Thursday, 18 July 2013

Moths: Prevention is better than cure

A couple of months ago my parents had a huge infestation of moths. They caused a lot of annoyance and destroyed almost all of my dads wooly jumpers but we aren't really the kind of family to have a tone of cashmere and expensive vintage so the financial tole could have been a whole lot worse.

The lost item that got to me the most and got me thinking was just another wooly jumper, or it would have been if it hadn't been knitted by my grandmother for my dad over 30 years ago.

The simple fact that the clothes we make take a lot more time, a lot more thought and effort, makes them more painful to loose. That, plus a tendency to hord large amounts of fabric can be a recipe for disaster.

You might have read about it in the news over the last couple of years, but apparently the population of Tineola bisselliella, the cloth eating moth, is on the increase. The combination of warmer weather throughout the year, central heating in winter, and fast fashion leaving us all with piles and piles of clothes that we rarely wear and don't take proper care of has given them the perfect breeding ground.

The first step, don't panic. There are a few things you can do to protect your precious hand made wardrobe and your stash.

Second, don't worry about the moth that's circling your lampshade. Of all the thousands moth species only two actually eat clothing. Those beautifully patterned moths you get on your curtains at night mostly eat foliage and dust. I have to admit, I didn't know that until recently.

The next step might seem a bit drastic, but consider giving away or donating some of your clothes. If you have a wardrobe full of items that you don't wear you're not only making a perfect home for moths, you're also not getting the most from your clothes. It might be better to have fewer items that you truely love, rather than hundreds of 'blegh' items.

Make sure you keep everything reasonably clean. Leaving sweat and dirt on cloths is like putting icing on the cake, and you have to be especially thorough when you put things away in storage till they're in season again. Storing them in plastic or vacuum packing clothing bags is a really good idea.

Air out whatever you want to keep every month or so. Light and movement are your best defense against moth larvae, so bring out your clothes that don't get as much wear and give them a good shake. This disturbs the little buggers.

It can also help to have things stored on shelves rather than shut away in the dark.

Don't forget the good old moth balls! They're made out of naphthalene, or more commonly 1,4-dichlorobenzene (also known as para-dichlorobenzene, p-dichlorobenzene, pDCB or PDB) since it's less flammable. Both work fine, but make sure you don't use them together! They turn into fabric destroying slime when they react.

If you want a more natural alternative then you can always go for ceder balls. They smell much better and if you have pets or small children around they're a lot safer.

The last thing you can do to keep your clothes and fabric safe is to vacuum your house thoroughly (or get someone else to do it) and keep on top of it. Remember to move furniture so you can clean underneath!

If you do get moths, the best thing to do is wash everything in the machine at 50 degrees or higher. If you have anything that won't survive that you need to freeze it for a week to get rid of the bugs, but it's much better then loosing much loved quality clothing.

If you can't avoid it then there's always the choice to call in the exterminators, but they're expensive. If you want to try the cheep way first then you can buy a couple of bug bombs, but make sure you read the instructions! If you use too many it's seriously dangerous!

If you'll excuse me, I'm off to vacuum my house.

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