Imagine the South and its no stretch to conjure up an image of large, magnificent trees with Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) cascading from their branches, sine the plants southeastern U.S. natives. Preferring humid, hot climates in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 11, Spanish moss is a rootless plant, actually a type of bromeliad, that absorbs water and nutrients from the air. Used for generations as stuffing for mattresses, insulation and packing materials, today it is used primarily for its aesthetic quality in craft projects and as plant liners. Because the moss is a haven for pests and possibly plant diseases, clean and sterilize it before using it indoors.
Wear long-sleeve clothing, pants and gloves and sift through the Spanish moss to ensure that there are no larger pests, such as frogs and spiders, taking refuge inside. The protective clothing not only protects you against these types of pests, but chiggers, which irritate the skin.
Boil water in a large pot, preferably outdoors so you do not bring pests into your home. Place the moss in the water carefully -- it should still be separated some, not in huge clumps -- and boil for one minute to kill all the pests. You can also microwave a handful of moss at a time on high for one or two minutes.
Turn the burner off, let the water cool and drain. Or, carefully pour the water and moss over a large colander. Separate and spread out the moss in a dry location to let it dry overnight. Remove any additional debris at this time as well. Use the Spanish moss as desired after it is dry.