Way back in 2010 I bought an old wool Mackinaw Cruiser off eBay.
Boy, was that a pretty jacket.
I got a great winter season from it.
When spring came I put my Mackinaw in the closet and forgot about it.
The following fall, when we had our first cold snap, I opened the closet door and took my Mackinaw off the hanger, only to notice several holes scattered throughout the coat.
A pack of wool-eating moths had devastated my poor jacket.
If you want to prevent your clothes from suffering a similar fate, read on for some clothes-saving tips.
Clothes moths: know your enemy
If you see moths flying around your house, they probably aren’t the kind of moths that eat clothes.
The two types of moths that eat clothing material are enveloped (or encased) clothes moths and common (or web) clothes moths. They are tiny (about 1 cm) and like to be in the dark, so you are unlikely to see them feeding on your clothes.
Both moths prefer to snack on clothing made from animal-derived materials: wool, leather, feathers, and fur. You know – the kind of materials that make your nicer, more expensive garments like cashmere sweaters. . . and Mackinaw cruisers.
Clothes moths are snooty; They generally avoid plant-based fabrics like cotton and stay away from synthetic fabrics. Only the best, high-protein fiber for these babies.
Clothes moths damage your clothes when they are tiny larvae. The larvae nibble on your clothes like caterpillars on cabbage leaves. All that delicious animal material prepares them to transform into full-grown winged moths. If you have a chance to see a small, winged clothes moth flying in your closet, chances are it has already eaten through your clothes.
Along with clothes moths, the carpet beetle is another potentially clothing-destroying insect to watch out for. They’re bigger and easier to see, and you can often kill carpet beetles before they start eating through your clothes. Like clothes moths, carpet beetles like to eat clothing made from animal products.
How to protect clothes from moths
Clean clothes before putting them away (both daily and for the season). The heat from your washing machine’s hot water circuit and a tumble dryer will kill moths in your clothes. But most moth-prone garments (sweaters, suits) are more delicate and should not be machine washed/dried. Instead, when you take off these clothes for the day, spot clean them to remove hair or food debris, as these things attract moths. Brush your suit before hanging it up again; This will remove the debris mentioned above, as well as skin cells and pet dander, which moths also like. A good brushing will help your suit last longer anyway.
If your delicate, moth-prone clothes get more soiled, have them dry-cleaned; Dry cleaning will kill any eggs or larvae embedded in it.
Be sure to also dry-clean your garments before putting them away for the season. This will keep your clothes from smelling musty when you take them out of storage, but more importantly, dry cleaning kills any moths lurking in your clothes.
Store clothing when not in use. Your best way to protect your clothes from moth damage is to store them in airtight plastic bags and tubs when not in use throughout the season.
That was my fatal mistake with my Mackinaw. I just hung it up in a dark, musty closet—the kind of environment clothes moths thrive in.
After winter, store coats and suits that you wear during the colder months in garment bags. Make sure you remove the tape from the hole at the top of the bag that the hanger goes through. Clothes moths use every crevice to get at your tasty, tasty clothes.
Compression bags are great for storing winter sweaters. They keep moths away from your clothes and save space.
Use cedar and lavender if you want, but not exclusively. A common tactic to repel moths is to use cedar (in the form of hanging blocks, spheres, and chests) and lavender (in the form of flower buds tied together in a pouch). Cedar has natural oils that kill clothes moth larvae but are not effective against eggs or adults. Lavender doesn’t kill eggs or larvae, but the scent seems to repel adult clothes moths.
The effects of cedar and lavender wear off over time. You need to constantly replenish your drawers with new cedar balls or lavender sachets.
Given their lack of full efficiency from egg to adult, and their expiring nature, experts don’t recommend relying solely on cedarwood and lavender to avoid moth damage.
Be sure to keep a lavender sachet or cedar log in your closet (they smell nice, last but not least), but make sure to keep your woolen clothes in proper containers for long-term storage.
What about mothballs?
When you think of protecting your clothes from moths, you probably think of mothballs. Your grandparents may have used mothballs, and if you smell a whiff of it today, the smell will instantly transport you back to their home.
Synthetic clothing (and carpets) hadn’t caught on back then, so people had more woolen items for moths to nest in and feed on. So moths were a bigger problem for our grandparents than for us, and to protect their clothes they turned to an effective, albeit smelly, solution: mothballs.
While mothballs still exist today, they are not an ideal strategy for dealing with moths.
Mothballs work by releasing a gas that kills moths in all their developmental stages. You put something in a sealed container with clothing, and the bullets gas that container and the clothing inside.
When using mothballs you should not be overly exposed to their fumes as they are released in a sealed container and when removing your clothing from them you should do so in a well ventilated area, allow the clothing to air out for a few days and then wash before wearing. But while you can minimize your exposure and there are newer formulations of the product that are less odorous, mothballs are still a chemical pesticide that has been linked to health effects.
So only consider using mothballs if you have a severe infestation of clothes moths and nothing else has worked to prevent your clothes from being chewed up. They are also effective against carpet beetles.
What to do with a clothes moth infestation?
Storing and cleaning your clothes regularly goes a long way in preventing moth damage.
If you find that clothes moths have hit your closet, there are a few things you need to do to clean up to prevent further damage:
Throw away badly damaged clothing. Firstly, you can no longer use these clothes because moths have eaten a few holes in them. Second, that garment is likely to contain clothes moth eggs, which will hatch into clothes moth larvae that will eat the rest of the clothes in your closet. Throw away your damaged clothes to prevent this from happening.
Wash and clean the clothes you keep. We try to kill any remaining eggs and larvae to prevent further damage.
Thoroughly vacuum the closet. Again, we try to eliminate moths in any condition that will be the cause of more damage.
Use mothballs as a last resort. The above should do the trick to get rid of a clothes moth infestation, but if it doesn’t, break out the mothballs. Keep your clothes and closet clean.
The above also works for carpet beetles.
Here we go. How to protect your clothes from moths.
Vintage Mackinaw Cruisers I bought on eBay. . . your death was not in vain! The sacrifice of your beautiful dress life will help save someone else’s. Rest in peace my friend.