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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Herbal Alternative to Moth Balls

Spring is upon us and it will soon be time to pack away our warm fuzzies and bring out the shorts and t-shirts.

Rotating our clothing to coincide with seasonal weather has long been done in homes with either limited closet space or as an attempt to repel or kill wool moths in the off season. Many of us can recall the gagging response after opening the tubs in the autumn months to pull out our sweaters and such.

The use of moth balls was rarely questioned. It was the way it was done and we got used to the smell till the clothes aired out. Now that I understand what is in those little balls or flakes, it makes me cringe to think we inhaled that stuff year after year. Moth balls are a registered pesticide containing naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene. How they work is that these chemicals go through a transition from a solid state to a gas. That gas is toxic to moths. In a sealed container the build up of the fumes is what kills the moths and moth larvae. That is fine. The problem lies in conditions where there is extended exposure, especially in children, the elderly and pets. If your family uses this method for storage, just be sure to open the containers outside or in plenty of ventilation and let the clothes hang and air out for a day before wearing. Do not wear the clothes immediately after retrieving from storage.

Inhalation of vapors causes headaches, respiratory distress, eye irritation and many other symptoms. Ingestion causes toxic poisoning leading to liver damage,respiratory failure, seizures, heart arrhythmia, and the possibility of death.

Moth balls have also been used in the garden or around flower beds to ward off cats and other garden pests. Being a registered pesticide, the label on the box is specific for how it is to be used. No where on the box does it say to use outdoors as a repellant. In doing so, it puts children and pets at risk for ingesting them which could result in poisoning. It can't be assumed the strange smell and taste would deter children from thinking these balls are candy. And when it comes to dogs, some will eat the strangest things.

A more expensive, but much safer alternative for storing clothing would be to invest in a cedar chest or add cedar blocks or cedar shavings (like that for critter bedding) to tubs before sealing with the lid. In past generations, most young girls entered marriage with her own cedar chest filled with linens and quilts she would need to start housekeeping. That chest would become a treasured place to store items that would become heirlooms. The cedarwood was very effective in protecting these items and even books from damage by moths and silverfish.

 Below are directions to make your own herbal sachets to repel clothes moths. You can just toss them in your drawers, storage tubs or hang them with ribbons onto clothes hangers for your closet. Thrift shops are a great place to find fabric scraps for which to cut the fabric squares.

1/4 cup lavender flowers, dried
10 drops lavender essential oil
10 drops cedarwood essential oil
8 fabric squares, cut with pinking shears into 6 inches square
8 pieces of string or ribbon about 6 inches long

1. Add the essential oils to the lavender flowers using a glass jar. Don't use bowls you eat out of because the essential oil scent will cling.
2. Cap the jar and let it set for a few days to give the scents time to permeate the lavender flowers.
3. Lay out the fabric squares with the design facing down.
4. Place a heaping teaspoon of the scented lavender on each piece.
5. Bring the edges up and tie together with the string or ribbon.
6. Place your sachets in with your woolens.


Another option:

2 ounces rosemary, dried
2 ounces mint dried
2 ounces thyme, dried
1 ounce ginseng root, dried and ground into a powder
8 ounces of whole cloves 

Combine the ingredients in a large bowl and blend.
Follow above directions for making fabric square sachets