Natural Moth Prevention


If you love wool the way we do, then you probably know that it is an incredibly resilient material. So resilient, in fact, that one of the few mechanisms in nature for breaking it down quickly is the moth, tineola bisselliella, commonly known as the clothing moth. While this unique characteristic makes the clothing moth a pretty interesting species, it also makes it an unwelcome presence in the fibre enthusiast’s home. 

Commercial moth balls are a common defense against clothing moths, but their toxic fumes are arguably just as bad for people as they are for moths. Fortunately, with a bit of awareness and some simple household practices, clothing moths can be kept at bay the natural way – no harmful chemicals necessary. 


What we know about Clothing Moths 


Clothing moths are not like other moths; they are not attracted to light, but rather, like to burrow away were they will be undisturbed. The smells from dirty clothes and the oils in raw wool attract them and, once finding an undisturbed location, they lay their sand-like eggs. It is the clothing moth larvae that live on wool. After hatching, the larvae consume the wool around them, leaving the characteristic small holes that you find in affected clothing. The larvae develop relatively slowly; depending on conditions, it can take months for a freshly hatched larva to mature to an adult moth. This is fortunate. It means that if you monitor your natural fibre products regularly (clothing moths consume silk and fur as well), you can eliminate clothing moths before they get the chance to settle in, reproduce, or cause any major damage. 


How to keep them away


First, keep your woolens clean – washing or soaking in hot water (above 50 degrees Celsius) destroys any eggs or larvae and adult moths are less attracted to clean wool. 

Second, don’t store your woolens away for ages at a time – wear them, rustle through them, inspect them regularly. Clothing moths prefer to be undisturbed. If you accidently store one away with your woolens for a year, you have just created its ideal living environment; dark, undisturbed, surrounded by wool. By regularly going through your woolens you can create a less hospitable living environment and, if you happen to have acquired clothing moths, you can catch the problem early and take steps to deal with it. 

Third, use clothing moth pheromone traps in your home to trap male moths that may find their way inside. The traps work by attracting and trapping the male moths, alerting you to the possible presence of female moths and larvae in your home while at the same time limiting the rate at which the population can grow. We use the Aeroxon Clothes Moth Trap at our mill and find it highly effective. 

Fourth, store your woolens with a cloth sachet containing dried plants for moth prevention. These tend to be plants with strong smells. We are not exactly sure of the science behind why they work to keep moths at bay, perhaps their strong smells deter the moths or perhaps they disguise the natural smells in wool that attract moths, but folks have been using plants for natural moth prevention for generations and there seems to be something to it. Rosemary, thyme, mint, lavender, cloves, tansy, pennyroyal, and artemesia are just a few of the plants commonly used and they can be grown easily in most gardens. Below are a few recipes by Carole Neville for moth prevention that we like to use in our own homes. 


What to do if you have Clothing Moths


If you find that you have clothing moths, soak any affected items in hot water (above 50 degrees Celsius), spin dry using the spin cycle of your washing machine or blot water out with a towel, then hang or lay flat to dry. If your item is not one that can handle hot temperatures or water, alternatively, you can freeze them to kill the larvae (place your items in the deep freeze for at least 14 days). If these options are not possible, vacuum them. Vacuum all around the area very carefully - each crack and corner of the drawer/closet/wherever the items were stored. Dispose of your vacuum waste outside. Monitor this area carefully and repeat vacuuming until the problem is solved. 


Recipes and Cloth Sachet Instructions by Carole Neville


Note: use dried herbs

½ cup lavender
½ cup tansy
½ cup mint
½ cup pennyroyal
¼ cup whole cloves
½ cup artemesia
¼ cup whole pepper corns
2 TBSP thyme 
2 TBSP rosemary
4 drops lemon oil

Mix all dried herbs together then add the lemon oil and mix again. Store in an airtight container. Mix together occasionally for a couple of weeks. Use in sachets. 

Another recipe:

½ cup rosemary
½ cup mint
½ cup thyme
3 TBSP whole cloves

Mix together and use in sachets.

Yet another recipe:

1 cup lavender
1 cup rosemary 

Mix together and us in sachets

To Make a Sachet:

Find yourself a nice piece of fabric that is loosely woven enough that the herbal scents can escape but tightly woven enough that the little bits of dried leaves and flowers cannot escape. 

Cut out a rectangle about 10 inches long by about 5 inches wide. Fold in half with the right sides together so you have a 5 inch by 5 inch square. Sew side seams. Turn right side out. Turn over top edge and hem to inside. Fill with the dried herbs and tie top with a pretty ribbon. 

Check out our blog DIY Drawer Sachets for Clothing Moth Prevention for step by step instructions!