Tips and Information
Rodents leave droppings,
materials, gnaw through
protective materials and
leave trails of debris and a
Many species of spiders will use
textiles as a location for web
building. Through careful
observation,this can be
eliminated before it becomes
problematic. Some spiders,
however, if allowed to cohabitate
near textile artifacts, often accumulate soils, and
cause damage and stains.
The single most effective way to
avoid damage and to combat
invading pests is through a
system of management. A textile
custodian can avoid full blown
infestations by securing food in
sealed containers away from
textile artifacts, keeping textile
storage and display areas clean,
and inspecting displayed and
stored textiles frequently.
The two moths primarily
posing a problem for textiles
are the Case Making Moth
and the Webbing Moth. The
exact identification is not
critical as they are dealt with
in the same manner, both in
prevention and eradication.
If a moth is observed in
flight, it is highly likely that
an infestation of moth
larvae is in progress or will
imminently begin. It is
exclusively the larvae that
do the damage, as the adult
moth's job is to reproduce
and relocate. Other signs of
infestation are dislodged
textile fibers and the sandy
frass excreted by larvae
found near a textile object.
Fabric moths seek and eat protein in fur,
feathers, wool and skin.
They will also eat soiled
synthetic and cellulose
fibers, finding nutrition in food and body
soils left on textile surfaces.
Certain types of ants nest in
surprising places: beneath layers
of folded textiles, inside a leather
ottoman, or up and under fabric
covered furnishings. Often, ants
simply traverse textile surfaces
on their way to and from
foraging. Ants represent the
type of pest that lives and
breeds in one place and gathers
food in another.
Large pellet-like excretia,
identifiable egg cases and a
noticeable odor will alert you
to a cockroach invasion.
Roaches are active in the night,
generally in warm, damp
places like bathrooms and
kitchens. A cockroach's diet
varies widely, depending upon
what food source is available.
In museum environments,
especially tropical ones, cockroaches
are less predictable and will
eat, reproduce, and defecate in
and on textile artifacts.
Identify the problem.
Eradication strategies include assessing the pest situation by identifying the signs infestation.
Determine the extent of the damage.
If, for example, frass is found on the floor below a displayed textile and, upon inspection, the
piece is in a state of active infestation, other textiles in the environment need to be checked also.
Isolate the affected textiles
by placing them, alone, in a clear plastic bag , taped closed.
Contact a textile conservator for specific professional advice,
in a timely manner, as insects that eat textiles are voracious. Heating, freezing and treating the
artifact in an anoxic environment are techniques for killing insects on textiles. Further treatment
to remove all insect debris must follow. Consulting with a professional who will assess the
situation and choose the best eradication approach is advised.
Avoid the use of pesticides such as moth balls.
The active ingredients in commercially available moth detractants is naphthalene or
paradichlorobenzene. They are meant to be used in a closed container, but when the container is
opened, the textile will retain the sublimated fumes for a period of time, risking human and pet
health. The active ingredients can also be problematic for multi-media textile artifacts.