Friday, March 2, 2012

Introducing...Vintage Science Friday!

You guys out there in Blogland don't know me that well yet, but if you did, you'd know that I'm secretly a big'ol nerd. A dorky, science-loving, sci-fi watching, bug-collecting, library lurking nerd. So in that vein, I'm gonna do a little thing I'll call Vintage Science Friday!!!! Not every Friday...I can't commit that much, but perhaps most Fridays? Or every-other?'s the Premier Edition:

MOTHS: They are not our friends!

Anyone who has experienced the heartbreak of pulling a beloved vintage cashmere sweater out of storage and finding, instead, a cashmere piece of Swiss cheese knows that moths are not our friends at all. Specifically clothes moths, or Tineola Bisselliella, the common clothes moth.

Our Enemy (thanks to WikiPedia for the pic)

He looks innocent enough, right? Not so much...he, rather SHE is our enemy! She is a very good Mommy, and searches for a safe and sound place for her babies. Her HUNDREDS of babies. A safe place like your closet, or your drawers. She will lay 100's of eggs in a place that's dark and quiet, and where there's a ready food source, like your favorite 1950's cashmere sweater set. When those eggs hatch, they become tiny caterpillars who munch their way through your clothes, sometimes for months. They turn Keratin, which is the natural protein of which hair and wool consist, into food. They will eat any natural fiber: wool, alpaca, cashmere, silk, cotton (yes!), silk, fur, feathers, linen, etc. Only your 70's polyester is safe :-)

These little darlings especially love it when you've put your sweater away dirty (ewww) as they love sweat and food particles, however microscopic. They use this stuff to get their moisture, because they can't drink.

"But how do I stop them???" you ask in's how:

* Never put your clothes away (for any length of time) dirty! Hand wash or dry clean first, always!

* Dry Cleaning kills moth eggs and larvae.

* Freezing kills moth eggs and larvae. This is what I do when I get a wool sweater from a thrift store or some such...I wrap it tightly in a plastic bag and put the bag in my freezer for 3 or 4 days. My husband loves it when he opens the freezer and finds sweaters instead of food :-)

* Heat kills moth eggs and larvae. 120 degrees F. for at least 30 minutes. The hottest setting on your washer and dryer *may* get that hot, but do you really want to do that to your vintage clothes? Probably not.

*Old-fashioned mothballs kill moth eggs and larvae, but only in an air-tight container. Yes, they are poisonous and they smell funky. Keep them safely away from pets and children, and don't stick your head in the container looking for that one sweater...
The mothball smell can generally be completely removed by putting the item out in fresh air and sunlight for a few hours. Sunlight degrades the smell, and fresh moving air carries it away.

* Lavender Oil will work, but only just has to be STRONG, refreshed often, and in an air-tight container.

* Things that don't work: Camphor (needs too high of a vapor concentration to be practical),
Cedar: smells lovely (if you like your clothes to smell like a hamster cage), but doesn't really work, other commercially available herbal/spice things...go ahead and try if you like, at your peril!

That concludes this episode of  Vintage Science Friday.  Stay tuned next week for more fun with science! ;-)

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