Thursday, 17 October 2013

Moth Attack!! Advice?

I have terrible, heartbreaking news.... we have closet moths.

Fortunately my yarn stash is safe, because I keep it bagged in giant ziploc freezer bags. And for my hand knit sweaters, only one has become chewed, but I wasn't crazy about my original yarn choice so this is a good excuse to re-knit it in something nicer. Oddly, the moths are not so keen on superwash, which is great- clearly 100% cashmere is their first choice, followed by 100% wool.

They seem to have a particular fondness for (sob!) cashmere. I own three cashmere sweaters. And here they all are:


All chewed up with multiple holes easily big enough to get a finger through (particularly the striped one, you could get a banana through that hole). I put funny faces on the fingers to try to make it funnier. It helps a little. 

I would love some advice, if any of you have battled closet moths and won! Here's what I've tried so far:

  • Moth balls. First off, they smell absolutely terrible, and they still don't work. they have protected one sweater that is right beside them, but I can't wear the sweater because it smells too awful. Also, won't protect anything that isn't within a few inches of a moth ball.
  • Lavender oil. This seems to work, but only if I keep reapplying every few days. Does not seem to actually kill moths, just forces them to relocate somewhere else (like my daughter's closet...)  Same thing with cedar oil. 
  • Sticky paper/Fly paper: not a single moth has been caught this way.

I have some moth traps on order, they should arrive soon and then I can try those out, too. Apparently they emit a female moth pheromone that the male moths go towards, then get stuck in the trap, etc. The idea being that if all the male moths are dead, then they can't impregnate the female moths, who then won't lay eggs in my woolly things and hatch fiber-munching larvae. We'll see. In the mean time, I'm bagging sweaters, washing everything, and trying to cram things in my too-small freezer (apparently freezing works too, but I have a teensy-tiny freezer that has food in it at the moment). Any other suggestions or from-the-trenches advice?


Kate said...

Freezing for two weeks is best - it will kill the eggs. Bagging without freezing could trap moths or eggs in the bags. I've heard heat works but I'm not sure of the temperature that will kill eggs without damaging wool.. Good luck.

Korespondentka wojenna said...

OMG, this is awful! I heard that freezing is a good idea... It should work. Additional advantage - it works for dust mites as well.

We had moths once when I was little and my mother threw away all chewed clothes and washed others in really hot water. But i don't think this is the best idea for woolen clothes.

Jane said...

Oh no!! At least the moths have good taste, I guess?

I am still working on saving a scarf that was really badly mothed (like visible eggs) in the freezer - I have been told that freezing and thawing and freezing again helps kill visible moth stuff.

In terms of prevention - I have a few commercial sweaters that I do my best to keep safe by just wearing them and keeping them clean. If the holes are in an unobtrusive area, maybe do some creative patching as in this tutorial?

jhenzel said...

I think you might want to find a good cedar chest. I rented a house once that had a cedar closet - it smelled great.

Elizabeth's quarters said...

We had the same problem and chemical warfare was the only solution! The night before a thorough cleaning we sprayed the room with Insectrol (from rentokil). It stinks, but it works. Then we sprayed again after cleaning and the moths haven't returned. Also check to see if the moths aren't coming from a specific source–eg, vintage dress/coat etc.

Terry said...

So sorry about your moth problem. You can listen to the podcast Knitting Pipeline episode 92. Paula tells you how to get rid of moths. Hope it helps.

Barbara Prime said...

I've had some trouble with moths as well, and I never thought to look for traps. I'll have to do that now. My main methods have been to use lots of lavender oil (which I like the smell of anyway), and kill all the moths and larvae as I find them.

I agree with the comment above that you can rescue a favourite sweater with some clever patches. I make mine from wool felt or fleece. Some are simple shapes, like oval elbow patches, some I made as little animals so they actually add interest to the sweater.

ExecutiveKnitter said...

I store my off season sweaters in Space bags. In season I store in two of these.

They are cedar lined sweater hangers
"Richards Homewares Cedar Six Shelf Sweater Organizer"

All my handknit, cashmere and fine merino (so basically the expensive stuff) go in this. So far so moth damage.

I am sure you already know that you have to store clean sweaters. (I Dryel everything before I store) but have found, even clean, the moths prefer my hand knit sweaters over commercial. It must have a different smell.

