Ask Alice: About moths, fuel for fireplaces and Thailand interiors

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The Independent Online

I found moth holes in some winter clothes in my wardrobe. I heard that mothballs may be dangerous, and wonder what you would advise for getting rid of moths.
Cheryl Thomas, by e-mail

You're right to worry about mothballs. Apart from their hideous smell, they generally contain either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzine, which can cause damage to the central nervous system, particularly in young children.

To prevent an invasion, the first step is to ensure that all your clothes are stored in a clean condition. But if you have an established problem, the sooner you treat it the better. Hoover all your clothes and the inside of the wardrobe immediately; you may not find evidence of moths, as the larvae - the things that eat your clothes - are too small to see. Hoover every inch, and then dispose of your hoover bag carefully.

If the problem is severe, you may need to empty the cupboard and spray the inside with a suitable insecticide. You can kill moth eggs by running your clothes through the tumble-drier on a hot cycle, although this may damage certain fabrics. Freezing will destroy the eggs, but may not be practical unless you own a big chest freezer. If so, put your clothes into vacuum bags and leave them in the freezer for three days.

To prevent re-infestation, make your own moth-proofing bags using a mixture of equal parts of dried rosemary, mint, lavender and thyme. Add a handful of cloves, tie the mixture up in little bags of muslin and hang them in your cupboard.

I am concerned about the predicted cold weather ahead and have decided to stock up on fireplace fuel. Do coal men still deliver? And can I buy a coal bunker?
Neville Penton, Staines

The Solid Fuel Association ( can supply you with a list of approved coal merchants in your area who will deliver. Most supply a minimum order of 25kg. Prices for smokeless fuel start at about £8.30 for 25kg. As for the bunker, Gone Gardening ( has a galvanised 500kg capacity bunker for £120. The Solid Fuel Association also sells a dark green plastic 500kg bunker for £169. Remember not to burn house coal or unseasoned logs if you live in a smokeless zone - as most of London is.

I've just returned from Thailand and loved the interiors there. I would like to introduce some elements into my own home but am not sure where to find genuine inspiration, rather than just the East meets West generic style. Any ideas?
Madeleine Caldwell, Putney

Why not get first-hand information via a seminar by the leading Thai interior designer Ou Baholyodhin? "Thai Inspiration: a new language in contemporary design" is the title of a lecture to be held at Asia House (63 New Cavendish Street, London W1, 020-7307 5454, at 6.30pm on 24 November; tickets £7). As well as discussing the culture of Thailand, Ou will explore how Thai design has become an international phenomenon, as well as identifying up-and-coming names in the industry. It should provide you with a great starting point.

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