A healthy closet contributes to a healthy home and lifestyle. Closets are notorious for harboring mold, mildew, and clothes moths and larvae, which not only affect the condition of our clothes, but the overall quality of the air we breathe indoors.
So how can you combat these “monsters” lurking among your things? Our tips help you identify those hidden dangers and toxins and send them packing!
Protecting Against Moth Damage
Springtime means it’s time to pack away winter sweaters, camel hair blazers, and other bulky woolen articles of clothing and blankets. Unfortunately, once packed away, they become fodder for clothes moth and beetle larvae that thrive in dark places. They enjoy munching on your clothing, especially if they contain food spills or other attractive scents. Moths and moth larvae prefer wool or other animal fibers but they are known to eat the finish on silk garments, and will damage synthetic garments when dirt or stains are present. And even one spot of moth damage can ruin the appearance of any garment.
Mothball products, including cakes, crystals, tablets, bars and flakes, are pesticides that can be harmful to humans and animals alike. They contain either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, which have harmful health effects when the vapors are released. Exposure to these fumigant chemicals can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting and breathing difficulties. Prolonged exposure can lead to kidney failure.
To safely protect against moth damage and add a fresh scent to clothing items and linen drawers, tuck a cedar sachet inside a chest or airtight storage container. Be sure clothes are free of stains before storing in containers or storage chests.
If you prefer not to pack away winter clothing, line the walls in the closets where you store wool blankets and wool garments with a thin layer of Eastern red cedar paneling. Eastern red cedar is aromatic and a safe, natural moth deterrent, making it the ideal lumber to use in clothes closets. It contains natural oils that kill clothes-moth larvae. Aromatic cedar paneling is available in home improvement centers and is well worth the effort of installing. For best moth prevention results, do not apply a stain or polyurethane to the cedar.
Keep in mind, not all cedars are created equal, and some aren’t as potent. Western cedar may deter some insects, but it’s not as effective in protecting against clothes moth infestations and damage.
Healthy Closet Tips:
- Cedar coat hangers are available in home improvement stores and should be used when hanging woolen garments in your closet.
- If you live in an older home with existing cedar closets, rejuvenate the cedar scent by lightly sanding the cedar walls and shelves with fine sandpaper.
- To prevent mildew formation in your closets, provide adequate air circulation. Don’t overcrowd your closet. Install vented closet doors or leave the doors slightly open an hour or so each day. During humid summer months or in basement rooms use a dehumidifier when necessary.
- Before bringing dry-cleaned clothes into your home, remove the plastic bag and air garments outside for at least an hour on your carport, porch, or in the garage with the door open. This will prevent you from breathing in the dangerous fumes from the toxic, dry cleaning chemicals. The stain remover, perchloroethylene used in dry-cleaning has been shown to be a human carcinogen, and can damage the liver and nervous system.
- Wash all garments before hanging in the closet or storing to kill clothes moth eggs.
- Clothes moths breed in undisturbed areas containing lint, feathers and pet or human hair. Vacuum furniture, closets and drawers to remove existing infestations. Dispose vacuum bag promptly outside. Clothes hanging in closets or drawers, if not worn regularly, should be placed in the dryer or sun once or twice a month to destroy larvae. Shake the clothes out or brush them to dislodge remaining eggs and larvae before returning them to the drawer or closet. Feather pillows and hats adorned with feathers should be stored in airtight containers when not in regular use.