In This Issue...What's “Bugging” You? Part 4
Storage Suggestions & Resources
Store only clean garments. Make sure ALL food and beverage stains are thoroughly removed! Even if you only wore something once, clean it before storing it. The invisible remnants of body oils and perspiration could be enough to attract insects. Effective cleaning discourages insect infestation. Dry cleaning effectively kills all stages of clothes moths on fabrics. If you have a major clothes moth infestation, dry clean all susceptible garments, woolen rugs, and tapestries, at the same time as you have your dwelling professionally treated.
Store your clothes in a cool, dry place. When storing out of season bedding or clothing, use wood or archival boxes or chests that can “breathe.” Don’t use plastics dry cleaning bags or air-tight plastic containers for long-term storage. Moisture can accumulate and cause mold and mildew damage to the items or leave clothes with a musty odor. (See our FashionableCare Newsletter, “A Mold and Mildew Primer,” on our website.) Remember basements are too moist and attics are too warm. Summertime attic heat can actually “cook” clothes causing fibers to become brittle and break.
Use breathable storage solutions. Margaret’s carries a selection of breathable bags, sweater bags, tie boxes, shoe bags, purse bags, and comforter bags, specially designed to keep your belongings safe during long-term storage. They are constructed of a poly-bonded non-woven waffle-stamped material containing no protein and completely inedible to fabric pests.
Fine nylon netting wrapped around storage boxes will prevent the entry of insects such as silverfish. Nylon also contains no protein and is non-digestible to the bugs.
Brush your clothes (see more information above) to help remove eggs and larvae from clothes that you don’t want to have cleaned. Remember they’re so small you probably won’t be able to see them! It’s also important to store items that you DON’T have cleaned separate from those that HAVE been cleaned, just in case you’ve missed an infestation.
Use mothballs sparingly. Also called paradichlorobenzene (PDB) or naphthalene crystals—mothballs do not kill larvae or insects unless the area is tightly enclosed to achieve a high concentration of the odor. Trunks, air tight garment bags, boxes and chests, if tightly sealed and taped, can be effectively used to fumigate clothing. The length of exposure needed to kill moths or carpet beetles will vary with the temperature, the size of the larvae, the type of insecticide use, and its concentration. To be certain you’ve killed all stages of the insects, plan on 2 to 3 weeks of treatment. At lower concentrations, the offensive odor of mothballs acts as a mild repellent only. Thorough airing or cleaning may be required after storage to remove the residual odor of the mothballs. Mothballs are primarily designed to use for long term archival and should not be used on items that you are planning to use in the near future.
Other notes regarding the use of mothballs:
Many specialists in clothing storage do NOT recommend the use of mothballs because of the difficulty in actually creating an effective sealed environment and their toxicity, noted below.
- These chemicals are toxins, which can be absorbed into the body if vapors are inhaled over a period of time. They are toxic to children and pets. People sensitive to these products should avoid using them, especially those with asthma or breathing sensitivities.
- Do not place mothballs directly on to fabric. Some fabrics and dyes could be adversely affected. Place instead between layers of paper.
- Store clothing loosely so fumes can filter throughout the storage area.
- The vapors created by mothballs are heavier than air. Always place them in the storage area ABOVE the items being stored.
- Do not use mothballs in plastic containers or with plastic hangers, buttons, belts or trims. Plastics may react and be permanently damaged by PDB vapors.
Note: Many fabrics retain the odor of mothballs even after dry cleaning! So unless you LIKE the odor of mothballs in your clothes, it’s best to avoid their use entirely!
Use cedar chests. To be at all effective, cedar closets or chests should be airtight and kept closed at all times. The cedar scent tends to repel insects, but the airtightness is actually what is protecting the garments. Because of the insufficient seal to maintain a concentration of the odor, cedar chests are seldom completely effective in preventing insect infestations. The cedar oils may kill clothes moth larvae, but not the older moths or eggs. Keep in mind that cedar is not effective against carpet beetles. Thorough airing or cleaning may be required after storage to remove residual cedar odors. Over time, the oils that provide the protection dry up and lose their effectiveness, and cedar chests need to be sanded and a fresh treatment of cedar oil applied about every two years.
