In just the last week, as we have seen improved weather, I have noticed a faint fluttering across my rooms in the evening; instantly recognisable as a couple of clothes moths. Ever since I moved to a house with a serious carpet infestation the sight of even one fills me with dread as they can be devilishly difficult to get rid of.
We often get asked advice about moth, particularly with regard to storing blankets and linens. The truth is there has been a sharp rise in clothes moth over the last few years. This is no doubt linked to the fact that we tend to keep our houses warm all year round, regardless of the temperature outside.
Only 5-8mm long, clothes moths don’t fly towards the light but prefer somewhere dark and quiet where they can lay around 40-50 eggs in peace and then leave the larvae to munch away on your favourite textile items for up to a year. This is why, you are most likely to find them in that beloved item stored deep at the back of the wardrobe or you may have found a hole in the carpet right under the middle of the bed you never move.
Clothes moths may be common but have very sophisticated taste in fibres. They will only eat natural fibres and the softer the better. This is why cashmere always seems to be at the top of the moth menu followed by other types of wool, silk, fur and feathers and finally cotton.
They also prefer slightly grubby clothes with some residue of sweat which means that putting worn items back in a wardrobe without washing them first really is like laying down a trail of biscuit crumbs when you have mice in the house.
Late Spring/early summer is the time they emerge to mate and lay their eggs and you may well have seen the males fluttering around your house over the last few weeks looking for a female who may be crawling along the floor or skirting. If so, now is a the perfect time to get proactive!
So what to do….
There are over the counter sprays but they are quite noxious and will not be effective on the larvae or eggs. It is far better to go through all the cupboards and clean thoroughly.
Throw open the windows and get some fresh cool air circulating around the house and then wash, dust and vacuum. Don’t forget to move furniture and check every nook and cranny. Be sure to empty the vacuum bag and take it out of the house otherwise, having hatched inside the machine and merrily feasted on the dust, they’ll simply fly out again.
Moths hate light and hate being disturbed. So shake rugs, bedspreads and blankets outside or even put them out in the sun, if you can. The larvae are strongly repelled by light, and will fall from items when they cannot find protection.
Dry cleaning or thoroughly washing items in hot water at temperatures above 120°F (48°C) for 20 to 30 minutes kills all stages of the insects. This is the most common and effective method for controlling moths in clothing, blankets, and other washable articles.
Moths cannot sustain extremes of hot or cold. So, anything, you can’t wash, pop in a plastic bag and leave it for a couple of weeks in the freezer.
Once you have had to empty and clean an entire wardrobe you will, no doubt (like me), become border line obsessive about preventing it ever happening again. Luckily there is quite a bit you can do
If the moth can’t get in, it can’t do the damage so do store precious cashmere and wool in tightly sealed boxes or bags that the moth can’t enter making sure they are clean and infestation free to start with. Never put dirty clothes away.
Be vigilant and check clothes and furnishings regularly. Moth hate being disturbed and will settle in crevices around seams, on webbing under chairs. Regularly vacuum around the bottom and edges of wardrobes and any shelves.
If you live in an older property, have open chimneys checked and cleaned every year or two by a professional chimney sweep and check lofts and attics for bird nests. Remove and destroy any nest material found as moth will potentially feed on this as well.
Pheremone traps, which you can buy in hardware shops, are very effective and will kill the adult male moths preventing them from mating and so reproducing. Once everywhere has been cleaned, put these near or in cupboards, darker areas and other “danger” zones. This will demonstrate if you have got on top of the problem and if not, will point to where the main source of any infestation still is.
Finally, put a natural deterrent amongst the folds of the fabric to make your wardrobe an unappealing prospect to the little critters.
Many of the old moth ball formulations are now banned or not recommended. Safer alternatives exist, like lavender or cedar but, as many people find, they are not always effective and whilst camphor may work it tends to keep everyone else away too!.
Here at Dormitory we do have a favourite natural product which we have always found excellent and very effective. The Moth a Way sachet by Zarvis London is a natural product which really does the job and manages to smell good at the same time.
Filled with a mixture of lavender and bitter herbs these sachets seem to last forever (I’ve had mine for several years now) and at £19.95 seem a small price compared to replacing a cashmere jumper.
So, there is no excuse especially since for the next weeks we are offering a special discount: BUY ONE AND SECOND IS 50% OFF with code MOTH2