Out of nowhere, the temperature just drops.
I was at home on one of the first cold and rainy days of the season, and I could not get warm. I layered on socks and sweatshirts, drank cup after cup of tea, but the chill would not relent. My husband, seeing my cannot-get-warm huddle, went into the mudroom and after digging through hooks of jackets and sweatshirts, reappeared with his favorite wool sweater. "Here!" he said, "This sweater always keeps me warm. It's my favorite."
Oh, dear. The sweater was flecked with little lint-like spots. Clearly, it had become someone else’s favorite during the off-season. I showed my husband the tiny webs. As can happen in the thrill of a season change, the sweater had gotten buried and forgotten. The moths had found it.
If you forgot to clean and properly store your sweaters last spring, it happens! There are things you can do to revive a forgotten sweater.
STEP 1: LINT ROLL
Use a lint roller or sticky tape. This will remove moth eggs or larvae, which can be extremely tiny. I do this whether or not I see evidence of moths, just to be safe. Although I ordinarily loathe to use plastic tools and tape, this calls for it. If you do have a reusable lint roller, make sure you clean it thoroughly.
STEP 2: REMOVE PILLS
You may as well, since you’re giving the sweater a once-over. Just make sure no larvae remain trapped in your de-pilling tool. I like this one.
STEP 3: WASH
I do not dry clean my silk and wool. Instead, I wash carefully with Kookaburra. I love their wool wash; it cleans well and restores softness. Both the regular "Wash" and "Delicate" formulas come with a lavender scent option, too, which deters moths.
To wash, first soak in cool water with a little Kookaburra. This helps break the surface tension of the fiber and release any dirt. I often use the soak cycle in my machine as it has very little agitation. Sometimes just the soak is enough, but in the case of stains and moths, I do a gentle wash in addition, either by hand or with the hand-wash setting in my machine. When washing wool, be careful not to skip the soaking step or wash with warm or hot water, or you could risk felting your wool fibers. Although Kookaburra does not necessarily need to be rinsed, I do. Spin in your machine or roll in a towel to remove excess moisture. Lay flat to dry.
STEP 4: GET RID OF THE MOTHS
You have some options here.
Place your sweaters up in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer for a week. Remove them from the freezer but leave them bagged in a warm place (above 70 degrees) so that any surviving eggs can hatch. Then, put them back in the freezer for one final week. Drastic temperature changes are key to this method, and if you can use it safely, dry ice is another option.
I do have a friend who had luck ‘baking’ her sweaters by placing them in a black contractor trash bag in her car on a very hot day. This would need to be done in the summertime, so it does take some planning ahead. Another method I have read about but not tried is to cook your sweaters in the oven at 120 degrees for 30 minutes. Take safety precautions if you try this!
STEP 5: PREVENT FUTURE MOTHS
Wool is a magic fiber that rarely needs to be washed, but does need to be cared for and stored properly. A cedar closet works great, as do all those annoying poly-bags that so many clothes are shipped in. Save them and seal your clean sweaters in them during the off-season.
If you do find moths in your wool clothing, know that they are often a symptom, and the cause may be elsewhere in your home. A friend of mine recently realized the true culprit for the sweater moths in her closet was an old rolled-up rug in her attic.
These moth traps can help slow down infestation, as they attract the males and keep them from reproducing. Keep traps in your closets for extra insurance.
MENDING MOTH HOLES
If you're local to Dobbs Ferry, please join our mending gathering at the studio tomorrow!
145 Palisade St. Suite 375
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522
Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022
5pm - 8pm
Last but not least, if your wool garment is beyond repair, it may have another life to live entirely. We love these creative approaches to repurposing old sweaters—proof that there's beauty in things falling apart.