Know Your Moth
Awareness of the life cycle and feeding habits of clothing moths is the first step toward banishing them from your closets. There are two main species of clothing moths in the U.S.: the Webbing Clothes Moth and the Casemaking Clothes Moth. Both have similar habits, except that their life spans differ, as well as the number of eggs they lay.
Clothing moths, unlike many other moths, dislike light and seek out dark, undisturbed places. They go through four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The adult moths are about half an inch long, and have no mouthparts. Their only task is to lay eggs. It is in the larval stage that moths damage clothes and other woolens. The larvae feed on wool, feathers, fur, and hair, including pet hair, and may cause damage to upholstery, fur coats, rugs, carpets, piano felt, and even feather beds, in addition to clothing and blankets. Although larvae can digest only animal fibers, they may eat through fabrics such as cotton and rayon if those fabrics are soiled, or to get to nearby wool fabrics. Larvae like soiled clothes. Sweat, food, and beverage remnants, as well as naturally occurring oils in wool fiber, are particularly attractive to moth larvae. And because the larvae are so small (about one quarter inch long), they can burrow into crevices of furniture and hide in the folds of clothing.
Moths cannot survive extremes of cold or heat. For this reason, freezing infested garments for several days, or running them through the dryer on high heat, can kill larvae and eggs (the dryer can also shrink woolens, so use only when shrinkage is not a concern).
Let the Sun Shine In
Moths can eat up woolens any time of year, but they do most of their damage in the summer. That's because summertime is when woolens are left alone in the dark, and the larvae's main requirement for feasting is a dark, undisturbed setting. One simple way to keep moths at bay is to regularly expose your woolens to sunlight. Take your sweaters out of the drawer. Shake them out vigorously and lay them on the lawn on a sunny day for an hour or two. (The shaking will knock larvae and pupae off the garment, but won't kill any eggs that might remain.) Turn them over so the sun hits both sides. Moths won't settle in a place where they are regularly exposed to sunlight.
Emptying the sweater drawer allows for some other important moth-prevention activities: if you find that you haven't worn some of your sweaters all winter, it's probably a good idea to get rid of them, as they are moth infestations waiting to happen. Also, before you put your sweaters back, vacuum your closet or wardrobe using the crevice tool attachment on your vacuum cleaner. Focus on reaching every last corner or crack, which is where moths are most likely to find peace and quiet.
Unlike clothing, furniture is not protected by regular use. Instead, make vacuuming the furniture part of your cleaning routine. Again, use the crevice device, and dispose of the contents in the dust bag promptly.
Clean Your Woolens
As larvae find soiled clothes especially yummy, one of the most important things you can do to keep clothing moths out of your closet is to clean your woolens. Storing soiled clothing in the closet is never a good idea, but it is especially true when packing woolens away for the summer. A sweater will bear the traces of sweat, skin, and food after even one wear, despite looking clean.
Most woolens can be hand washed or dry-cleaned. (Wool is an ancient textile; dry cleaning is only a recent invention!) Careful hand washing, without wringing or squeezing, can effectively avoid shrinkage and texture changes. Roll garment inside a towel to get excess water out; then shape it and dry flat.
Some items, such as large blankets, are almost impossible to hand wash; moreover, hand washing takes time. Other cleaning options for woolens include wet cleaning (which uses water instead of perc, but controls for shrinkage), and carbon dioxide cleaning (which combines CO2 with detergent to clean clothes). Cleaners using these methods can be found across the country.
Consumer Reports has tested Dryel, a product designed to "dry clean" garments in the washing machine. They found it an excellent odor remover, and pretty good (but not foolproof) at removing stains. It is less expensive than dry cleaning, and prevents exposure to dry cleaning solvents. Like all cleaning methods, it is fully effective against clothing moths.
Clean, dry clothes and bedding should be stored in airtight containers. Cedar chests sometimes (but not always) have good seals, but even a plastic bag sealed with tape will work. If you are using storage boxes with loose lids, seal clothing in bags first, and then put them in the boxes. All textiles should be completely dry before storing.
Cedar oil can be helpful in deterring moths, but like mothballs, the oils must achieve high enough concentrations to be effective. Therefore, an unsealed cedar chest or cedar blocks used on open shelving will not deter moths. Even a cedar chest with a good seal will lose its helpful volatile oils over the course of a few years. To boost the anti-moth power of your cedar chest, you can treat the wood with cedar oil periodically.
Herbal sachets can make clothes smell good, and some herbs are considered to have anti-moth properties, such as rosemary, mint, thyme, ginseng, cloves and lavender.
Despite the appeal of cedar and herbs, they are no substitute for clean woolens stored in airtight containers, with periodic shaking and sunning.
Simple Tips For Collectors:
-With any incoming garments, if you don't trust or know the source, place them in air tight bags and pop them in the freezer (or, if you live in the north, outside in the cold) for a few days.
-If tempted to clean - be very cautious with your techniques and reasoning.
-Go through your collection every once in awhile for a shake-up. Moths do not like being disturbed. Take the garment off the rack for a brief "air out."
-I keep small fans circulating air behind the "dead areas" of my collection. Moths like calm air where they can settle gently; I deny them that habitat.
Edited by kklinejr, 26 January 2008 - 07:15 AM.