Moths? Freeze Them
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Moths are potentially the worst problem a textile collection might encounter. I have two methods I used to keep them under control. First of all, I don't kill spiders. The museum has many Daddy Longs and they do their part in keeping all insect life to a minimum.
Secondly, I make sure I keep all new acquisitions out of the storage rooms until I am sure they are pest free, however, mistakes happen. Twenty-five years ago, something slipped in under the radar and within a few weeks the collection was all ‘a flutter’. As I went through the racks it was interesting to note that the moths preferred soft wools like cashmere over hard spun woolen twills, and gravitated to fur instead of wool, and were drawn to light coloured fur over dark coloured fur. The worst infestation was in a rabbit and ermine fur coat from the 1920s and two white fox stoles. Those items were too riddled to save, however, the rest of the collection was largely spared but needed treatment.
I had heard of the freezer method and as I was moving in a few days and the weather was in the negative double digits, I used the cold to my advantage by putting the collection into the truck the night before our move. The quick freezing didn’t give time for the moths to acclimatize and effectively killed the worms and adult moths. After a thorough vacuuming and inspection everything was fine.
When its not below freezing outside, I use a small freezer, bbut do it twice to be sure (freeze for 24 hours, thaw for 12 and freeze for 12) and I swear by this method. I even use it as a part of the standard acquisition process for all furs entering the collection.