Suze said...

How very disappointing! my mom has had several beautiful hand knits chewed up by moths.
I don't have advice, I'm afraid. I'd steer clear of noxious chemicals, though, since you have a little one at home.

Blue said...

I think you might use this plant:
(see the section about other uses).
I use it all the time and it does work.
Agnieszka from Poland

Carmel said...

vacuum everything, under stuff that you don't normally move... they get everywhere... I've heard fresh lavender as well... Ziploc makes xl and xxl bags that will easily hold ten of your sweaters, target has them as well as wal-mart i think... i use those to seal up large projects and when I travel to hold each outfit p/day!
I need to look into those traps though...

Kaitlin said...

The traps work! I used to work in a costume shop and we used them around all of our garment storage. In my own apartment I use cedar and lavender which work well enough and smell nice.

If you are one who can kill a bug, killing moths is easy. You can usually stun them by hitting them and then grab them with a paper towel. Its marginally icky, but it helps.

Remember to check and change the traps every few months or so. For now, go on a darning and felting adventure. Maybe it will help ease the pain. Good Luck!

Jen said...

I've totally been here and it sucks SO BAD!! When this happened to me nothing was working to get rid of them, I bought the traps and none of them stuck to them and the moth balls smelled horrible. I found that getting every single thing I owned that they could eat dry cleaned and then completely vacuuming out every tiny little piece of pet hair or whatever they could possibly eat out of my apartment. Also if you find the larvae or any moths, vacuum them out of your garment before you get them dry cleaned or they probably won't take them.

After that I used a TON of cedar things and it seemed to work pretty well. Good luck with this. Those damn moths always wanted to eat my handknits first. They really are little jerks.

Mary Gregory said...

Oh no! I'd second the cedar. I lucked out because my parent's bought me a cedar hope chest when I was little and I keep the nice stuff in there.

Hope you can somehow mend those. The cashmere looks so cozy!

lisateapot said...

I don't know if these will drive away the invaders, but might help prevent them returning once you are rid of them. Cedar and lavender sachets:

Alicia said...

This article mentions how moth balls and cedar don't work unless they are in a confined space:

Plus mothballs are potentially carcinogenic. Like others have said, clean everything, freeze everything, and maybe try cedar oil within bags? The traps you ordered should help, too.

Pamela said...

Oh no!

Like everyone said, freeze & wash everything.

I keep all my sweaters in plastic bins with lavender and/or cedar. It seems to work.

As for those gorgeous ruined cashmere sweaters, maybe you could upcycle what's left of them?

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I had moths a couple years ago. I threw out most of the stuff that had visible moths because I was paranoid, and froze everything else.

Its best to freeze for about 2 weeks to kill any adults or larvae. Thaw for 3-4 days so any eggs will hatch and move into the larvae stage, then freeze again for 2 weeks. If you're really paranoid, do the thaw/freeze cycle one more time to make sure you hatched all the eggs. Good luck!

Meghan said...

I worked as a conservator for museums. When we had infested artifacts, they would be bagged and frozen (at the lowest possible temperature) The amount of time you freeze the object depends on the temperature you reach, but two weeks sounds like a good idea for a home freezer. Sometimes we would thaw and then refreeze to mimic spring and allow any eggs to hatch that were still alive. When they came out of the freezer we would carefully vacuum with a low-suction vacuum (something with variable suction control). Definitely clean the space thoroughly. Clothes moths are very small, not at all like the other moths we see around. We never used moth balls as they are toxic, the scent stays with the fabric, and I believe they can cause color change in some dyes. You'll also want to monitor the area periodically after all this to see if any have survived. Good luck!

sewmuchfun4 said...

I'm really sorry. We have had a couple of small infestations, but nothing too major.

Cedar has worked for us. My inlaws had a closet lined with cedar and it did smell SO good. So years ago, we got a zippered bag with a cedar bottom for our woolens (we're in Texas and until I started knitting, one bag was enough). It says Cedar Stow on it - don't know if the company is still around. I also have hanging cedar blocks in the closet and a few I just put here and there on the shelves. Lastly, we hunt moths down like they are public enemy #1 when we catch sight of one.

katherinelynn_04 said...

