Boxing up your warm-weather clothing is a smart way to free up some closet space during the colder months. However, if you don’t store your clothes correctly, you could come back to them in spring to find them infested with moths and beetles or even chewed up by rats and mice.
Whether you’re putting your summer clothes away for the winter or your winter clothes away for the summer, use these tips to keep them safe from pests.
1. Launder or dry clean the clothes first.
Over time, your clothes accumulate body oils and other organic stains that moths and beetles like. Cleaning garments before storing them will make them less likely to attract these pests. If moths have laid eggs in your clothes by chance, laundering will eliminate them before they hatch. If you’re washing seasonal bedding, launder it at 130°F. If it can’t be washed at that temperature, run it through the dryer for at least 15 minutes at that temperature, and then wash and dry the bedding as usual.
Pro tip: Make sure you skip the starch or fabric softener in your laundry routine, as these substances can attract bugs.
2. Store your clothes with a natural repellent.
Many people can’t stand the potent smell of naphthalene (the repellent found in traditional mothballs) and are concerned about the documented cases of adverse health effects. Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives to protect your stored clothing. You can repel moths and carpet beetles with a wide variety of cedar and herbal products.
Cedar wood contains oil with pest-repellent chemical compounds and has been used in storage rooms and containers as far back as the ancient Greeks. You can buy it in blocks, chips, balls, and sachets from companies that harvest it from renewable forests. Once the scent starts to fade, all you need to do is sand the wood to bring it back out.
Pro tip: Combine lavender and cedar chips in mesh bags to make your own bug-repellent sachets. They’re non-toxic, smell great, and make wonderful stocking-stuffers!
3. Use clear, plastic containers with snug lids.
Cardboard is great if you’re moving house or transporting clothes to your local donation center. However, cardboard does little to protect your clothes from mildew and pests when used as a long-term storage solution. Rodents, in particular, can easily chew through cardboard and tear up your clothing to create nest material.
Instead, opt for clear, plastic containers that are weatherproof or that have tight-fitting lids. Aside from being sturdier and more moisture-proof than cardboard, a rigid, clear box will let in more light and create less of a dark, “safe haven” for larvae, bugs, and rodents.