How to Stop Moths Munching on your Clothes

The weather is noticeably cooling and getting more Autumnal … which means it’s probably time to put away your Summer clothes and rediscover your Winter wardrobe!

It’s also a great opportunity to check the clothes you’re taking out of storage for moth damage; and ensure the clothes you’re putting away will be adequately protected.

It might sound a bit old-fashioned, but houses these days have much better insulation as well as central heating, so moths can happily keep active all year round …

Clothes moth prevention has come a long way since the use of moth balls. The revolting smell meant you wouldn’t want to wear the clothes anyway, but more importantly they were extremely toxic as they used the chemical Naphthalene, which is carcinogenic. Thankfully they were banned by the EU in 2008 but with the increasingly milder winters and improved heating and home insulation, the clothes moth has had a resurgence.

A problem as old as time …

It’s not a new problem – humans have always had to deal with pests and throughout history, natural products have been used to deter moths. For example, Patchouli was used in India and this tradition travelled to Europe via the Silk Road when Victorian silk shawls were packaged with Patchouli leaves to protect them from moths during their travels. As a consequence, Patchouli oil and incense sticks were used frequently in the 1960s, and Carnaby Street in London was awash with the scent at this time for this very reason. The Ancient Greeks warded off insects by wearing a crown of laurel in their hair; Europeans used lavender; and the Chinese used May Chang (lemongrass).

Cedar Wood has been used by humans for construction and as a natural insecticide as far back as the Ancient Egyptians. They derived their oil from large native cedar trees in Lebanon, in the Middle East. One of the elements found in many cedar trees is Cedrol and depending on the amount used, can determine its pesticidal effect on insects. In more recent history it has been used widely in America because the cedar tree is also a native species found in North America and can grow up to 30 metres in height and live for 1,000 years. The oil, which is extracted through a process of steam distillation gives off a wonderful, spicy, slightly masculine and soothing aroma. Today, cedar wood oil is used for its aromatic properties, especially in aromatherapy, it can also be used to renew the smell of cedar furniture and wooden chests, drawers and wardrobes.

The Benefits of Cedar Wood

You may or may not be aware, but it’s the larvae of the moths, not the adults, that are the fabric munching monsters! However it is the adult moths that are drawn to the dark and undisturbed areas of your house, especially wardrobes, to lay their eggs. We know that the insect repelling power of cedar comes from the oil of the tree, which the clothes moth simply does not like the smell of, so will not lay it’s eggs where the fragrance is prominent. The strength of the oil is key. It can evaporate and it’s scent can dissipate over time. Therefore if you do not refresh the moth deterrents, then the moths may decide to move back in!

The cedar wood moth repellents stocked at Box Depot are 100% natural cedar wood (not any old wood soaked in cedar oil!) Rather than being the traditional “mothball” ball shape, instead they are discs with a convenient hole that means they can be easily hung on hangars, as well as being inobtrusive in drawers. The cedar wood fragrance can last anywhere from 3-6 months but the fragrance can be easily regenerated by rubbing them with sandpaper.

Keeping the Critters Away

Pretty much every creature on earth (including humans!) has an overwhelming urge to procreate and raise their young, ideally in a snuggly out-of-the-way place until their young are mature enough to fend for themselves. Moths are no different. In their case, they want a dark, quiet spot (hello rarely-used wardrobe!) with lots of warm snuggly natural fibres (wool, silk, doesn’t matter really!) and a ready supply of food (hair, sweat, skin cells, un-noticed food dribbles …!) so to make your wardrobes as inhospitable as possible, there’s a couple of things you need to do:

  • Choose a dry day where you can open your windows in the room to get a good clearing breeze going.
  • Empty absolutely everything out of the wardrobe.
  • Vacuum the dust from every corner, both above and below your wardrobe. Empty the dust colllected outside (you don’t want to be keeping any critters for a moment longer!)
  • Wash your wardrobe with hot soapy water. Don’t forget the top and back of the wardrobe! Allow to air-dry.
  • Place moth deterrents in each drawer of your wardrobe, as well as the main hanging area.
  • Check each item of clothing for dust, dirt or stains. Even if you’ve only worn an item for a couple of hours, it will still need to be washed!
  • Wash or dry-clean any items of clothing that are not clean.
  • Replace your (clean!) clothing back into your wardrobe.

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