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How Long Does Cedar Last?

by Household Essentials • September 06, 2017
Like so many natural products, there's a right way to use cedar to get the most out of it.  And there's a wrong way that will disappoint you.  Make sure you know the difference so you can decide if cedar is right for you and your home.  'Cause it's not for everybody.

How long does cedar last, really?

That depends entirely on how your space is laid out and used.  Cedar works best and lasts longest in enclosed areas: think a closed up cedar closet that is only opened twice a year to change out the winter/summer clothes.  This is because cedar oil is what make cedar effective.  That oil rises to the surface of the wood and is absorbed into the air.  When the air is contained, that concentration stays high, keeping the cedar "effect" strong.  When the closet, drawer, or chest is opened frequently, that concentrated air spreads out into the room frequently and quickly.  The scent fades more quickly as fresh air comes in again and again.  (Again, think about the difference between spraying perfume in a car vs. spraying it in a large room vs. spraying it outside.) 

So, in the best conditions, about a year.
In okay conditions, 6 months.
In fair conditions, 3 months.
In an open space, maybe 1?

Also bear in mind that dryer climates will dry out cedar (and its oil!) more quickly than humid climates.  So if your fire wood dries out quickly, so will your cedar! 

How much cedar should I use?

Use enough cedar blocks or cedar balls so there’s a nice layer of scent.  It should be distinctive and noticeable before you close up the storage--this is especially true for things like long-term clothing storage, chests, and basement storage.  Then, if you're only opening the storage 2x a year, you might only be refreshing the cedar annually.  Really, it's as needed. 

For all storage, use the 24 hour test to stock your storage area.  Load up your storage area with clothes (or whatever) and cedar.  Close it.  If you can smell cedar when you open it 24 hours later, then there's enough cedar.  If not, add more.  Fortunately, with cedar, too much of a good thing isn't really a risk.  There's nothing toxic to you or the fabrics in cedar oils.  So bring on the cedar!

How do I know if cedar is good?

Cedar is wood, so you'll treat it like you would, well, wood. 

Cedar should be fresh smelling (if you like the scent of cedar--some people don't!).  There is enough cedar oil on the surface when you can smell the cedar from no less than 3 inches from your nose.  Fresh, fresh cedar in quantity can be smelled from much farther away!

All cedar will dry over time as oil evaporates into the air (like it should).  As scent fades, sand your cedar or spray it with Cedar Power Spray.  A light touch will do. 

Common misconceptions

Cedar works in all closets.
Unfortunately, no: Cedar works in enclosed spaces.  A wide open area, a closet whose doors are opened frequently or left open, or a dresser whose drawers are left open are bad candidates for cedar.  Cedar is a natural pest control remedy that can really work when used properly (i.e., high concentration in enclosed spaces).  However, if not used in a space that matches how cedar works, then it's not going to be an effective pest-control solution.

I can make my bedroom closet into a cedar closet!
Sort of, sure!  With enough cedar accessories (and may I recommend the tongue and groove cedar panels?), there's some truth here.  The trick is concentration and sealing off the closet doors.  If the closet is open, uses curtains, or is on slides, the cedar scent is going to fade very quickly (because the cedar is freshening a constant supply of new air--not actually good for the way cedar works). So, lots of cedar--refreshed more often--with the doors closed well!

Cedar lasts forever.
Nope.  It lasts as long as there is oil in the fibers.  When the wood is completely dried out or used up, the cedar needs to be replaced entirely.

Cedar kills moths.
Yes and no.  Cedar kills the LARVAE of the clothing moth.  It has no effect on the common moth that hangs out by your lamp post or the moths that get into pantries.  Clothing moths are a specific kind of moth that seek out dark, seldom used spaces like linen closets where they feast on things like cotton, linen, and silk.  Cedar will not get rid of adult clothing moths (though they don't seem to like cedar scent much, so it is a deterrent to them moving in).  It kills their young.  THAT'S how it works.

For a moth infestation, it takes a combination of thorough cleaning and cedar to really do the trick--and time.  Expect to use cedar, but also to empty the space, clean all fabrics (outside if possible so eggs don't fall inside and make your issues worse), wash down walls and surfaces, and vacuum several times over.  Then do it all again.  Freezing fabrics can work great on delicates!