a wool-carpeted house is essentially an all-you-can-eat restaurant
August 19, 2019 2:41 PM   Subscribe

There are a lot of fucking moths in our house lately. My handheld vacuum cleaner is getting a real workout. The good news, such that it is, is that they prefer eating the carpet over any clothes. We’re looking at getting one of those recycled synthetic carpets as a replacement...
posted by adrianhon at 2:46 PM on August 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

As the owner of a yarn shop, this reads as an absolute horror story. I hope maybe the situation isn't as dire in the USA. I had an infestation of pantry moths which was annoying enough. Going to check my insurance policy now...
posted by rikschell at 3:10 PM on August 19, 2019 [14 favorites]

Judging by our experience, no they cannot be stopped.
posted by crush at 3:24 PM on August 19, 2019 [6 favorites]

We replaced our moth eaten carpet with 100% synthetic a few years back. It looks and feels great but hasn't made much difference to moth levels. We have had the place fumigated twice too. Our solution was to stop buying nice soft woollens like cashmere and new wool and stick to merino which is apparently less tasty. Now we just to vacuum and spray as needed and use sticky traps to monitor moth levels.

It seems like there is no solution.
posted by RandomInconsistencies at 3:36 PM on August 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yeah, we’ve sorta given up. We trap and vacuum and kill to keep the numbers down, but getting rid of them just isn’t happening.

At least we can now say we’re part of a trend, I guess?
posted by tau_ceti at 3:36 PM on August 19, 2019 [6 favorites]

Ask this guy
posted by lalochezia at 3:44 PM on August 19, 2019

London was full of them, and I only managed to limit the damage by aggressively buying moth killing products every 3-6 months and mining my drawers and wardrobe with them. In Stockholm they don’t seem to be so much of a problem, though (though I hope I didn’t speak too soon)
posted by acb at 3:54 PM on August 19, 2019

I should check what my household budget allows for moth abatement.

*moth flaps out of coin purse*

Well, there you go.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:57 PM on August 19, 2019 [44 favorites]

I had to move and I'm still terrified it's going to turn out some of them came along for the ride.
posted by praemunire at 4:02 PM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Do mothballs actually work? The article mentions that naphthalene was banned in the UK but not if it would have made a difference.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:06 PM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

We don't have moths (excuse me while I go knock on every wood product nearby), but we do get carpet beetles. The little fuckers don't seem to care that the carpet is synthetic.

I hate them.
posted by Lexica at 4:11 PM on August 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

Yes, mothballs work. They are disgusting and everything smells for a year, but they do kill the larvae. Lavender does not; cedar oil does not. Your freezer is also probably not cold enough (fur shortage and cargo fumigation is done at much colder temperatures)'
posted by crush at 4:13 PM on August 19, 2019 [6 favorites]

So if you don't use wool, do they eat other things? I've never had them but I'm allergic to wool so it hasn't been a concern.
posted by emjaybee at 4:14 PM on August 19, 2019

So if you don't use wool, do they eat other things?

The article mentions "While virtually all the 2,500 or so species of British moths are ecologically beneficial, there are two that eat textiles and objects derived from animals, including wool, silk, skin and fur."

I find the word 'skin' kinda disconcerting in this context.
posted by readinghippo at 4:18 PM on August 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yea, they do eat silk and fur (including what your cat has left on the couch) and, in a pinch, 100% cotton, especially if it's not been laundered.
posted by crush at 4:20 PM on August 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

My cats eat moths......circle of life.
posted by mightshould at 4:22 PM on August 19, 2019 [9 favorites]

