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Dealing With Bugs on Vintage

Pests and what to do when they "bug" your vintage



Pesky Moth

Photo: David De Lossy/Getty
Insects are part of life; but they can be a big pain too, especially when they come between you and your vintage.

Pesky pests don't always mean that your vintage has to be exterminated too. The first step is identifying the culprit. Then you can try some at home solutions to save that vintage and get rid of the bugs that have been bugging you


    Poor moths, though part of the same family as the butterfly, they just don't have the same reputation. The biggest reason they don't get any respect is because they have a favorite food that really gets humans mad: clothing.

    More specifically, the moth larvae feed on natural fibers like wool, cotton, and fur. On top of that, they're attracted to sweat, oil, and hair; meaning there's not much that we wear that they wouldn't want to eat.

    If you don't want to tangle with moths, here's what you can do:

  • Prevention
    Don't store dirty clothes! It's a simple as that. If there's nothing on your clothes to attract the moths in the first place, you'll be moth free!

  • Security
    Just for peace of mind (because you're going to only store clean clothes, right?) you can use a moth repellant wherever your vintage is stored. Since mothballs are pretty poisonous and smell horrendous, stick with a more natural repellant like cedar. Herbs such as lavender, eucalyptus, mint, and rosemary have also be attributed to repelling moths.

    Bedbugs are apple seed sized, flat, dark brown to reddish purple insects that feed on human blood (so don't look to Fido, it's not his fault for once). The risk of bedbugs being on vintage clothes is low, and in many cases, lowers than the risk of new clothes.

    Bed bugs can live up to one year without "food" (a.k.a. your blood), so for vintage items that have not been worn for decades, you are pretty safe. However, when vintage items are sold in a store and can be tried on, the risk becomes equal to that of new clothing.

    If you have even the slightest suspicion of bed bugs on a vintage item, you can take one or more of the following steps to get rid of them permanently:

    • Burn 'Em:
      Laundering at high tempatures will kill any bedbugs and their eggs. If it is safe to do so with the vintage item, washing and drying at tempatures of at least 120°F (49°C) will do the trick.

      For more delicate vintage items such as "Dry Clean Only", skip the washing and pop in the dryer at 160°F (71°C) for 10-20 minutes. It won't harm the clothing but it will kill the bugs. (Note: If you have even the slightest reservation or reason to not put a vintage item in the dryer, then don't!)

    • Freeze 'Em:
      Bedbugs are just as suceptable to cold as heat. Sealing an item thought to be infested very tightly in plastic and then freezing for 5 days - 2 weeks at a minimum of 23°F (-5°C) will also kill bedbugs and their eggs. Go for the full 2 weeks if you're unsure of your freezer's temperature.
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