Ditto to everyone and the freezing, but obviously that isn't going to work for everything. We have had food moths due to dog food, and they're a pain to get rid of too. But the moth tents really do work!

For future prevention, Space Bags really are the way to go for summer storage. Another thing I would suggest would either be to go purchase cedar boards and line a closet in it (I seem to recall that you own now), or to remove the face from a drawer and make your own cedar one to replace it.

Kim said...

Oh goodness, I don't have any moth advice for you- maybe its too hot where I live....
I just wanted to say I love the thumb faces. It does make it a little easier to look at, somehow.
Sorry for your cashmere loss.

Suze said...

One thought: to salvage those sweaters, maybe you could come up with a felted patch/appliqué to stitch over the holes.

AngelaH said...

Oh Julie, this is awful! All this advice about getting rid of the moths is excellent.

In terms of replacing your sweaters, though, Courage My Love (in Kensington) has a million gorgeous cashmere sweaters right now for really good prices. In light of this post, though, I'd recommend freezing any vintage sweater you buy, just in case!

Good luck!

Sheila said...

If you don't have sufficient freezer space, you can bake your knits instead. Over 4 hours above 140F will kill both larvae and eggs. Just be careful not to get your oven too hot and singe your knits. I recommend preheating your oven before putting in your large roasting or lasagne pan loaded with yarn and knits. Blends with silk and/or cotton are most susceptible to singeing.

Leslie J said...

I just went through this about a month ago and had to throw out a lot of hand-knitted things. Clean everything. Freeze any yarn you suspect has eggs in it. Meticulously go through all yarn and sweaters, looking for larvae and webs. Vacuum all carpets and baseboards. The sticky traps really do work, I have them in all my closets. Clean everything again. I know this heartbreak, but they can be exterminated!

Teresa said...

I'm so sorry! As a few others have said (in particular, Meghan) going the route of freezing, cleaning, and those pheromone traps is best. I understand scented solutions (lavender, cedar) are really not solutions at all. Their efficacy is limited to a short period of time when they're new, then the scent capabilities deteriorate. Also, they just sort of, dissuade moths from coming around. They don't really repel/prevent. A friend of mine is also a museum conservator, specializing in preventative pest management. She's where I've got this knowledge from, so I'm thinking it's pretty trustworthy!

Artaud said...

Oh dear. We have been battling cloth moths for years. They seem to come in seasonal cycles, and we have tried EVERYTHING to get rid of them. We've concluded that they are in our walls (we have a 200+-year-old house with horse-hair plaster walls) because they just. keep. coming. back. Yes, these moths love animal fur (I found that out the hard way with my grandmother's old fur coat) AND nice Persian rugs (also found that out the hard way, with a gorgeous rolled-up rug that had been set aside for cleaning that we didn't get to soon enough.) These traps work really well (they're kind of expensive, but they definitely catch them):

I also learned that things like lavender and cedar only mask the smell of the wool (they don't actually repel the moths). It works, but both need refreshing (cedar blocks can be sanded to refresh the smell). All of our woolens are now kept in sealed bags, including our hanging stuff. Our closets are filled with hanging closet bags. Unfortunately, the Container Store has become my biggest ally in the ongoing war. We've had a lot of really sad casualties. I'm so sorry you're going through this. Hopefully, you'll be able to get them all and be done with them! Good luck!

Silvia M. said...

Oh no... So awful. :(
My mom always used cedar balls instead of regular moth balls. They did seem to work and the smell is pleasant.
Good luck!

Kristen said...

Oh horrors! I make sure I store my sweaters completely clean and freshly laundered as I've heard they are attracted to food drips and spots.

Susan said...

I had that problem when I first moved into my condo. I put fresh basil and eye watering amounts of mint oil. I got traps, but never saw any go in.

Anonymous said...

Hey, like everyone else, been there & it is awful.

When I helped in the conservation area of the textile department at the ROM, they had an outbreak in one of the main storage rooms.

Talk about "all hands on deck"! I learned about freezing there but the main thing was getting the temperature LOW enough.

Fortunately, my daughter worked at an ice cream shop at the time & the owner let me stash my affected sweaters (in freezer bags) in his DEEP freeze - it was far colder than a regular home freezer. It has to be very cold to kill the eggs etc. I left them for a month. I never had a problem with those sweaters again.