Use natural repellents. Other natural materials thought to repel insects are cedar, eucalyptus, pennyroyal, lavender and tansy. Read labels and follow instructions with these products, too, as many can be toxic. Don’t rely on such repellents to eradicate fabric pests. Lavender, for example, will repel clothes moths but do nothing about the eggs or larvae.
Control the humidity of your house and closets with small dehumidifiers. Margaret’s has 4 sizes of closet dehumidifiers available for purchase. Low humidity slows the development of moths and will keep them in their cocoons longer, but it won’t eradicate them. If you wish to control mold and mildew as well as fabric pests, a relative humidity of 45 – 50% or less, at 68 – 72° is ideal. More than 50% humidity will provide a good growing environment for pests. Moths love 75% humidity.
Constant light in a closet may discourage moths, along with tight-fitting doors and floor-to-ceiling cotton drapes to keep dust and moths off the clothing. Keep in mind, however, that the light can fade your clothing.
Cold storage (at 40°F) is often recommended as a means of protecting uninfested furs and other items from insect damage. Cold storage is recommended for furs, in general, as it prevents the skins from drying out. Constant cold storage prevents the larvae from feeding but it does not kill larvae or eggs that may already be present.
Things Your Cleaner Can Do to Help
Is it Possible to Repair Insect Damage?
For special garments, and depending on the amount of damage, it is sometimes possible to repair your garment through reweaving, reknitting or custom alterations. These are topics for a future newsletter.
“Preventing Damage from Clothes Moths and Carpet Beetles,” Guide C-504, by Susan Wright, Extension Consumer Education Specialist, published by Cooperative Extension Service, College of Agriculture and Home Economics, New Mexico State University.
"Insect Damage”, Bulletin #646, published by the International Fabricare Institute, 12251 Tech Road, Silver Spring, MD 20904.
“Clothes Moths and Their Control,” Guide G-316, by L.M English, Extension Entomologist, College of Agriculture and Home Economics, New Mexico State University.
“Tips for Successful Garment Storage,” by Annette Scriber, IFI Analyst, International Fabricare Institute Technical Operating Information Bulletin #662.
"Fabric Insect Pests: Clothes Moths & Carpet Beetles,” Publication IP-50, by Bette Jo Dedic, Extension Clothing Specialist and Mike Potter, Extension Entomologist, University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture.
“Guide to Control of Clothes Moths and Carpet Beetles,” CSIRO Textile and Fibre Technology, Victoria, Australia.
“Storage Tips Protect Out-of-Season Clothes,” by Nancy Peterson, Communications Specialist, Kansas State University Research and Extension.
“Clothes Moths,” by William F. Lyon, Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet HYG-2107-97.
“Insects and Wool Textiles,” Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute.
“Eradication of Insects from Wool Textiles,” by Barbara Reagan, Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, 1982, Vol. 21, No. 2.
“Silverfish and Firebats,” by John Jackman and Phillip Hamman, Extension Entomologists, Texas A&M University, 1997.
“NCA’s Mini Guide to Moth Prevention & Control,” National Cleaners Association.
What’s That Bug? www.whatsthatbug.com. An excellent resource if you’d like to figure out what bug you’re looking at. Great pictures of various stages of common pests.
- Do-it-Yourself Pest Control, www.pantrypest.com
- ePestSupply, www.epestsupply.com
- U-Spray, Inc., www.bugspray.com
- Bugaboopest, www.bugaboopest.com
- Professional Pest Control Products, www.pestproducts.com
- Critter Ridders, www.critterridders.com
- Cedar Closet Linings, www.cedar-closet-linings.com
- Vermont Country Store, a source for various natural repellent products such as cedar oil, www.vermontcountrystore.com
- Mountain Home Cedar, source for materials for cedar closets, www.mountainhomecedar.com
- And many more!
Visit Margarets.com "Archived Newsletters" link to read our "Mold and Mildew" Newsletter and our "Fiber Glossary" Newsletter.