by Edith Kovacs
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The Basics of Moth-Proofing
Before you pack up winter clothing for storage, wash or dry-clean garments that have been worn. This rids them of moth and beetle eggs and also eliminates perspiration remnants and food spills, which attract and nourish pests. Moths and beetles don't eat items made of synthetic or cotton fabrics, but you should clean those, too, if you store them with woolens.
If you have winter coats you haven't worn, you probably won't want to pay for dry cleaning just to guard against eggs that might have been deposited on them. Yet if you store them as is, you risk an infestation. In this case, try an old-fashioned but effective regimen: Take the items outside on a sunny day and brush them vigorously, especially under collars and along seams. This should remove eggs and larvae, which are so small, you probably won't be able to see them. In case you miss a few of the pests or their eggs, pack this clothing separately from laundered or dry-cleaned items.
Any critters hiding in your clothing can be rid off by simply exposing your garments to below freezing temperatures. Make sure you have your garment dry cleaned and simply put sweaters or coats in ziploc bags and in the freezer for 24-48 hours, or hang it outside in a plastic bag during the below freezing temperatures to kill all eggs and larva that has not been killed by dry cleaning.
Moths and beetles can get through extremely tight spaces. When storing woolens; reclosable plastic bags or plastic boxes are best for keeping pests out. To protect the items from condensation, wrap them in lengths of clean cotton, and store. Take care in using plastic containers for long-term storage -- years rather than months -- as they do not allow the items to breathe, and some plastics may degrade fabric over time. If storing valuable items, consult with a professional textile conservator for recommendations.
Choosing a Method
There are numerous products -- some natural, some chemical-based, and with varying levels of effectiveness -- that are intended to deter moths and beetles. It's best to know a product's pros and cons before you make a choice. In the right circumstances, any of these approaches can be useful. Just remember that nothing discourages clothes moths and carpet beetles more than keeping your woolen items clean and storing them correctly.
The dark-colored heartwood of red cedar contains natural oils that kill clothes-moth larvae, but this alone won't protect clothing. It's not effective against carpet beetles, and, with moths, it kills only young larvae, not older ones or eggs. The effect also fades as the scent does. You can replenish the scent of boards, closets, and chests by sanding the wood lightly or dabbing on cedar oil, but there is no way to know if you've added enough. If you have a cedar chest, it's best to think of it as a reasonably airtight storage container -- and only keep clean fabric inside it. Again, wrap items in clean cotton before storing them.
Mothballs and Moth Crystals
These can thwart infestations but come with many drawbacks, so you're probably better off without them. Both products contain pesticides that can be harmful to people, unborn babies, and pets. Since mothballs and moth crystals work by releasing fumigant gas, they must be used in tight-fitting containers, rather than in closets or drawers, to be effective. If you do use these products, keep containers out of your living area -- in a garage, perhaps. And air out clothing thoroughly outside before wearing it or hanging it in your closet again (dry cleaning won't eliminate the mothball odor).
I don't recommend this method, not just because it's unpleasant smell, but I have noticed that moth's are developing a resistance to these chemicals. I did work on clothing that reeked of mothballs and it was still damaged by them.
Using this plant to repel clothes moths is an old homemaker's trick. Sachets filled with lavender (and/or laced with its oil) and suspended in your closet or tucked in your drawers are said to protect woolens. They will also leave a pleasant scent behind. Lavender will not, however, kill moth eggs or larvae, so be sure the space is free of them first.