Weekly Rec – Keeping Bugs Out of Your Stash

Bugs are everywhere. There are an estimated 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) bugs living in the world at any given time. Some of those bugs want to eat your yarn. You know what’s even more disturbing than that? They want to eat MY yarn.

I’m enduring a very wet, very rainy summer. In Texas, Rain + Heat = Insect Invasion. Fire ant mounds are everywhere. The mosquitoes are so bad that after they’ve sucked out all of your blood, they knock you down and steal your lunch money. So no one has to tell me that the Eaters of Yarn are out there multiplying their little buggy brains out. I already know that and I’m getting my defenses ready. You should too.

What’s that you say?

Your stash is safe because it is only cotton/linen/acrylic? well…

Your stash is safe because you keep it in plastic bags? well…

Yous stash is safe because you keep it in a sealed freezer? Okay. That I believe.

Here are a few terrible truths:

Clothes moths and textile moths only eat animal fibers, like wool. Your cotton is safe from them. Actually its only when they are in the larva form (like caterpillars) that they eat animal fibers. The moth-y adults don’t. But those moth-y adults will chew through plastic bags to get to the animal fibers in order to lay their eggs. They want their buggy babies to have plenty to eat.

But silverfish will eat cellulose fibers, like cotton, as well as animal fiber. They will also eat other insects, fecal matter, algae, and probably your eyeballs if they ever get the opportunity. They will eat anything. Your cottons and linens and silks are not safe from them.

Carpet beetles will eat any fiber they find up to and including your dryer lint. They will even eat acrylic. That acrylic won’t actually do them any good since it has zero nutritional value. But they will eat it anyway. And since they can survive for weeks without food, they could eat quite a bit of your acrylic yarn while starving to death.

Have I convinced you that your stash needs defending? Good. Its actually quite easy to do and even kind of pleasant. All you need is strong smelling stuff to stick in with your stash. Pretty much any strong smelling stuff will be effective if you use enough of it. I’ve tried all sorts of things.

Please give careful consideration before using mothballs. They are effective and they do last forever and no bug will go anywhere near your stash if it has mothballs in it. But mothballs are made from naphthalene (diesel fuel) or paradichlorobenzene (a chemical solvent). That stuff is flammable and carcinogenic. When someone hands me yarn/fiber that has been stored in mothballs by eyes swell up, my throat closes and I start to cough. I won’t bring mothballs into my home. If it affects me that strongly, what would constant low-level exposure do to my cats?

Stuff I’ve tried that works:

  • Camphor! Its the vintage, old time bug repellent. Boy is this stuff strong. So strong that in large doses it as toxicity issues of its own. Its a crystallized derivative made (usually) from laurel trees. I don’t use it anymore because I’m not 100% sure its safe for little bad kitties who get into everything I own and might be just dumb enough to try and eat the stuff.
  • Cedar chips, cedar shavings, cedar balls… any cedar is a good inspect repellent. That’s why people use to store their heavy (wooly) winter clothes and blankets in cedar chests. I use to have cedar balls rolling around in every drawer in my dresser (where I keep some of my yarn) and little linen bags stuffed with cedar chips hanging in my closet (where I keep some more of my yarn).
  • Most of the stronger smelling herbs will make bugs back off. Lots of people use lavender. I would not recommend using those herb infused oils or sprays because that might stain your yarn, but sachets of dried herb will work. I like clove. It smells wonderful and the local Asian grocery store sells in bulk.

making sachets with clove

With a small handful of clove, an ironed-out napkin, and a bit of yarn, I make up my own sachets by the dozens. Then I tuck them into every stash drawer, basket and bag.

  • Some time last year I read on a blog (which I can’t find anymore of course) that strong smelling bars of soap will keep insects out of your yarn. The advice was to stop storing soap under your bathroom sink and start keeping it with your stash. I thought that was brilliant so I went to the grocery store to load up on soap!

  • But while I was in the people-soap isle, sniffing every bar they sold, I remembered that the clothes-soap isle had the really strong smelling stuff. So I bought laundry bar soap too. Its pretty cheap, about a dollar a bar. Then I grated it with the spice grater and made up more sachets. I like scent of Fels Naptha best and I’m using it again this year.

grating up fels naptha to make sachets


Which method am I currently employing to keep the bugs at bay? ALL. Well, I’m using as many as I can. I have a lot of yarn to protect.

