Almost all knitters (and crocheters and weavers) eventually end up with more yarn than they can use. The result: the yarn stash.
However big or small your stash is, you’ll want to store your beautiful, and possibly expensive, yarns safely. Keeping your yarn clean, dry, out of reach of rodents, cats, sun and heat are obvious, but what about the dreaded clothes moth?
Mothballs are effective, but do you really want to spend hours and hours working on a project made with yarn that smells of mothballs??? Ugh. I do NOT recommend it. (Washing yarn before it becomes a hat, sweater, pillow, washcloth, etc is possible, but time consuming and tedious.)
Fortunately, essential oils offer a variety of effective and MUCH better smelling options. Essential oils protect your yarn in different ways. Some can kill clothes moths in one or more of their life stages, but most act to repel clothes moths or to disguise the delicious scent of our precious yarn so the moths can’t find them.
Warnings & Caveats
All essential oils come with the risk of skin irritation and none are approved for human consumption in the US, so keep them out of the reach of children.
It can be difficult to find real essential oils. Bear in mind that the word “pure” has no legal meaning. However, if something claims to be 100% of a particular oil, that’s probably harder to get around, legally. Do your best to find a reputable supplier.
Not all essential oils repel moths. This post only discusses essential oils that have been found to be effective against clothes moths.
Some essential oils may attract other insects. For example, bees emit a lemony scent to help guide their colony to a new home. Beekeepers commonly use lemongrass essential oil to make a new hive more attractive to newly installed bees.
If bees scare you, or you’re allergic, you shouldn’t use lemongrass or lemon essential oils, even though they are effective at protecting your yarn by repelling clothes moths.
11 Recommended Essential Oils
- Lemon – may attract bees
- Cedar – may kill moths in one or more of their life stages
- Lemongrass – attracts bees
- Peppermint – also repels rodents
- Tansy – also repels ants
- Garlic – well, you know
- Eucalyptus – may kill moths in one or more of their life stages
How to Use Essential Oils on Your Stash
Essential oils are volatile. They will quickly evaporate, unless stored in an airtight container. However, yarn does NOT do well stored in an airtight container. One solution is to apply the essential oils to absorbent materials and put the treated material in your stash container(s) with your yarns.
Commonly used materials are:
- cotton balls
- small pieces of wood (usually cedar)
If you’re thinking that “yarns are absorbent materials, so why not skip the middleman?”, you may have a point. However, some essential oils may stain some yarns. The only way to be sure would be to do test spots on your yarn.
If you decide to go the direct application route, you may want to dilute the essential oils in water. Some recommend using several drops of oils/cup of water while others recommend a half & half solution of water and essential oils. Either way, spot test to protect your yarn.
Each of the essential oils listed above can be used on their own or in combination. You could come up with your own unique yarn storage perfume blend.
Finally, as noted above, essential oils are volatile. They will evaporate & disappear over time. You will have to check your stash periodically to make sure you can still smell the essential oils. Moths have a much better sense of smell than we do, so if you can smell it, so can they. Try checking weekly, to start with.
If you have any questions about this or any other knitting related topic, please put it in the comment section and I’ll do my best to find an answer.
If you have any yarn storage ideas you’d like to share, please add them below!