Pantry moths are a pain. Having just recently moved into an apartment rife with these atrocious little house guests, I can righteously say that pantry moths—also called meal moths—are the scourge of any kitchen and have caused me to lose more money’s worth of food than I’d care to think about.
Never having had to deal with these demons before, I wasn’t sure how to fight them. Since chemical poisons weren’t an option—especially so close to the food I planned to eat—I did a little research to find out the best all-natural way to free me of these monsters.
Photo by gailhampshire, Courtesy of Flickr (©Creative Commons)
How to Get Rid of Meal Moths Without Chemicals and other Nasties
According to the internet, there are about a million different ways to get rid of meal moths. I decided on a couple methods that made the most sense to me from what I knew about the properties of the different essences, herbs and spices involved: one a solution to clean infested areas, the other a ward to repel the moths from ever coming back.
Before you get started on anything, though, YOU MUST clean your entire pantry from top to bottom and get rid of anything you believe even might be contaminated. I’m serious, don’t go halfway on this. Once these little buggers infest a place, it can seem almost impossible to get rid of them. Total annihilation is required.
Take EVERYTHING out of your pantry and sweep out all the shelves. Get a vacuum. I’m not kidding. Remove all traces of moth and then scrub the entire thing with an extra concentrated dilution of castile soap with lemon juice.
We’re just getting started.
Pore over each and every food item you plan to return to the shelves. If it’s unsealed, then it’s been exposed—and if it’s grain or any other dried good, chances are it’s infected. Look extra closely at boxed pastas and rices, even if they haven’t been opened yet. Get rid of anything with any trace of moth or larvae. Take the bag you used to dispose of these things outside as soon as possible.
Put the items you plan to return into the pantry to one side, wiping them down with a clean rag and an extremely diluted castile lemon soap. Seal up all the dry items in airtight containers or resealable plastic bags for good measure.
Now that you’re done with the reaction, it’s time for some proaction.
As I mentioned, I chose two different methods. One is a solution to wash the shelves that leaves a residual scent that makes the pantry uninhabitable for the moths. I mixed warm water, castile soap, white vinegar, chili powder and tea tree oil. Spearmint oil will work in a pinch (and it’s generally cheaper), as will peppermint (but it’s more expensive). I’ve included a suggested mix of proportions below.
Store any unused moth repellant in a clearly labeled, airtight container and save it for the next go-around.
The other method is an herb-filled sachet. Moths can’t stand the scent of bay leaves, and lavender is another known herbal bug repellent. To make my sachets I combined crushed bay leaves with dried lavender flowers and a few tablespoons of baking powder. I made six sachets for my six shelves and placed one in the back of each, altering right to left. If you don’t feel like making sachets you can twist the mix up in some old cheesecloth or else toss them in a container. Try a narrow-mouthed open jar or a plastic container with holes (an empty cheese shaker with the lids pulled off would work great). Once again, I’ve included mixing suggestions below.
Since meal moths are annoyingly persistent, I’d recommend repeating this process at the start of every spring, summer and fall. The supplies’ costs are nominal compared to what you’d otherwise lose in spoiled food, and you’ll save yourself the headache of dealing with another infestation.
In addition to pantries, meal moths can sometimes be found in open shelves, cabinets that don’t contain food (especially under the sink) and waste receptacles. Show no mercy to these unwelcome invaders—remember, this is war. Good luck out there.
Two Recipes to Get Rid of Meal Moths Naturally
Moth Repelling Soap Recipe
2 Cups Water
2 Cups White Vinegar
1/3 Cup Castile Soap
1 Tablespoon Tea Tree Oil
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
Moth Repelling Herb Sachets
3 Tablespoons Baking Soda
2 Tablespoons Crushed Bay Leaves
1 Tablespoon Dried Lavender Flowers