How to get rid of clothes moths in your wool sweaters and how to prevent them from infesting your stash in the future
Whether you are storing wool clothes, yarn or raw fleeces, clothes moths can be an ongoing problem. Once you see a moth or two, you can be sure there are plenty more!
But, not to worry because I am going to give you some tips for storing your pieces properly and how to get rid of wool moths if you do get them.
- What are Wool or Clothes Moths?
- How to Prevent Wool Moths
- Are Mothballs safe to use?
- How to Get Rid of Clothes Moths
You may be interested in How to Wash Wool Without Felting It!
What are Wool or Clothes Moths?
They are small tan or gray colored moths which feed on wool fibers such as sweaters, socks and yarn or felt. They are about 1/2 inch long and shaped like a thin triangle.
These little insects will lay their eggs in your clothes so that when the they hatch, the larva have something to eat, your wool! Then the larva grow into moths, lay more eggs in your wool and the entire cycle repeats itself.
How to Prevent Wool Moths
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of prevention techniques but you will find some easy and affordable things you can do at home.
Wash wool items before storing
Make sure to thoroughly wash everything before long term storage. (This includes raw fleeces as the wool moth eggs may already be in unwashed fiber)
Treat Pre-owned Wool Items
One way to get rid of clothes moths is by freezing them. So, anytime you bring home used clothes from a thrift store (or yarn and fiber), seal it in a bag and pop it in the freezer for about a week.
Store Wool with Cedar Hangers or Balls
Cedar wood is a natural bug repellant and works great to keep moths out of your clothes or yarn stash.
I have personally used prunings from my cedar trees but you can also purchase Cedar Hangers, Planks and Balls to keep in your closet.
Store Items with Rosemary, Lavender and Calendula
Bugs in general do not care for strong smelling herbs and flowers. Hanging dried bundles of these can help keep them out. Remember to refresh your herbs occasionally as the smell fades over time.
Another option is to hang some pillows or sachets with drops of Lavender, Rosemary essential oils in your closet.
When you get ready to store your sweaters or wool yarn for the long term, double bag them in heavy duty plastic bags. Or better yet, store them in vacuum sealed storage bags.
Are Mothballs safe to use?
While mothballs may keep the wool moths out of your clothes, keep in mind that they are made of chemical insecticides. So, what you smell, is actually toxic chemicals that you are inhaling.
Therefore, I do not recommend you use mothballs in the clothes you plan to wear. In addition to that, the smell is very difficult to remove from yarn and raw wool so I would not store any fiber with mothballs.
A more eco friendly alternative to mothballs are cedar hangers, balls or chips which naturally repel moths.
Remember when people used to keep their blankets and other linens in a cedar chest? Wool moths are reason why. They don’t like the smell of cedar.
How to Get Rid of Clothes Moths
So you took all of the precautions and stored your wool sweaters and fibers carefully but you still end up with moths. What to do??
First, you need to figure out where the moths are nesting. Are they in one closet only? How about your yarn stash?
Carefully examine each piece and look for moths, dead moths and little cocoons. These are small tan colored tubes.
Once you find the infested item, get it away from your other clothes or fiber stash to prevent further damage.
Take it outside and look at the item very carefully. In some cases, it is not worth salvaging and you are better off to seal it in a plastic bag and toss it in the outside garbage can.
If it is worth keeping, here are a few suggestions:
Place your clothes moth infested item in a sealed plastic bag and place it in the freezer for about a week. Basically, this will kill the moths and larva however, there are a lot of differing opinions about whether or not freezing kills the eggs.
Wash your piece of clothing or yarn/fiber as you normally would but using HOT Water. I would also suggest several washings.
Moth Traps are sticky traps that attract the moths by using their pheromones. Personally, I have had some success with moth traps in the my pantry.
Note thought that they work great to trap adult moths but are useless against the eggs or larva which will go on and hatch.
So, you may want to remove the eggs and larva first and then the traps. In other words, treat your wool item with one of the other methods (freezing or washing) and then place traps to catch any adult moths which may have escaped notice.
You may need to do this treatment more than once to ensure that you got all of them.
What is hotter than the Sun? Simply, place the item with the little critters in a black garbage bag. Close it up tight and put it in the bright sunshine for a few days.
To be honest, I have not tried this method personally, however, I do a lot of solar dyeing and if it gets hot enough to set dye, it is bound to be hot enough to kill the clothes moths.
Note to fiber artists … if you were planning to have that fiber processed at a mill, you will need to contact them first. Many mills will not accept a fleece that has any evidence of moths.
Keep in mind, that you can do everything right, take all the steps you can take to prevent moths from infesting your things but nothing is really fool-proof. Sometimes they get in there anyway so don’t despair.