One year the moths came. I did everything. My neighbor told me you buy flour, freeze it for 2 days, leave it out for 2 days (for larva to hatch from eggs,) then freeze again for 2 days, then go about your regular business. OK. Right? Things abated but a decade later I was in my closet, under the watchful eye of my late teen daughter. I had just pulled out some fly, nineties rose printed stirrup pants and she asked, "Mom, why are there maggots on your pants?" I am perplexed, so I look further, and on the shelf is a round cardboard pizza box liner. On it is glued maccaroni, beans, corn, etc. I present it to my daughter who remembers when she made it in second grade. It was alive with maggots, turning into grain moths. I said, "Well, this is why the maggots are on these pants!"
Where I am now I have rayon eating moths.
posted by Oyéah at 4:49 PM on August 19, 2019 [9 favorites]

Where I am now I have rayon eating moths.

nature finds a way
posted by lalochezia at 5:00 PM on August 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

So all you Brits with moth problems, take a trip to North America and pick up some moth balls, but not too much that you'll get caught bringing them back. Or seeing how it was an EU ban maybe once Brexit happens you'll be able to legit order them online.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:39 PM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

We have these fucking things, and they’ve eaten holes in every one of my aging, beloved icebreaker wool tshirts. I blame our dog, who we adopted without realizing she was a secret short haired husky mix.
posted by deludingmyself at 5:48 PM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

This USA living, moth neophyte has a question: aside from carpets, rugs, curtains, or other upholstery type items, would a dedicated, well built with quite close fitting lid, cedar chest (with lavender sachets I suppose) used religionsly to protect sweaters, coats, scarfs, and maybe blankets not act as a short circuit / safeguard against these suckers?

I'm basing that on the, not at all rare if a bit dated nowadays, tradition of a cedar hope chest being a wedding staple for past generations where I'm from and not much else so I yield the floor to others who have/are caught in the crucible...
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:54 PM on August 19, 2019

Cedar and lavender don't do doodly.

You need actual airtight containers (and even then if there's already an infestation you will lose some things to that round, so best to put them in straight from the dry cleaners). This is not the best storage for the cloth itself, though.
posted by praemunire at 6:19 PM on August 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

Oh, and moths will eat non-proteinaceous cloth if it's got any protein stains on it.
posted by praemunire at 6:20 PM on August 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

Reason a million that carpets are fucking gross.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:05 PM on August 19, 2019 [9 favorites]

He suggests that, instead of reaching for the insecticide, we pay attention to moths. "They remain incompletely studied. See if you notice something that nobody has seen before."

When you smash them, they kinda disintegrate into sparkly dust.

I got rid of the carpets and an awful lot of clothes, and haven't seen any for a while. Still find myself eyeing everything that might hide the things.
posted by asperity at 7:25 PM on August 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

Your freezer is also probably not cold enough (fur shortage and cargo fumigation is done at much colder temperatures)'

I thought it was less that your freezer isn't likely to be cold enough as much as you have to leave the stuff in the freezer for a much longer period of time (say, a week or two).

Checking in on this website, it suggests temperatures of less that 18 degrees (-7C) for a few days. The trick is that you have to be able to fit all of the infested material into the freezer at once. So if you have one infested sweater, the freezer will help. If you have an infested carpet or wardrobe, not so much.

(Checking because my moth paranoia means I leave my fiber and yarn stash on the unheated back porch in January, just in case, and I'm already heartbroken to learn cedar does nothing)
posted by dinty_moore at 8:36 PM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Vacuum seal bags?
posted by eustatic at 9:49 PM on August 19, 2019

Do not store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them...
Mathew 6:19
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:56 PM on August 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

My cats eat moths......circle of life.

Someone who is currently having a nice nap - and once watched a spider crawl slowly over his paw without moving so much as a muscle - is getting a very hard stare right now.

(everything in the article is true and I need to go vacuum)
posted by ominous_paws at 11:03 PM on August 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

They eat animal products including wool, silk, and feathers, but they'll nibble on other things too. I learned the hard way that lavender doesn't do anything, when I found my (synthetic fabric!) lavender sachets with holes and larva casings...

My main line of defense is the sticky pheromone traps. It doesn't kill them all, it only targets adult males - but that helps to reduce the mating, which reduces their numbers in the long run, and it helps you to figure out whether you just have one lone traveller, or a full population.

