During the COVID19 pandemic, many of us are working from home and putting our suits away in storage. If you’re not careful about how and where you store a suit, you might find a surprise when it’s time to break out the work wardrobe again. Moth damage can destroy high end clothing. Believe me – it’s not a fun experience to discover that your beautiful custom suit has become a home for larvae.
Here are some simple tips to properly store clothing and avoid moth damage. Fortunately, none of these tips involve buying pesticides, useless traps or toxic mothballs.
Avoid placing soiled or dirty clothes in storage. Clean clothing is less alluring to moths – so launder your clothes shortly before you put them away for the season. It’s also wise to keep your home and storage areas generally clean if you want to keep moths away.
Iron or steam your clothes frequently. Heat from an iron or steamer will almost certainly kill anything living in the fibers of your clothing. Do some ironing before you put clothes away. You’ll protect against moth damage, and they’ll be ready to wear whenever you need them.
Use a brush to gently (and cheaply) remove junk from the fabrics. But don’t just use any brush. Brands such as Kent or Redecker offer special high quality brushes that, when used properly, do not damage expensive fabrics. You can often avoid a costly trip to the cleaners with a simple brushing. I keep one handy in my closet hanging on a hook.
Basic, clear plastic bags are best. You probably have some fancy garment bags that came with your suits, and these are great for traveling. However, they’re not always sealed completely at the top, and they make it difficult to locate a particular garment within a large collection. At home, I prefer transparent bags with no markings or coloring, and I use a clothespin to close off the bottom.
Pay attention to fabric composition. Moths destroy natural fibers like wool, cashmere, alpaca, and silk. They don’t attach themselves to cotton. Synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon are immune to moths. I’ve also had very little trouble with any fabric blending nylon or poly with a natural fiber such as wool, e.g. 60/40 wool polyester. Therefore, when you’re trying to prioritize which garments to carefully protect, start with the 100% cashmere or fine wool.
Never, ever use mothballs. What was the appeal of mothballs? I’ve often wondered how these disgusting poisonous balls became popular. Surely they do repel moths, but it’s pointless if the garment is ruined with a terrible and persistent odor.
Don’t buy products that claim to repel moths. Just like mothballs, there are countless products they’ll try to sell you for repelling moths in your closet. Don’t buy them. The solution is a clean closet, clean clothes, and proper storage.
Keep your closets clean and dry, not humid. The environment should be properly ventilated and dry. Fill cracks and crevices in the wall, and make sure your window screens are intact. If necessary, a dehumidifier can dry the air during humid seasons. Dry air is less hospitable to moths, according to the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program.
Edit your wardrobe often. “Storage experts are hoarders,” says author Marie Kondo. Avoid becoming a storage expert, obsessing over proper storage and moth prevention. Enjoy your clothes and wear them frequently. If you never wear them, then consider selling them or donating to charity. Yes, it’s nice to have a large wardrobe, but at a certain point it becomes much harder to maintain. Hoarding clothes, i.e. being a clothes-horse, is a sure way to invite moths into your home.
Check occasionally for signs of a moth infestation. If you’ve recently moved or changed your storage method, be sure to check on things periodically. Look for any evidence of moth larvae. These pernicious moth babies live inside small tubes or mats on the surface of the fabric, sometimes hiding under the fold of a collar or cuff. If you find them, you’ll need to do some deep cleaning and laundering to prevent a spread to the rest of your wardrobe.
If you do get a moth hole, contact a reweaving expert. Sometimes our efforts to clean and store fancy clothes fail, especially when a piece has been left unworn for a few years. All is not lost if you find a hole. First, clean the garment thoroughly. Then call your local tailor or men’s shop and ask if they know a person who does “reweaving.” A talented reweaver can patch a hole with minimal trace of damage.