Thursday, 26 August 2010

Moving house - leaving the moth infestation behind....

After 10 years of being in this flat, the cat & I have to leave it.  The landlord's given me 8 weeks notice and as I'm not working at present and am looking to leave London anyway, I'm putting the household goods into storage and myself & the cat are going up to Northumberland to live with the family (I think we're all a bit old for this but we'll see how it goes!) rather than sign up for a new 6 or 12 month tenancy and find myself living too far away from wherever I'm working.

So, as soon as I realised I only had 8 weeks to get my act together, I started packing as I have an huge number of books and an even huge stash of fabric & paper supplies...  But high on my agenda was how to make sure that my stuff stays safe and secure and undamaged in storage (which could be for up to a year) and that I don't take any southern beasties (other than Ivor cat) north.  So, the biggest challenge is - how to get rid of the clothes moths!

The flat's had a moth infestation for quite a few years now - I think a succession of mild winters plus my penchant for using the heating a lot plus my inability to tidy up after myself and my habit of living in slum-like ancient housing (well around 1900 but it's damp and falling to bits), together with my hoarding of animal and vegetable fibred fabrics is what did for me M'Lud. 

However, I've managed to keep the infestation to within bearable limits by (well, I say I, actually it's my much adored cleaning lady who does most of it):

1. Proper weekly hoovering & dusting of all accessible areas including skirting and carpet edges AND soft furnishings.  I swopped the Dyson for a Miele Cat & Dog - have you ever noticed that people who have a Dyson have a 1cm line of unhoovered area beside the skirting?  Not good in an old house... with a moth problem....  Other than that, don't get me wrong, Dysons are great, but that grey line worries me!

2.  Keeping all fabrics (clothes and patchwork/embroidery stash) in plastic boxes when they're not in use.  And making sure that only CLEAN fabrics go into the box so there's no cross contamination. Yes this means tidying up clothes every night before I go to bed, which is why I still have occasional losses as I'm not that disciplined... NEVER EVER put something that's been lying around for more than a few hours into a box with otherwise clean fabrics - the whole lot could end up munched!  If you shake the clothes you'll soon know if a moth's been lurking, it'll fly out - then you definately need to clean it before it gets put away.

3.  Have Sandalwood /herb sachets (commercial purchases) and cedar wood blocks, rings & balls in the Wardrobe, and down the side of chairs and in sheepskin cushion covers etc.  Change the sachets at the recommended frequency (or rather just add to them with new ones).  Rub Cedar Oil (from Health Food Shop) on the balls/ blocks every 8 -10 weeks or so, waiting until the oil's dried before putting them back in coat pockets, over coathangers and between layers etc. 

4.  Every quarter (it was every month at first) pull out ALL the furniture and hoover behind it and under it and over it and around it.  If you have a steam machine and the furniture can take it, steam it too (I only do this for a major infestation).  Moths hate being disturbed, they hate light and they hate being hoovered up, but they like warm & moist, so be careful not to make everything damp with the steamer.  Use a dehumidifier if you have one at the same time.  If you've got bags in the Hoover, change the bag frequently if you've got a major infestation.  Mostly though if your house is as dusty as mine and the hoover gets used frequently, then, I think minor infestations that are hoovered up get asphixiated!  That said, if you're hoovering up eggs, then you've just provided them with an amazing nursery to grow up in - a bag full of animal hair/ keratin etc, so change it more often!

5. Every month, take wallhangings, tablecloths etc down and shake outside, then wash or hoover them (if they're delicate, tie a duster around the nozzle and use lowest power available) and if possible - hang them outside in the sunshine/ strong daylight for a while.  Moth larvae will drop off to protect themselves.

6. Every couple of months (for maintenance, every week if you've got a major infestation or whatever interval is best for you) empty the contents of your wardrobe item by item onto a clean sheet on the bed.  Check each item to see whether it has signs of holes or larvae - if it does, deal with it! Pick off any larvae you can see.  Shake, wash, iron, steam, hoover, dryclean, freeze - whatever the article can take without causing damage - oh, and mend any holes BEFORE you do any washing etc, they'll only get bigger if you don't!  Do the same with any other clothes/ fabrics etc hanging on pegs etc.  Every so often, if you can, hang them outside in the sunshine/ strong sunlight.  Yes that's one saturday morning wasted every month....

7.  Never ever ever leave clothes in one place undisturbed for more than a single night ie tidy up before you go to bed.  If they're dirty, put them in your dirty clothes basket (I use a plastic box).  If they're clean - put them back into their plastic box.  Yes now, it'll save heartache later!

8. This one was KEY for me.  Buy a Mottlock or similar clothes moth glue trap for each room PLUS one for the wardrobe.  These are cardboard boxes with a strip of glue tape and a little plastic cone that is impregnated with irresistible clothes moth pheromones.  The boy moths are attracted, get their feet glued to the board, and therefore don't get around to fertilising the girls.  The girls lay unfertilized eggs and eventually you have your moth problem under control (taken together with a decent cleaning routine) because the eggs don't hatch out.  I'm not sure how long it takes for viable eggs to hatch out but I've never had nests of eggs etc just individual moths laying where they feel like.  Boy moths are smaller than girls, girls only fly after laying eggs, so yes, kill all the clothes moths you see, but that by itself isn't enough.  Don't be tempted to leave the trap for longer than it says - change them according to the recommendations.  Have more than one trap in a big room or where you have lots of patches of infestation.  It helps you see the scale of infestation and therefore how much to scale up your cleaning routine.  Over time you will end up with fewer larvae hatching out, but only if you're disciplined about replacing them at the right time.

