What to do when those pesky moths make a meal of your winter woolens

Resident Expert

Q. How do you deal with moths that eat your wool clothes? Everything in the stores to fend them off is so toxic and requires sealed trunks or rooms to store the items in because of the potent smell - which is a bit tough for an apartment dweller.

Lately I've been thinking of finding a cedar trunk to store my winter clothes -any less-expensive suggestions would be helpful. Related to this: Is it the moth or its larva that does the eating? Where do they hide? And how do I know if I've gotten rid of them? K.C., Allston, Mass.

A. If you begin noticing a pepper-like sandy debris on the floor under clothes, you have a moth problem. A spokesman for the Atlantic Exterminating in Kennebunkport, Maine, says adult moths don't eat wool, their larva do. Moths lay eggs in secluded and dark places. When they hatch, the larva burrow into the wool to escape light and eat the wool. The larval stage can last from one to three months.

Some wool garments may have already been chemically treated to help prevent moth damage. If not, before stowing woolen clothing, the Illinois Cooperative Extension Service (ICES) suggests dry-cleaning the garment before placing it in a plastic storage bag or other insect-tight container.

If clothes are not dry-cleaned, hang them outside in direct sunlight, which will kill the larval moth. Thoroughly brush seams, hems, and folds where larva typically lurk.

If you are considering cedar chests, be aware that the oil vapors only eliminate small moth larvae but do not kill the larger ones. The ICES recommends lightly sanding the wood each season to intensify the oil vapors.

For more information, refer to the related Resident Expert column on 9/2/98.

Readers: Pose your questions and we'll seek out experts on home repairs, gardens, food, and family legal issues. Send queries to the Homefront Editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail home@csps.com

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