Tips for Storing and Protecting Out of Season Clothing

All fabrics need to be protected against dust, mildew and bugs, especially clothing moths and carpet beetles. The biggest problem with these pests is that they can do considerable damage before you even know that they are there! If you store your garments with care this year you will be able to enjoy them for many years to come.

This three step program will ensure that your clothing emerges in perfect condition every season

  1. Clean

    Always wash or dry clean garments immediately before extended storage to remove mildew spores and insect eggs. Tumbling in a clothes dryer with high heat for 10 minutes also eliminates insect eggs. Grease and food spots might provide a tasty treat for pests so ensuring cleanliness is critical. Any garment including synthetic fibers with a food or body oil stain is susceptible to damage.

    Remember to empty the pockets of all the clothes you're going to be putting away until next season then launder or dry-clean everything. Yes, even if you've only worn it once. You'll avoid stains that set before you next wear your clothes, including invisible ones from perspiration, perfume or beverages. Stains become a food source for carpet beetles and moths, which will eat through the fabric to get to the food.

    That's also why you should avoid starching clothes before putting them away. The starch not only feeds bugs, it can also weaken the fabric, leading to brittleness and, in a humid environment, it can lead to permanent stains
  2. Enclose

    Enclose your cleaned garments to protect them from damage. Use blanket and sweater storage bags and hanging garments bags available in cotton or heavy duty vinyl. You can also use sweater boxes, under-bed boxes, large storage containers and show boxes in a variety of materials and sizes. You can use breathable bags for your leather, suede and fur storage.
  3. Repel

    Repel pests using one of the following:

    Cedar Products offer natural protection against damage from moths, mildew and mustiness. The aroma of cedar repels adult moths from wanting to enter that environment to lay her eggs. The amount you need depends on the size of the container and how frequently it is opened and exposed to air and light. If you can smell it, so can the moths. You can rejuvenate aging cedar by spraying with cedar mist or by rubbing the cedar with sand paper to revive the scent. You can also use sachets, blocks, balls and hangers to allow you to add cedar easily. Cedar also helps absorb dampness and odors. Cedar, which comes in hangers, boxes, blocks and drawer liners, should be sanded with fine-grade sandpaper after each season because otherwise the surface oxidizes, eliminating the moth-repelling scent.

    Moth Away is an herbal repellent which comes in convenient sachets. The blend of natural herbs is a fresh smelling alternative to cedar and provides protection for up to nine months

    Moth Balls is the method of choice for those cases where you suspect an infestation . Since moth-balls use an insecticide, it kills pests. For use in the closet, place moth-balls as high as possible. The vapors are heavier than air and will drift downward to provide continuous protection for up to three months. Happily the para-Dicholorobenzene vapors in moth-balls don't linger on fabrics like old fashioned mothballs made of camphor or naphthene. You can wear your garment the same day!

Frequently asked questions

Which type of product should I use?

If you have never had a problem with pests, you should be safe using the cedar products with your freshly cleaned garments. Be sure that all garments are cleaned before enclosing and adding cedar. Otherwise, moths could still crawl over from a soiled item and eat a hole in a newly cleaned item.

How much do I need?

The amount needed depends upon a number of variables.

  • How often do you open the closet door or garment bag?
  • Are the conditions hot or humid?
  • Your best bet is to let your nose be your guide. If you can smell it, it's working.

If I cleaned my sweaters last year and haven't worn them this year, will they be safe in my cedar closet?

Not necessarily. If an insect crawled in and laid eggs during the time they were in your regular closet, putting them in a cedar closet won't do any good; in fact, it could infest your entire cedar closet! A cedar closet will repel adult moths from entering that space to lay eggs but it has no effect on eggs or larvae that are already there. Cedar won't prevent moths from eating their way through a number of items in the cedar closet. So unless you can clean, enclose and repel all your clothes together, you might be better off using moth-balls to be sure.

Will insects eat synthetic fabric?

YES! Both moths and carpet beetles are looking for grease or food stains. They will eat holes in nylon and other synthetic fabrics just to get at stains.

I have a moth problem, but I don't like using insecticides all the time? What do I do?

You might use moth-balls in a closet for two weeks to kill any insects or larvae then replace it with cedar products. Once you have killed the pests you need only repel new ones to be safe.

Which products do you recommend

Rubbermaid makes plastic containers that are great to store off-season clothes. They can be purchased through or Home Depot. You can also get Sterlite containers that lock at Target stores. Otherwise I recommend cedar closets built to repel all the bugs that can ruin your clothes.

You have probably spent thousands of dollars on your wardrobe; isn't it worth a few dollars to protect your investment?

To wash wool and knit sweaters here is a great tip:


The following method used on mohair, wool, and cotton, will produce a soft and silky sweater or throw:

  1. Fill machine with cool water and add Orvis or EUCALAN WOOL WASH (1 tsp for a small load).
  2. Agitate to allow the soap to thoroughly mix with the water.
  3. Add article to water and allow to soak for 30 minutes to over night.
  4. Close the lid and switch machine dial to SPIN cycle.
  5. After machine has completed the spin cycle, remove the article and place in a dryer.
  6. Set machine temperature at cool and FLUFF for about 5 minutes.
  7. Remove from dryer and lay the article flat on a towel or frame for drying sweaters.
  8. NEVER allow machine to agitate at any time while the article is in the machine as it will cause the article to felt.


Hand wash, using 1/4 cup of soda to 2 gallons of cool water. Let soak for 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly. Dry to damp and air fluff for a few minutes.

All fabrics need to be protected against dust, mildew and bugs, especially bed bugs, clothing moths and carpet beetles

How to get rid of bedbugs
Bedbugs are creepy and you want them gone NOW. This 5 minute video gives you the steps to follow

Cynthia Braun is a certified professional organizer for Suffolk County, New York