in clothes. These are some of the most dangerous types of bugs you can find in clothes and they need to be eliminated immediately.
Termites can be attracted to cotton clothes as the cellulose content in these textiles is seen as food.
They can also be attracted to stained clothes. Food stains may attract termites which may eat the small food particles and the fibers they sit on along the way.
Even more, termites can eat wooden wardrobes impacted by high moisture or a water leak.
Termites grow up to an inch and they come in various shades of tan and brown.
You can confirm their presence on clothes by their thick waist as opposed to a thin sculpted waist, as seen on ants.
Signs of Termites on clothes
- Holes in clothes
- Peeling wardrobe paint
- Hollow-sounding wardrobe when tapped
Cockroaches are among the bugs that can eat clothes and also nest in clothes.
Not all clothes are suitable for these types of bugs as they prefer old clothes, damp clothes, mold-affected clothes, or dirty food-stained clothes stored in the wardrobe.
Other factors that may attract cockroaches into wardrobes and onto clothes include storing cardboard boxes next to the clothes.
Cockroaches like cardboard because it absorbs their strong odor and because they can also eat it.
Freshly-washed clothes that smell of fresh fabric softener are less likely to attract clothes.
It’s the old clothes you never wear that start to degrade that attract roaches.
Children’s clothes which are stained with food all the time are also likely to attract roaches which guide themselves by food odors.
Signs of cockroaches on clothes
- Shed skin in the wardrobe
- An unpleasant scent
- Damaged clothes
- Brown smear marks
5. Common Clothes Moth
The Common Clothes Moth (Tineola bisselliella) is one of the most damaging species when it comes to its impact on clothes.
Certain factors favor the presence of these fiber-eating moths but not are more important than relative humidity.
Clothes stored in a room with higher humidity are more likely to attract clothes moths.
The time an egg takes to mature is also considerably shorter in homes with higher humidity
Common Clothes Moths are part of a fungus moth category. They remain small, even as adults.
A typical moth of this species measures just 7mm.
While small, these moths are highly problematic to clothes made from natural fibers as they can digest them.
Clothing Moths can digest keratin, wool, and silk.
New clothes are less likely to be impacted, even when made with these natural fibers.
Clothing moths are attracted to sweat on clothes.
Furthermore, all clothes will eventually get damaged by these moths as they can eat natural fibers and mix natural and synthetic fibers as well.
Full control of moths is difficult once established as a single female can lay 200-300 eggs around the home, including on carpet.
Dry lavender stored around clothes may deter moths.
Signs Common Clothes Moths on clothes
- Seeing a Common Clothes Moths Larvae (hard shell worm-like larvae)
- Tunnels in a natural fiber or mixed fiber clothes
- High fur shed of fur clothes
- Seeing moths fly around the house
6. Case-Bearing Clothes Moth
One of the species eating clothes is the Case-Bearing Clothes Moth (Tinea pellionella). This species is more common in Europe where it has a summertime flight season.
Slightly darker and closer to brown compared to The Common Clothes Moth, this is a species that may live outdoors with birds and make it indoors to eat clothes.
A single brood of moths is specific to this species. However, multiple broods are specific to this species once settled indoors.
Unlike the smaller Common Clothes Moths, Case-Bearing Clothes Moths can be twice as large. They can measure up to 16mm in wingspan.
Signs of Case-Bearing Clothes Moth on clothes
- Spotting their soft-shelf white larvae with a black head on clothes
- Seeing adult moths fly indoors (through the summer or even through the year)
- Holes in fur, wool, and cotton clothes
7. Carpet Moth
Carpet Moths (Trichophaga tapetzella) are a large species eating animal-based products such as fur and animal skin.
This month has a white head and partially dark brown forewings. It’s twice as large as The Common House Moth and it may invade homes making its way from bird nests.
The species is known for spinning a webbing in clothes or any other area they live in, typically right next to a food source.
Moths of this species are also specific to the summer when living outdoors but they become a multi-brood species indoors.
Signs of Carpet Moths on clothes
- Threadbare patches on clothes and carpets
- Spotting one or multiple larval cases on clothes
- Holes and or large missing patches on clothes
8. Pale-backed Clothes Moth
Native to Western Europe, Pale-blacked Clothes Moths (Monopis crocicapitella) are a hybrid species that feeds on both animal-based products and various vegetable-based products.
