DIY Diva: Natural Mothballs

This is the first in our new series in collaboration with Annie B. Bond, DIY diva and green living expert.

As the snow melts and winter gives way to spring, it is time to pack away sweaters, hats, socks, and more. The key is packing wool away with skill, so that it is protected  from clothing moths (which don’t feed on cotton, silk, or synthetic fibers). Tempting as it is to use mothballs, avoid them, as their active ingredient is naphthalene, which is both carcinogenic and highly neurotoxic.  Furthermore, the fumes are also very hard to remove from a home; airing contaminated clothes and chests  in the sun is your best bet. For a natural solution, read on.

The first key to protecting wool is to make sure that it is clean before it is packed away.  If possible,  freeze  for two days or air in the sun for a few hours before packing. You want to make sure that all moth eggs are dead; freezing or even putting clothes in a dryer on high heat for 15 minutes, should kill them.

The second key is to do your best to repel moths from finding and feeding on the clothes. You can easily go natural with this herbal mothball solution that is used by weavers to protect their skeins of wool.

2 ounces each dried rosemary and mint
1 ounce each dried thyme and ginseng
8 ounces whole cloves
Muslin tea bags, available in most health food stores and herbalist supply stores (or make your own sachets)
Note: Other herbs that repel clothing moths include lavender, lemon, cedar, and sassafras.

Combine herbs and spices in a bowl. Spoon fill sachet/muslin tea bags, and draw closed. Set the “natural moth balls” in chests of drawers or cedar chests where woolens are stored.

–Adapted from Better Basics for the Home (Three Rivers Press, 1999), by Annie B. Bond


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