Why My Mom Puts Sweaters In The Freezer

There might be surprising benefits behind freezing your clothes.

Easy Freezer Meals
Photo: Ralph Anderson

Typically, one's freezer is stocked with ice cream, casseroles, Sister Schubert rolls, and various plastic bags containing freezer dinners (or unknown contents), but in my house, there’s always something unexpected—and I’m not talking ice rollers. Imagine opening your freezer and smack dab in the middle, amid the bags of frozen spaghetti sauce and bananas, is something fuzzy looking. That something would be my mother's light blue sweater in a ziplock plastic bag. 

The first time I opened the freezer to this scene in my childhood home, I thought, “This must have been a mistake.” However, I soon came to learn that there is a method behind my mother’s madness. According to her (and mother always knows best), someone once told her that you can kill moth eggs if you put the affected sweater into a ziplock bag and freeze it. Whether or not it actually works... if mom says so, I’ll try it. 

While moth balls are supposed to do the job in keeping the insects out of your closet, the freezer is the solution for when you find your favorite sweater with tiny holes. Turns out, it’s not the actual moth but the larvae doing the damage, and below freezing temps will kill them to stop the destruction. “If it gets really cold, below freezing, for a few days, I’ll put my sweaters outside to kill any moth eggs,” my mom advises. 

She also cautioned the importance of always properly cleaning your garments before putting them away. Moths are attracted to food and dirt particles, so it is especially critical to clean your sweaters before storing them away for the season to avoid hole-ridden knits next fall. 

How Freezing Your Clothes Works

While washing your garments in hot water is the easiest solution, most of the time the clothing targeted by the moth larvae, like wool, cashmere, and silk, is not suitable for typical laundering, which is where deep freezing comes into play. The abrupt change in temperature, from warm to freezing, kills the pests and it's the most cost-effective alternative for getting rid of them.

First, isolate the infested garments from the rest of your closet and place them in airtight, sealed bags. You’ll want to freeze them for at least 72 hours, but a week is best. When you remove the items from the freezer, let them thaw in an outdoor space, then shake out to remove any dead larvae or particles. Once treated, clean the clothing item according to the care instructions noted on its label.

Additional Benefits of Freezing Clothes

Sweaters: The cold temperatures draw the sweater fibers together, which helps prevent shedding and pilling—especially helpful when it comes to cashmere and wool. 

Tights: You can also freeze your tights, pantyhose, and delicate stockings to extend their longevity. For new pairs, before wearing, run them under water until damp, place in a plastic bag, and throw them in the freezer overnight. Once they thaw out, they’re ready to go and are stronger, making them less likely to face runs with wear. 

Jeans: You can go a few more wears between washes by tossing your jeans in the freezer to freshen and deodorize them. Doing so will extend the overall life of your jeans, keep the fit, and preserve the color longer. But this doesn’t mean forgoing the washing machine all together when it comes to killing bacteria. You still need to do that from time to time.

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