What’s Eating Your Clothes
There is nothing like digging a good old jumper out of your grandparents’ wardrobe as winter approaches. Not only will reusing a thick woolen sweater with a vintage design put you ahead of the fashion revival trend. It will also keep you warm and cozy, just like grandma’s hot chocolate and cookies combo. But how disappointing it is to find a pattern of little holes scattered around a garment. How scary it is to open the closet and be saluted by a tiny insect proudly emerging from within the depths of your cupboard. Unfortunately, there are several different bugs who enjoy nibbling your favorite apparel. In this article, we will point out the usual suspect, the clothes moth, and give you some ideas on how to fight your clothes’ worst enemy.
There are millions of moths in the world, but only two feed from animal fibres found in the textiles that constitute carpets, upholstery and clothing. In fact, one of them -the webbing clothes moth- is the most common type within the species and has been earning an increasingly bad reputation over the last decades. Those moths on your porch dancing around the light might be a little bit annoying, but they are no reason for serious concern. At least not for your clothes.
Together with the case-bearing or case-making clothes moth, webbing clothes moths thrive in low light. They happily lay hundreds of eggs in dark places, making your wardrobe the perfect habitat. It is actually not the adult but the moth larvae that damage clothing. They eat keratin, a protein found in animal-based materials. That is why they love wool, fur, hair and feathers, and can even snack from leather, lint, mohair and silk, especially when soiled or stained with sweat, body oils or urine. You are more likely to discover the damage in hidden areas such as crevices and creases, behind lapels, inside pockets or below folds. They do not feed from cotton but might eat their way through it if they want to reach feathers.
The adult common or webbing clothes moth is small, with a pale golden sheen. When its larvae hatch, they spin silk webbing on the fabric and feed underneath it. They leave behind holes on clothes as well as webbing tubes. The adult case-making clothes moth is a pale silvery grey-brown with dark spots. The larva spins a tubular case around itself made out of silk and fibers. It carries its case as it feeds, leaving a trail of grazed textile or fur and empty silk bags.
Clothing and blankets in regular use, and rugs with a normal amount of traffic are at a low risk of developing a moth infestation. You often find larvae hiding on the edges of rugs, inside and out of upholstery furniture, in pet bedding, curtains or drapes, and any dirty fabric in your house. They do not present a risk to the health of humans, although larvae might cause allergic reactions or irritation when in contact with your skin or when inhaled by those with genetic dispositions.
There are many ways in which clothes moths can infiltrate your home, and it is important to be on top of this for prevention is always better than cure. They can simply fly in through an open door or window, or a damaged screen. But they usually sneak in through infected second hand goods such as clothes, furniture, blankets and rugs. Eggs are also laid on items kept in storage places, like garages or sheds, and move to your wardrobe when you transfer them into your bedroom. Thorough inspections and regular vacuuming are advised, as well as washing off-season clothes before storing and keeping them in airtight containers until their season comes. Empty your wardrobe completely at least twice a year, ideally around Spring and Autumn, and perform a preventive deep clean. Take your clothing to a suds coin laundry before returning them to the clean closet. You should consider brushing clothes made of natural fibers after you wear them outside, and washing any clothes purchased in thrift shops before placing them in the cupboard.
These moths can be naturally repelled with sachets filled with dried lavender or cotton balls dipped in lavender essential oil. Peppermint, cloves, thyme and rosemary are great alternatives, as well as chips or blocks of cedarwood hanging in cotton bags. Make sure the cedar does not touch the clothes as its oil may stain the fabric, and change it every three years or less. All these options have the added benefit of giving your cupboard a nice scent, for the smell is appealing to humans but highly repellent to insects. Already infested clothes should be frozen for 72 hours to kill the eggs and larvae. Make sure you wash them with a strong, natural soap in our efficient washing machines. Woolen materials can also be exposed to sunlight every month for prevention, as high temperature is an effective method for moth control.
Look after your clothes and protect them from these enemies with the help of Sudz, your expert cleaner. Hygienic cleaning is our specialty!