Protecting Clothes from Moths: A Step-By-Step Guide for Long-Term Storage

You might need to put away some of your clothes for a long time for a number of reasons- perhaps you see all seasons where you live, are moving someplace else for a year or so, want to stash away your vintage collection, or simply want to keep your wedding gown for eternity! Whatever your reasons for hoarding your prized possessions, you’d definitely want to see them in top condition whenever you go through them again.

Unfortunately, clothes moths have other ideas! These critters feed off your clothes and are infamous for doing considerable and irreversible damage to clothes and fabrics. That being said, keeping these pests away from clothes isn’t impossible, and if you’re ready to know how, you’ve come to the right place!

Read on for some tips on storing clothes for a long term.

Examine Clothes for a Moth Infestation

Clothes moths are tiny and are unlikely to be seen with the naked eye. To ascertain if you have a moth infestation, examine clothes – especially fur and woolens – and upholstered furniture for little holes in them. Finding white thread-like cocoons on fabrics and inside closets is another indication of a moth infestation.

If you don’t find any holes or cocoons, you can set up pheromone traps to make absolutely sure that your house is moth-free. These sticky traps emit a sexual attractant which appeals to moths and causes them to stick to the surface of the trap. Note that pheromone traps only attract male moths; since fertilized females can still lay eggs, setting traps is only a way to determine a moth infestation, not combat it.

Clean Your Clothes

Moths and other pests are easily attracted to soiled fabrics. So before putting away clothes for long-term storage, launder or dry-clean them. Cleaning your clothes will also ensure that stains don’t embed deep in the cloth fibers.

  • Check all clothes for spots or stains. Spot-treat delicate fabrics and then launder or dry-clean.
  • Launder or dry-clean clothes even if there aren’t any visible stains. That’s because clothing that has been worn or has been sitting with other worn clothes is likely to gather dust or organic matter like body oils, dead skin cells, and grime.
  • Damp clothes can develop mildew and a musty odor, so dry clothes thoroughly before storing them.
  • Be sure to clean clothes just a day or two before storage. Doing so will prevent them from collecting dust again and also give you ample time to dry them out before you put them away.
  • Avoid starching as it can weaken fabrics and make clothes brittle. What’s more, starch can leave permanent stains in a humid environment and attract bugs.

Use Temperature Extremes to Your Advantage

Clothes moths cannot survive high temperatures, so giving clothes a hot wash and a hot tumble dry will be enough to get rid of these pests. Iron your clothes to make sure that you aren’t packing moth eggs and larvae away with them.

Moths cannot live in low temperatures either so consider placing clothes in zip lock bags and popping them in the freezer for a day or two. Furthermore, turn down the heat in rooms and open the windows to improve air circulation and reduce humidity.

Clean the Storage Areas

If you store clothes in a garment rack or in boxes, wash or clean them and allow to air-dry completely before use. If you’ll be using your extra closet space for long-term storage, vacuum the entire closet and surrounding areas. In case of an infestation, vacuum the infested room too. Empty vacuum bags outside and discard them away from your house.
Next, clean the entire closet with a solution of vinegar and water taken in equal quantities. Wipe down all surfaces including shelves and drawers, going over corners, cracks, and gaps meticulously. If required, you can wipe down surfaces with a soft cloth dipped in a solution of warm water and mild detergent. Rinse and allow to air-dry.

Tip: High temperatures can kill moths so go over all corners and gaps with your hairdryer turned on to the highest setting.

Store Right

It might be tempting to vacuum pack clothes or fit them tightly into bags or boxes to save space. However, this inhibits air flow and the moisture trapped inside can promote mold growth. So pack clothes loosely and store them in a cool, dry place with adequate ventilation.
Refrain from using cardboard boxes as they can absorb moisture and attract pests. Use plastic boxes or suitcases and line them with acid-free tissue paper before storing your clothes in them. You can also use garment bags or racks to hang your clothes.

Avoid hanging clothes like sweaters and knitted wear as they can stretch and misshapen over time. Also, go from heaviest to lightest when stacking clothes to allow air to circulate.

Deter Moths

Following the aforementioned steps can help you get rid of clothes moths and keep them away from clothes under long-term storage. If you have a moth infestation in your house though, you might not be able to keep clothes moths from finding their way into your wardrobe or clothes storage area!

To deter moths from destroying your clothes, keep these tips in mind:

  • Use moth balls and moth crystals to repel and kill moths and larvae. Never place moth balls and crystals in direct contact with clothes; place them in old socks and leave them on shelves. A good idea is to hang them above your clothes so that the moth ball vapors can drift down all over your stored clothes.
  • Use cedar clothes hangers in garment racks or in the closet. Cedar is a natural repellent and will keep moths away. You can also use cedar blocks or cedar balls- just leave them on shelves or inside storage boxes or bags. Do sand them lightly every couple of months to revive the scent.
  • Mix natural moth repellents like dried citrus peel, lavender, thyme, rosemary, eucalyptus, cloves, and peppercorns in fabric pouches and leave inside closets or storage areas. Keep away from fabrics as oils from these ingredients can damage and stain clothes.

Conclusion

Protecting clothes under long-term storage from clothes moths isn’t impossible and if you do things one at a time, it can be quite easy. With the tips given here, you now know how to go about preparing your clothes for storage, so get started right away!

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