They like the good stuff. Alpaca and cashmere are tastier than wool. Most of all, they love raw fleece.
posted by Gordafarin at 1:39 AM on August 20, 2019

Well ... at least it's nice to learn it's not just us?
posted by kyrademon at 2:13 AM on August 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Once I foolishly bought an antique pashmina from India, and it arrived with moths. It was beautiful, but couldn't be saved. Luckily it was a cold winter and as soon as I'd unpacked it I put it on our fence to freeze while I hoped it could be saved, so they never spread to any other textiles. But it had to go.
posted by mumimor at 5:18 AM on August 20, 2019

I learned that these fuckers eat silk and other things in addition to wool when I found a destroyed favorite knit lace shawl that I had handknit from yarn I had handdyed. One shawl I outright threw away and I've got five others that have been through the weeklong freeze and are still ziplocked against the day I finally get over my rage enough to face repairing the holes in them. asperity is right about the sparkly dust, but that does not make the bastards any less hateful.

The article actually made me feel a little better though. I'd been feeling like an utter failure for getting moths in the first place, but knowing that there's a population explosion and it's not just me does make me feel less like I failed utterly at cleaning or did something to bring this on to myself. (Though those thoughts have now been replaced by anger at the probably-worthless mothballs all over the damn house now. I need to have all visitors smuggle the big guns in from stateside for me, going forward, I see. The smell will be a fair trade to put up for COMPLETE MOTH DEVASTATION.)
posted by sldownard at 5:22 AM on August 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

I kinda feel like this is an appropriate companion link for this post.
posted by antinomia at 6:03 AM on August 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ugh, clothes moths. As evidenced by my recent askme question, I've given up on getting rid of them. My husband's kilt is stored in a leadlined trunk at my parents house (no moths, probably because they're cheap about heating and it gets very cold, often, or maybe the surrounding sheep and their dropped wool is more appealing.) I got rid of almost all my wools, leaving only the living room rug which I'm vacuuming like a crazy person, and a few jumpers that I hang off an open air rail and shake regularly. They don't like light and movement, so keeping things out in the open seems to help.

I used to really enjoy needle felting and sewing with with wo felts, and have had to give it up because I can't actually keep anything I finish anyway. Damn moths ate the cthulhu dolls I made my husband when we first started dating, which was sort of heartbreaking.

Anyway, we have long haired cats, which means no chemical treatments or moth balls and lots and lots of delicious fur for them to breed in behind bookcases and such I can't get to. Those pheromone traps look like a warzone in my house.

A Cedar chest won't do anything unless it's airtight (or, you know, lead lined and stupid heavy)
posted by stillnocturnal at 6:06 AM on August 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh, also, my mother told me recently that she was talking to a pest control guy about our moth problem, and he basically said "if your house is clean you won't have a problem with moths" and I thought he was a condescending, ignorant douche at the time but it's nice to have evidence that I was right.
posted by stillnocturnal at 6:13 AM on August 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

Vacuum seal bags?

Vacuum sealer. Usually used, around here, for food. Packing/storage companies make a similar concept using large bags that can be sucked out using a household vacuum or hand pump.
posted by Mitheral at 6:34 AM on August 20, 2019

OK now y'all are making me feel weird about not having moths. Are the cats killing them? Is there some moth-killing toxin in my sweater drawer?
posted by aspersioncast at 6:44 AM on August 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I never encountered them until moving to my current home.

Speaking of moth-killing toxins, for anyone considering mothballs, remember that they've got to be in something sealed (air-tight, non-reactive plastic) to do any good. Leaving them out in the air in the general vicinity of your moth infestation will only annoy the moths and make you sick.

The Wirecutter has a pretty good writeup on how to get rid of clothes moths: all methods have limited success.
posted by asperity at 7:34 AM on August 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

I manage by putting away all animal yarn and yarn products in plastic bags straight after cleaning unless they're in heavy rotation like hats in winter. When I got the initial infestation, I put those Raid purple things everywhere and managed to give myself chemical poisoning.

