Why do moths eat clothes?
Actually, it’s not the moths that eat your clothes, it’s their babies. The larvae of certain kinds of moths make a meal out of your wardrobe.
In Australia, there are two kinds of clothes moths – the webbing clothes moth, and the casemaking clothes moth. Both of these prefer dimly lit areas, which is why you’ll often find them in cupboards.
The larvae can ingest keratin, so they they like natural fibres. Moths don’t drink water, so they want food that contains moisture. Their ideal diet is a natural fabric containing keratin that has food or sweat stains, as these will retain moisture.
Adult moths lay eggs near a food source (like your not quite clean wool jumper) so that the larvae don’t have to go far to find dinner.
The larvae like food sources containing keratin, which are proteins found in hair and skin, so they’ll eat:
- wool, cashmere, angora, alpaca
They’ve also been known to eat cotton and linen, even carpets made of natural fibres.
So how do you prevent them from eating your beautiful cashmere cardigans?
Why you shouldn’t be using moth balls
First of all, don’t use mothballs. This is definitely a case where you need to stick to a natural moth repellent. Mothballs contain napthalene, which is an insecticide and a pest repellent.
Mothballs come in a solid form that turns into toxic gas, thanks to the napthalene. It’s this gas that kills insects. When you breathe in this gas, you’re inhaling the pesticide.
Some of the symptoms of napthalene exposure (even briefly), include:
If you breathe enough of it in, or eat it, you can develop a type of anaemia called hemolytic anaemia. Eating even a small amount can cause fevers, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.
Eating mothballs can be fatal. The small, round shape can be attractive to toddlers and small children and they may put them into their mouths. It may not be immediately fatal, and there are a number of cases where adults have died days after ingesting mothballs.
Even wearing clothes or using blankets that have been stored with napthalene can be dangerous. The pesticide can enter your body via your skin and cause major health issues, including hemolytic anaemia.
If you do have clothes or fabrics that have been stored with mothballs, wash them thoroughly a number of times. Then hang them outside for a week or so to remove the last of the napthalene fumes.
Which natural moth repellents actually work?
Cedar is a traditional remedy for repelling moths. But it seems that it may just be that the scent of the cedar is off putting for moths, or that it hides the smell of the natural fabrics that moths like. Either way, as the scent fades, so does the protection that cedar offers.
Try sachets made with lavender, cloves, thyme, rosemary and eucalyptus to help repel moths. You can also try using these essential oils to repel moths. You will need to keep refreshing the sachets or oils as the scent fades.
Wash clothes before you store them. Then store them in sealed storage bags or containers that the moths can’t get into. This is especially important for seasonal items like coats, woollens and blankets.
Hang them in direct sunlight for a few hours to repel the moths and the larvae, and give them a good shake before folding away for storage.
You can also try drying them on a hot heat in a tumble dryer or using a hair dryer, or placing them in the freezer for a few days. This should kill any eggs left on the fabric.
How do you stop moths from eating your clothes? Share your natural moth repellent tips below!
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