Friday, April 12, 2013

When Moths Attack! (What's a Wool Lover to Do?)


A few months ago while my daughter and I were both in the deepest depths of constant illness, my husband attended a funeral, one of the very rare occasions on which he has need to dig his gray suit out of our bedroom closet. Except when he put on said suit, it was a little more... ventilated than we remembered. He had to wear it anyway, but when we dug deeper...

They'd eaten EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING. Every one of my husband's suits and all three of my suits, my lovely, well-fitting soft wool skirt suits. All of my wool skirts—my favorite long plaid skirt, my high-waisted wool pencil skirt, my houndstooth A-line wool skirt, my pink wool skirt... EVERYTHING.

Well, everything in that closet. (Luckily my me-made wool skirts, my wool sweaters, my wool socks, wool fabric and wool yarn are stored in drawers elsewhere.)

Readers, you know how I feel about wool. It is my main fiber from September to March, and sometimes in-between. Also: I don't have a budget to replace any of that stuff now, so will have to very slowly rebuild my wool wardrobe through thrifting and sewing. (Though we will just have to suck it up and get my husband a suit, as we have been invited to a few events this summer that require it).

Now, the intelligent thing to do once this moth tragedy struck would have been to immediately clean out the closet, throw out all the holey stuff, wash the non-woolens in hot water, vacuum and wipe down the walls and floor... and protect all the other woolens in the house.

But I was really ill (still am, but getting SO much better!) and my daughter was ill and my husband was already doing all of the housework and much of the childcare... so I just SHUT THE DOOR and tried not to think about it until I had time to really attack it. It became the closet DMZ. Since then, I have just tried to make do with clothes from my dresser drawers, but I am much more rumpled than usual as a result.

Anyway... last night we heard some fluttering and other scary noises coming from the closet, like some moths had just hatched and were TRYING TO GET OUT. So I jumped up in terror and ran to protect my newly hand-knit sweater, bagging it up in a giant Ziploc and putting it in a drawer with some cedar balls.

So... yeah. Er. Once I'm feeling better physically, I think I had better tackle that closet before I actually try and sew anything. Especially anything wool.

Any tips and advice or experiences on de-moth-ifying are very welcome. Have you ever had to deal with these hungry little terrors?


  1. Oh no, I really hate moths. In my last rented house that I had just moved to (fully furnished) I was watching tv one day and realised the wool rug was moving, turned it upside down and it was infested with moths ahh! Anyway I stuck all my woolens in the freezer for a few days then washed them, luckily they weren't too damaged and I could repair most things. So glad I don't live there still.

  2. I've read about putting things in the freezer for a few days. Luckily, I've never had to try it. I think the problem with this strategy is freezer space. Surely you have to get all the eggs killed at the same time or otherwise all your good work will be undone.

  3. The University in Kentucky has a really good article on getting rid of moths. I worked for an exterminator years ago and everything they have to say is exactly what we told customers about moths. Get them while you can because once the infestation gets too bad, the only thing to do is call a professional and pay a ton on dry cleaning :(

  4. The one thing I know about moths that might guide you in your approach and is not necessarily common knowledge is that it's not the adult moths that eat holes in your clothes, it's the larvae--the little worms. Best wishes.

  5. The freezer wrks well, but do freeze thaw, then freeze thaw. The first round gets the adults, then the thaw lets the eggs hatch and then the second round gets them. It's a BUGGER. But throw that stuff AWAY - big plastic bag, sealed, out in the trash. The longer you wait the more entrenched they'll be.

    juno (at) enchantingjuno (dot) com

  6. Oh no! My husband had to call an exterminator at his old bachelor pad. He bought a brand new wool suit, wore it once and put it away for a few months until he needed it again. When he took it out of the closet it looked like cheesecloth. I've never seen anything like it. The exterminator bombed the closets and he had to dry clean everything else he owned.

  7. Oh no! Good luck! Thank goodness your sweater is a'ok!

  8. Thanks for the ideas and commiseration everyone! I'm hoping we can avoid extermination or any nasty chemicals, as they could trigger asthma problems for the little one. We'll try the lower-tech routes first...

  9. Pattern Review has a description of how to reweave holes in moth-eaten wool suits here. However, the technique requires the use of a long white human hair ....

    Good luck!

  10. ohh noooo!! very sorry to hear :( you don't have much luck with things lately. My mom had a huge moth problem, but she never tackled it the right way;just killed them one at a time. The result? a moth problem for many years. We were lucky that we didn't lose that much,but I had part of my wardrobe hanging in her closets, but nothing seemed wrong. I then moved across the Ocean, with my wardrobe and when I found moth in my new place, I was going frantic, washing my entire wardrobe and my husband etc. Took me a whole week of many many washes, but I haven't seen one for a while...

  11. Oh goodness, I'm so sorry you have to deal with this now! Thankfully I've never had moths (knock on wood!) so I have no stories or advice, but I really hope you can eradicate them without too much trouble and you come across a lucky windfall at the thrift store. Good luck!

  12. Oh no, and worst timing too! Various state extensions have great tips on non-toxic ways to kill the vermin. I have an airtight cedar chest which is great for keeping woolens safe, but not exactly practical for everyone. Washing, inspecting, and airing in sunlight help to chase moths away.

    I don't blame you at all for closing the closet door until you could cope. It sounds like too much for anyone! You have my sympathy and commiseration.

  13. Oh no, this sounds terrible! We had rice moths attack our kitchen - disgusting. We ended up throwing away all our food and keeping new food in the freezer / fridge for months until they were gone. Not the same type of moth, but maybe if you freeze all the salvageable clothes and leave that closet empty for awhile - maybe that will help? Hope you feel better soon!


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