Vintage Problems: Moths

If you thought that spiders were the scariest creepy-crawly in your house, think again. There’s a creature barely 1cm long that can cause serious damage to your home, lay up to 200 eggs in one go and has more staying power than Cher.

I’m talking about the common clothes moth.

A moth under the microscope (OK, its actually The Mothman, a scary urban legend from the US)

My relationship with this horrible critter goes back a few years. I’d just moved into a new flat in a block with a communal hot water system: happily, this meant the heating bill was my landlord’s problem as part of the service charge (tip for all you renters: 1930s buildings have these) and it was toasty all year round. Great for saving money on utilities, but also the perfect climate for moths to thrive in.

I began to notice the bald patches on the carpet, the fluttering of wings when I opened the cupboards, clusters of silvery white things if I moved furniture to hoover. Gross. It wasn’t long before I was furiously googling ‘moth removal’ with the fervour of a conspiracy theorist. The options were many and confusing. Cedar wood? Lavender sachets in the closet? Total fumigation using powder? God knows my landlord didn’t give a shit (the carpet wasn’t the only thing wrong with the place).


Luckily, I haven’t seen much moth damage to my clothes. I do own vintage items with small holes etc, but chances are this damage happened before I purchased them – like the moth hole I discovered in a black wool Pauline Trigere dress after having it shipped all the way from LA. Whether this good fortune is down to luck or preventative techniques, I can’t be sure. But there were certainly enough moths in that flat to decimate anyone’s wardrobe.

With that in mind, here’s a couple of things I’ve used to ward off these vintage-loving pests.

1. Freezing clothes

If you suspect moths are snacking on your stuff, its a good idea to stick particularly vulnerable items (like things made from wool) in the freezer for a week or so. This will kill any moth larvae, which can live in your clothes for up to 2 years. Wrap items up in a plastic bag and keep them in a separate tray from your frozen lasagne.

2. Garment bags

Moths love crowded wardrobes full of musty old clothes. Dirt, human debris and stains are a big turn on too. Try not to hoard clothes you don’t wear and never hang dirty things back in your wardrobe. If your closet is still cluttered (and whose isn’t when you live in a tiny city flat short on storage?), garment bags are a good investment for protecting wool, silk and cotton items. Breathable ones like these are kinder to your clothes.

3. Moth traps

Recommended to me by a vintage seamstress, these are plastic contraptions with sticky, pheromone covered strips inside. Essentially, they lure male moths into thinking there’s a sexy surprise inside, where they stick to the paper and die. Harsh, but fair. I have these scattered around my flat and they’re very effective.


4. Lavender spray (still in beta)

I’m not convinced by this yet, but I’ve read some good reviews of this Lakeland Moth Stop Spray. Unlike many of the heavy duty sprays, you can use this on clothing and textiles – I’ve sprayed it liberally around my wardrobe. The smell isn’t bad either.

EDIT (June 2016): This is indeed pretty useless.

DSC00639 (2)

And things that definitely don’t work? For me, cedar and lavender sachets are pretty futile. Apparently you’d need to store things in cedar furniture and sand the interior every few months for its preventative powers to take effect.

But enough from me. What moth fighting techniques have worked for you?


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