Photo: Moth-proofing without (toxic) mothballs

Store precious baby clothes without toxic mothballs.

Time to wrap-up "Bedroom Month"! I've dished on pillows, mattresses and sex, which logically leads to mothballs. (Stay with me...)

I was super sad to find my favourite 100 per cent cashmere sweater — a $20 consignment score — full of tiny holes last fall. I also had mould growing on my clothes. (Yuck.)

I'd been storing garments in an open basket at the top of my bedroom closet. I've known to avoid toxic mothballs — made of naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, both carcinogenic — for years. If you smell them, you're inhaling pesticide.

And because mothballs look like candy, children and pets are at risk of eating them. Save yourself a call to a poison control centre or a trip to the vet — get rid of any mothballs today.

Then try these less toxic ways to prevent moth and mould damage on stored clothing:

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Tip 1: Put clothes away clean

Wash and dry your out-of-season wardrobe or outgrown kids clothes before you store them. Mould can grow on organic material (food stains) or moisture (sweat).

Tip 2: Cedar is a natural insecticide

Purchase cedar blocks, balls or chips for your closets and drawers from your local hardware or housewares store. Read labels carefully — some "cedar" products contain toxic chemicals.

Tip 3: Reuse silica gel packs

You know those packets that come with vitamins or seaweed snacks? Battle moisture adding them to drawers and sealed clothing storage bins or bags. Critters like moths and silverfish thrive in moist environments. So does mould.

Tip 4: Use clean containers

Don't forget to store your clean clothes in clean, dry, reusable/recyclable bins!

Tip 5: Repel moths with essential oils

Add a few drops of citronella and lavender essential oils to cloth strips and place them inside cupboards and drawers. (This can also combat silverfish, flies and moths.)

These tips will help you keep a range of fabrics types — from leather to linen and wool — in good shape for years to come!

I uncovered conflicting advice while researching this blog. What's better — air-tight plastic bins and bags, or trunks and boxes that allow for air circulation? Or does it depend on what you're storing and whether it's in a hot attic or cold basement?

Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

February 23, 2014

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Mar 13, 2014
8:44 AM

I work with many different animal fibres, such as wool and alpaca. I have found over the years that if I wash both in Eucalan Woolwash then the moths are reluctant to attack the fibre. This is a lanolin enriched concentrate with eucalyptus oil. The beauty of this product is that there is no rinsing required. I have also found if fibre such as wool is in plastic and hidden away then moths love it. But if the fibre is out in the light, moths do not seem to like it as much. Recently I heard that moths do not like to cross a cotton barrier. So at present I have much of my wool fleece in cotton pillow cases. As for where the fibre is stored, I have had moths attack in a cold garage as well as in a warm house.

Feb 26, 2014
7:37 AM

I’ve always just stored clean clothing in a closed cardboard box on a high shelf. Have never had a problem yet, but I live in dry Alberta.

Feb 25, 2014
6:09 PM

Lavender flowers in cloth bags work as insect repellent also, and smell nice.

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