When I pulled the brand new, neatly folded Talbot's turtleneck out of my closet Thanksgiving morning, it still had tags on it. With its 100% Merino wool construction, its aqua blue and rich teal color, this garment was beautiful. As I pulled it over my head for the very first time, I was thrilled at how well it fit and how flattering it was. I'm not gonna lie; I was really excited to wear it to Thanksgiving dinner. Until I saw it.
A moth hole!
I noticed the first one my left shoulder. Then I saw another one. And another. "How could this be?" I thought. "This is a brand new sweater. WITH TAGS!"
My beautiful sweater had never even been worn and thanks to those unseen critters, it never would be.
In that moment, as my heart sank, I remember thinking, "This is how how my clients must feel when we find beautiful pieces of clothing ruined because they've not been worn in so long." It's a mix of regret and embarrassment.
How could I let this happen? I don't hoard clothing! My closet is small and I wear what I have! This should never have happened!
But I made ONE crucial mistake, so listen up peeps!
When I brought that beautiful sweater home, I folded it neatly and tucked it in the middle of a stack of sweaters in a spot in my closet that isn't easily visible. And I promptly forgot I owned it until eleven months later, when I discovered it ruined.
What I've Learned
1. Clothing moths are Tineola bisselliella and the adult moths don't even have mouths so they aren't the culprits feasting on your cashmere. It's their little bastage children that do the deed.
2. It can take as little as one moth egg which hatches into a larva to begin a cycle of clothing ruination in your closet. I don't know where I might have gotten my first moth egg ("Moth Zero" perhaps?) but I suspect it may have come in undetected on an item of consignment clothing.
3. Clothing moths are attracted to the smells that lurk in the natural fibers of our clothing, not to mention rugs and upholstery! Yummy smells include food stains, body oils, salts, and perspiration. The female adult moth seeks out these substances in clothing to lay their eggs on. Once she lays her eggs, she dies. Yahoo! One down a billion to go!
4. When the larva hatch they come out chewing! Literally! If they're in a favorable food source like my gorgeous, expensive Talbot's sweater (me, bitter?) they munch away! But get this! If they're on some a synthetic fiber such as Rayon or Spandex (helloooo 1984!) they'll chew right through it to get to the tasty bits of a natural fiber they need to survive.
5. The little buttheads will eat wool, cotton, silk, linen, cashmere and even fur and feathers!
What You Can Do To Prevent Moth Damage
1. Cleanliness is the KEY. Don't place dirty clothing back into your closet. Keeping clothing clean limits food sources that the adult moths seek.
2. When you purchase any clothing, rugs, textiles or upholstered items at consignment stores, yard sales or thrift stores, clean them immediately. With furniture, inspect it carefully before buying it. For textiles and clothing items, have them dry cleaned or launder them in hot water. (Larva are killed at about 120 degrees)
3. When packing clothing away for the season, always launder it or dry clean every item before storing it and keep it in an moth-proof container. Essentially, anything with a tight-fitting lid will do.
4. Vaccum your closets frequently. Not a lot of fun, but any eggs or larva that may be present in the carpet will be eliminated immediately.
5. WEAR YOUR CLOTHING. This was my mistake. I put that sweater away and forgot I had it, which allowed moth larva plenty of months to make a meal of it. ((sigh)) The longer your items are stored without being touched, the higher the odds they'll harbor hungry moth larva. Every time you wear, launder, dry clean or even shake out your clothing you drastically reduce the likelihood of eggs or larva taking hold.