Few things are as disturbing as a pest infestation in your closet. Particularly if you’ve invested in a custom closet for a beautiful wardrobe that you’ve spent years building, you may be horrified to find an assortment of insects taking over your space.
Fortunately, there are some relatively easy steps you can take to shield your closets from pests:
- Get to Know The Pests You May Encounter
- Look for Signs of Pests in The Places They Hide
- Eliminate Anything That May Attract Pests
- Regularly Clean Your Closets
- Keep an Organized Closet Where Pests Can’t Hide
- Incorporate Items That Repel Pests
If you suspect you may have some uninvited visitors setting up their new home in your closet, don’t panic and put your house on the market yet. You can take back one of your most personal and valuable spaces with a little planning and effort, along with a few everyday household items.
Get to Know The Pests You May Encounter
Once you learn about the pests you’re likely to encounter, you’ll be able to predict the threats they may pose to your closet contents. A great place to start is the university extension office for your state. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, Minnesota homeowners are likely to encounter some potentially damaging indoor insects:
- Carpet beetles
- Clothes moths
- Houseplant insects
- Larder beetles
- Pantry pests
- Powderpost beetles
- Psocids (Barklice, Booklice)
Understanding which pests are a problem allows you to predict their seasonal behaviors and take additional steps when they're most active. You’ll also learn about their life cycles, including their appearance when they’re not yet full-grown adults.
Look for Signs of Pests in The Places They Hide
Pests like to live and hide in places that offer a steady food supply and little homeowner traffic. Unfortunately, the nature of your closet helps create that ideal pest atmosphere. Closets offer a dark, quiet corner of your home that they can call their own.
By the time many homeowners recognize the signs of pests, it’s too late. Make it a point to regularly check your closets for the signs of pests that Reader’s Digest warns about:
- Flying bugs that scatter when you enter your closet
- Stains, tears, spots, or holes in your fabrics
- Webbing in corners
Eliminate Anything That May Attract Pests
Have one or more of the warning signs of pests above? It’s never too soon to go through a checklist of factors and items that may be attracting pests and start eliminating them:
- Messy piles of clothes, shoes, and accessories
- Poor closet airflow and overcrowding makes it hard to enter and tidy up
- Leaks and excess moisture can give pests a water source
- Dirty, smelly items like soiled clothing that may attract insects
Believe it or not, one of the worst items to keep in your closet is cardboard boxes. In addition to providing an ideal, private environment for insects to live, cardboard is composed of cellulose. The University of Florida Extension explains that silverfish and other insects will eat cardboard, making it both a home and a food source.
In addition, pests can smell clothing items that are soiled and may have traces of food items on them. Even traces of perspiration on your dirty clothes could be enough to attract pests, so make sure all dirty laundry is tucked away in a hamper. If your profession or hobbies tend to make your clothes extra dirty, you may want to store dirty clothes in your laundry room, away from clean items and in an area that is less attractive to pests.
Regularly Clean Your Closets
As tucked-away rooms that you may only visit a couple of times a day, it’s easy to let your closet become cluttered and dirty after one deep cleaning. This is particularly true because closet spaces often become the de facto dumping ground for any excess items you don’t know where to store elsewhere.
Keeping a pest-free closet means committing to regular cleaning as often as you clean your common areas like the kitchen, bathroom, and family room. Reader’s Digest offers some recommendations on how to eliminate insects before they take up residence in your closet:
- Vacuum and shake out your clothes.
- Wash clothing with water that is at least 100 degrees.
- Vacuum floors and empty the canister/bag immediately after to prevent reinfestation.
- Pay attention to cleaning around baseboards, corners, and windows where pests often enter, travel, and find debris to eat.
- Never bring secondhand clothing into your closet without washing it first.
Insects love natural materials and fibers, so pay special attention to items that may attract insects and quickly remove anything that you no longer wear. This includes items made of wool, hair, and fur, felt, feathers and silk.
Keep an Organized Closet Where Pests Can’t Hide
Neatness and organization ensure your closet is easier to keep clean. A well-designed closet properly stores clothes, shoes, and accessories without the piles of items that can attract insects.
When all of your items have a home, it’s far easier to keep them off the floor. In turn, you’ll have an easier time vacuuming those often-cluttered corners where pests like to hide.
Incorporate Items That Repel Pests
When cleaning and organization aren’t enough, you may want to introduce some items that actively repel pests. Fortunately, the Spruce offers several recommendations for organic materials that pests can’t stand:
- Dried lavender
- Lavender essential oils
- Borax mixed with sugar
- Cedar hangers and shoe trees
- Cedar blocks or shavings- An added bonus is that cedar helps your closets smell fantastic as well!
Avoid dangerous chemicals that repel pests, such as mothballs. Although effective, the Connecticut Department of Health explains that mothballs are composed of either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, two toxic chemicals that can be particularly dangerous to young children; these can seep into fabrics and cause lung and eye irritation, dizziness, nausea, and headaches.
If you’re considering using materials to help repel insects, opt for organic materials that don’t present negative health risks. Also, always be sure to clear out your closets first before trying out any of the above methods.
While you may not be able to eliminate every opportunity that a pest has to enter your closet, you can dramatically reduce your risks.
Shielding your closets from pests involves giving these spaces the respect they deserve. Spend some time doing a deep clean and going through the items inside to ensure everything is really needed. The more effort you invest in keeping your closets neat, clean, and pest-free, the more they'll pay you back by keeping your cherished possessions safe.