Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Reader Question: Wool and Moths

Photos by Salt Water New England
A reader has the following question:
Greetings, 
I’m currently struggling to control a clothes moth issue (old house, many hiding places, they are probably feasting on a dead mouse behind a wall somewhere...). What measures do you take to rid moths and keep them out?   
I grew up in the age of synthetics and I don’t think we had a single wool item in our house.  I’m learning quickly of the many mistakes I have made in my household in regard to the wool items I’ve purchased or brought home from antique stores. Any advice or suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.  

19 comments:

  1. Make sure all wool items are clean before putting them away. Dry clean or hand wash. When buying an old rug have it cleaned before bringing it in. I put my wool clothes in a cloth garment bag with lots of cedar chips to store for the summer. Always use fresh chips each year. I have never had a problem. Good luck

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  2. Moths are the WORST. I used to work at a textile restoration firm as well as a museum and one tiny moth could send the whole place into a frenzy. Here's what I do keep my house free of moths - I also live in an older house.

    I send all my items to the dry cleaners one final time before spring storage, and then store them in a clean an airtight container (Rubbermaid underbed storage containers) with cedar. I then tape the edges with easily removed masking tape for a complete seal.

    We've also had to bug-bomb a previous house. The moths were terrible there. We lost a lot of sweaters, had bugs eating our wool coats so we finally called in pest control and they solved the problem completely. Worth the 200 or so dollars we paid for it.

    - ER

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  3. Dry cleaning is NOT recommended for cashmere sweaters. Actually not good for most wool sweaters, however it might help with the moth problem. Been there done that. You have my sympathy. PA

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  4. Good old fashioned moth balls. Also keeps away mice and a large number of other bugs. You don't want your house to have that "granda's house" smell, so moderation is key.

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    Replies
    1. "Old fashioned" moth balls are now illegal (considered a threat to health) in the European Union - https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/3463893/Holy-straight-bananas-now-the-Eurocrats-are-banning-moth-balls.html.

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  5. I also rely on moth balls, too, but it's also good idea to have physical barrier like a garment bag or airtight container. I've never used cedar chips and as far as I know, plastic containers are okay. Clothing in regular use won't be attacked but I don't know about rugs. Half of my woolen clothing is washable, too. I also believe that moths will eat woolens that are knit or have a fuzzy nap, like flannel before they will eat something like worsted.

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  6. Cedar chest (AKA Hope Chest)
    how you pretreat the chest and its drawer makes a difference as also in storing the items inside. We had several chest for certain things categorized: seasonal/Winter clothes (scent: Bay Leaves/Cinnamon/heavy on the Mothball), fabric/yardage blends that were similar, then the summer clothing (from The Lavender/Citrus scented chest), "Good" clothing/holiday linens ...one chest hardly opened: beautiful wedding dress size FarTooSmall or the "too good to throw away but will never see light of day again" odd clothing, unidentifiable graduation tassel, wool military hat with silk scarf map tucked inside, delicate handmade baby booties/blanket, yellowed christening gown,fossilized red rose corsage with faded silk ribbon...
    any way-
    Different chest brought out at according times to be pushed up against the foot of your bed, lay pretty quilt laid across chest top.

    Also there are the sticky hold'em till dead pheromone moth traps that work great.

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    Replies
    1. I'm relieved to learn I'm not the only one who maintains Personal Clothing/Fabric Archives, full of items too sentimental to sell on eBay!

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  7. I would propose that there is probably a Victorian ghost living in a mirror somewhere in the house, and she is directing and controlling the moths. My advice would be to hire an exorcist, and best of luck with that.

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  8. Regarding wool rugs, spread Borax Laundry detergent over the rug and let it sit over night. The next day, vacuum. Regarding dresser drawers, place whole cloves in each drawer. My 99 year old Uncle used these remedies and swore by them.

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  9. If you have a large house, I would recommend you call in the professionals to fumigate. You want to get to the adults - which in a relative sense, is easy, and decimate where they are breeding - which is something else. We were not able to go via the bug bomb route due to sensitivities/allergies in the family. It took us 3 months to get rid of the little buggers using all of the methods mentioned above; cedar, essential oils, etc. Plus we bought a few Dynatraps, a plugin night time flying insect trapper, which amazingly was quite effective. We also put up the old fashion sticky roll ribbons - not an elegant solution, but this was all out war. We ziplocked, cedared and lavendared all apparel/items that were moth snacks. In the end, we finally ushered these unwelcomed guests out. We can usually expect the odd moth that manages to get past our screen doors & windows, but the culprit turned out to be a beautiful large eucalyptus wreath that was gifted to us. The scent was heavenly and it was a heavenly place for moth cocoons (nicely camouflaged deep in its pale silvery green); moth larvae love to munch on the leaves. When we found that it was the moth nursery (gross), wrapped it in plastic aund tossed, it leveled the field considerably. Now each time I see a eucalyptus wreath, I get the heebie jeebies. Good luck and may the force be with you.

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  10. Pheromone traps work well. Little impregnated , sticky cards secreted in dark corners. It takes a few years to beat them but It gives an indication of how bad the infestation is as well.

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  11. One summer the moths attacked all the expensive wool suits my husband owns (and never wears). Since they will now full of holes, my husband threw them out. We then cleaned out the closet and shook all the clothes to remove any residual larvae, etc. We vacuumed all the nooks and crannies and then returned the remaining clothes to the closet. That was several years ago. Haven't seen any since. Then my husband bought some new expensive suits (which he never wears)!

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    1. I once lost a really nice pair of fine wool pants that way. They were so nice, I never wore them. The moths loved them though, so they didn't really go to waste.

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  12. My best advice in dealing with moths: Do not under any circumstances hang your Ostrich jacket in the closet with moths.

    Aiken

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    Replies
    1. Let's hope Mr. Manafort has access to this website in his jail cell!

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  13. I had infestation in one kitchen cabinet for years. I kept cleaning it and put cedar and they kept coming back. Have to keep dry goods, nuts etc in the fridge. I bleached the whole cabinet again and this year seems better. I also escort any moths I see outside. I think for clothes you might need a lot of cedar. I wrap up moth balls in cloth and put them in the plastic containers. I try not to touch them or breathe them and wash everything when clothes come out. Definitely they are toxic. Never around food.

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    Replies
    1. Zannelaw, you had an Indian Meal Moth infestation. You must keep your grains fresh and sealed very tight. The larvae are difficult to see as they are often found at the joint where the sides of the cabinet, ceiling/wall join. A few years ago I noticed these same moths in some of Trader Joe's bags of rice and other grains...Yuk. I've not purchased anything from them since. Keeping your grains in the frig is definitely one way to prevent an infestation.

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  14. Would it be o.k. to freeze wool clothing to kill the moth and potential eggs? Also vacuum the area you store your items frequently. I stored a wool sweater in a cedar chest for the summer only to find a moth hole in the fall. It was the only item eaten. I didn't wear it during the winter so didn't think it needed cleaned. The moth hole could have been there and I didn't notice. I seem to have more trouble with folded items than hanging.

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