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Why Moths Like to Destroy Our Knitwear

As the crunch of leaves, mulled wine and Greggs festive bakes welcome us into winter, only one thing can dampen our festive spirits. No, not the disparaging politics surrounding COP26 and the climate crisis. Something even worse: Moths. Winter is the time for our knitwear favourites to take centre stage. Knitwear favourites that we need on tip top form for the season ahead. A devastating discovery therefore is, to find these beloved knits emerge from their summer break riddled with moth holes.

But why does this happen? 

Moths are small (usually 1-2cm in size) pests that feed on natural fibres like wool, silk, cashmere and fur. Just think of any valuable piece of clothing you wouldn’t want eaten: these guys want it. And they want it because, as a natural fibre, the material contains keratin, a protein that the moth larvae feed on to grow into full sized moths. You won't find them eating your gym shorts or leggings, not because they are deterred by the smell, but because these garments are likely made of polyester or nylon - synthetic fibres that have no nutrients for the larvae to eat.

Moth season kicks off in May and lasts all summer through to October and you’ll find them in dark, undisturbed places. The leading Right Move search result for these pests? Wardrobes. The first sign of a moth infestation is an unmistakable air of dread. The second will most likely be the discovery of a small hole on what always seems to be your favourite item. Never your least favourite item: always your favourite. 

Holes can vary in size but if caused by moths, you’ll find a smattering of them in the same area as the first hole discovered. For a full inspection, hold the garment up to the light and, in addition to holes, you may see tiny areas where the stitching looks slightly thinner. This is where a moth has begun eating the fibres before presumably becoming too full to finish. Give that area a wee prod, a rub and a stretch and the brittle fibre will break away exposing another hole.

To confirm you do in fact ‘have moths’, you should purchase a moth trap. These clever boxes contain a pheromone sheet that attracts moths with a scent we mere humans cannot detect. If moths are present, they will head to the box for what they expect to be a party, only to stick to the trap and die, surrounded by other moths also incorrectly expecting a good time. 

If your sense of dread was indeed correct, confirmed by a slightly gross sheet of dead Moths, it's time for a clear out. 

Separate all of the items you suspect may be harbouring moths (natural fibres like those mentioned earlier), bag them, seal them, and put them in your freezer to freeze the larvae. After 3 days, remove the items, take them outside and give them a shake and a steam clean to get rid of the now dead moths. Alternatively, send them to a specialist cleaner (like Cashmere Circle) who will do this for you. With your wardrobe empty, give it a deep clean, hoovering into every corner, finishing with a final wipedown. As a source of food, Moths also enjoy food stains, so best to clean all your garments while you’re at it. Clothes now moth-free and wardrobe nice and clean, put a couple lavender pouches and cedar blocks in there to act as natural moth deterrents. And it's always wise to have a moth trap to alert you to any future infestations.

Returning your moth-eaten garments back to their first-wear best is super easy and, importantly, shows the moths that you’re not scared of them. Simply follow this link, identify how many holes your garment has, add it to the basket and repeat for each garment. Cashmere Circle then arrange a courier collection from your door to whisk the garments off to the home of knitwear in the Scottish Borders where they will be de-mothed, repaired, revived and returned in moth-proof storage bags to live another day.

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