For yarn and yarn products - an hour in the oven at 80-100 C, then left inside to cool, actually works and saved my yarn stash. Safe enough even for partially synthetic yarn.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 8:23 AM on August 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

Oh, I should also suggest the cheapest way to heat-treat lots of textile stuff in places with hot/sunny weather. It requires access to a car. Put the stuff you want to treat in the car, park it in the sun, close the windows, wait a while. Can generally fit more in at once than into an oven.
posted by asperity at 8:42 AM on August 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

fuck those fuckers. i am so disgusted and squicked out by them. we had an infestation for a couple years. when i moved, i put all my clothes in garbage bags, left them in the new garage for a while, then hung everything outside on the line for a while, then washed everything in hot water.

any new yarn i get goes almost immediately into a ziploc bag and stays there until i am ready to knit with it.

i hope i have traded my moth problem for my brown marmorated stink bug problem. at least those fuckers don't eat my clothes and blankets.

in conclusion: fuck clothes moths.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:13 AM on August 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

I currently have two sealed bags of handspun handknits in my car, since it's been around 100F for the past month or so. I ran out of room in the freezer and figured I could heat them out just as well -- we'll see.

I have also used the tiny parasitic wasps mentioned in the article. I've done two rounds and that helped tremendously, but not completely. You can buy them on Amazon! I need to do another round but I'm afraid they won't survive the mail with it being so hot.

I'm a spinner and knitter, plus I have birds who shed feathers all the time, so the best I can do is just keep everything in a sealed plastic bag until I'm actually using it. I try to wash everything, let it dry, and put it immediately into a Ziploc, and that seems to be doing the trick. Moths suck.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:09 AM on August 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

My research, borne of helping a friend who is battling both clothes moths AND pantry moths, is that the Trichogramma wasps available in America will not parasitize clothes moth eggs. That apparently is the job of Trichogramma evanescens which I have only found available from Germany, and based on the activity of the T. pretiosum, T. platneri, T. minutum, and T. brassicae in our current domestic shipments, I don't think the little guys would survive the trip from Europe, which would cost a small fortune anyway.
posted by Devoidoid at 11:57 AM on August 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

This makes me feel very smug indeed about my longstanding disdain for carpet and decorative textiles (not to mention my horror of drapes). Polypropylene area rugs in sassy modernist patterns between mid-century suites FTW!
posted by sonascope at 2:14 PM on August 20, 2019

I've said before, we need a Mefi moth support group. The tragic amounts of beautiful yarn that I lost. The sense that you can't leave a sweater anywhere, it has to go immediately into the airtight box. It's infuriating.

As I said, I'm waiting to see if I managed to leave them behind me at my last place. Soon I'm going to buy one of those shelf inserts you can put into the dryer so you can heat things without tumbling them (which is what causes felting). I think I'll be using it forever.
posted by praemunire at 2:56 PM on August 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

Thanks to folks in this thread, I have already learned more about the lifecycle of the little bastards than I was able to learn (through rage-obscured goggles) on my own. I ordered some of the pheromone things yesterday, and have located some sellers of the parasitic wasps which I will definitely try next.

sonascope, all my furniture is on feet getting it up off the floor, I have tiled floors and no rugs, and I hate curtains so I have none -- so don't get too smug. Moths can sense smugness.
posted by sldownard at 2:52 AM on August 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Bought a used couch, vintage, with wool-backed velvet upholstery. It brought moths. The moths migrated to a wool carpet on the stairs, which was eventually torn out. So many things damaged. The couch has been re-covered. Cedar oil discourages moths, but not larvae. I have had success storing wool in plastic zipper bags with cedar blocks. The cedar blocks get refreshed with cedar oil.

Moth balls are toxic and carcinogenic, so think about the trade-offs.
posted by theora55 at 11:02 AM on August 22, 2019

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