They can be found in clothes as well as in dried foods in the kitchen such as flour.
Moths of this species may enter homes with flour and make their way to clothes as they multiply.
These moths can also fly indoors through open windows from bird nests or from dead mice which also attract them.
A highly destructive nature is specific to this aggressive species which may chew its way through various types of natural fiber and synthetic clothes.
Signs of Pale-backed Clothes Moths on clothes
- Spotting the adult dark-colored moth
- Holes in towels and clothes in the house (particularly in Europe and Southern US)
- Seeing these moths in the pantry
9. Brown-dotted Clothes Moth
Wool clothes might be impacted by Brown-dotted Clothes Moth (Niditinea fuscella). This is also a moth species that eat products of vegetable origin, as well as animal, remains.
It often gets indoors from piles of leaves outdoors.
Adult moths aren’t as harmful to clothes as the larvae which feed almost all the time.
Chicken and pigeon nests around the homes are known breeding sites for the Brown-dotted Clothes Moth.
You may need to clean these nests if you’ve confirmed the species indoors.
Measuring up to 14mm in wingspan, this species is likely to be found in stored foods as well as in wardrobes feeding on natural wool clothes or stored wool blankets.
Signs of Brown-dotted Clothes Moth on clothes
- Spotting the adult moth or its larvae on clothes
- Finding the moths on dried fruit or flour in the kitchen
- Spotting its larvae feeding on leather bookbindings
Crickets are one of the least likely species to feed on clothes and textiles. However, these bugs may feed on clothes with food stains or clothes that haven’t been washed or properly dried.
Food and beverage stains on clothes are known to attract crickets which may even cut through fibers when eating leftover foods with these stains.
Dealing with these bugs on clothes should be easy. You can vacuum them up and get them out of the house. Unlike clothing moths, crickets may not lay eggs on clothes unless there’s high humidity in the wardrobe.
Signs of crickets on clothes
- Spotting a cricket on clothes
- Finding holes in clothes, particularly in areas with stains
- Spotting cricket eggs on clothes (yellow elongated shape)
Cellulose, carbohydrates, and protein are all nutrients silverfish eat. These types of jumping bugs may be found on clothes, particularly on damp clothes in old wardrobes.
Known for their gray to blue colors and long antennae, silverfish may eat all types of textile materials along with clothes, such as towels and carpets.
These bugs typically live in dark damp places in the house, such as in the bathroom. Clothes stored in the bathroom are more likely to be impacted by the species, accordingly.
Certain factors may influence the presence of these bugs on clothes. For example, books and magazines stored close to clothes are known to attract these bugs through cellulose.
Leather on books may also attract these bugs which chew through them.
Some of the thickest leather covers on books may even be half-eaten, as these bugs aren’t strong enough to eat their way through thick leather.
Signs of silverfish on clothes
- Seeing silverfish droppings (similar in color and shape to peppercorns)
- Spotting bug skin shed on clothes
- Yellow spots on clothes and holes in clothes
- Spotting silverfish on clothes, particularly at night as these bugs are mostly nocturnal
Firebrats are found in different indoor areas with plenty of heat. This is a species often found in bakeries or restaurants, close to ovens, or another heat source.
Clothes stored next to boilers or furnaces might be invaded by firebrats.
Bugs of this species don’t eat these clothes, but they may nest or lay eggs on clothes next to heat sources as they offer valid shelter for nymphs.
Clothes stored next to dry food next to heat sources such as ovens such as flour might be the most exposed to firebrats looking to lay eggs.
It takes only 2 weeks for firebrat eggs to hatch indoors, compared to 4 weeks the eggs take to hatch outdoors.
Signs of Firebrats on clothes
- Spotting firebrats on clothes
- Seeing firebrat eggs on clothes (elliptical shape of up to 1mm)
- Detecting yellow marks on clothes
13. Larder Beetles
Larder Beetles also known as Skin Beetles are sometimes found in homes.
These types of bugs lay eggs which later become long dark brown larvae that may feed on clothes.
