Summertime shouldn't be synonymous with the pungent smell of mothballs, but for people lucky enough to have a summer house to steal away to, too often it is. Mothballs tend to lurk in cottages and suitcases, and other places that get used for just one part of the year. Afraid that long winters will lead to infestation by moths (and other critters), folks use mothballs to protect woolen blankets and overcoats from getting eaten while they're in storage.
Here's how traditional mothballs work: solid chemicals like napthalene and paradichlorobenzene are formed into marble-sized balls that slowly become gas when exposed the air. The toxic air kills moths that eat your clothes and makes every single thing in the vicinity stink to high heavens. The National Pesticide Information Center recommends that mothballs not be used outdoors because of the damage they can cause to plant and animal life, not to mention to the water supply and air quality. I don't know about you, but if mothballs aren't safe for Mother Nature, I'm making the leap that they're not safe for me.
The good news is that a whole slew of lovely smelling herbs can work as effectively to keep moths away from your woolens. With this simple DIY, you can swap your mothballs for a sachet that's not only sweet-smelling, but pleasant to look at, too.
Photographs by Erin Boyle.
Above: To begin the project, I went to the spice section of my local grocery store and bought two packets of small muslin spice bags. If you have old handkerchiefs lying around, those can work as nicely. If you're handy with a sewing machine, you can sew your own sachets, and if you're not, you can create a little bundle and tie the ends together instead of sewing. A packet of 25 Cotton Muslin Drawstring Bags is available from Celestial Gifts for $12.50.
Above: Next, I gathered herbs that are known for their ability to ward off clothes moths. I used lavender, spearmint, thyme, rosemary, cloves, and cinnamon. Mountain Rose Herbs is a terrific online resource for bulk herbs, or you can head to your local natural foods store to buy smaller quantities of bulk herbs. Other herbs known for repelling insects include tansy, ginger, and citronella.
Above: Red cedar is a an old standby when it comes to warding off moths, so much so that some houses have entire closets made from the stuff. If you're not ready for a closet renovation, cedar shavings will do the trick. 5 Cups of Organic Red Cedar Shavings is $5.99 from Stress Tamer Spa.
Above: I found it easiest to fill my small spice bags with red cedar shavings before adding the other herbs.
Above: I blended my other herbs in equal proportions (roughly 4 tablespoons of each kind) and used a small wooden spoon to help distribute to the mixture into my spice bags.
Above: Spice bags filled with herbs and cedar shavings.
Above: As I worked, I gave each bag a soft tap on the table to be sure that the herbs were working their way around the cedar shavings and not just staying on top.
Above: To finish, I slid a stick of cinnamon down the side of each filled bag, helping to tamp down the herbs.
Above: After the bags were filled, I tied each one closed and gave the outside of the bag a good squeeze to help crush the cedar and release the herbal essential oils.
Above: Finished bags should last for a whole season, or more. Periodically squeezing the bags will release essential oils and increase their effectiveness. I like to use one sachet for each of my drawers in all seasons, just to be safe.
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