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Like their closet-lurking cousins, pantry moths are destructive pests. Act fast before they eat through (and lay eggs on) the stored food in your cabinets or pantry. Even if it’s a minor problem that hasn’t yet escalated to a full-blown infestation, take these steps to get rid of pantry moths and prevent them from ever returning.
Empty out the affected area—completely. Remove every can, box, bag or bottle. Along the way, look for larval sacs (or webs of any sort). Also, keep an eye out for small holes in packaging. Remember that you’re pursuing the pantry moths themselves, but also their larvae. So check under the lids of jars; moths are known to lay eggs here. If you’re intent on keeping any jars that’ve been kept in an affected area, wash the jars under hot, soapy water in combination with a scrub brush.
Next, dispose of any dry goods with open packaging. And definitely throw away any boxes or bags found to have any holes that you didn’t make. Be thorough as you look over these items: If you’ve seen even one pantry moth near a certain cupboard or inside your pantry, then—troubling as it may be—all non-airtight packaging within the area may have been compromised by pests. To repeat: be thorough!
If possible, remove the shelves in the affected area. Either way, vacuum every square inch you can reach. Once finished, empty the vacuum bag, tie it off in a garbage bag, and take the garbage outside. Proceed to wash the affected area with a 50-50 solution of vinegar and warm water. If you have any or can get some, add peppermint oil into the mixture (pantry moths hate peppermint). Finish by mopping the floor with the same 50-50 mixture. And just to be on the safe side, why not bleach your mop head?
Wait a few weeks before restocking the area you’ve now cleaned. It pays to patient. If the problem hasn’t gone away, you can repeat the steps above, this time widening the scope to adjacent areas, without going through the hassle and expense of tossing the food you purchased to replace what you had already lost.
Once you’ve successfully gotten rid of pantry moths, take the following measures to keep them away:
• Store dry goods in plastic or glass containers with air-tight seals.
• Leave peppermint, bay leaves, mint or cedar chips exposed within the area, perhaps in a sachet.
• Inspect your cabinets and pantry on a regular basis. Whenever you spot pantry moths—and we hope, after this, you never spot them again—always act quickly in order to limit their spread as much as possible. After all, it’s easier to clean a single cabinet than it is clean every cabinet with food inside.