Protecting Wool from Moths

Don’t confuse the clothes moth with the common food- and grain-infesting moths that are frequently seen flying around the house. The webbing clothes moth is the most common fabric moth. Adults are golden colored with reddish golden hairs on top of the head.

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Wings, with a span of about 1/2 inch, are fringed with a row of golden hairs.

Because the moths are weak flyers and not attracted to lights, they are usually found very close to the infested items, such as in dark areas of closets.

This bug eats anything made of wool. If you don’t take the necessary precautions, your wool is very likely to be ridden with moths the next time you lay your eyes on it.

Though naphthalene mothballs have long been the most popular method of protecting against moths, they are highly neurotoxic carcinogens for which you can substitute a number of healthier alternatives.

Here are some tips on how to enjoy your wool without the bugs turning them into lunch.

1/ First of all, indentify and clean your wool. Dry cleaning or thoroughly laundering items in hot water (temperature above 120°F for 20 to 30 minutes) kills all stages of insects. Let the wool air dry in the sun for a few hours before packing and storing it.

2/Periodically clean areas of a home that may harbor clothes moths to prevent or control infestation. The vacuum cleaner is the best tool for most of this cleaning. Use it in areas such as:

  • under heavy pieces of furniture;
  • along baseboards and in cracks where hair and debris accumulate;
  • closets, especially those in which woolens and furs are kept; and
  • heaters, the areas behind them, and vents.

After using it in infested areas, dispose of the bag contents promptly; they may include eggs, larvae, or adult moths.

3/ Freeze the wool. Freezing temperatures can kill any eggs or larvae in your woolens. Ideally, put the clothes outside on a cold day, but you can use a freezer in a pinch. Clothes moths can also be controlled by fumigating with dry ice the infested object.

4/ Clothes moths may first become established on woolen garments or scraps stored for long periods. These articles should be stored properly, or periodically hung in the sun and brushed thoroughly, especially along seams and in folds and pockets. Brushing destroys eggs and exposes larvae. Larvae are strongly repelled by light, and will fall from clothing.

5/ Keep the moths away. Be sure the wool you’re storing is completely sealed, whether it’s in a bag, box or chest. Cedar chests have a reputation for deterring moths, but this has not been proven. Also, you can put cedar blocks in with woolens.

6/ Sprinkle the woolens with black pepper. Wrap in paper or put into a bag and the moths will be deterred.

7/ Use pheromone traps. Pheromone traps are available to trap the webbing clothes moth, but not the casemaking clothes moth. The sex pheromone attracts male moths into the trap where they get stuck on the sticky sides. Pheromone traps for clothes moths are available from major hardware stores.

8/ If clothes moths are detected, articles that cannot be dry cleaned, laundered, heated to temperatures over 120°F, frozen, kept in cold storage, or fumigated with dry ice then can be sprayed with an insecticide.

WARNING: When you use an insecticide always read and carefully follow all precautions and safety recommendations given on the container label. Store all chemicals in the original labeled containers in a locked cabinet or shed, away from food or feeds, and out of the reach of children, unauthorized persons, pets, and livestock.

9/ Making your own moth repellent sachets: It is possible to make your own moth repellent sachets for use at home that are very effective and have no side effects for human health when used as sachets.

Ingredients: lavender flower(buds) dried; lemon peel dried; cloves crushed; mint dried; Tansy or feverfew, leaves and flowers, dried

Make sachets using suitable fabrics, and attach a ribbon or an elastic loop that you can use to hang it with. Leave an opening one end for the insertion of the contents. These sachets should be replaced yearly.

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