Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The truth about…clothes moths


They love the high life, they are seriously sartorial, the more expensive your clothes the better, they just love ‘em – to eat.
It’s not the adult moth Tineola bisselliella that’s the problem it’s its caterpillar offspring. These tiny little grubs eat clothes or to be precise they devour keratin.
Keratin unfortunately can be found everywhere but especially on natural fibres such as wool, silk, cotton and fur it is also found in nails, claws, feathers,  skin  and other bodily secretions – NICE!
Exactly!
Nice and nourishing to eat for clothes moth caterpillars.
Usually the caterpillars take about eight weeks to mature but if the conditions are not right they can eat on and off for up to two years! So be very careful about bringing textiles of any sort into your home especially if they are second hand, vintage or even antique and that goes for clothes, cushions, eiderdowns, rugs, furniture with any type of tapestry or webbing on it.
Mine got in via a vintage stole given to me at Christmas.
But although the moth causes the damage the fault lies with me for being slovenly.
Face it folks we are not desperately clean anymore and nor are we as conscientious about our belonging as we once were. Clothes are cheap and we have way more than we can possibly keep track of nowadays.
If you put away your clothes dirty you are asking for trouble. Cleanliness and good housekeeping are the order of the day to stop these little blighters in their tracks.
  • Always put clothes away clean.
  • Hang clothes in proper clothes bags so that if they are attacked the problem is contained.
  • Use lavender and/or cedar balls to persuade moth to go elsewhere. Make sure you keep a check on the smelliness of said lavender bags and cedar balls and change frequently.
  • Do not over stuff your wardrobe. Clothes moths love things dark and warm.
  • Air your clothes frequently. Clothes Moths hate to be disturbed and dislike the light.
  • Clean regularly and that means over, under, behind and in your wardrobe.
  • Have a good proper de fug at the end of each season to keep on top of the problem for it can be anywhere and can strike anytime especially now we all have nice toastie houses.
  • If you can store clothes in a cold place, clothes moths don’t like the cold.
  • As they say prevention is better than a cure, usually because a cure is so damned expensive.
If you do find moth in your clothes here’s what to do:
  • Find the source and destroy it – pretend you are Sigourney Weaver and you’re going to get the Alien. It is scary and you will have collateral damage.
  • Check all clothes.
  • Those that are damaged or with visible eggs (tiny black specks) or caterpillars (small whitish grubs) should be immediately bagged up and sealed. These can be treated.
  • Clothes are undamaged and that can be washed in temperatures over 40 degrees should immediately be washed with a non-biological washing powder/liquid. No point using biological agents as that is just another food source for the moth.
  • Clothes that can be dry cleaned with no visible or active moth damage should be bagged and sent to the dry cleaners. Do NOT send any clothes that you think have moth to the Dry Cleaners as you will only spread the problem and that’s just not nice.
Now what to do with clothes that have damage/active grubs/eggs?
Well bag the lot up and freeze ‘em.
I had rather a lot of clothes and so I bagged up everything. I was advised for clothes with sequins/embroidery/gilt etc. to layer acid free tissue paper between the layers and to wrap glass/bone/shell buttons etc. in twists of tissue paper to protect them.
I then took the whole lot to the Ipswich Museum where they were placed in an industrial freezer at minus 40 degrees and where they will stay for two weeks. That will kill 99.9 per cent of the moths, grubs, eggs and pupae on them. After that I will dry clean the lot with a clear conscience. Note though that I had rather a bad infestation.
If you have only a few clothes and a large freezer at home you can use that perfectly well.
As for the wardrobe, well room, where I keep my clothes I have had all the carpets cleaned and I am spraying the rooms with Constrain, a museum grade insecticide, to get on top of the problem. I will not be using moth balls as I cannot stand the smell and they are poisonous especially to pets and children as well as being highly inflammable. Instead I am going large of lavender, luckily I really like the smell – but the moths don’t!

Ipswich and Colchester Museums are running a series of lectures about looking after your treasures:
Sat 24th September – Fashion Forever at Colchester Castle.  ‘Find out how costumes and textiles are looked after.  Get practical advice about looking after clothes and textiles, from wedding dresses to uniforms.  Bring your own textiles for extra practical advice’.  10.30am-1pm
10.30am-1.00pm. £10 per person, includes castle entry (tea and coffee included). These events are very popular so booking is essential, book in advance by calling 01206 282940 or by dropping into Hollytrees Museum, Colchester.
Sat 8th October – Making Metals Last.  Ipswich Museum.  ‘Hear about looking after metal objects.  From trophies to jewellery and ornaments, learn how to keep them looking good and make them last’.  10.30am-1pm.
10.30am - 1pm. £10 per person. These events are very popular so booking is essential, book in advance by calling 01473 433691 or by dropping into Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich.
Sat 19th November – Fashion Forever at Christchurch Mansion.  ‘Find out how costumes and textiles are looked after.  Get practical advice about looking after clothes and textiles, from wedding dresses to uniforms.  Bring your own textiles for extra practical advice’.  10.30am-1pm.
10.30am – 1pm. £10 per person (tea and coffee included). These events are very popular so booking is essential, book in advance by calling 01473 433691 or by dropping into Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich.
Sat 3rd December – Making Metals Last.  Hollytrees Museum.  ‘Hear about looking after metal objects.  From trophies to jewellery and ornaments, learn how to keep them looking good and make them last’.  10.30am-1pm.
10.30am-1.00pm. £10 per person, includes castle entry (tea and coffee included). These events are very popular so booking is essential, book in advance by calling 01206 282940 or by dropping into Hollytrees Museum, Colchester.

For more information go to : www.colchestermuseums.org.uk 

2 comments:

Rob-bear said...

Not that we have moths, fortunately, but all this information after your misadventure is helpful.
Freezing clothes is also a way of dealing with bed bugs, should any of those "darlings" move in on you. The trick is to freeze anything you buy which might have bugs before you take it into the rest of the house.
Blessings and Bear hugs as you try to sort out the mess. (Tatty clothing is just so "not on.")

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Oh blimey! I have a wardrobe packed with clothes and it must be very dark in there. I suspect we are riddled with moths in this house!!

CJ xx

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