How to Get Rid of and Prevent Clothes Moths
Wool is a beautiful fabric; natural, warm, sustainable and repellent to dirt and takes up colour easily with vibrancy. No wonder it’s a national favourite.
It’s not just us that finds wool such an attraction either. Have your favourite winter woolies made a tasty meal for the clothes moth? Now is a good time to think about how to care for your clothes if you’re making the move from winter to summer wardrobe and packing away clothes useful for winter chill while we bask in summer sunshine!
Unfortunately I have the experience of being infested with moths. I can tell you cohabiting with clothes eating moths is not a welcome houseshare. Not just a pain in the evening when they are flapping around, the clothes moth can ravage carpets, upholstery as well as decimate our favourite clothes.
If the durability and sustainability of garments is important to us we need to consider how we can increase the active life of a garment by protecting it and caring for it well.
Is there anything we can do to eradicate or prevent an infestation? Is there anything we can do once the items have been damaged? First we need to understand the moth and what to look out for.
You may notice them hatching out in springtime from their cocoons. Small and silvery – you may spot adult moths on a wall by day quite still or flapping around if disturbed.
Moths, unfortunately, most love natural fibres like wools and silks. The damage to clothes is actually done by the larvae that munch on your wares – usually in dark, warm places. The larvae will also take up the colour of the dye in the wool which makes them hard to spot, but if you notice holes in garments look closer. Look carefully, with a magnifying glass if possible, for white webby areas where you may find eggs or larvae or recently vacated cocoons. The eggs are usually laid either in clothes, underneath drawers, inside carpet (usually near a skirting board or edge), or behind picture frames.
Got moths? Here are my tips on how to deal with a moth infestation (aka My Moth Management Message);
When getting rid of moths, the hoover and freezer are your friends! An important thing to remember is that a moth’s life cycle can last up to 90 days, so to stop them coming back you’ll need to keep cleaning regularly for that period to get rid of unhatched eggs and cocoons.
- Hoover carpets regularly. Try to get a good suck around the skirting board in particular- this is also relevant for those of you with wood or laminate flooring.
- Take down pictures and hoover the back of the frames, where moths love to hide.
- Clear out drawers and hoover inside and out – clear out wardrobes and do the same.
- Wrap clothes with infestations in plastic bags and put them in the freezer for a couple of days to kill the larvae. On removing, either wash the garment or – if it’s wool or cashmere – hoover it to remove the eggs, larvae and residue, cocoons.
- Once cleaned the garment will need to assessed for damage (don’t pull it out before you have dealt with the infestations or you may just have a repeat cycle on your hands!). It may be you can darn the garment, patch it or use it for something else. Check our Make Do & Mend section, or if your garment is beyond repair, why not check out our ANTIFORMxYOU Box Jumper – where you can commission a custom-made Box Jumper with knitted fabric from a garment previously loved but perhaps worse for wear or care.
Prevention is better than cure…
- Try cedar wood in drawers and wardrobes. To prevent moths, it is reputed that cedar wood acts as a deterrent. However in my experience where I have used moth balls and cedar wood chunks, the moths seem to put their middle fingers up to me in defiance and still made intricate lace out of my best cashmere. So personally I don’t think there is much truth to this, but if it makes you feel better knock yourself out.
- Clean & freeze before storing. Moths love any trace of food and sweat, so the best method I have found is to always clean the garment carefully before storing. This may be a case of spot cleaning or gentle hand washing in the case of sensitive garments. Air dry carefully and store in a plastic bag, giving a few days in the freezer before storing away.
- Vaccum not only carpets, but wardrobes and drawers frequently. This area is often left out on a regular clean but the key is to keep the areas your clothes live in clean and regularly disturbed!
- Only keep in your wardrobe or drawers clothes you are wearing regularly. Having them exposed to light and air makes them less vulnerable.
- Keep your wardrobe in order. Now just might be the time to downsize the content of your wardrobe, favouring heavily-used quality items made and loved rather than the pack-em high sell-em cheap variety. It might just make life easier in more ways than one. Consider whether you wear the items in your wardrobe frequently enough for them to belong in there. If the item is of emotional attachment pack away as described and store elsewhere. Having a wardrobe where the items in there are being used regularly will surely help. For a kick-start in changing the way you view your wardrobe, try our list of four fashion films that will change the way you think about your clothing.
For some reason, some people I know have never had moths in their home (or perhaps they don’t notice). I’ve often wondered if this is due to using specific types of detergent or using tumble driers or perhaps they are more industrious with dusting and hoover more than I do. Or maybe this is simply the affliction of someone who loves natural fibres, keeps clothes forever and tops up purchases from charity shops. I’d love to know your thoughts – so please do comment if you can help enlighten and give your tips for moth management!
Have you had moths? What do you do to deal with them? Are you more severe with moth eradication? Tried something but not worked? Do you have a clever trick you’d like to share with us or a magic way to darn and mend a moth munched treasure? If you’re Buddhist or dislike the idea of killing insects we welcome no-kill or predator (as long as they don’t also eat humans! ) prevention/cure suggestions too. Let us know in the comments below…
UPDATE! Long-term Antiform collaborator Jade Whitson-Smith has some more tips and tricks to offer via the Love Your Clothes project: