Laundry Blues!

So I have a bit of a mystery. I think I may have figured it out, but am not completely sure. For a while now I’ve noticed little pin holes turning up in our cotton knits-mostly Jay’s t-shirts and occasionally my underwear. They’re kind of everywhere on the effected articles of clothing-not just in the same spot. It almost looks like its been shot with buckshot or something-a random scatter pattern -on the front, back, top and bottom. ONLY on cotton knits-not regular cotton clothing, wool etc.

Kind of looks like moth holes huh? I thought so too and freaked out! Ick! Bugs? Are you kidding me?!!! I haven’t seen moths flying out of our dresser drawers, but was nervous so I decided to look online for help. I searched under “holes in clothing”. Woah! There were lots of people having similar problems. There is one site, Garden Web, which has been having people writing in about this since 2006! These folks are quite distressed and from time to time tempers flare. Let me tell you, there are tons of theories out there about what is going on. However, not everyone’s situation matches ours. For example, lots of people only seem to get holes in their shirts around the belly button area, which lead to a the “belly -button bug” explanation (Heeheehee!) So some victims of this phenomenon believe that there is some sort of bug, fungus, etc. that lives in our belly buttons and comes out from time to time to eat holes in our cotton knits. Hmmm……..Anyway, a more credible theory is that it is some sort of bug-not the dreaded belly-button bug- but moths or carpet bettles-are doing the damage. Indeed, one might not even see any evidence of moths flying around, yet they could still be there. However, the moth larva would leave little web like casings on the clothing or you might find some sign or bug bits-wings, body bits etc- in the bottom of the dresser drawers. Web looking stuff on clothing? Well, first of all let me just say that I am NOT a big fan of spiders. I’ve tried to make many treaties with them in the past. You know, like I see one in the house and don’t squash it immediately, but go to the trouble of capturing it to release it outside. I make sure I announce to my little prisoner of war “I’m going to let you go this time but you guys need to stay outside. I won’t bother you there, but you can not come into the house…. OR ELSE!” I’m hoping he will promptly tell all his spider cronies about the deal…..However, spiders are notorious treaty breakers. It hasn’t really worked out how I might have hoped. Soooooo…..believe me- if I ever saw web type things on our clothes I would assume that my old enemies had invaded and were living in my dressers. In which case I would undoubtedly be writing this blog from a nice relaxing institution somewhere. Needless to say, there are no web type cocoons on our clothes. I did pull all of our clothing out of the dressers and peer at the bottom of the drawers with a flashlight-no bug evidence anywhere. I quickly unfolded t-shirts-trying to sneak up on the bugs unaware-Nope, nothing.

So I went back to Garden Web to read that the new type front loading washers sometimes can cause the damage. They have all those little pin holes in the drum for extracting water during the spin cycle. The theory is that during spin cycles the clothing is pulled into the holes. Sometimes the holes are sharp but often it is just that the force of the spin is too strong and cotton knit fibers are broken in the process. In a knit of course this would result in unraveling and hence the holes. Bummer-I thought front loaders were supposed to be much more gentle on our clothes. As I read on I found that people also seem to think the new fangled HE detergents are too strong and though they get our clothes squeaky clean, while brightening whites and colors alike, they weaken the fibers and make breakage more likely to occur. What?! Is this some sort of conspiracy?!! So, I’m not really sure it is the washer, though I’m leaning that way over the bug idea. We have a Maytag Neptune Washer-front loading-from about 2000. It was here when Jay bought the house. The majority of the clothing that is effected is clothing we wear a lot and thus wash frequently. However, some of the items are rather new, so its not just like the clothing “wore out”. I don’t know what to do to be honest….do we need a new washer or an exterminator? Hmmm……….

6 Responses to Laundry Blues!

  1. Cheryl says:

    I always wondered why my front-loading washer (that we got a year or so ago) automatically selects slower spin speeds for delicate and doesn’t even give you the option of manually changing it to “fast” for hand washables. Makes sense now!

    Great blog, and not just because I can find out more on here about what John’s up to than I ever will from him!!!!!!!!!! :p~~~

  2. Christie says:

    Hello-I just read your blog and it seems I could have wrote it myself. Finding the exact same holes and have done the exact same investigating. We too have a older front loader and have noticed the holes only in cotton knits(tshirts,tanks,cotton-knit sheets,ect…)I’ve noticed it more lately though and sometimes there is only one or two little holes in the tshirts—I’m baffled as to what it could be—I’ve been looking for bug evidence but haven’t found any—it’s driving me crazy not to mention giving me the willies if it’s bugs! We live in GA and have NO BUG PROBLEMS inside the house. Did you ever figure out what the problem was??????? Help. and thanks for the blog. 🙂

    • liadh1 says:

      Hi Christie-
      Wow! I think a lot of folks have this problem. That blog entry consistently gets a good number of hits every month, so you and I are definitely not alone! You know, we never really did figure out what exactly was causing the holes. I do not believe it was bugs -yeah, I was losing my mind at the thought of that…creepy!- though and do believe it is my washing machine. Here’s why. We have notice far fewer holes in clothing since I started washing knit t-shirts and underwear by themselves on the delicate cycle. I also switch to woolite laundry soap since I read somewhere that many of the newer soaps used chemicals to make clothes whiter and brighter, but in the process damaged the fibers. With knits, if one fiber gets broken, as you know, they just unravel. I won’t say I haven’t seen any new holes, there was one t-shirt that turned up with one, but that’s about it. If it had been bugs causing the holes, I assume they would have continued to appear on my clothes in the same rate. We didn’t do any spraying or other extermination actions, just changed what I mentioned above in how I did my laundry. I still have the old washer, though we are contemplating a new one. I don’t know what to do as far as that though – go back to a top loader, go to one of those fancy steam ones – so we haven’t made a move.

      Good luck to you and I hope you figure it out. If you get any further clues in this mystery, please send me another comment!

  3. Anneke says:

    I have the same problem and I also thought that it came from moths, I’ve got those special things hanging in my cupboards, to protect my clothes from the moths and I checked everything and can’t find any trace of moths being in my cupboards. Now I read this, that it is possible that it is my new washing machine. I was also had a look in my washing machine. If there was something sharp in there, but no, everything is nice and smooth. I don’t know if it is my washing powder. I’ve have changed several times, tried liquid washing detergent, but it makes no difference. Don’t know what to do about it any more as it is in most of my shirts/tops 😦

  4. Angie says:

    I know it is the front loader washer’s because I get the same holes when I go to the laundromat.Because some of the holes in the washer are slightly pulled up, maybe from buckles and other metal objects on clothing.,and when it hits the spin cycle it resembles a cheese grater and makes the hole .The holes are the same size as the holes in the washer. Even when the holes are flat depending on the weight of the laundry it goes in the holes and tears them because the inside of the hole is sharp. I find that it is better not to over load the washer so that the weight of the clothes don’t push in to the holes. I like top loaders but can not have one in my apartment.

  5. Michelle says:

    I’ve had the same mystery holes appear for the last year in my clothes, my husband’s, and 2 of our children’s. No sign of bugs. Sprayed the house several times to no avail. The only thing that seemed to help was loading clothes into the truck during the freezing winter weather. Once the clothing was back in, the mystery holes attacked. Polyester seems completely immune. I found a box of my son’s clothing, and ALL of the cotton and cotton mix shirts were swiss cheese. The polyester? Untouched.

    I have an older Maytag washer (top loading) that has never harmed clothing. I’ve also gotten new shirts, didn’t even wash or use them, and found them with holes! This bug must be tiny from start to finish.

    I can’t seem to find anything useful online in how to get rid of this problem, so I’m going to get to know the joys of an all polyester (go 70’s!) wardrobe. Better than throwing clothes out all the time.

    I’d like to thank this old old rental home and the landlord who saved a couple hundred dollars by not shampooing the carpet (although she said they would) before we moved in.

    If anyone has a theory that’s more plausible than belly button monsters or front loading washers, please let me know!

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