I’m not going to dignify the little buggers by telling you their Latin name; who gives a monkey’s? And we all know what they look like. Dried bogies with wings.
What matters is what they do. They eat our favourite clothes, with some kind of spooky insect instinct for the most expensive, special and favourite items. And for the place where the large hole will be most visible.
But, although I’m really pained to tell you this, it seems we humans are implicated in the choice of item and location of the all-they-can-eat moth larvae smorgasbord. (It’s them what eats your cashmere, not the flying adults, but they are all still bastards.)
They eat our favourite woollens (and fur, silk and other fibres of animal origin) because they’re more likely to be a bit scuzzy. There’s nothing a moth larva likes more than a bit of sweat, garnished with some crispy skin flakes. They also chow down with relish on any food we accidentally spill down our clothes. So the place they are most likely to tuck in is the front. Like I say, they’re bastards.
One of the reasons we are so extra-blighted by the moth these days is that we don’t clean properly any more
So the number one way to reduce moth damage is to wash clothes frequently, especially favourite things that you wear a lot. For tailoring, regular dry cleaning is recommended, though that’s a process I try to preserve my clothes from, as it has ruined things even more effectively than moths.
But sometimes my preferred sponging, airing and brushing (which is what the late Jean Muir advocated) isn’t enough. That’s how come there’s a big bite out of my favourite vintage waistcoat, which I’ve had since 1980. Waaah!
For knits, even my best cashmere, I prefer the machine handwash setting followed by the freezer. After washing and drying, put your woollies in plastic bags and pop them in the freezer for 48 hours. Isolate the treated garments from the untreated until you’ve done the lot. (But don’t store them in plastic bags in any other circs, as circulating air is much better.)
While all that’s in progress, thoroughly clean out your wardrobes, drawers and cupboard, Hoovering out the dust, then wiping over with a damp cloth. One of the reasons we are so extra-blighted by the moth these days – apart from warmer winters – is that we don’t clean properly any more. We are a generation of filth packets.
Apart from pressure of work, laziness and general Fungus the Bogeyman tendencies, it’s also because we all have so many clothes now – acres more than previous generations – and it’s hard to keep them all pristine and sorted.
The sheer volume of clothing in the average contemporary wardrobe also makes it impossible to keep it airy. Moths hate sunlight and air, so throw open closet doors and bedroom windows whenever you can.
There is also a lot of advice around about shaking all your clothing out regularly, like once a fortnight. I’m sure it’s a very good idea but I know I’m never going to do it, so I’m not going to suggest you do.
Instead, invest in modern moth protection. Cedarwood blocks are a lovely idea, but they don’t do much unless the cupboard is sealed, and they soon fade. Also, you can forget stinky camphor moth balls and those deadly Agent Orange sprays, because the new pheromone traps really seem to work.
I also secretly enjoy seeing the bastard moths stuck, dead, to a sticky piece of card, like rows of pheasant after a shoot. Most satisfying.
Or you can get a more glamorous version from Total Wardrobe Care, a clothes-organising website that is pornographic in its thrill for me, all special hangers and shoeboxes. With an excellent section for moth care.
After all that, if any do survive and come flapping out at you, make like Victor Meldrew with a newspaper. Whack!