Pantry moths are unwelcome guests who live to eat you out of house and home. They are destructive pests that can eat through all of the stored food in your cabinets and pantry. Plus, they lay eggs in your dry goods, and those eggs hatch and turn into moths themselves.
If you discover evidence of pantry moths, you need to act quickly. A minor problem can turn into a major one fast, so make sure to take these steps so that the moths don’t return.
What Are Pantry Moths?
Pantry moths, or Indian meal moths, are incredibly common. They are known for infesting everything from bags of flour, dried beans, and grains to boxes of cereal, cake mixes, and rice. Nothing is sacred for pantry moths, and they will eat anything that crosses their path.
Pantry moths cause the most damage when they spin a massive amount of silk in your dried goods, and that silk accumulates fecal pellets. The moths also cast their skin and eggshells in food products.
If you have a pantry moth infestation, it isn’t because you haven’t kept your cupboards clean. Instead, it is most likely that the moths laid eggs in the food at a food-packaging facility or in the bulk bins at the grocery store.
Pantry moths do not bring disease, but they can be extremely difficult to get rid of. Because they become harder to eliminate after completing their life cycle, it is important to get rid of them as soon as you find them.
How To Get Rid Of Pantry Moths
Throw Away Your Food
When you find one pantry moth, chances are there are many more around, and you should assume that they have eaten and reproduced in any open dry goods — like flour, cereals, and whole grains. Inspect your food for larvae and webs. Pantry moths can chew through paper and plastic, so be sure to look through everything for any evidence of meal moth larvae. If you find infested food, you should toss it, unless you want to eat pantry moths with your next home-cooked meal.
If you have pets, be sure to take a look at their food, too.
When you are throwing out infested items, be sure to take them to the outside trash immediately. Putting them in the indoor trash will spread the problem, not stop it.
Pantry moths might also lay eggs on cans. If you do find affected cans, wipe them down with undiluted vinegar to kill the larvae.
- Once you have gotten rid of all affected items, remove everything else from your pantry and cupboards — including shelf liners — and vacuum the shelves to remove any other moths and cocoons. Pay special attention to the corners, the undersides of shelves, and the brackets and mounting hardware. Also vacuum everything else in your pantry, like the ceiling, walls, baseboards, and the door. When you are finished, take your vacuum bag to the outside trash. If you use a bagless vacuum, wash out the dust compartment.
- Then wash your shelves and walls with hot soapy water followed by a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and warm water. The vinegar mix will kill any remaining eggs, and if you add some peppermint oil to it, it will help prevent future infestations.
- It is also a good idea to clean out the kitchen trash can with this mix. Do the same thing with any food storage containers, even if they didn’t show signs of being infested. Washing everything that you plan on putting back into the pantry will keep you from overlooking hidden eggs.
- If you put some infested food items into the garbage disposal, be sure to turn on the hot water and let it run for about a minute. Add a little bit of liquid dish detergent to clean the disposal and a few ice cubes to clean the blades.
After you have removed everything from your pantry, cleaned every inch of it, and taken out the trash, you have to wait a few days to make sure you have gotten rid of all the larvae and eggs. If you have taken all of these steps and you still see pantry moths, go back and make sure you didn’t miss something.
Pantry moths could be in cardboard boxes, behind the paper labels on jars, or inside the pages of your cookbooks. Pantry moths can even get creative and hide in tea bags, your dried candy and nuts, or your child’s macaroni art hanging on the fridge. It is important to keep looking until you find where they are hiding.
If after a few days you don’t find any more signs of moths, you can start to restock your pantry.
How To Prevent Pantry Moths
- Since most of the time people bring pantry moths into their kitchens with the groceries, the best way to prevent pantry moths is to do a couple of things when you bring your groceries home. Cans and bottles need to be disinfected and cleaned with a soapy washcloth before you put them in the pantry. This may seem extreme, but rodents and bugs love to hang out on pallets of canned goods in transit. Trust us — this is a smart move.
- In addition to cleaning the cans and bottles, place all of your dry goods into plastic bags and freeze them for a couple of days before putting them on your pantry shelves. There is no way to guarantee that pests won’t make their way into these items, but freezing them before putting them in the pantry will keep you from finding a nasty infestation.
- When you do put your dry goods in the pantry, store them in airtight containers. This does two things. First, it protects you from an infestation. And second, if there are moths in a container, it prevents them from getting out and infecting other food.
- After you have taken these steps, scatter a few bay leaves on your pantry shelves or put some into an open container inside your pantry. The pungent aroma will prevent pantry moths from setting up shop in your cupboards.
Getting rid of pantry moths requires quite a bit of work, and many times you’ll have to throw out a bunch of food. But, since the other option is eating food riddled with insects, getting rid of the moths is well worth your time and effort.