Sweet Smelling Natural Moth Repellents: DIY Bugs-Be-Gone

Mothballs are very effective at keeping moths at bay but they are made from paradichlorobenzene which can cause all kinds of health problems including damage to liver and kidneys. They’re especially hazardous to children and pets if swallowed–and to top things off, they STINK to high heaven!

If you’ve ever pulled some old bedding out of a trunk that was packed with mothballs, you know how difficult it is to get that stink out! Plenty of laundering and several days laying out in the sun before it’s usable again.

Neat To Know: It’s not the adult Clothes Moths that do the damage, it’s the larvae that are feasting on our treasures! The adults seek out dark, undisturbed locations to lay their eggs, preferably somewhere near a steady food source (ie. your favorite wool sweater).

They prefer animal fibers such as silk, wool, cashmere, fur. Do they eat cotton or linen? I can’t find a definitive yes or no from experts, but it seems they’ll eat plant fibers if there are traces of dead skin cells/oil found on them.

If you’d like to learn more, see this fact sheet from the Department of Entomolgy, University of Kentucky.

The Best Solution: To protect our precious items, it’s smart to keep the adults at a distance so they don’t have a chance to lay their eggs (which hatch the loathsome larvae).

How to do that? Take advantage of aromatic herbs and spices that naturally repulse the very powerful sense of smell adults have! The best part is: These aren’t noxious at all and leave behind a WONDERFUL fragrance!

I’ve compiled a reference sheet listing several natural items you can use and a few DIY recipes to mix and match. There are no hard and fast rules though, put together a scented batch of whatever you have on hand (from the list below)…and it will work.

Don’t Miss It: I included a long-favorite pattern at the bottom of this page for sewing lovely lacey-window envelopes that you can stuff with all the goods and then stash with your linens.

Effective Dried Herbs, Spices & Citrus

This is the master list of items that will help deter moths. They don’t like the smell of these and will keep on trucking to find a more appealing spot to hunker down in.

  • Lavender
  • Cloves
  • Rosemary
  • Mint
  • Thyme
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Eucalyptus
  • Peppercorns
  • Orange / Lemon peel
  • Cedar (chips, balls, planks or essential oil–cedar lined closets, drawers or trunks)

Once ingredients are fully dried, use them to fill sachets and pouches that can be stashed in drawers, trunks or hang them in closets from bands of ribbon.

Quick Tip: Dab a cotton ball with an essential oil version of the above herbs then tuck it into one of the sachets you made before closing. You’ll have extra fragrance and repellent power!

You could also simply spread loose handfuls of dried citrus peels in between garments while you’re packing them away. Or just cram a handful in a sock or square of pantyhose then wrap tightly closed with an elastic band.

Homemade Fragrant Sachets

Sew these with pretty cotton prints, lace, organza, ordinary cheesecloth, muslin, linen. Fancy or not…pretty or plain…they’ll work! You can make them rough with just a couple squares of material, or check out this page for lots of inspiration and tutorials.

Ingredient ratios below (number indicates “part”).

  • 1 rosemary, 1 mint
  • 1 lavender, 1 rosemary, 1/2 lemon peel, 1 TBS cloves
  • 1 whole cloves, 1 whole peppercorns, 2 – 4 cinnamon sticks broken in pieces
  • 1 lavender, 1 lemon peel, 1 broken cinnamon stick
  • 1 cedar shavings, 1 thyme
  • 1 peppermint, 1 spearmint, 1 rosemary, 1/2 thyme
  • Equal parts ground cloves, black pepper, orris root and cinnamon

You can experiment with your own recipes by playing with ratios/blends, or just use 100% of one ingredient if you like.

Bugs-Be-Gone Bags
*First published February 8, 2008 and moved to this page for better organization

Materials Needed:

Lavender Buds
Cedar Chips

Cheesecloth, Muslin or linen envelopes (free download below)


  • Fill small bags to hold between 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup of the mixture.
  • Stash them in your pantry, closets, drawers, chests, under beds, hang in kitchen windows. You could also place a batch in open, decorative bowls and arrange them in rooms.
  • Periodically scrunch them roughly to help release their aroma.
  • Refill once the ingredients are no longer effective.

The potpourri helps to naturally deter and repel bugs and pests from the places you have stored the bags.

The picture above is from a free tutorial for making pretty fabric envelopes, perfect for this purpose! You can find the pattern here (pdf). This is a webarchive link since the site is no longer available online. To save a copy to your computer, right click on the file and a “save as” option should pop up.


  • Replace pouches with fresh ones in Spring and Fall. The stronger the fragrance, the better they work.
  • For best results, make sure items are laundered and clean before storing away. It also helps to seal them in plastic if possible (or in airtight tubs/containers).
  • If you know moths have discovered your storage area, kill larvae by dry cleaning or freezing fabrics for a few days or wash then tumble in the dryer on high heat (if possible). Clean and disinfect the storage area thoroughly before using again to make sure there are no eggs laying about, waiting to hatch and feast.

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    • Tammy

    Thanks so much for this list. I just made up a few bags to put in with my attic/fabric storage.

    • Hilda

    So glad to finally find some herbal repellants! Thanks!

    • Betty

    Thanks so much, a HUGE money saver compared to buying what’s in the stores now!

    • Susan Coyle

    Where can I buy the fresh herbs to make sachets to repel moths?

      • Marmee

      Visit a gardening friend or neighbour! These plants grow better with an occasional haircut. Bay laurel tree leaves work well too.

    • marge fox

    Have you heard of Diatomaceous Earth.

    • misha becket

    I use Diatomaceous for my dog coat to prevent flees. Its my understanding, that it is grind shells. Use a mask to prevent the powder from getting to your lungs. It is also use in garden to prevent slugs eating your vegetable. Have not try that. Misha

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