Friday, October 26, 2012

Dealing with Moths

Well I had hoped to show you my latest sewing project this week, but the weather has been so blinking dreich for the full week since I finished it that I haven't been able to photograph it. So I thought instead that I'd post this article from Everywoman magazine, October 1943 on dealing with moths. Moths aren't considered a modern problem in a world of polyester clothing, but are a real concern for anyone who, like me, favours wool for winter wear.

Once moths have gained a hold, it is a very difficult job to get rid of them. Dirt, darkness and warmth are all allies of the moth.

Directly a flying moth appears,it means that it is looking for some suitable place in a dark, warm corner in which to lay its eggs. Every one that is seen should be killed at once - not because it eats holes in the clothes itself, but because it lays the eggs. It is the larvae which cause all the damage, and it is amazing the amount of descruction these minute worms can do.

To prevent the moth from laying its eggs in the first place, keep a constant watch on cupboards and drawers, especially on articles in them which are not in continual use. Silk and wool, felt and fur, are all fabrics dear to the moth - cotton, linen and rayon do not attract them to anything like the same extent. Line drawers and shelves with paper, and lay small net or muslin bags containing a moth preventative between the layers of clothes.

Summer-weight woolies, silk blouses and frocks which are going to be put away for the winter should all be washed before being stored. Stained or grubby articles will be the first to attract moth. Wrap in soft paper, laying net bags of moth preventative between the folds. Then wrap in brown paper or newspaper and seal the parcel with strips of gummed paper - this is the surest way of preventing moth from getting into the parcel.

(NB: modern vacuum bags are a good alternative)

It is a good plan to take furs into the garden occasionally and give them a good shake, hanging them up in the sunlight, for a few hours, if possible.

If, in spite of all precautions, the moths succeed in obtaining a footing, preventative measures are no good. The only thing to do then is to attack! Several chemicals can be purchased at all chemists and big stores which will kill moth whether in egg, larva, pupa or flying stages. Carbontetrachloride, which is a liquid, or naphthalene and paradichlorbenzine which are in crystalline form, are excellent for the purpose.

Take the articles out into the air, shake and brush them, and leave them in the sun for a few hours. Then spray them with the liquid.

A very excellent method is to sterilize the articles with one of the chemicals. A large suitcase or old trunk is suitable for the purpose. Lay all the articles which have been attacked by the moth loosely into the case. Place some of the liquid or crystalline chemical into a shallow bowl and stand it on the articles. Shut the container firmly and seal it all round the opening with strips of gummed paper, making sure that it is done very securely to keep out all the air.

Leave the articles in this "sterilizing chamber" for twenty-four hours if you have a liquid chemical or three or four days if crystals, so as to be quite sure that the destruction is complete.


  1. Thanks for sharing this! My other half had a bit of a moth problem a few years ago, ate all his jumpers and some lovely vintage blankets. Since a thorough clean out and his promise to thoroughly wash all items before storage, it's not been a problem, though on a quiet evening in bed reading he will often leap out and slap his hands together with fury.

    I vac-pack all of my stored items, and find this works a treat (apart from when the seal breaks, and you find your suitcase is spring-loaded on opening, showering you with bedding and winter coats!).

    I love your blog!

    Porcelina xx

  2. Do they still sell the chemical treaters? I have read (and pinned) an article about killing moths (eggs/larva) in clothing where they suggested freezing the articles (which I would prefer to chemicals if it works). They said to then put the frozen articles in the sryer (and promised it wouldn't shrink them). Has anyone tried that method, was it successful?

  3. Vacuum bags are my friend.

    But luckily most of my clothing is cotton or good ole artificial fibres. The one advantage of my cheap tastes!

  4. I received my lovely blouse and skirt today, and the skirt just barely fit. I'm so happy! I was afraid I could not fit into it, but I do. Will wear it with a petticoat to make it look as lovely as you in your photo. Wishing you a great weekend. :)

  5. Wonderful post - and very timely, may I add. For the past few years we lived in a small high rise apartment and got very few insects up so high (we were on the 23rd floor). I don't recall ever seeing a month there and certainly didn't notice any nibbles in our clothes. Now however we live in a two floor condo (wayyyy better house!) and I find myself becoming rather paranoid whenever someone even so much as mentions the word moth. One got in a couple of weeks ago, and hunt for it as we may, we couldn't find it, so I made sure to keep all the closet doors shut for days after that. I'm thinking it's high time I got some cedar or other natural moth deterrent and hopefully relieve some of the fear that these pesky critters might get into my vintage wardrobe and treat it like an all-you can eat buffet!

    ♥ Jessica

  6. Thanks for the article! I saw a few moths in my bedroom a few months ago, and it was basically the equivalent of the apocalypse. While I was a blessing I have a ton of rayon, I also have many wool hats & a gabardine lust...... It was bad. There was a shed tear or two, and some wine involved. O_o

    So the freezing thing does work! I've had friends successfully pull his off, but they all had large storage freezers in their garages. The problem is you can't just put a few things at a time in the freezer, eventually getting through your wardrobe, its gotta be a in-one-go attack.

    So instead, I ended up getting good old fashioned toxic mothballs, and sealed up all my natural fibers in garbage bags with them. I have yet to see another moth! It was a bit smelly though, I definitely had to air out & steam everything after.

    After the crisis, I got cedar blocks (sprayed with lavender, for fun) and now keep them in all my hat boxes/ drawers/ nooks in the closet. Supposedly this keeps them away, minus any kind of chemicals (it won't kill em though).

    Wow, I'm rambling. But hopefully this helps! It's in the best interest of every vintage lover to share this info- you can avoid a nightmare, and make sure your stuff stays minty for the next person;)

    <3 sara

  7. In my experience moths absolutely love rayon!
    I love rayon and have several 1930's rayon crepe dresses that at some point (before my acquisition of them) have a few moth holes in them and others need partial foundationing due to them!
    Freezing does work for killing moth larvae and is also recommended for mites.
    It is especially good for furs in that respect. If you suspect moths or mites in your furs, put it in a plastic bag press out as much air as you can and and tie it very tight and put it in the freezer for a few weeks. Don't forget to take it out of the bag immediately when you remove it from the freezer before condensation forms! Works equally well for feathers.

    M. =)

  8. Thank you for the post, I too love wools and become paranoid at the sight of a moth in the house! It would so horrible to find that it has eaten its way through a favourite piece of vintage.
    Love Lil x

  9. The mess they can make is just unbelievable! I start leaping around like something demented if I see one.


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