We’re calling this our Mothball-calypse

My clothesline is full of tiny little clothes.

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Before you get sentimental looking at these ruffle-bottomed sleepers, onesies with doggies and teeny-tiny swaddles, let me tell you: if the Internet could somehow transmit smell, you’d be frantically covering that vent on your computer right now.

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These clothes look sweet, but my goodness they smell. After two washes and over 48 hours on the clothesline, they’re getting back to normal. But we still have a ways to go. This is what happened.

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As David grew out of clothes, I did what every fiscally responsible parent does, I kept them organized, clean, packed them in labeled, tightly-sealed Rubbermaid containers, and put them up in the attic. A few months later, we needed something, so we opened our neatly-organized containers, and gasped in horror. A mouse family had made a nest in the clothes. My sweet, organized baby clothes were chewed and stained.

By the way, if you tell your friends that mice can get into Rubbermaid containers, your friends will be appalled. But if you tell Google, Google will roll its eyes and say, “OMG, you didn’t know that? Maybe you should stop spending so much time watching reality TV.”

Before putting the boxes back in the attic, we had to figure out how to mouse-proof them. I did some research, talked to some people, glared at my cat, and decided to store our clothes with mothballs. Forty years ago this would be a n0-brainer, but this is 2015 — there are people who don’t let their kids eat Goldfish because they have too many chemicals. We bought a box of mothballs and some giant Ziploc bags to protect the clothes. Our plan was that the clothes would never even touch the mothballs.

We folded, organized, and packed the clothes in the Ziplocs, sprinkled some mothballs around the sealed bags, put them back in the original Rubbermaids, and shipped the boxes up to the attic — high-fiving all the while at how we outsmarted those mice.

A few months later, just before Mary Virginia was born, we pulled the boxes back down from the attic. No mice! But my goodness, it smelled like the mothballs made a nest and had a hundred mothball babies. The boxes smelled so bad that we had to put them out in the yard. And we hadn’t even opened them. I’m surprised they weren’t glowing.

We took out all the mothballs, threw them into the Crack of Doom in Mordor, and started washing clothes. That didn’t help, so we washed, soaked, and hung them on the clothesline. We Googled, we checked Pinterest for ideas. We washed them with vinegar, with baking soda, we did an “anti-mothball-smell” dance around the clothes.

Keep in mind, these aren’t just clothes. They’re maternity clothes, newborn clothes, blankets and bibs for my babies. And this isn’t just an odor, it’s toxic fumes. 

Slowly, the smell faded. Fresh air seems to be the best strategy. We wash, hang, wash, so many time I lose count, then eventually wash a few mothballed items with a load of regular clothes. Then and only then do we put things in the drawers and on our bodies. Thankfully, the smell seems to leave natural fabrics most easily and most of my baby stuff if cotton, but fleece swaddles and stretchy maternity clothes are more challenging. Some things I’ve just had to pitch.

From now until May, I’ll be washing, hanging and repeating. Eventually, though, we’ll put this stuff back in the attic without mothballs…and I’m nervous. I know this sounds crazy, but if I had to choose between a) throwing out clothes that have been chewed up and stained with mouse filth and b) washing and re-washing clothes for two straight months…I sort of choose the latter. But actually, I choose neither.

We have entire boy and girl wardrobes in our attic, from baby clothes to hand-me-downs that they haven’t even grown into yet. And next time I unpack it I don’t want to go into the attic and see a raccoon family having a tea party, wearing Mary Virginia’s bonnets.

How do you guys store baby clothes?


  1. Kelly March 20, 2015

    The raccoon tea party bit got me. Funny stuff. I don’t have any advice though as I don’t have any baby clothes to protect…I have used cedar disks before to protect clothes in storage but the Internet is nay-saying me on that one…peppermint oil?

  2. Ivy March 21, 2015

    Lavender sachets. Also I bought some really expensive cedar infused Rubbermaid. Clothes were great between Harris & George. Haven’t looked since.

  3. Pinon Coffee March 22, 2015

    I was going to say lavender sachets, too. I get those ones from Trader Joe’s that are made of actual lavender and use them in the dryer every load. I know you hang dry, but maybe for when you put stuff back in the bins? It might help dispel the mothball mania.


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