With ‘moth’ season approaching Rentokil Pest Control is warning businesses and consumers about the risk clothes moths pose to precious wardrobe items amid a rise in the second-hand and vintage clothing trend.
The trend for second-hand and vintage clothing continues to boom, with the market in the UK forecast to rise 67.5% by 2026 as emerging platforms such as Vinted cater for a growing number of eco-conscious fashion lovers.
Yet whilst shopping second-hand can be better for both our planet and purses, unfortunately, it’s not just consumers who love vintage clothes.
Although it’s best practice to wash any second-hand clothing item before storing them in wardrobes or drawers, this advice is not always practical or adhered to – meaning that eggs can be left undisturbed. Worryingly, the natural fibres typically found in vintage clothing can be a magnet for clothes moths – the larvae they produce feed off the protein keratin found in materials such as silk, wool and leather.
It is at this stage that holes in fabrics occur and with clothes moths preferring dark, undisturbed areas, it can often be difficult to notice them until it is too late. Female adult moths can lay between 40 and 50 eggs over a period of two to three weeks before dying, and given springtime being the time of year that these pests begin to emerge and breed, these eggs can hatch within as little as 10 days. The eggs, which are laid singly or in small groups, are tiny and very difficult to spot in the folds of clothing.
It’s not just vintage clothing that is at risk. Any materials that contain natural fibres such as cotton or linen will also provide a source of keratin. As the weather changes, many of us will be looking to switch over to our warm-weather wardrobes, so it is worth checking over your cotton summer dresses and linen shorts for example, to check for activity.
Google searches for ‘clothes moths’ have peaked to their highest level in the past year – receiving 2,000 searches every month. In addition, searches for the terms ‘clothes moths’ and ‘how to get rid of clothes moth’ increased by almost 25 per cent this February when compared to last year – indicating that homeowners are falling behind on this all-too-common pest problem.
Inspecting your vintage garments is crucial, and it’s not only irregular holes that indicate an infestation.
Paul Blackhurst, Head of Technical Academy at Rentokil Pest Control, says: “If left untreated, common clothes moths can cause a lot of unsightly damage to clothes, carpets and other materials in your home or business. Inspecting your vintage garments is crucial, and it’s not only irregular holes that indicate an infestation.
“We recommend also keeping an eye out for the larvae — which look like tiny, cream-coloured caterpillars — as well as moth webbing. These unwanted pests also produce something called frass, which is essentially moth excretion that tends to appear as small, beige balls. If you see any of these signs, it is important to act quickly and swiftly before the problem gets out of hand.”
With visits to Rentokil’s moths/DIY-products seeing nearly a 10 per cent increase this month compared to the same month last year, there are some preventative measures that homeowners can easily implement.
Here are some top tips for helping for remaining clothes moths-free:
- Check vintage items – before displaying or storing vintage clothes or antique linens and soft furnishings in a shop or taking them home, they should be dry cleaned or treated before being placed alongside existing fabrics to prevent a potential spread.
- Keep clothes clean – female moths like to lay eggs on fabrics stained with sweat or other bodily fluids as it helps to provide resulting larvae with access to more nutrients. Always clean clothes before putting them back in cupboards or wardrobe.
- Clean suitcases – bags, storage boxes and containers can also hide eggs or larvae.
- Vacuum regularly – ensure hidden areas under large furniture or sofas are regularly vacuumed.
- Keep stored textiles in sealed bags – vacuum storage bags or sealed plastic bags can help to prevent moths’ access to lay eggs.
- Be vigilant – keep a constant look out for holes in garments and keep rooms dry and well-ventilated.
If you have spotted any signs of a moth infestation, wash the clothes that you can at over 55 degrees Celsius to kill off larvae, or you can freeze affected clothes for up to two weeks, or take them to the dry cleaners to be cleaned at a high temperature.
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