How to get rid of moths in your car

Verena
Verena
Verena
Verena

I grew up on a small, organic family farm and after a gap year spent working on an American ranch, I started studying agricultural science. Soil, organic farming practices, and plant science are what I am most drawn to. At home, when I'm not in our garden, you can find me in the kitchen, cooking and baking with our harvested fruits and vegetables.

Favorite fruit: Even if a bit boring - apples
Favorite vegetables: Bell peppers, red beets, zucchini, white cabbage

Clothes moths not only infest clothing but will sometimes go for car seats as well. We will show you why that is, how to detect such an infestation and how to successfully control moths in your car.

The upholstery of an old car seat
Old cars are particularly susceptible to moths [Photo: JazzBoo/ Shutterstock.com]

Have you ever had small, shiny moths in your car that would just not go away? Or perhaps small holes in your seat covers and damage to the upholstery? You could be dealing with clothes moths (Tineola bisselliella). Apart from fur coats, woolly jumpers and other clothing, clothes moths nest in textiles such as carpets, in furniture and even in the upholstery of car seats. Read on to find out why these tiny creatures are particularly fond of old cars, how to recognise an infestation and how to get rid of one.

How to detect moths in your car

Not every moth that gets into your car is something to worry about. Clothes moths are a specific type of moth that is identifiable by its yellowish, grey or brown wings with three dots. They are usually 0.5 – 1 cm in size and have narrow, plain, shiny wings that fold over their back when they are resting.

Close up of a clothes moth
Clothes moths are not patterned [Photo: Tomasz Klejdysz/ Shutterstock.com]

The moths lay their eggs in the upholstery of car seats, which the larvae then feed on. The eggs and larvae themselves are whitish in colour and tiny in size. Since they live in the upholstery, they are difficult to spot. Clothes moth larvae have one distinguishing feature: they spin a protective cocoon around their body, from which only the head and the front legs protrude and which they always carry around with them. However, the safer way of detecting an infestation is by spotting adult moths or feeding marks on the upholstery.

Furry moth larva
Clothes moth larvae spin themselves into a characteristic cocoon [Photo: Young Swee Ming/ Shutterstock.com]

Moth traps such as our Plantura Clothes Moth Traps are a great means of helping you detect adult moths. The traps have a sticky pheromone strip, which is specifically designed to lure and trap male moths. Pheromone traps can help you detect an infestation early on and identify which type of moth you are dealing with. Simply place the trap in your car and remove the protective film to activate the pheromones. There are 2 things to keep in mind when using them:

  1. The traps need to be replaced every 3 months as they lose their effectiveness over time
  2. Pheromone traps alone are not enough for getting rid of clothes moths because they do not catch every male and do not affect females, eggs and larvae
Clothes Moth Traps 6-pack
Clothes Moth Traps 6-pack
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(5/5)
  • 6 odourless, long-lasting clothes moth traps
  • Ideal for detecting infestations in wardrobes & storage rooms early on
  • 100% insecticide-free & non-toxic
£9.99

Why do clothes moths like old cars?

Old cars and classic cars in particular are susceptible to clothes moth infestations. This is because vintage cars are usually driven less often, enabling moths to multiply without being disturbed. More importantly, however, animal fibres such as skin, fur or silk were often used to upholster old cars. Although clothes moths do sometimes eat synthetic fibres – despite not being able to digest them – animal fibres are what they will usually go for to feed on and breed in.

Upholstery with clothes moth damage
Such upholstery damage can be caused by clothes moths [Photo: Visharo/ Shutterstock.com]

Getting rid of moths in the car

To get rid of moths, many car owners resort to insect sprays. However, these chemical toxins are not only harmful to the moths themselves but also to humans and the environment. A more sustainable and safe way of combating moths in cars is to use heat. However, you will need temperatures over 70 °C for this to be successful, which is why this method is usually carried out in special facilities by experienced pest controllers.

Another sustainable method of moth control is the use of ichneumon wasps. These tiny, sting-free insects are the natural counterparts of many moths and have been used as an effective means of moth control for a long time. Our Plantura Mini-Wasps Against Clothes Moths are of the genus Trichogramma, which is usually used for this purpose. They come in carded dispensers we deliver right to your doorstep. Simply place the cards in your car and close all the doors and windows. 1 card covers an area of approximately 1m2, so we recommend using 3 – 4 cards per car. The beneficial insects will get to work immediately, searching out and parasitising moth eggs. The ichneumon wasps themselves die after their work is done, leaving behind nothing more than a bit of dust. To ensure you catch all the moths and any subsequent generations, we recommend repeating this procedure at least 6 times at 14-day intervals. We will send you the required amount of fresh ichneumon wasps at the right time for free.

When using ichneumon wasps in the car, please note:

  • In winter, ichneumon wasps need a temperature of at least 15 °C at all times, so a heated garage is recommended
  • If possible, do not use your car for about a week once you have placed a fresh set of cards inside to ensure the ichneumon wasps are not disturbed
Mini-Wasps against Clothes Moths - Natural Moth Control
Mini-Wasps against Clothes Moths - Natural Moth Control
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star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating
(3.8/5)
  • Effective & chemical-free biological control for clothes moths
  • 1 one-time payment for 6 separate lots of mini-wasp cards delivered at 2 week intervals
  • Highest quality parasitic wasps - not harmful to humans or pets
£39.99

Tip: After application, hoover your car thoroughly to remove all residues – even when they are hardly visible to the naked eye.

Summary: Means of getting rid of moths in the car

  • Chemical control with insecticides (beware of toxic ingredients!)
  • Heat treatment in a suitable facility
  • Simple, natural and effective control with Trichogramma ichneumon wasps

Once your car is moth-free, you will of course want to prevent another infestation in the future. To do so, hoover and air your upholstery regularly, especially if you have a car that is in the garage a lot of the time. To detect an infestation early on, it is always worthwhile to use pheromone traps such as our Plantura Clothes Moth Traps.

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