Cleaning and Storing Garments to Prevent Insect Damage

Cleaning and Storing Garments to Prevent Insect Damage

Have you ever found small holes in garments after you’ve stored them for the season? Today we’ve got some helpful information about what causes these little holes and how you should be cleaning and storing your garments to prevent that from happening.

Mysteriously appearing holes may be the result of insect damage. Often the holes may not be readily apparent until after cleaning. Garments that are stored for a long time are particularly prone to insect damage. Moth damage is most common on wool fabrics, but beetles, silverfish, roaches, and other insects feed on stains and sizings on fabrics made of other materials. The type of fabric or food substance insects are attracted to determines whether the damage they cause is direct or indirect.

Direct Damage

Direct damage occurs when insects such as webbing cloth moths, casemaking cloth moths, and sometimes termites, feed directly on the fabric. This group of insects attacks wool, mohair, natural bristles, fur, feathers, and down. They also damage blended fibers such as wool/polyester – dispelling the notion that the use of synthetic fibers immunizes the fabrics against insect damage.

Indirect Damage

Indirect damage occurs when insects such as silverfish, beetles, and roaches feed on leftover food, perspiration, beverage spills, and starch on the fabric. For this reason, any stains, especially food and beverage residue, should be removed from a garment before it is stored. Prevention of insect damage includes cleaning garments and using mothballs or cedar chests. Cleaning discourages insects from making their home in your garments. Although most forms of moth life are destroyed by drycleaning solvents during cleaning, moth larvae can attack fabrics once the solvent evaporates.

Prevention Methods

Using mothballs or cedar chests or chips can help prevent insect damage. The odor of mothballs may repel larvae and insects if the area of use is enclosed, thus ensuring a high concentration of odor. Suspend the mothballs above the garments; do not place them directly on the garments. The scent of cedar chests or chips repels insects, but it is the airtightness of the chest that protects the garments from insect damage.

One problem with using mothballs is the lingering odor after the garments are removed from storage. Try hanging the garments outside for several days after removal from storage. If hanging outside won’t remove the mothball odor, ask us to remove the odors. In some cases we may need to use an ozone generator. Ozone generators work by passing dry air through a high-frequency electrical field. The resulting electrical discharge splits an oxygen molecule into two free atoms, allowing them to combine with an oxygen molecule that has not been split to form ozone. The contact between ozone and the odors embedded in the textiles causes oxidation to recur, eliminating the odors and releasing oxygen.

Have Your Garments Cleaned and Professionally Stored

The best defense is to have all your wool, wool blends, fur, silk or down garments is to have them professionally cleaned prior to storing. Once cleaned you must store them properly, either in cedar chests or other reclosable plastic bags or plastic boxes are best for keeping pests out. To protect the items from condensation, wrap them in lengths of clean cotton, and store. If that sounds a little too daunting, let Fashion Cleaners store them for the season. We store any seasonal garments we clean for free, in temperature controlled chests. 

Your garments will love you for not leaving them to the moths.

Source: Drycleaning & Laundry Institute International

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