I traced the moths to a spot where my cat liked to sleep on a pile of fabric in my studio. It was like a moth breeding farm!

I fixed one of my sweaters by sewing tiny silk ribbon rosettes over the holes - everyone comments on my "designer" sweater now!

Good luck


margot said...

The information I found when we had them told me to do the following and this is what I did to our master bedroom closet. Empty the space completely washing and dry cleaning everything. We went through and cleaned out shoeboxes and everything. Wash walls and then spray with a pesticide geared towards the moths - the spray we have really does not have a lingering odor. We took advantage to paint the closet, purge our clothing (why clean things you don't wear or want anymore?), and installed a closet system - the silver lining to this ordeal. Everything that went back in was clean, organized and current. I keep bars of cedar tucked in amongst my woolen goods. They need a light sanding from time to time to keep their aromatic qualities. If you have solid shelves you can buy cedar planks designed to line drawers ith that work well. We still keep a watchful eye out (years later) and still occasionally use the spray when we suspect a "presence". Bless you - this too shall pass. :)

Anonymous said...

That is just horrible, and it is always the best sweaters they get to first.

I would suggest you clean out the cupboards, shelves, drawers and all. If you can use a pesticide, spray the areas while empty.

I keep small containers of Borax on my very upper shelves, etc. to keep all bugs at bay.

Also try and keep fresh bars of soap tucked inbetween your sweaters. It smells great and keeps most bugs at bay. Change your soaps as soon as the aroma has gone.

Fussel said...

I agree to the freezing that hast been suggested a couple of times. But if you don't have enough freezer room, don't bake it as suggested, because with this you can easily singe the fabric. Instead, you can boil the stuff that is 100% wool (NO synthetic parts!). The trick with this is
- when you put it into the boiling water, move it as little as possible
- water should boil only lightly
- do NOT put it into cold water when you get it out, or else it will shrink
- get it out of the boiling pot into a washbowl or bucket and let it cool down there.
Afterwards wash normally and let dry as usual.

I have done this when I had an outbreak (aside from the cleaning etc.) and that works well with 100% wool. I just froze the things that had a bit of synthetics in it.

Bronwyn said...

My mom always had us use blocks of cedar. The same idea as the cedar oil, but you don't have to reapply all the time since it's in the wood.

Flo~ said...

Try steaming the items to kill the adults and eggs. I've heard lemon peel works to deter, but have never tried it (lavender and cedar are way too strong for me).

Hilary said...

Oh no, Julie!! That is the worst news a knitter could hear! I'm so sorry about your pretty sweaters...I'd be so upset! :( I unfortunately don't have any advice, but am sending you good luck and lots of moth-killing vibes! Go get those vermin!

Cassy said...

This makes me shudder. I think we had some moth issues, because I found several holes in my hand knits awhile back. I didn't know what to do aside from washing, washing, washing, and getting more cedar and lavender everywhere. I'm ordering some traps now. I'd never thought of that. Hope your situation gets better very soon.

Anonymous said...

Oh man, that's tragic. Poor cashmere, and poor knitter! I use blocks of cedar wood in my closet to discourage moths, but having never had a moth in the house I can't say if it's the cedar or just luck. Definitely freeze all the goodies until you haven't seen any evidence of moths in the house for a week or two! Good luck salvaging!

Kat Wilson said...

Ask around and see if any of your friends have a stand alone or chest freezer so you can try the freezing thing. (Even if they're willing but think they don't have room, you can probably help them rearrange a bit and find room.)

Anonymous said...

Freezing is always first choice after insect discovery. Are you sure its moths? Silverfish are knitivores as well. They like to hide in cardboard.
Further prevention...Mrs meyers lavender dryer sheets tucked into the folds of the sweater, one inside the sweater and one outside..the sheets are perforated so you can get creative with where you tuck them. I always tuck a small sheet in the ziploc with my yarn(since we really don't know where its been or who its been with). The fragrance lasts about 3 months on the sheets out of the box.
Let us know what works for you!

davin said...

Aside from commiseration, (here's my own sad tale, I've tried lots of stuff myself, and I still find them on occasion. Lots of cleaning, making sure drawers, etc get wiped out frequently and clothes are laundered helps. Also, I've heard that freezing, then thawing out, and freezing again helps too.