Dealing with moths

We love wool, understandably, it’s a delicious fibre, but unfortunately so does the dreaded clothes moth, eek!  Officially known as the “Tineola bisselliella” or the “common clothes moth” to the likes of you and me, just the mention of them makes me shudder.

But fear not wool lovers!  There are plenty of things we can do to prevent moths from chomping their way through our treasured woollies.

Before I give you my favourite hints and tips, I thought you might like to know what I do as moth prevention when making the rugs and cushions that we sell in our shop: –

  • I “skirt” each fleece before storing it (“skirting” a fleece means to remove dirty and matted wool). Moths love dirty wool so removing this is a good start.
  • I store each fleece in a zipped up, breathable, duvet storage bag along with some cedarwood moth balls. Moths cannot abide the smell of cedarwood.
  • I remove the lanolin from whatever it is I’m making (rug, cushion or cushion stuffing), by soaking it in a “fibre scour” solution. Moths will eat any old wool but prefer lanolin flavoured.  Using  the “fibre scour” will remove any lanolin.  To ensure I kill off any lurking moth eggs I make sure the water is at least 60’c.  The hot water is crucial in killing the eggs, if the water is any less than 60’c the risk of eggs remains, yuk!
  • I add cedarwood essential oil to the vinegar rinse during the final wash. The cedarwood scent penetrates the wool fibres and makes the wool unattractive to moths.  Moths also do not like vinegar, bonus!
  • I store the finished products in moth-proof garment bags, or boxes in the case of cushions, and pop in some more cedarwood moth balls for good measure.
fleeces in their duvet bags

So what do you do if you have the misfortune to spot moths or larvae in your woolly products?  By the way, if you spot moths hanging around your woollies, the chances are there are moth eggs and larvae too.  The answer is, put the kettle on and have a cup of tea!! Then use the remaining water to deal with your moth problem.  Did you know hot water is the most effective way (I have found) in dealing with moths?  Hot water and wool I hear you say?  What about matting?  The thing to remember is that wool will only matt if you agitate the hot water.  Wool can tolerate hot water if you lay it gently to soak and do not swish it around.

rug soaking in 60 degree bath

It goes without saying that you should fill the bucket/bath tub before placing the item in it.  Make sure your water is 60’c or more, and leave the item to soak for 20 mins or so.  Then allow it to cool naturally (immersing your woolly item into cold water directly after a hot bath will also cause matting so allowing it to cool down first is important).  Then, fill your bucket/tub with lukewarm water, add some vinegar and a few drops of cedarwood essential oil, leave to soak for a few minutes, rinse and repeat until the water runs clear.  This should have sorted the immediate problem, but don’t forget to check other woolly items in the house, just in case there are more infestations.

cushion stuffing soaking in 60 degree wash

If you don’t want to use the hot water method, then freezing the item will also work.  Place the item in a sealed bag, pop it in the freezer and leave it for two weeks.  The cold temperature will kill off any eggs and larvae same as a very hot bath will.  Make sure your freezer is at least -18 degrees though.

Fibre scour for getting rid of lanolin

Lastly, dry cleaning will also get rid of eggs and larvae.

So rest assured, there are lots of ways to deal with moths and to prevent them from feasting on your woolly things in the first place.

After writing this, a funny thought occurred to me.  Finding moths isn’t all bad.  Bear with me … but would you find a discerning moth nibbling on a polyester jumper?  Would you spot a moth dining out on a nylon carpet?  I think not.  Moths are part of the natural world so will only eat natural substances.  (They have more sense than humans in many ways!)  Just as finding a caterpillar in your homegrown salad might give you an initial “eugh” moment, it’s actually a reminder that your salad is from the garden, fresh, unsprayed and free from nasties.  Likewise, a humble clothes moth flitting around your wool is a reminder that wool is alive and breathing and therefore very special, and just like anything in the natural world, needs looking after and treating with due love and care. ❤️