How to stop moths eating your favourite woollens

Moths and their offspring are reeking havoc in wardrobes all over the country.
Warm, centrally heated houses, lovely dark spaces unvisited by humans all contribute to the increase in moth infestation.

The adult moth parents lay their eggs or larvae in the most luxurious, the most loved and usually the most expensive clothing that we own.

The problem has worsened since the ban of old fashioned moth balls with their pungent and somehow nostalgic odour, which never faded even with washing or dry cleaning. They contained Naphthaleve a highly toxic chemical that was found to be harmful, even fatal in some instances.

Here is an extract from my book ‘Cabbages & Roses Guide to Natural Housekeeping’ written in 2008 published by Cico Books and available here.

“Once moths have set up home, it is extremely difficult to persuade them to leave. One of the best lines of defence is to be scrupulous in your vacuuming, paying special attention to the edges of rooms and underneath furniture and rugs. The second is to be extremely vigilant when buying old and imported furniture, rugs, natural floor coverings and second hand or vintage clothing.”

Before storing clothes, it is vital to make sure they are clean. If moths afflict your home – and they are a growing problem with the current fashion for buying second-hand or vintage clothing – dry cleaning is an effective although not environmentally kind solution.   It will, however kill the larvae that do the damage to clothes. The female moth lays her eggs on natural fabrics – cottons, wool, cashmere and silks. If the garment is clean but you want to make sure that it will not become a larvae feast in storage, put it into the freezer for a couple of days in a sealed plastic or waxed paper bag – this not only kills moths but also their eggs.”

Cleanliness is key- especially when storing clothes – it is the human soil (sorry, disgusting, I know) that moths are particularly partial to – the mama moth seeks out worn clothing so that their offspring have a delicious and nutritious source of food whilst they are hatching.

“If you have the inclination and a sturdy washing line in your garden, hang your clothes out to air on very cold, bright and frosty days. Turn out the pockets and brush each garment with a sturdy brush to get rid of any larvae or their parents. Moths dislike the cold and dislike bright light even more. Not only does this practice deter moths but a jolly good brush and shake in the dry cold air will make all your clothes look and smell as if they have been freshly cleaned.”

Cedar wood blocks and balls which repel moths, are available online. 
However their efficacy wears out after time but can be re-treated with
Cedar oil

Be vigilant and if there are any signs of moth, I am afraid dry cleaning is the only solution. There are dry cleaners who use a product called Green Earth, which are  claimed to be 100% non-toxic to the environment, whilst most dry cleaners use a product called Perchlorethylene which is potentially hazardous to the environment. There are also alternatives here.

“There are of course natural moth deterrents – the best are lavender, lemon peel, bay leaves, cinnamon, rosemary and cedar wood. All of these will lose their efficacy after about a year so must be replaced regularly. Clean the inside of the wardrobe regularly and carefully.”

A blog
by Christina Strutt


Anonymous said...

So very helpful,thank you :-)

Lynda Mathey said...

When I moved into my house over 20 years ago it was infested with moth. I had never had a problem before that. I never wanted to use chemicals, and I feel like I tried just about everything. For a long time I used traps, and I ended up feeling like that made it worse!. I finally read about using Diatomacious Earth, and it was like a miracle! A little messy, but I sprinkled it everywhere and stored clothes with it and I hardly ever have a problem. It vacuums up easily. Works for all insects, fleas,ants etc.
Best, Lynda

Anonymous said...

Very helpful thank you ..I will buy your book immediately!