26 May 2017

Moths: a 15-step plan (ugh, why so many?!)

Wednesday on YouTube, I chatted with you about my moth infestation and shared all the bits I gleaned while fighting the good fight in Fall 2016 when I discovered clothes moths in my wool zone (now the studio space). Today I present you with a plan. Fifteen steps sound like a lot (and they are), but this is what it takes. Remember: there's no time like the present.

Do you have moths?

I hope you live a moth-free existence, but having suffered through an infestation in 2016, I'd like to share my 15-step plan for getting rid of them with you. I wish there weren't so many steps, but what can you do?

How to cope with clothes moths

  1. Identify the little jerks. If you see little flying, dun-colored creatures with raggedy wings, I'm afraid you've got 'em. Since they look similar to pantry moths, though, see if you can narrow down your "hot zone". Kitchen/pantry? Most likely you've got the food-oriented variety, and I'm not going to be able to help you much. Near your stash/closet/dresser? Let's go!
  2. Contain everything ASAP. While this may seem like a good time to start culling your herd, I actually recommend sealing up everything, then dealing with your precious woolies methodically. If you start sorting and pondering what to keep and give away now, you're giving those little jerks more time to spread out. Time is of the essence!
  3. Put out some moth traps to get a clearer picture of where exactly your hot zone is located.
  4. Extreme temperatures are your friend. Does it drop below freezing where you are? Put your containers where the cold can permeate for a few days (at least). Also, cycling through freezing and thawing a few times can help - the little buggers get tricked into coming out of dormancy, then you kill 'em. Alternatively, heat will kill a bug dead. Pack your containers in your car and park it in a sunny spot on a hot day. If your climate isn't cooperating, consider the mini-versions: your freezer or oven. (Caveats: man-made fibers should NOT go in the oven, though I did not have a problem with wool-nylon blend sock yarns; do your research on safe low-oven temperatures for your non-animal-fiber yarns - I don't have many in my stash, so those are still just in a container; if you have a frost-free freezer, it may not get cold enough - I don't have experience on the cold side since we live in an NYC apartment and are lucky to have enough freezer space for ice.)
  5. Thoroughly inspect your darlings after treatment. I rewound ALL of my yarn. This served two purposes: checking the yarn for damage (I only found a few skeins that had been eaten, and the breaks were very obvious) and shaking out any dead bug detritus.
  6. Now you can get rid of stuff! Toss anything that's been eaten. Toss the stuff that you didn't remember you had. Toss the ugly and the scratchy. Toss the stuff you always intend to knit up for charity - if you haven't done it, you're not going to do it. Acknowledge the fact that almost all of us have more yarn than we need. If you have inspected yarn, found it clean, and don't want it, do consider donating it to a worthy cause. Anything that you toss needs to leave your home immediately. Bag it up and get it out. Same goes for all your cleaning materials at the end of every session.
  7. Clean the container and put your inspected yarn back in it. All of my stash yarn now lives in individual zipper-lock bags - I don't love the plastic, but I adore the peace of mind. You can't put it away yet because you have to clean the place where the potentially infected yarn lived.
  8. Vacuum every inch of the yarn home, especially underneath and behind. And by "yarn home" I mean containers, furniture, and room(s) where you store your yarn and woolies. Moths love pet hair and feathers (down pillows and vintage hats, I'm looking at you), and they are happy to live in tiny crevices under your furniture or between the floor and the baseboard. Gah! After vacuuming, wipe everything down with white vinegar, since the eggs are susceptible to an acidic environment. Even (especially) wipe down the vacuum after emptying it at the end of each cleaning session.
  9. Be methodical, meticulous, and thorough. I know, it sucks, but peace of mind is like gold.
  10. Remember that clothes moths love dark, quiet places to lay their eggs, which then hatch into fiber-eating larval monsters. If you can, store things behind glass or open doors and drawers regularly to let light and air in (and to see if any of the little buggers fly out).
  11. Consider deterrents like cedar, lavender, etc. as just that: deterrents. They work by confusing the moths' "noses", which are always on the hunt for lady moths (the dudes) or deliciously smelly places to lay eggs (said ladies). "Smelly" as in containing body oils or just being composed of delectable animal fibers. None of those lovely herbs and spices will kill moths or place an impenetrable force field around your stuff, but they will confuse 'em, which helps.
  12. Do not use moth balls. They are toxic to pets and children. They smell gross. They are no better than the aforementioned herbs and spices.
  13. Wash all of your beloved woolies or send them to the dry cleaners if that's how you roll. You should always do so before storing them away for the season anyway. Rinse with a 50/50 water/vinegar mix to destroy any eggs that may be tucked away. Dry thoroughly. Good old-fashioned sunlight is your friend. This is especially important if you plan to store woolies in air-tight containers. You don't want to deal with mold or mildew on top of moths. I can't even.
  14. Store your lovelies carefully. Cedar chests are fine (see #11) as long as you maintain them with semi-annual sandings to release the oil. If the container is not fragrant, it's not any better than a plastic bin and may be worse if it is not tightly-joined. My out-of-season sweaters and such will be stored in Sterilite plastic bins until I need them again in the Fall.
  15. Check on everything regularly. Store things (yarn, sweaters, whatever) in small containers to mitigate any future infestations. Quarantine any new thing that is lucky enough to be stash-worthy. Consider shifting from a SABLE (Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy) mindset to an "acquire yarn for a particular project and knit said project right away" method of working. Constant vigilance!


I'm sure there are more good resources out there, but these are the posts and products that helped me. (There are no affiliate links here because I'd rather share the info here with you and get back to the business of knitting and designing than fiddle around searching for links that probably wouldn't amount to much.)
  • Julia wrote an informative post on her blog Moth Heaven
  • Simpler Thyme's shop on Etsy - where to buy Moth Beware and refresher oil, handmade soaps, and muslin bags (for containing MB while allowing the aroma to permeate your woolies)
  • Side note: On Simpler Thyme's own website, they also sell George's favorite catnip - I always stock up for him at NYS&W.
  • Red Handled Scissors had one of the most informative posts about actually dealing with an infestation.
  • These are the pheromone traps I bought.
    Remember: traps are only a warning system to let you know that you HAVE moths. They will help a little in abatement insofar as the males fly to the traps, get stuck, and die, rather than finding the female moths and mating with them. But they will not eradicate your problem.
  • And I'm about to order some replacement strips to put in the trap boxes. Some customers on Amazon haven't bothered with the trap boxes and just put the strips out. YMMV.
  • Tasha's post is informative and has cute (well, as cute as can be when we are talking about moths) illustrations.
  • I used these Sterilite bins for initial containment and, after a thorough pickling with white vinegar, as storage in my studio.
  • Get your white vinegar anywhere, but get the cheap jug from the bottom shelf. Then you won't feel badly about spraying liberally and everywhere. The pickle smell dissipates very quickly. Don't forget paper towels, big trash bags, and a bottle for spraying that vinegar.
  • There will be a second post about my IKEA supplies soon.
I hope this information is helpful, though I hope you never need it.

Thanks so much for stopping by, and happy knitting!
xoxo, Kathleen

24 May 2017

MOTHS: Protect your knits -- LIVE podcast

Audio from the YouTube Live podcast 5/25/17...

Join me LIVE to discuss preparing your woolies for their summer's nap. I'll share my moth-fighting story from the end of last summer (now that the trauma is ten months behind me), plus lots of painful lessons learned.


Apologies for the naughty word late in the podcast, but moths are the worst!

Check out this episode!