January 15th, 2013

31 Days to Get Organized: How to Keep Moths and Other Critters Away from Your Yarn

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Moth is a four letter word in the fiber community, and keeping them away from our precious yarn and finished projects should be a high priority. Working for months on a sweater only to have it ruined is heartbreaking. Preventing these little critters from getting into your stash isn’t too difficult. Removing them once they’re there can be harder, so some preventative measures are the best way to go. We asked our staff for their favorite ways to prevent yarn disaster.

I keep anything I bring into my house separate from the rest of my yarn for a little while just to make sure, and then it goes in plastic bins. – Mary K.

Lavender is a natural moth repellent, so using lavender sachets (which are easy as a DIY project with some fabric and dried lavender) is a good combination with an airtight container. (See image below)  – Michael W. and Sara D.

Within my storage bins, I group my yarns by weight and brand and keep each in a separate seal-able bag. For example, if I have 6 skeins of Cascade 220 I will put those into a zip-top bag, and put my 5 balls of Valley Superwash into another bag, even though they are both worsted weight yarns. That way, if moths happened to come home with me when I bought the Cascade 220, they will likely only destroy what was in that bag.  The Superwash is likely to be safe even though they were all in my worsted weight yarn container.  – Tina

Plastic storage bins with latching lids have been the best solution I’ve found. Some say that the original eucalyptus and lavender scents of Eucalan also discourage moths – they certainly can’t hurt! In the end, though, if your stash is more than a few years old, you’re going to have to know when to freeze it (if you suspect moth contamination, noticing a granular, sand-like “dust” on the yarn or find some adult moths on or near it, a few days in the freezer or outside in a bin in winter should kill moth eggs) and when to toss it. If you notice frayed ends sticking out of the yarn, you know there are even more within, and it’s time to let it go. But natural, undyed fibers DO make good compost – just saying!  – Kirsten H.

If you discover the evidence of moths, take your whole stash (I know!!) and put it into a black plastic bag and leave it in your car with the windows up on a hot day for a few hours.  The heat will kill the moths and the eggs – if you put it in the freezer, the eggs may just hatch when they warm up!  – Andrea V.
You can also put blocks of cedar wood in your containers, if your containers aren’t quite airtight. – Stephanie B.
My solution is to not worry about it, and rely on luck! All kidding aside, I think some of it is that I wear my knits a lot. I don’t keep them in one place all the time. I don’t let them get too dingy, but don’t wash them necessarily all the time either.  – Kristin L.

I’ve got one airtight container, the kind they use for dog food, with a screw-in lid! -Ashley F.

You can use these tips to prevent other pests like carpet beetles and fleas from getting into your yarn. Pests like fleas and mice are hard to get rid of once they find a place they like, so prevention is really important in that case.
Have you ever had any damage to your knits or yarn from critters? How do you keep your stash safe?

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11 Responses to “31 Days to Get Organized: How to Keep Moths and Other Critters Away from Your Yarn”

  1. LindaM Says:

    I have all my stash in clear plastic boxes with a lavender-scented dryer sheet in each one. The whole room smells like lavender!

  2. LindaH Says:

    I don’t have moths yet..and I hope that they don’t ever come to visit. In an effort to keep them away, I bought some cedar balls to put in my containers, and I just got some Space Bags to compress all of my stash into tiny flat bags. I can vacuum the air out, make them all lay nice and flat, and then put my yarn back into my containers once I am done. This will allow nothing to get in there to destroy my yarn.

    Oh, I once bought a commercial sweater to go with my beautiful wool skirt. I paid an outrageous amount for the outfit, and it lasted for years. Then, I let my mom wear it.. When I got it back from her house a few months later, my beautiful sweater had holes all in it, and I was devastated. I do not know how to repair the sweater, and I have been looking high and low for the midnight blue/navy yarn to replace the sweater with. Once I find it, whether on WEBS or at my local yarn shop, I will buy enough to make myself another raglan sweater to match this skirt. The moths didn’t mess with the skirt by the way, and it is 100% wool as well.

  3. Mary N Says:

    It is best to freeze the yarn/textile in tissue inside a sealed container or bag for 1 week. Remove it carefully and don’t bend anything to avoid breaking the yarn/material. Let it thaw completely for at least 48 hours or longer, then re-freeze again for one week. Again, be careful to not bend/break any fibers when you remove it. Freezing twice will kill both adult and any larvae/eggs that there might be. The tissue will help “soak up” any humidity that might condense on the inside of the bag. You will want to vacuum any cloth to remove any dead bugs or casings to reduce the interest that new bugs might find. To vacuum, lay a piece of plastic screening material over the cloth and vacuum with a soft brush nozzle at low suction. <— this is the procedure that museums use to treat infested textiles. But, as you can see, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure

  4. Rachelle Crosbie Says:

    I’ve had moth before, unfortunately zip-lock bags don’t stop them, they just chew through the bags. I find it I start the freezer/thaw cycle. 4 days in the freezer, 3 out after I’ve removed the worst affected fibre/yarn, I do this cycle about 3 times before I feel safe and monitor for quite a while afterwards. I’ve had it in Alpaca several times and Possum fibre too.

  5. Louise Knight Says:

    A bar of irish spring soap in the container works for me. I’ve never had an issue since I started using it. It will even keep mice away as I have had to store some of my “stuff” in the garage.

  6. Helen Says:

    Yes I’ve had moth damage before and I’ve used both lavender & cedar, ziploc bags, freezing, but I’ve never heard of the Irish Spring soap idea! I’m definitely gonna try it. I was looking at some “odorless” mothballs at a store recently too……… It’s challenging to keep the moths out down here in Alabama; I guess they like the weather!

  7. CatherineMcClarey Says:

    Ignorant question: do I need to also protect my acrylic yarns from moth infestations, or just the natural-fiber stuff? (Don’t have any moths yet AFAIK, but want to be proactive in preventing infestations.)

  8. beviboo Says:

    I know this is an old post but, years ago I needed a chest of drawers and my mother said that I could have the one that my sister was storing for her in her garage. It was an old 40’s-50’s veneered 6 drawer chest. It had 2 shallow drawers, 2 medium depth drawers and with my luck… the 2 bottom drawers were quite deep and were cedar lined as well and had a cedar lid for the drawers. For a long time I used that as a dresser in my bedroom but for the past few years I’ve had it in my craft/sewing room, I never thought I would have a need for those drawers but had an “ah-ha” moment a few months ago and now use it to store my wool and cotton yarns and roving…

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  10. Sarah Says:

    Mint teabags work wonderfully too. I have an iguana that can’t be around cedar, and I don’t like the smell of lavender, so this has been my solution for several years now.

  11. Barbara Says:

    Speaking of critters, my cat gets into all my yarn. Even have a cabinet that he has learned to open. Help. I need an idea to keep him out. I always figured we were a great pair, we both love yarn. Only I don’t eat it.

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