Cedar Wood for Closets

Rumors versus fact about the bug repellency of the traditional cedar-lined closet. May 20, 2011

I'm curious about placing cedar wood inside closets. I have seen entire walls inside a closet of cedar wood and have heard that this prevents moths from destroying clothes and keeps clothes from smelling bad over time. Is this true? How much cedar?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor V:
How much cedar depends on your client's preference. I have done closets where the entire closet was cedar lined. Cedar does prevent moths, though I don't remember the exact reasons. And some people love the smell. Just make sure your client understands that it can/will make their clothes smell.

From contributor P:
You have to use the correct cedar. It is an aromatic cedar, and it comes packaged and wrapped. The closet should be airtight when completed, with weather-stripped door and a vapor barrier (on all six surfaces). Then the cedar is applied on the walls, floor, ceiling and door. Just putting it on the walls is only for looks.

From contributor V:
You can buy aromatic cedar in bulk, 4/4, random widths and lengths as well as prepackaged. Get the bulk at your local hardwood dealer (some carry it, some don't). Get the packaged stuff at Lowes or Home Depot. It's about 5-8 times the cost of doing it yourself. It's a lot cheaper to mill it yourself than to buy the prepackaged. The only thing I would say is when you mill it yourself, be ready to use it immediately. I have had it warp and bow on occasion. Not much need in using cedar if you seal the closet like that. The little buggers couldn't get in even if they wanted to.

From contributor K:
It is really Juniperus virginiana, not a true cedar. In upstate New York there are places where it grows like weeds.

From Professor Gene Wengert, Sawing and Drying Forum technical advisor:
The cedar that you want is indeed Juniperus virginiana, which is also called aromatic cedar or eastern red cedar, and a few other local names. The idea of repelling moths has not been shown to be true, however. It is therefore important to make sure the door has a good seal.

Two other hints. First, some people prefer only using cedar for the bottom half of the closet walls to avoid overpowering aromas that stay with the clothes while you are wearing them. Second, the aroma is stronger if the wood is sanded and left unfinished. In fact, sanding can bring back some aroma to wood that has gone stale. Note that if the cedar is dried in a kiln at temperatures much over 85 degrees F, the aroma will evaporate and the wood aroma will not be nearly as strong, or may be almost totally gone. So, get wood from someone that knows how to dry it properly... usually a heated room at 80 F.

From contributor V:
I believe it's a myth about moths being repelled by cedar. Past research turned up expert opinions that called it a myth. But that bank-vault construction will keep out anything except gamma rays.