It’s finally that time of year when we’ve had enough cool, crisp autumn days to pack away our summer clothes and bring our jackets and sweaters out of storage. This year, like every other, I approached the task with the anticipation of wearing some of my woolly favorites, only to find a less pleasant surprise when I opened the drawer: the unmistakable signs of case-bearing clothes moths.
As an art conservator who owns a pet and lives in an old building with the accompanying drafts and dust, I’m especially aware of pest control challenges and follow vigilant preventive measures. While the single moth casing I spotted means that these silent, destructive insects are nothing if not persistent, it’s possible to prevent a damaging infestation with non-toxic, inexpensive materials and a few easy steps.
● Prevent clothes moths from entering your home. Seal gaps in windows and doorways. Keep your home as clean as possible by clearing cobwebs and vacuuming regularly to remove dust, hair, dead skin cells, and other moth-friendly treats.
● Wash or dry clean your clothing before storing it. Developing moth larvae feed mostly on protein-based fibers but are more likely to be found among items containing sweat, skin cells, or food stains.
● Moths prefer humid environments. Control the humidity of your home and storage areas. This can be challenging here in the South, so I recommend the purchase of an inexpensive temperature and humidity monitor.
● DampRid makes a great series of inexpensive, moisture-absorbing products for use in closets and small storage areas. Silica gel packets, great for inserting in drawers and sealed containers, also control moisture and are available in different sizes for online ordering. It’s a good rule of thumb to change these when rotating your seasonal items. In addition to preventing moths, you’ll control the growth of mold and mildew.
● Traditional moth balls are effective but toxic. Along with lavender and clove oil, cedar blocks, shavings, and oil provide effective and inexpensive alternatives. For an easy DIY solution, simply purchase a bag of cedar shavings from a pet supply store, fill the feet of old pantyhose with shavings, and tie off the top of the “sachet”. Place the sachets in drawers, containers, closet shelves, or suspend from hangers to repel moths.
● If clothes moths, casings, damaged textiles, or other signs of infestation, are identified, inspect the affected area and all stored items thoroughly. If possible, check your stored items every two months or so for signs of pests.
● Insect infestations, mold growth, and climate control problems affecting art and artifact collections are best handled by an art conservator. Likewise, any major household pest control problem is best addressed by a professional exterminator, following with the steps listed above to prevent recurrence of the problem. For additional help in recognizing and controlling moths, check out this article.
This post was generously written by Erin Kelly.
Erin L. Kelly, M.A., C.A.S., M.Ed.
Art Conservator / Educator / Outreach