What Are Fabric Pests

Fabric Pests are insects that cause a lot of damage each year by eating vulnerable fabrics. They infest sweaters, coats, upholstery, piano felts, blankets and any other woolen products. Furs, hair, leathers and hides, feathers, horns, insect and animal collections and such stored foods as meat, fish, meal and milk products are also vulnerable to these insects. Synthetic fibers and cellulose materials are damaged only incidentally, often because they are soiled with greasy food stains, body oils, or other residues which are the primary object of the insect attack. Fabric pests have the ability to digest and utilize keratin as an energy source. Keratin is the chief protein constituent of such human tissues as hair, fingernails and skin. Keratin is a protein which is quite stable chemically and is very resistant to most means of digestion. Few animals are able to digest keratin, and these include only a relatively small number of insects. This peculiar ability to digest keratin, coupled with our widespread use of wool and other animal hair, is the basis of fabric pest problems in our societies.

Fabric pests includes silverfish, clothes moths and carpet beetles. The silverfish prefer substances of plant origin such as cotton cellulose and starch instead of the protein substance keratin.

Usually clothes stored for long periods of times fall victim to fabric pests. The best prevention is to inspect materials that contain animal fibers regularly and store them only after they have been brushed and cleaned appropriately. Stored items should be kept in tightly sealed chests or storage closets.

If you find fabrics that look as though they are "moth-eaten" start checking corners around rugs, under furniture and in woolen and silk clothes that have not been moved for a long time.

Cleaning is the best option to eliminate an infestation or prevent one and your vacuum often is your best weapon. When cleaning, pay close attention to areas where lint accumulates, around furniture and in the corners of rooms. If you are cleaning an active infestation, be sure to dispose of the contents of the vacuum cleaner bag outside. Clean or dispose of infested materials. For items that can not be discarded or cleaned well, consider placing the infested item in a freezer for one week.  Periodic brushing and sunning of stored fabrics is also helpful in prevention and control.


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