Fall is sweater season, but if you struggle with moths, it may not be a happy season for you. You could spend a fortune repairing lovely woolens, or you could take a few precautions. I mean, what good is organizing your closet if it just makes it easier for the moths to find the pretty stuff?
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not resort to the old lady’s shortcut of mothballs, moth flakes, or hanging moth sachets. Not only can your friends smell this on you a mile away, but that stuff kills more than moths, if ya know what I mean.
How to Get Rid of Moths in Closets
Moth Control Options
Before you begin, you must find the moths and eliminate them. You probably have an infestation that you just haven’t found yet. It’s in a drawer you rarely open, a box in the back of the closet, the way back of the basement shelves, or someplace else you rarely go. I even found an infestation of pantry moths inside a sealed container of bread crumbs in my pantry! Moths like darks and quiet, so go looking. Here’s what an active infestation looks like on clothing. It almost looks like sand or dust, but you’ll probably see a few moths fly out of this drawer if you open it, especially in the spring.
So what to do? Lavender sachets have worked well for me, but I find the commercially available ones lose their stuff after about 3 months. Cedar blocks are a better bet, but they too lose their scent over time.
The solution is to refresh cedar blocks with cedar oil. Here’s an easy how-to.
How to Apply Cedar Oil
First, cedar oil is not available in the big box stores, like Home Depot, Lowes, or even Bed Bath and Beyond. I had to hunt mine down at my local hardware store, The Do It Best Hardware in Wayne. At $30 for a small tin, it should last years, but it costs less than the value of one good sweater-turned-moth food. A quick online search turned up this and dozens of similar products.
My instinct was to use a paper towel to apply the oil, but I found that by donning a pair of rubber gloves, I was able to rub the oil directly on my cedar squares with much less waste. Better yet, add a few drops to one block and rub together with another block.
This is a closeup of the can, which is about the size of two decks of cards.
Once rubbed, the cedar blocks were considerably darker, especially the rough cut edges.
The back of the can specifically states that this product repels moths, as well as other closet critters. Note that it doesn’t kill them. It just keeps them away. They’ll find other hangouts in your home.
Will Cedar Oil Hurt My Clothes?
So you’re wondering, if I rub these little cedar squares with oil, won’t they be too…oily? Certainly I shouldn’t put them near my clothes, right? The first thing is to lightly rub the squares, not soak them. I did a little test drive, and immediately put my oiled cedar in the middle of a paper towel, left it for an hour or so, and then peeked to see how it looked. Here are the results. No bleeding or staining, or you would have seen a blotch in the middle of the paper towel below. Not even a hint. Now, I’m not saying you should lay these on your delicate silks, but you probably shouldn’t lay anything on your delicate silks.
After a few weeks or months, you might notice a little crystallization coming from the oiled cedar blocks, so lay them on a shelf or looped on a hanger, but I wouldn’t lay them right on your clothes.
Does it smell good? Well, it smells like cedar. I wouldn’t recommend standing over the stuff too long, but it is a natural cedar smell that dissipates fairly rapidly once it leaves your closet, unlike those sachets of chemical unholiness that you’ll find at your local five and dime to control moths. After a few days, I can smell a light cedar smell when I open my closets, but it’s certainly not repelling to me.
Other things to do to control moths
Other good steps to take to control moths include:
- Laundering wool clothes immediately after wearing them, even if they appear clean. If you can’t launder them, run them through the dryer on high heat for a few minutes, which can kill the little buggers.
- Do not store them in airtight bags. This may trap moths, but it doesn’t guarantee they won’t feast on your fashion.
- Use sticky moth traps to attract and kill adult moths. These sticky moth traps are my favorites.
- Lay sweaters out in bright sunshine for a few hours before storing them away for the season.
- Vacuum the closet, cleaning the boards and back corners of closets. Yes, this is a great opportunity to organize your closet, too.
More info on controlling moths
Want more info? Here is a great article on moth control from Mike McGrath, Host of WHYY’s gardening show. There’s really good information in here about what kind of moths you might be fighting, and how to effectively control them without having to hold your breath.
Here is another article with good moth info, although I highly recommend trying all the family-friendly remedies outlined before breaking out the cancer balls. I mean moth balls.
If Moths Ate Your Sweaters
If the moths already got to your clothes, you don’t have to live with holes. I show you how to fix a hole in your favorite sweaters eaten by moths in this video.
One more thing…if you have moths, you probably have ants, too. Click on over and read my post about how I took Mike’s advice and control my ants with very, very little chemical involvement. This might work for you, too.
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