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No more moth balls

Feb 17, 2014
A recent newsletter from the Self Storage Association addressed a concern from Trading Standards that some self storage businesses could still be offering moth balls containing naphthalene to their customers for protecting items, especially clothes, while in store.

Naphthalene is banned for use in mothballs and any company found supplying them to customers could be penalised. It is made from the distillation of coal into coke and is produced when burning any fossil fuel.  Breathing fumes containing naphthalene can cause nausea, vomiting and a range of other ailments such as diarrhoea, sweating and convulsions.  Skin contact can cause irritation and contact with the eyes can lead to the formation of cataracts according to advice from the Health Protection Agency. The substance is also possibly carcinogenic.

Many moving companies will remember a time when the use of moth balls containing naphthalene was common in the industry.  David Trenchard from Britannia Leatherbarrows said that he used to buy it by the sack in the days before containerised storage and liberally throw it in loose flaked and powder form by hand on rugs and carpets and offer to redo annually for jobs in store a long time.  “We never washed our hands until the end of the day and even ate our sandwiches and Chelsea buns between doing this,” he said. “It was stored in a wooden bin under the mobile steps in each warehouse.   It’s a good job containerisation came in.   I am sure every mover and storer of that time did the same thing.”

But nowadays using naphthalene is not allowed.  So, what’s the alternative?  A quick phone around the industry’s materials suppliers has drawn a blank so there doesn’t seem to be an accepted replacement technology.  However, moths are not usually too keen on munching on man-made fibres so unless the clothes contain a lot of wool or cotton you are probably safe.  If you do have a problem, the Green Living website suggests that liberally scattering cedar chippings works well and also says that moths might be repelled by bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cloves, lavender, and peppercorn. These alternatives should be wrapped tightly in cheesecloth and put amongst the clothing.

Good luck!

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