Good Questions: Moth Protection?

Good Questions: Moth Protection?

Maxwell Ryan
Nov 9, 2004

Dear AT,

Does anyone have any ingenious suggestions for getting rid of moths? They seemed to have arrived with the wool kilim from Ikea (WARNING!). Now the rug is long gone, as well as most of my wool sweaters.

After over a year of lavender sachets, cedar wood blocks and foul moth balls the suckers still have the nerve to appear from time to time. Is it possible to get rid of this problem permanently, short of giving up wool for life?

Thanks, Natalia

We, too, have had a moth problem this year that we DIDN'T have in years past. Don't know why.

The best answer we found to this question comes from the University of Kentucky Entymology Department. You can read the whole text below. The short story is that patience and deep cleaning are required. vacuuming and cleaning your animal fiber fabrics is essential, and then storing them in tight, closed containers with mothballs in the off season. (Thanks, Natalia!) MGR


The best way to avoid problems with clothes moths is through prevention. Woolens and other susceptible fabrics should be dry cleaned or laundered before being stored for long periods. Cleaning kills any eggs or larvae that may be present and also removes perspiration odors that are attractive to the pests.

Articles to be stored should then be packed in tight-fitting containers with moth balls or flakes containing paradichlorobenzene (PDB) or napthalene. Neither PDB or napthalene will repel clothes moths or prevent them from laying eggs -- the vapors from these materials are lethal to clothes moths, but only when maintained at sufficient concentrations. In order to achieve these levels, the vapors must be tightly confined with the items you wish to protect. Effective concentrations can best be achieved by first sealing susceptible items (with the manufacturers' recommended dosage of moth crystals) in large plastic bags, and then storing the bagged articles in tight-fitting trunks, boxes or chests. Contrary to popular belief, cedar closets or chests are seldom effective by themselves, because the seal is insufficient to maintain a lethal or repellent concentration of the volatile oil of cedar.

Standard household insecticides should not be used to treat clothing; however, mothproofing solutions may be applied to susceptible clothing by professional dry cleaners. Valuable garments such as furs can also be protected from clothes moths by storing them in cold vaults (a service offered by some furriers and department stores).

Controlling existing infestations of clothes moths requires patience and a thorough inspection to locate all potential sources of infestation. The source may be an old woolen scarf in the back of a closet, a fur hat in a box, or a remnant of wool carpeting up in the attic. Even piano or organ felts may be the source. Infested items should be thrown out, laundered or dry cleaned.

Vacuuming effectively removes larvae which are already present as well as hair and lint which could support future infestations. Be sure to vacuum the edges of carpets, along baseboards, underneath furniture, inside closets and other "quiet" areas where clothes moths prefer to feed.

Insecticide applications directed into infested areas are often useful as a supplement to good housekeeping. Products containing active ingredients such as pyrethrum, allethrin, chlorpyrifos and permethrin are effective. Sprays may be applied to carpets (especially along and beneath the edge adjacent to the baseboard), underneath furniture and other likely areas of infestation where prolonged contact with humans is unlikely. Clothing and bedding should not be sprayed with household insecticides and should be removed before treatment.

Elimination of widespread, serious infestations of clothes moths may require the services of a professional pest control operator.

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