System to Protect Wool Clothing During Moth Season?
July 9, 2018 2:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm very fond of merino wool, but also seem to live in an area with tons of clothes moths. I went through a process of putting out traps and freezing all my wools and now I'm wondering what to do during the moths when there a lot of moths around and I still want to wear wool. Freeze after each wearing? Keep them in moth-proof bags? Any tips appreciated.
posted by Jon44 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Cedar hangers and sprinkling rose geranium oil works well. Freezing will kill any eggs, so its a good solution if you notice dust or castings on a piece. Don't put anything in a bag without freezing it or you might just trap eggs in with the clothes!
posted by ananci at 3:01 PM on July 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

You don’t mention the product known as ‘mothballs’, but this is what they are for and they are very effective.
(Oh sorry I misread about still wearing the wool often, sorry. It will still work but you’ll end up having to air things out a day or so before wear, which is not ideal)
posted by SaltySalticid at 3:14 PM on July 9, 2018

Freezing after wearing isn't such a bad idea; I might adopt that. Also, mothballs are quite toxic, so you may want to reconsider their use.
posted by vers at 3:41 PM on July 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

Clothes moths aren't outdoor moths, so if you've frozen all your stuff and are still seeing moths, more drastic cleaning is in order. Carpets in particular are a favorite hangout. This Ask from a few years back has some good advice.

Storing your clean woolens in airtight containers (probably a bit easier to deal with than moth-proof bags) when you're not using your clothes should keep them from moth damage.
posted by asperity at 3:43 PM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

One other note: if it's summer where you are and you've got access to an automobile, chuck all your clothes in a hot car in the sun for the day. Heat's a faster way to kill them all than freezing, and cars usually have more space than freezers. More suggestions here and here.
posted by asperity at 3:47 PM on July 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

Moths that eat wool do come in from outdoors, so re-infestation happens. They can also hide out in some small wool thing your forgot about. You can buy cedar oil in a small spray bottle. It doesn't kill them, but will dissuade them. Spray it on cotton balls and tuck them in corners. Get cedar blocks and renew it from time to time.
posted by theora55 at 4:20 PM on July 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: "...Clothes moths aren't outdoor moths"
IThere seem's to be mixed opinion on that--some say they survive outside off of berries and fruits. (And then an occasional one will fly in your house, starting an infestation.)
posted by Jon44 at 5:29 PM on July 9, 2018

Response by poster: "...chuck all your clothes in a hot car in the sun for the day"
You know, that did occur to me and I tried it with my bedding and down jackets (just in case)
I'm a bit concerned about trying that with suits, as there seems like there might be a risk with damaging fine wool... (car in sun gets well over 140 degree...)
posted by Jon44 at 5:31 PM on July 9, 2018

Wool fibers can handle temperatures that hot, easily. I am a spinner (and knitter) and have worked with raw fleece, and in order to scour the lanolin out, I routinely submerge wool in water near boiling temperature. (~200 degrees F). Any wool that has been dyed has likely been simmered too. Just to put your mind at ease with regard to the hot car.

And since no one has mentioned it yet, I would suggest you start out by washing all your woolens. Lukewarm water, wool wash, dry them on a rack. Then bag them and do the hot car thing. Moths are more attracted to dirty woolens -- they find them by scent so if your sweater has your perspiration or skin oils all in it, it will be easier for them to find.

The freezer thing only works if you do it in several freeze-thaw cycles. Freezing once will only kill any live larva or adults, it won't kill the eggs. When you remove the item from the freezer, it signals the remaining eggs to hatch, so after a couple days, you need to put it back into the freezer to get those new guys too.

Vacuum the hell out of your house. Especially the closets. Moths like places that are dark and undisturbed. So the best strategy is to routinely "toss" your woolens. That is, take them out of the closet, shake them, air them out in the sunshine, wash them, etc. Do that every couple months.

And contract with a pest control service.
posted by fancyoats at 7:12 PM on July 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

And when you vacuum, throw away the vacuum bag. Every time. If you don't have a bag, wash/rinse out the filter. Or else you're just hatching moths in your vacuum.
posted by fancyoats at 7:14 PM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Use the pheromone traps to capture adults and slow down the breeding cycle. We have found this brand to be effective--others were less so. Periodically use a clothes brush on everything in your closet--it disturbs and kills the larva. Vacuum your closet constantly, emptying the bags outside of the house regularly. Keep the humidity low in your closets.

If you discover anything very moth-eaten, throw it away (outside), and take every single thing out of the drawer, cupboard, closet, hamper that it was in. Launder everything as hot as they can stand (or dry clean or freeze or fumigate with dry ice)--dry them in the sunlight. Take the container out into the sunlight (obviously you can't do that with a closet)--the larva will try to get out of sunlight (they like the dark). Clean the container. Shake the larva casings and debris out of it. Vacuum it.

In general, don't store things without brushing or washing them first. When the seasons change, launder everything and store it properly off season. Moth balls are effective but the smell lingers and is disgusting and the fumes can melt plastics (like the kind buttons are made of) and they only work in air tight containers. Vacuum bags work pretty well.

There is no meaningful evidence that cedar kills the larva (which are what does the damage) nor that it deters them. The *oil* from juniperus virginiana can kill very small larva but not the slightly more mature ones and the oil has a short life. Cedar blocks. sachets, chips & whatnot won't help if you have clothes moths. Completely airtight cedar chests will--but any completely airtight environment will suffocate the larva, which will keep eating your clothes until they die or turn into moths.

There's also no real evidence that cedar or lavender or other herbs deter the larva. As far as lavender's efficacy as a repellent, the most you'll find are papers saying it's "believed" to keep moths away--never has in my experience. Not the oils, not the blossoms, not the dried stalks. Citronella has been shown to keep moths away, when it's used to treat the fabric itself, not when it's just in your closet.

I keep my wools and silks in these bags (the 9x12 size) while they are in seasonal rotation. I keep them in vacuum bags or in airtight trunks with mothballs out of season.

In the several years we've had clothes moths, we are finally down to seeing one or two adults a week (from seeing several a day) and maybe finding a single larva every couple of months (from about one a month--the larva are very hard to catch). We lost one silk rug; one mink hat; two feathered hats; three completely shredded t-shirts; about a dozen t-shirts which are now only presentable as undershirts; three sweaters with minor repairs and two skirts the same. For two years, we lived with about 80% of all the textiles in the house in moth proof storage. I'm still considering buying a chest freezer for the basement for clothes storage.

The several pest control companies we contacted advised against any sort of spraying for clothes moths. They will do dry ice fumigation for couches and the like, but generally, treating the infestation through laundry, housecleaning, off-season storage and pheromone traps is just as effective as having exterminators in your closets, which you can't really do if you have pets or kids.
posted by crush at 7:26 PM on July 9, 2018 [9 favorites]

Oh hey, my post on this was referenced! I just want to tell you that I did everything that was recommended in that thread and we still had clothes moths. The only solution was moving to a new place. And even still we find one occasionally and kill it. We keep our winter clothes in sealed containers in the summer and dry clean often ijnthe winter which I think has been the most effective at reducing but it's still been several years of work to get here. Good luck. Message me if you want to vent!
posted by joan_holloway at 7:36 PM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

After the lavender and cedar were useless, and the pheromone traps only helped a little, Indorex spray was my next more drastic option.

You treat room by room, sealing an area up and spraying all the walls, corners, carpets etc., and leaving the room closed up for some time before airing it out.

It helped significantly, but it still hasn't totally wiped the bastards out. They can hide in the tiniest of places.
posted by Gordafarin at 2:35 AM on July 10, 2018

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