Homes with pets are highly likely to attract these bugs as they are known to feed on dry pet food.
Furthermore, they like to feed on dead animals and dead insects.
Attics are one of the areas of the house where dead animals might go unnoticed and where Larder Beetles can make their way to looking for food.
Clothes of natural fibers such as wool, cotton, and fur in attics may also be eaten by the larvae of Larder Beetles. These bugs may eat these clothes if they can find other foods on them, such as dead insects.
Signs of Larder Beetles on clothes
- Spotting Larder Beetles indoors
- Seeing larder beetle larvae – a red to brown species of up to 0.5 inches
Dust mites are some of the smallest types of bugs on clothes. These bugs are microscopic and their presence can largely go unnoticed.
One of the adverse reactions to having mites on clothes includes mild allergic reactions such as sneezing, having red eyes, or having mild skin rashes.
As their name implies, Dust Mites are a species known to live in dust particles. Clothes that aren’t worn for a long time in wardrobes with dust are the most likely to be a nesting ground for these mites.
Even clothes that are worn weekly may still attract Dust Mites as these small creatures also feed on sheds of human skin.
Signs of Dust Mites on clothes
- A mild allergic reaction to certain clothes such as sneezing
- A nasal congestion
- Unexplained coughing
There are 2 main reasons for ants to be on clothes. Food and shelter are the main reasons you can see species such as Fire ants or Carpenter ants on clothes.
Homes impacted by ants are homes where these insects can find sugary foods or damp wood, an ideal nesting site for carpenter ants.
You can find various species of ants attracted to food stains on clothes and kitchen towels.
Some of the clothes of your children might be attracting ants if they aren’t properly washed. Juice spills and other types of food-caused stains on clothes attract the highest amounts of ants.
Carpenter ants might also be making their way into the wardrobe and onto clothes when nesting indoors. Often confused with termites, these ants don’t eat clothes.
Signs of Ants on clothes
- Sawdust on clothes or in the wardrobe
- Finding their wings around the house
- Spotting a few ants on clothes
Fleas can be picked up when hiking, camping, or playing outdoors. Contact with pets and wild animals is also known to increase the chances of carrying fleas back into the house.
Unlike with bare skin, fleas have found it easier to attach themselves to clothes.
This is why they may be carried inside the house and spread onto other clothes. Fleas need a blood meal to survive and they will look for a host even inside the house.
It’s highly unlikely for fleas to make their way through clothes but they can make it on bare skin areas by jumping.
Fleas may jump up to 30.000 times before taking a break which means they can quickly find a host such as a person or a pet inside of the house, feed, and breed.
Signs of fleas on clothes
- Red pimples on the skin
- Seeing a small (jumping) bug on clothes
- Excessive scratching of dogs or cats
Ticks are also picked up from the outdoors, typically from animals or vegetation. Walking through dense vegetation is one of the common ways ticks get attached to your clothes.
Ticks typically wait for a host in a specific position. Their front legs are stretched sideways so they quickly attach themselves to an animal or a person passing by.
They prefer to attach themselves directly to the skin so they can bite but they may attach to clothes easier and even go undetected when attaching to clothes.
Killing ticks on clothes might require washing all of your clothes at high temperatures. You may also want to dry your clothes in full sun or in high temperatures in the dryer.
Signs of ticks on clothes
- Seeing ticks physically
- Suffering from a bite
- Having rashes following a bite
Spiders can be picked up on clothes or they can make their way into clothes on their own.
Many species of spiders may end up on clothes, particularly those that like to live indoors.
The American House Spider is one of the species that can make it onto clothes around the house.
Other small spiders may also crawl into wardrobes and lay eggs there. A dark moist wardrobe is likely to attract more spiders inside.
Clutter around the house is one of the reasons insects and bugs are present indoors. These are prey for spiders and a good reason for spiders to settle indoors.
Signs of spiders on clothes
- Seeing spider webs on clothes
- Spotting spiders in the house multiple times
- Finding a spider eggs sac behind or in wardrobes
Chiggers might be spotted indoors on clothes. They may seek out clothes to hide, but they rarely survive a long time without a host.
Chiggers need the tissue of their living host (animal or person) to survive.
