Middleagemum.com: moth frenzy

I am not normally taken with violent outbursts, however over the last year I have had a moth infestation in my wardrobe that has driven me to the brink of acceptable behaviour and beyond.

Last year I pulled out my winter sweaters (mostly cashmere now Marks & Sparks, Uniqlo, Old Navy and pretty much everyone else sells it so cheap) and discovered a giant, connected network of holes in every one. I threw away (weeping pathetically as I did so) 13 sweaters, it didn't help that middleagedad commented that if I had 13 to throw away, perhaps it was nature's way of editing out excess purchasing.

When I checked my hanging clothes I found infestations in some of my favourite (not to mention costliest) Diane von Furstenberg wool dresses and also in middleagedad's suits, which made him change his tune pretty swiftly. I hurled verbal abuse at the menacing winged intruder from inside my wardrobe and generally got very cross. 

It was the start of an all-out war and one year on I have learnt a lot through research and sharing my frustrations with other moth sufferers. The sudden increase in moths appears to be linked to the banning of the traditional naphthalene soaked mothball by the EU, who reckon it's carcinogenic, and the increase in cashmere (their absolute favourite food because the fibres are so soft to eat). My love of vintage clothes -harbingers of sleeping moth infestations- hasn't helped.

When I spoke to my dad about the problem, he reminded me that back in the 60s, when we were living in Singapore where moths are prolific, our family maid would take all our clothes out of the wardrobes every two weeks and hang them out in the sunshine, where she would also shake them about and keep every surface exposed. Everybody did this religiously with their clothes, and it kept the moths at bay. Sadly I don't have a maid but the original idea is the basis of good moth management.

I have used the heavy pesticide sprays you can buy from Pest Control Direct but feel queezy about their long term affects. My moths laugh ( really, I'm SURE I've heard them) at the use of touchy-feely lavender bags and ceder wood balls, although these do confuse the moths for a bit, it doesn't stop them completely. I have found John Lewis's lavender infused plastic knitwear bags good for keeping the moths out, but if they are already in the sweater, then nothing can save them.

My most useful tip was from Savile Row tailor Carol Alayne's blog, tailoringforwomen who recommended a pheremone trap to attract the male moth, I have three of these up in the wardrobe currently and I am gleefully watching the daily death count. With no males around, the females can't produce eggs.

Here's what I've learnt from my year at war:

Moths love dark, quiet, warm and damp conditions.

Freezing clothes for a week or so can kill off some (but not all) the moths, so this is a good start. Larvae are inactive below 40F, but freezing wont always kill them.

Moth larvea don't move too far, so if you find an infestation, work with this area.

Wash all your natural fibre clothes regularly, moths feed off sweat and dead skin.

Clean your cupboards out and hoover like crazy, moths like linty, dusty, ignored corners.

Dry clean everything woolly, it might not kill all of the moths (although many dry cleaners claim the fluids do kill the eggs) but they don't like the taste of the fluid and it can keep them from eating this item.

Keep your wardrobe area really dry, dehumidfiers are a good idea if you are desperate, as moths like it damp.

Don't keep clothes in the dark, Moths hate sunlight so flood your clothes with it as often as possible. Also put clothes outside to 'air' in the summer to get them really uncomfortable and make them move off your clothes onto something else.Beating them can shake off the eggs too.

Moths also don't like movement, so don't leave areas of your wardrobe untouched, move all those piles of jumpers around regularly and inspect fanatically for new investations.

Ironing with a very hot steam iron (I have a fabulous Propress pressurised steam iron that does a terrifically scary hiss of hot steam) kills the moths and can kill the eggs.

Clothes that are being stored for long periods need to go in airless vacuum packs, John Lewis do a good range.

Never, ever look at a newly discovered moth hole and go' Oh a hole in my sweater, looks like a moth but it's probably only one……' No it isn't.

Buy only man made fibres, moths don't like polyester.

Susie Ruston's  excellent article from The Independant on the little blighters is well worth a read, 

as is Rachel Simhon's from The Telegraph

1 Comment

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