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Clothes Moths 101: The Basics of Mothproofing

Clothes Moths 101: The Basics of Mothproofing

Dec 13, 2019

As we start to break out our heavier winter clothing and coats, it’s important to remember that how we store these items after the holiday season can make all the difference when it comes to bringing them back out next year. No one wants to see their favorite wool jacket peppered with holes, or even worse, your favorite Oriental or antique rug. Hadn’t thought of the impact to rugs? These damaging pests can infest your rugs, furniture and draperies too. Here’s what you should know about dealing with—and preventing—clothes moths wreaking havoc on your favorite woolens both inside and out of the closet. What’s Bugging You If you see moths flying around your house, chances are they probably aren’t clothes moths, but are the garden variety moths that hover around porch lights and try to get into your kitchen pantry. But don’t rest easy just yet. Clothes moths are one of three fabric pests (the other two being hide beetles and carpet beetles). Fabric pets digest keratin, the main protein component of hair, skin and fingernails of humans which means sweaters, coats, upholstered furniture, rugs and furs are the perfect breeding ground for clothes moths because of the keratin we leave behind. Synthetic fabrics such as polyester and rayon and natural fabrics which aren’t keratin-based like silk are less likely to be attacked unless blended with wool. Damage to wool is done by the larvae rather than the adult moths you may see hanging out in a dark closet. They lay eggs in secluded and dark spots with plenty of food (fur, down, wool, and even pet dander). Once hatched, larvae can feed on the underside of Oriental rugs and couches, quickly causing damage in just a matter of months. Keep Things Clean Moth and beetle larvae shun bright light, so they rarely attack heavily trafficked carpets and rugs. They thrive on carpet and rugs hidden under furniture, especially if there are food spills or other attractive scents. The best strategy? Keep things clean.

1) Vacuum Frequently The best way to prevent clothes moth damage is regularly vacuuming along with general good housekeeping. Vacuuming removes moth eggs and larvae from carpets and rugs before they have time to do damage.

2) Rotate Your Rugs Make sure you’re rotating your rugs. It not only helps with sun fading but will also uncover any moth infestations. Because moths avoid light, they are more likely to remain hidden in dark spaces like under a bed, sofa or chair. After rotating a rug, check for areas of missing wool and look for loose yarns, casings or larvae that may also be present.

3) Clean Your Gentle Fabrics and Antique Rugs Clothes moths can easily survive temperatures as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as 17 degrees Fahrenheit for short periods of time. This type of professional cleaning is an effective method for controlling a clothes moth infestation because it kills them at all stages of metamorphism. If you find your Oriental or specialty rug has clothes moth damage, trust a cleaning specialist to decontaminate your rug before having it repaired.

4) Beat and Brush Coats and Woolens Outside That coat you found in the back of your closet you forgot about? You probably don’t want to pay to dry clean something you haven’t worn yet. Take it outside in the sun and beat and brush your items to remove potential eggs and larvae. It’s an old-fashioned but effective treatment.

5) Clean Fabrics and Rugs Before Storage Before you pack up all of your winter clothing for storage through the spring and summer months, wash or dry-clean garments that you’ve worn. This will eliminate the perspiration, hair oils and any food spills that will attract clothes moths. Storing a rug too? Make sure you have it properly cleaned by a specialist to prevent an infestation.

6) Pick Out Suitable Storage Unfortunately, moths can get through extremely small and tight spaces. Store your wool linens, rugs, coats in resealable plastic bags or bags.

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