How to Get Rid of Mothballs Smell in Your Home

How to Get Rid of Mothballs Smell in Your Home

Mothballs are lumps of pesticides made from either paradichlorobenzene or naphthalene. They give off a toxic vapor that kills moth, their larva, and also kills or repels multiple other insects. They are very efficient in eradicating insects, which is why they are used to protect valuable clothes in storage.

However, the smell of mothballs is not pleasant and doesn’t go away quickly. It clings to your clothes and other surfaces like carpets and close interiors, longer than it should. To combat the smell most people air out the musty items to dull out the scent.

Unfortunately, this method may take quite some time to produce satisfactory results.

To get rid of the smell quickly and effectively we shall go over some easy to carry out DIY procedures.


These are the tools you can use to arm yourself against the smell:

  • Vinegar
  • Detergent
  • Non-chlorine bleach
  • Activated charcoal

How to Remove Smell from Clothing

Vinegar is the go-to cleaning item in most households and is one of the best ways to remove any smell, including mothball smells. Use a solution of equal parts of water and vinegar and soak the affected garments until the smell dissipates. If you’re using a washing machine, run a cycle using just vinegar and add your clothes. Follow it up with a second cycle, this time using detergent and softener.

The treatment varies depending on the clothes. For example, to remove the smell from delicate fabrics, combine water and vinegar in a spray bottle and spritz the fabric.

What if you don’t have vinegar? There is another way. Pre-soak durable clothing in non-chlorine bleach with hot water until the smell is gone. Follow that up with a regular cycle using detergent and softener.

No matter what method you use, do not put the clothes in the dryer until the smell is completely gone as heat can set the mothball smell permanently.

How to Remove Smell from Closets and Rooms

The closet or room where you stored the mothball-smelling clothes can be the hardest to deal with. To eliminate the smell, leave out plates of activated charcoal (it is sold in various sizes and is available at pet stores) or bowls of vinegar in the trouble areas. You can also try odor-absorbing candles or coffee grounds containers to get the same results.

Place whatever material you decide to use where the smell is most potent and change it regularly until it is completely gone.

Mothball Alternatives

Although they are great for protecting clothes from insects, mothball’s drawbacks far outweigh their usefulness. Not only do they smell awful, but they can also be toxic to children and animals if ingested. For this reason, you mustn’t place them in outdoor areas, attics, crawlspaces, or other areas that children and pets can easily access. Their fumes can also cause nausea or dizziness to some people, so be careful even when placing them around the house.

Instead of constantly dealing with the mothball smell every time you take your clothes out of storage, you can use some less disgusting alternatives than mothballs.

One such alternative involves using flowers, essential oils diffusers, or herbs, for a more natural approach. To make this, combine whole cloves, lavender blossoms, and a few cedar chips. Place the mixture in a breathable material, such as cheesecloth, and tie it at the ends. You can also buy small sachets or sew them yourself, if you can, and use them for storage.

You can make multiple sachets like this and place them in the areas of concern. Make sure you replace them whenever the scent starts fading for it to be effective.

Fragrant oils, like lavender oils, are used in most mixtures not only because their smell deters moths but also because they have a sweet-smelling aroma that is pleasant for your house and clothes.

Tips to Consider

Here are some tips you need to keep in mind if you decide not to use mothballs when storing clothes:

  1. Wash and completely dry clothes before storing them away to remove smells that might attract moths.
  2. Wipeout drawers or storage containers before storage to remove any moth eggs.
  3. Store clothes in vacuum storage bags or well-sealed containers to restrict moth access.
  4. Keep a few natural repellent mixtures away with your clothes. You can use cinnamon sticks, wormwood, bay leaves, peppercorn, rosemary, eucalyptus leaves, and white camphor oils, among others.
  5. Air out and vacuum your closet areas regularly, even when not in use.
  6. If you find moths in your closet or storage area, dry clean them after using moth repellents to deal with the infestation.


The above-recommended methods will help you effectively get rid of mothballs’ smell. To totally avoid this issue, you can embrace natural mothball alternatives such as wooden, botanical, and essential oils. They not only smell great but are also an excellent preventative measure against moth infestation and other pests.


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