9. Don't panic or get depressed by occasional munchings - it's part of life! 

10. Have too much stuff to do this sort of disciplined cleaning? Get it organised so you don't have to (ie into plastic boxes/bags etc) or give it to charity/ recycling etc.  I make sure cloth is infestation free by sellotaping the newly cleaned item into a clear bag and leaving it for a month - if it's got no damage etc it's not infested (the lifecycled seems to be around that length).

So, does this work? Yes it does.  I still have the occasional small minor loss due to inattention but the discipline is worth it.  The Mottlock boxes are expensive, but not as expensive as new cashmere jumpers!

Which means I'm now at the stage that everything in my house that's clean & encased in plastic boxes (yes I know not good for the environment or me generally) can be packed.  But what about the rest?  What about the woollen wall tapestry? The feather cushions? The sheepskins?  My plan is this:

A.  Shake, Air, Wash, Hoover, Freeze or DryClean anything and everything to make sure it's dry, vermin free & spotless before packing (including using my compressed air aerosol that I ought to only use for my sewing machine lint removal where necessary).

B.  Only pack clean items together and avoid cross-contamination of 'not sure' with 'should be ok' items.

C.  Pack anything that has animal fibres (keratin) in it into those vaccuum plastic bags after cleaning - I seriously doubt moths or larvae can exist without oxygen for long!  So that's wool, silk, cashmere, sheepskins etc.

D.  Tape up boxes very carefully to ensure as few points for exit/ entry as possible.

E. Choose a reputable decent long term storage place that will be clean & dry!

F.  For items I'm taking to Northumberland, I'll be putting them into a freezer on arrival after cleaning (yes it'll take ages) and also using cedar balls etc & NEW Mottlock glue traps to keep tabs.  My parents have never had moths and have some lovely clothes, I can't face being responsible for introducing them!

And what prompted this post?  I went looking on the net to see if anyone had any other ideas - I never realised quite how hideous this problem is for some poor souls!  I found this blog with some heartrending tales of people at their wits end (and some strange ones - no, a 2" wide wingspan moth won't be one that eats your clothes, in the UK at least, maybe in tropical countries though....) and some useful information about what people have tried and what worked & what didn't.

I've never used pesticides, and I don't think I need to (but I have synthetic carpets).  I guess the test will be whether or not I manage to leave the infestation behind!!  I'll do a post in due course to let you know - and will be fully prepared (if somewhat distraught) to eat humble pie if all this prep. didn't work!!!


  1. I am sure all these preparations will help for your end of tenancy cleaning.

  2. Hi! I know it's been a while since you've published this post, but it has been tremendously helpful. I'm just wondering whether you managed to leave the infestation behind. My boyfriend's house has an infestation so I'm constantly terrified that I would bring moths back. I'm vigilant, putting everything inside plastic bags and freezing clothes or using steamer for coats after every visit. However, the anxiety is still there. If you have some tips about preventing the transfer of moths, that would be much appreciated!

  3. wahhhh! I just did a response and blogger ate it.

    Ok. yes it worked. totally.
    i've just moved house to Lincolnshire where moths exist more than they did in Northumberland. so I'm just about to invest in some 'pheromone clothes moth traps' so that if there is a problem I can find out sooner rather than later.

    for your bf. My advice would be (so blame me if he doesn't like it) to get a load of traps, put them int eh right place may take a while to get it right, they like dark draught free and natural fibres.

    these (a) non toxic to humans or animals, (b) act as warning system and (c) effectively stop the breeding cycle. so they can wipe out the infestation by themselves AND stop future ones. he also needs to hoover more often!!!! maybe he can get a cleaner lady once a week or fortnight?

    moth traps arent' cheap but cheaper than buying new cashmere jumpers!!!!

  4. this sort of thing, cardboard, sticky tape and a pheromone stick. seriously no smell no toxic. don't go for moth balls!

  5. Thank you SO much for recommending the pheromone traps and for the link! My bf has actually already started using the traps, and they have caught plenty of male moths, but it seems there are always more coming. So I think your tip of adding more traps is a very good idea. I'm going to ask him to put several traps in each corner. Fingers crossed that all the male moths will be killed by the end of the year, or at least we might make the environment so inhospitable to moths that they just leave. Let's hope for a moth-free 2019! Thanks again for all the useful info. And best of luck with your house as well!

    1. Oh that's cool! Your question prompted me to buy some for myself for this house. they've been there a week. we wrote the changeout date on them... Not been to see if it's caught anything yet. I have 2 traps for a wall of mirror door wardrobe storage about 3-4m long.

    2. Nothing to stop you guys from drycleaning/washing all the clothes in the meantime. Moths prefer preworn clothes with grease/skin cells on etc. do keep checking the clothes for larvae in their little silk cases. and don't be killing NON clothes moths - they're important for pollinating our food! always tempting when you see one in the house, but make sure it's the type of moth that eats clothes, gently evict the rest with a glass & postcard etc...

    3. Oh that's a good point! Clothes moths don't tend to fly around when there is light, so it'll be difficult to see them around the house.

  6. p.s. I've been using these sachets for my own drawers, and so far no moths. They smell great as well.
    John Lewis also sells these.

    1. oh yes I have these too! I love the smell but I'm not convinced they do much by themselves. alongside the moth traps, yes. but alone? that I'm not sure of. I also have cedar balls and cedar essential oil that I dab on every year to refresh them. Yeah I'm obsessed with no moths lol

    2. Yes, they're probably best with the traps, but I find that if I put them with the cashmere jumpers inside drawers or sealed bags, my jumpers will probably be safer. I try to keep almost all my clean clothes inside plastic bags. Am absolutely obsessed with moth prevention...

  7. I had great expectations of being super organised in my packing and it started out that way, and I just got sick of it and ended up chucking random low cost long distance movers


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