Myth—I only need to worry about moths if my furnishings are made of wool.
In past years, textile-eating moths were common, due to the large amount of wool fibers in clothing and home furnishings. The popularity and widespread use of synthetic fibers has led to the incorrect assumption that damage from these insects is a thing of the past.
An important fact to remember about moths is they can digest protein fibers such as wool, silk and specialty hair fibers, but these insects will also find and eat protein substances found on synthetic fibers. This means carpets, rugs, draperies, and upholstered furniture made from nylon, acrylic, polyester, acetate, and other synthetics can harbor these insects if they contain food or beverage stains, blood, urine, perspiration or other sources of nutritional protein.
An interesting fact about these textile-eating moths is that unlike other varieties, they are not attracted to bright lights and tend to seek darker areas or dim light. This makes it very difficult to detect them in dark closets and drawers. It is most likely that you will notice fabric damage or larvae before you see the moths themselves.
One of the major hurdles in preventing damage is consumer education about moths. People are home less often than ever before (post COVID). They have less time to care for their rugs and carpets (for example, vacuuming) and even less to inspect dark places such as under furniture, etc. Rugs, carpets, and wool clothing and wall hangings get dirty and they can become lying and hanging targets.
The most effective way to prevent a moth infestation and inhibit growth is to keep textile furnishings clean. Spills should be removed immediately. Carpet, rugs, draperies, upholstered furniture, etc., should be brushed or vacuumed regularly, as insects do not generally attack clean materials.
It is especially important, when preparing rugs for long term storage (6 months to several years), that they be kept safe from infestation. Never attempt to store a dirty rug.
At ABC, we are always concerned about moths for our customers and our cleaning of wool rugs includes a final rinse which rends the wool unappetizing to these creatures. This 'retardant' feature, combined with a thoroughly cleaned rug will almost completely guarantee prevention of damage during storage.
There is controversy when it comes to getting rid of these creatures. Different books have cited everything from placing an infested rug in the sun for a few hours to rolling them up and placing them in a cavernous freezer. It is most important that the infestation be dealt with quickly and the solution to the problem must be found that is as effective as possible.
A thorough professional treatment and cleaning is the best way to prevent further damage to rugs. The treatment will destroy the larvae and the eggs. The rug will then be cleaned to remove any residue and dried thoroughly in our cleaning plant.
As mentioned above, the final rinse will serve as a retardant to the moths. We also have a special moth retardation treatment available, if desired. Our repair department can patch or reweave holes damaged by moths as well.
Unfortunately, treatment and cleaning of an infested rug does not address the possibility that larvae may move from one rug to another. What this means is that it is necessary to find and kill not only the adults but their larvae and their eggs even before the infected rug is ready to be cleaned. It may be necessary to call a licensed pest control operator if a severe moth infestation has occurred in your home.
The most effective and safest insecticide that can be used is pyrethrum. It is the oleoresin extract of dried chrysanthemum flowers. The extract contains about 50% active insecticidal ingredients known as pyrethrins. These strongly lipophilic esters rapidly penetrate many insects and paralyze their nervous systems.
Both crude pyrethrum extract and purified pyrethrins are contained in various commercial products, commonly dissolved in petroleum distillates. Some are packaged in pressurized containers (bug-bombs), usually in combination with the synergists. The synergists retard enzymatic degradation of pyrethrins.
Some commercial products also contain organophosphate or carbamate insecticides. These are included because the rapid paralytic effect of pyrethrins on insects (quick knockdown) is not always lethal.
Pyrethrins are commonly found in pet shampoos, so that should tell us that it is relatively safe.
Will pyrethrins cause dyes to become unstable? The research does not support this. Pyrethrins break down quickly after application and are considered safe for use in the home.
Please remember, as with any product used in the home, it is important to read the label and test it in an inconspicuous area.
Be aware that the above compounds (paradicholorobenzene or naphthalene) are ineffective in control of these insects for rugs and other furnishings. (Cedar scent is also useless.)
These materials act only as a minor repellent. They do not kill the larvae or eggs, and the naphthalene odor can be unpleasant and extremely difficult to remove.
Mothballs can be especially dangerous if accidentally eaten, especially by young children. In general, it is recommended mothballs should not be used by homeowners under any circumstances. If they continue to be used, they should only be used in small amounts and items around them should be thoroughly cleaned.
The ingredients in mothballs can produce harmful effects when they enter your system through inhalation. Irritation to nose, throat and lungs, headache, confusion, excitement or depression and liver and kidney damage can result from exposure to the vapors over a long period of time.
The little white balls that contain naphthalene are of special concern because naphthalene can promote a breakdown of red blood cells resulting in hemolytic anemia. Hemolytic anemia in mild form may cause only fatigue. In more severe cases, it can cause acute kidney failure.
Of course, only high concentrations of these ingredients can cause any of these effects. Such concentrations are found when vapors are absorbed by clothes or rugs that are stored or kept in closed areas with poor ventilation.
Poisonings have been reported following dressing of infants in clothing that was stored with naphthalene mothballs, suggesting that absorption of naphthalene may occur through the skin.
Moth balls should be taken to a licensed hazardous waste handler to be disposed of or saved for a professional household hazardous waste collection program.
The best way to prevent a moth infestation is periodic inspection of rugs, whether stored or not, as well as the carpets and wool, silk, and cotton textiles in your home.
Be sure to check underneath furniture and behind wall hangings as well. At the first sign of a problem, please call our office at 607-272-1566 if you have any questions about moths. You may also contact us by clicking here. We are prepared to help you in any way we can.
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