I was in a client's closet a few weeks ago. We were discussing the importance of purging. "One thing in ~ one thing out" is a popular motto that I think makes a lot of sense. I, not being a big "saver" of things, have trouble with the need to hang on to stuff that has no place in your present day to day. It always amazes me how resistant people are to letting go of things, or buying clothes that you don't wear and a season later there it is with the tags still on, and they still have issues with letting it go. "I may need it someday, is a phrase I hear often. If you haven't needed it in a year, I got news for you~ YOU DON"T NEED IT! One of the things I discuss with clients that I may be coaching around this is, "What does that article (of clothing) represent? What is the emotional attachment?"
As we were going through her dresses, we noticed a few moth holes. UGH, always such a problem! I was researching where we might get the dress invisibly mended. It is a dying art, but so necessary and worth every penny!
While repairing the damage is obviously a better option than buying a new dress, if it was an investment piece, preventing the moths from munching on your clothes is the best way to preempt the problem in the first place.
Coincidentally, I was reading the Keep it Chic blog and the subject of moths came up. In the string of comments a museum trained clothing archivist gave a detailed answer that I thought was so valuable, I am passing it along. None of us is immune to the damage moths may do.
From Julie Ann–
There’s no fool-proof method or quick and easy answer with moths. The long and short of it is that it’s going to be a major cleaning job.
First of all, you are right to take everything out of your closet and inspect it all thoroughly. Believe it or not, it’s not the little brown moths that do the damage. It is, rather, their larvae (gross!). So you’ll need to look for signs of the larvae. If there is actual larvae feeding on a garment, they can range from black-brownish to whitish, and are usually squiggly and moving. (So awful to witness — sorry!) Or, you might find a small, white tubular shaped case that the moth has made. You’ll usually find them hiding along seams, inside pockets, under collars, in and on linings, etc., so be sure to look in all of these spots, turn back cuffs, etc. A hole created by a moth will be eaten clean through — i.e. no fabric fibers left in the center of the hole. Furs will usually be ‘clipped’ down to the base and could be exposing the skin. (Moths eat any kind of proteinaceous fiber: silk, wool, fur, etc. They generally don’t bother with cellulostics like cotton or linen.)
The most practical way to kill the larvae is by dry cleaning, but I have been told by museum conservators that you must use a traditional cleaner that uses Perc — new ‘organic’ cleaners don’t use effective chemicals. Other options including freezing, or leaving the garments in the sun and brushing them out.
In terms of getting rid of an infestation, you have to thoroughly clean the entire closet. The moths love to hide in tiny crevices along baseboards and cracks in the floors, so you need to vacuum very well. Be sure to dispose of the vacuum bag after.
Best to inspect any cracks / tiny holes with a flashlight. If your closet is carpeted, I really hate to say it, but they can be hiding under or in it (and eating it!). If it’s hardwood, be sure to mop or wipe down the floor as well as any shelving after you vacuum.
It’s really important not to let any dust bunnies pile up — moths are very attracted to those because they’re usually composed of hair and fibers from clothing. Moths love to hide in the dark (sunlight will kill the larvae), so be sure not to pack things together too tightly, which would give them places to hide. They are also attracted to humidity, so if your closet happens to be close to a bathroom, you should invest in some of those dehumidifying powders that come in little jars — you can just stick a couple in far corners of the closet.
Another big factor is not storing clothing that is dirty. Seems obvious, of course, but even if you wear a dress to dinner and don’t realize you may have gotten a spot of food on it — it can attract a moth. So now that you’ve had a little infestation, you need to be uber vigilant about how clean your clothing is. Perspiration, food, etc., — even if it is so faint we can’t detect it — can oxidize and attract pests.
For the time being, I would put your most valuable pieces in cotton garment bags (you can group several pieces in one bag) until you haven’t seen any signs of a moth in a while. Also be on the look out in the fall — they usually emerge in the late spring and again in the early fall.
Don’t waste your money on cedar blocks or lavender sachets — to be effective they need to be at high concentrations and inside tightly sealed containers.
Hmm … I think that is it! I hope some of the info is helpful for you. Also — be careful even with new clothing you’re integrating into your wardrobe. I once saw garment moths fly out of the pleat of a brand new Proenza skirt in Barneys (!!!).
Thank you Julie Ann ~ An ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure!