Moths. The dreaded m-word that sends shudders down every crafter’s spine. We get a lot of questions on how to prevent moth damage to your handknits, as well as how to handle damage when it occurs and what to do if you find moths in your home. Today we’ve put together lots of information on how you can prevent and deal with fibre’s ultimate nemesis.
First, let’s talk about moths. A moth infestation can be devastating, yet no one talks about it! But there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Even if you have the cleanest, most organized house in the world, moths can still be a problem.
So let’s talk about prevention. Moths love fibre, and particularly fibres that contain oils from your skin, as well as any spills or stains from food or other substances. So the first thing you can do to prevent moths is to wash your knitted items, particularly those worn directly in contact with your skin, fairly frequently. Also, you should always launder all items before packing them away for the season (i.e. wash your hats, mittens and sweaters before packing them away when winter is over). We suggest using Eucalan in either our Lavender or Eucalyptus as both scents are naturally moth repellent.
You can also store both fibres (yarns) and garments in clean, airtight containers. For yarn storage, we really like clear plastic tubs. These allow natural light in (moths love dark places) and keep bugs out. Any time you bring new yarn into the house, be sure that you place it in a clean, airtight container. To prevent any contamination, you may wish to place yarn in ziplock bags before you place them in tubs as an extra layer of protection. We also recommend the use of lavender sachets, cedar or other natural moth-repellents in those bins to stave off unwanted visitors. We NEVER recommend the use of mothballs as they are toxic to both humans and pets.
For garments, again we recommend airtight containers. You can use plastic tubs for garments as well, or many people use dresser drawers. Again, you should add lavender or some other scented sachets, or cedar (try cedar balls or blocks) to make your woollies less appetizing.
Our final recommendation is not strictly preventative, but more of an alarm system in case things go awry. To get some early warning in case you encounter moths, consider purchasing traps for clothes moths and placing them in areas where you store your fibre and garments. Again, the traps won’t prevent moths from entering your home, but these sticky pheromone traps will attract any moths that do. If you’re keeping a diligent eye on your traps, then you’re likely to notice as soon as a moth appears.
Dealing with Moths
Now that you’ve taken the above steps, let’s talk about what happens if moths do get into your fibre or garments. Let’s say you pull out your favourite sweater to find that it has one or two holes left by moths. First – don’t panic. It may be salvageable. The first thing that you want to do is quarantine the garment and make sure you kill the moth eggs that may still be lurking. You’re going to do this with the liberal application of heat or cold.
If you prefer cold, place the item in a ziplock bag and place it in your freezer (turn the temperature way down and try to keep the freezer frost-free) and allow it to remain at temperatures below freezing for 1-2 weeks. Then bring the item out of the freezer and allow it to come to room temperature. Repeat this process a few more times.
If you prefer heat, place the item in bags (dark trash bags work fine) in a car on a sunny day. The item should remain at temperatures above 120F for at least 30 minutes to kill any moth eggs. Note: you can also attempt to heat your yarn in the oven, but this is a little risky and requires constant attention. We prefer heating in a car, or freezing instead.
Once you have completed either of the two methods above, gently shake items and brush away any moth remnants.
Unfortunately, as you complete this process for the moth damaged item, you also need to examine each item stored near the first item, as well as other areas of your household. Any time you encounter moths you need to make a thorough inspection of your fibre and garments to ensure that none of the other items have been affected. Any items that you fear may have been affected should be subjected to all of the procedures we’ve described above. You will also need to do a thorough cleaning of any area affected including vacuuming, steam cleaning or wiping clean any surfaces that you believe moths have come into contact with.
This may take a while, and you will have to be vigilant. It isn’t fun, but it is necessary. There are other steps that you may need to take, up to and including consulting a pest control expert. We really like Haley’s post at Red-Handled Scissors for more tips on how to deal with clothes moths.
Once you have cleared your home of moths, then you can go back to our prevention tips (and monitoring with traps) to hopefully avoid future problems!
Dealing with Moth Damage
Once you have rid your house of moths, it’s time to consider what to do with moth-damaged items. Some may be beyond salvaging and you may need to dispose of these items. However, not all is lost. Last August we explored visible mending in Laundering and Mending Your Woolens. Since then we’ve also seen two wonderful books published: Visible Mending: Artful Stitchery to Repair and Refresh Your Favorite Things by Jenny Wilding Cardon and Mending Matters: Stitch, Patch, and Repair Your Favorite Denim and More by Katrina Rodabaugh. Both are excellent resources that may help you breathe new life into your affected garments.
Dealing with the M-word is never something we look forward to, but we hope we’ve given you a few tips and tricks on how to make your home less attractive to moths, as well as deal with the problem should it arise!
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