They may not live more than a few days on clothes without a host. However, getting rid of chiggers is mandatory as they can carry diseases such as Scrub typhus.
Signs of chiggers on clothes
- Suffering from a painful chigger bite
- Suffering from multiple chigger bites (typically close to each other)
- Seeing chigger larvae (which have a red color and look like small chiggers)
How to Get Rid of Bugs in Clothes
Bugs may or may not be detrimental to clothes. Some bugs may eat your clothes. Both natural fibers and clothes made with mixed fibers may be damaged by bugs.
Here’s how to deal with bugs on some of your favorite clothes you don’t want to discard.
Freezing temperatures kill all bugs on clothes. You should allow your clothes to sit in the refrigerator for 2-3 days to kill any eggs these bugs may lay.
Frozen clothes need to be allowed to defrost naturally. Afterward, you need to wash and dry your clothes with a regular program of your washing machine.
Clothes you freeze aren’t damaged as long as you allow them to defrost at room temperature afterward.
Clothes with even a single spotted bug on them may need to be washed. You need to wash your clothes once you remove the bug.
Regular detergent and regular disinfectant are used in the washing machine.
You may need to wash the clothes multiple times if you find bug stains on them.
Clothes that have holes in them should not be washed as washing may incur further damage to clothes.
Multiple species of bugs may be found in clothes and some of them may leave streaks that require extra washing.
Dry clothes on high heat
You should also aim to dry clothes in the dryer once washed.
This method is recommended as temperatures of up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit kill bug eggs.
You should set the dryer to the longest program or ensure clothes are properly dry for dryers that stop automatically.
How to Prevent Bugs in Clothes
It’s always easier to prevent bugs in clothes, especially at home, than deal with them once the wardrobe has been infested.
Some natural remedies such as dry lavender are used to keep some species away, especially moths. But more general tips may be applied to keep most bugs away.
Always keep clothes clean without any food stains
Stained clothes attract considerably more bugs. Furthermore, food stains attract bugs that aren’t necessarily known for eating clothes in your dressing.
Food stains such as spilled juice or ketchup stains attract ants. Other food stains such as sauces attract other bugs and flies.
While clothing moths aren’t attracted to food stains, other species such as cockroaches may try to eat the parts of the clothes with the stains.
Food stains in the closet are also known to attract bugs and even make for a good nesting site for various species. All stored clothes should be clean and free of stains to keep bugs away.
Check wardrobe humidity
High humidity creates the perfect environment for bugs such as roaches and silverfish. Even relative humidity of around 70% can create an ideal habitat for bugs.
High closet humidity also creates an environment for mold and mildew. Certain types of mites may thrive in this habitat.
The combination of mites and mold may also lead to health problems, apart from damaging your clothes. Allergic reactions are sometimes tied to dusty clothes covered in dust mites and mold.
Check pets for bugs
Pets are a common vector in homes with bugs on clothes, carpets, or on furniture.
Cats and dogs often get in contact with other animals or birds in the backyard. They can carry fleas and ticks from chickens or wild animals indoors.
These bugs can then get on your clothes and they may even bite as species such as fleas also bite humans.
Maintain a clean home and a clean property
Regular home cleaning is one of the proven methods of maintaining a clean house.
A clean home has reduced dust levels, normal humidity, and no spider webs to trap all types of dead insects that attract other species.
Clean homes may also be maintained with pets. Cats and dogs may be properly inspected regularly so that no bugs are carried by them, especially biting bugs.
Vacuum closet corners
Closet corners are one of the remote areas that often get overlooked when vacuuming.
You need to vacuum the corners of your closets properly to eliminate hiding spiders, spider webs, and any other type of bug that’s hiding.
Some bugs on clothes such as silverfish are nocturnal. This means they seek out dark places to hide in.
They can easily transition to spaces between your clothes as they offer a dark warm place to hide in.
Rotate clothes in the closet
Often switching the position of your clothes in the closet is one of the methods that allow you to quickly identify bugs on clothes.
While you may easily find bugs on clothes in front of the closet, there might be more bugs, nymphs, or eggs on the clothes you wear less often than on the clothes at the back of the closet.