  • There are bars of soap hidden in with my yarn. Whenever I need a new one for the bathroom its like going on a treasure hunt through my stash.
  • Last week I made up a dozen fresh sachets of clove and stuffed them in dedicated yarn closet.
  • This week I added fresh sachets of Fels-Neptha to the fiber stash bins.

That might be enough. I’m not sure. If I see a bug in my home, any variety of bug, it will probably set off another round of sachet making. That might make me sound a little nuts but I really, strongly, highly, recommend that you take a little time and protect your stash too. You love your stash. You spent plenty of money on it. You’ve given up living space for it. So tuck in some laundry bar soap or lavender or what ever else you like and keep it safe.

If you have mice in your stash call an exterminator. I’m pretty sure mice aren’t intimated by herbs and soap.


What’s that you say?

You may already have a bug problem? well…

1) Immediately seal up any suspect yarn in plastic bags. Use small bags and don’t over stuff.

2) Get bug repelling smelly stuff in the rest of your stash ASAP. Vacuum like a crazy person. Call a pest control company.

3) Take the bagged up yarn and freeze it. Yes, put it in your freezer, crank the freezer temperature down, and leave them there for at least three days. Longer is better. (In this stage you are killing bugs that are in the larva and adult form.)

4) Remove the bags from your freezer, open them up and shake our your yarn. Put the yarn back in those bags but don’t seal them. Leave them in a nice sunny spot for several more days. (Now you are encouraging the tiny, nearly invisible eggs to hatch and make more bugs.)

5) Seal them back up and put back in the freezer. (Hopefully this will kill the last of them but you may have to go through it a third time.)


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12 thoughts on “Weekly Rec – Keeping Bugs Out of Your Stash

  1. Way back when Europe was heavily importing silks from India, the silks were packed with patchouli to keep out the bugs. India has a lot of bugs and those old wooden ships were very dank and musty. That is how it came to be that patchouli lined the silk chests of Queens and patchouli was considered the scent of the very rich.
    Try some. It will grow in a warm shady spot and needs lots of water.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m actually having heart palpitations and sweating because my yarn is at home, completely unprotected while I am at work. I had no idea. Thank u so much for this one. I love all of ur posts and I think you come up with the COOLEST topics, but this one really hit home for me. MY PRECIOUS FIBER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no! While I’m happy to be the one who gave you a nudge I NEVER meant to cause real anxiety. Your yarn babies will be fine I’m sure.

      Glad you enjoy the blog! I have a blast writing for it.

      Like

    1. You are most welcome and I am happy to help.

      Also its very, very nice to get all this positive feedback. It makes me feel less like a crazy person for worrying about pests in my fiber stash. As I was writing this post, I was wondering how many readers would tell me to relax and not fret so much about a few bugs. Its nice to know I’m not alone!

      Like

  3. Like you, I have bars of soap all through my stash and if I suddenly find myself without bath soap, I rummage throught my stash to find a bar! Wish they still made Irish Spring! I have a bar of the Fels-Neptha; I bought it to try to the “wash a lock at a time method” for raw wool. It, um, has dust on it :O I will be on the lookout for Cloves sold in bulk; I like your hand-made sachet ideas. Great blog and very useful information, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If the Fels Neptha is dusty I guess there wasn’t much wool washing going on. Lol. I hate wool washing actually. What a hard job.

      Those cloves smell so wonderful. You’ll like having cloves scented yarn.

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  4. I thought mothballs were a form of camphor – guess I missed a memo! Thanks for the warning. Also about silverfish, which I did not know would eat fiber.
    Cloves – yum! What a lovely scent for your fiber. I have an old cedar wardrobe that I had intended to store yarn and fiber in, but then started using it as a wardrobe instead and there we are…bags of yarn in plastic storage containers all over the place. I used to freeze any new additions for a while (sort of Fiber Quarantine) before adding to stash, but I honestly never worried about bugs that might already be here! In my home! Argh!!

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    1. Freezer Quarantine is a good idea. I’ve wondered if I should institute that policy.

      Those silverfish are terrible. Every now and then I find one crawling around in my tub and it sets off a cleaning binge. I read somewhere that silverfish and carpet beetles do more damage to textiles than moths but I don’t know if that;s actually true.

      if I had that ceder wardrobe I’d pile yarn in on the bottom, tuck it into the pockets of any coats hanging in there, stuff balls into any shoes, etc. That baby would be packed with clothes AND yarn!

      Like

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