How to Get Rid of Mothball Smell

  • While mothballs are helpful to get rid of moth pests from your house, furniture, fabric, shoes, and clothing, they can also become a pain when their smell starts to bug you. If you remove mothball and clean the house, but the unpleasant scent remains, you need to act! These chemicals odor (such as naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene) can become a threat to your health.
  • Is there any solution to remove the nasty chemical smell of moth balls? Luckily, there are a couple of DIY natural ways to get rid of the mothball odor that doesn’t want to leave. 
  • Let’s browse methods such as white vinegar, baking soda, charcoal, a wash procedure in the washing machine, dryer, heat, and others, so all your belongings stop to smell like mothballs. Learn how to remove the unpleasant scent in the following paragraphs.

What are mothballs?

What do we know about mothballs?

It’s easy to mistake these small, white balls that look like drops with something sweet to eat.  

Be sure never to do that! 

The chemicals in mothballs are toxic to humans and pets. 

Enough to say, their role is to kill moths and other insects that eat fiber. 

In other words, these chic ball-shaped chemicals serve us to protect clothing from pests. 

All you have to do is place mothballs inside tightly closed storage containers along with the clothing or materials. 

The process is straightforward: vapors of mothballs kill the moths.

Dangers of using mothballs

Besides the benefit of getting rid of moths and other insects, we can lose quite a lot because of mothballs. 

These toys are pretty dangerous.

Mothballs are made of naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene.

Both substances are toxic to humans—not only eaten but also inhaled!

Living organisms can absorb both compounds rapidly orally or by inhalation.

One mothball containing naphthalene (250–500 mg) may produce hemolysis in a patient with G6PD deficiency. 

The amount necessary to produce lethargy or seizures may be as little as 1–2 g which is four to eight mothballs. 

Important: In the study, several infants developed severe poisoning from clothes and bedding stored in naphthalene mothballs.

Paradichlorobenzene is much less toxic than naphthalene; adults tolerated even up to 20-g ingestions.

People get exposed to the chemicals in mothballs by inhaling the fumes. 

To put it simply—if you can smell mothballs, it means they already affect you. 

The feature we mentioned before—a candy-like look—can attract kids and pets to taste and swallow them. 

Some chemicals in mothballs can cause reversible health effects that include:

  • headaches,
  • nausea, 
  • eye and nose irritation, and 
  • coughing;

Exposure to naphthalene in mothballs can cause:

  • skin and eye irritation, 
  • gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea),
  • neurologic symptoms (confusion, excitement, and convulsions),
  • renal problems (for example, acute renal shutdown), and
  • hematologic features (like icterus and severe hemolytic anemia);

Naphthalene is also a possible carcinogen. 

Companies that produce products such as

  • ink, 
  • dye, 
  • coal, and 
  • tar, 
  • preserve wood or tan leathers 

use naphthalene in manufacturing processes. 

Extended exposure to mothballs can cause liver and kidney damage.

Not only will high levels of the toxic chemicals accumulate in closed areas, but also—since fumes are heavier than air—they will settle on the floors. 

When these toxic substances get to the ground, they create an even greater danger to small children and pets. 

Fortunately—and unfortunately—the smell of mothballs will always let us know they are around. 

To avoid health risks, let’s learn how to deal with them safely. 

Common misconceptions

People frequently think that they should place mothballs in:

  • closets, 
  • attics,
  • basements, 
  • storage chests or trunks, 
  • garment bags, or similar spaces; 

But the truth is, we should put mothballs only in tightly closed containers.

When we let mothball smells escape in the air, we become susceptible to respiratory problems and other health issues.

Another misunderstanding is the use of mothballs in outdoor areas.

Some people believe mothballs can repel rodents, squirrels, bats, snakes, or other wildlife. 

They can’t.

What’s more, left outside, they’ll add to contaminating soil and water. 

Believe us—these kinds of animals couldn’t care less about your tiny mothballs. 

Getting rid of mothball smell

Mothballs, moth flakes, crystals, and bars are insecticides. 

These chemicals are solid at room temperature and slowly change to gas to become fumes in the air.

Should we do everything to avoid the toxic, unpleasant smell of moth balls?


We should use mothballs (since they’re regulated pesticides) only the way it’s directed on the label. 

Place mothballs inside tightly closed containers along with the clothing or other fabric. The vapors will remain inside the container and kill the moths. 

If your closed containers are inefficient and the mothball smell gets into the air spreading through the house—take action to protect your health!

How to get rid of the mothball smell?

For starters, there is some bad news.

Some people say that mothball smell will never really go away. 

One mothball takes 3-6 months to dissipate entirely in the fresh air!

It means that released toxic naphthalene odor at home will stay inside for much longer. 

From underneath your clothing, it will take up to 12 months for naphthalene to dissipate completely. 

Plus, the smell will remain anyway, even for a couple of years more. 

While it can be:

  • extremely difficult, and 
  • time-consuming, 

removing the smell is of a mothball still possible!

Here’s how.

Bringing an odor eliminator specialist to your house is the best idea—there’s really nothing like professional service.  

You can also go for a DIY method and try to remove the mothball odor yourself.

Familiar smell remedies are the best options, so consider using:

  • vinegar, or
  • baking soda.

A method for removing mothball smells from clothing?

With vinegar, all you have to do is to soak the affected garments in a solution of equal parts vinegar and water.

You can also prepare a solution of white vinegar and lemon juice.

Take it and dab it in the areas of clothing that have a mothball smell. 

Let this solution sit for a while.

Then, rinse it off with warm water.

A method as simple as heat may appear helpful to get the smell out of your clothing. 

Use a hot iron to press through the clothing or hang the clothing out in the sun. 

You can also put the clothes in the washing machine and run a cycle using only vinegar. 

Simply swap laundry detergent with vinegar when you put your garments in the machine. 

Then, follow up with another wash cycle using detergent and softener.

Vinegar and water work well together with the common goal of washing off the ugly odors from the fabric of your clothes. 

Tip: Mothball odor can take weeks to get off, so repeat the actions above. Don’t worry that removing the smell takes time.

As a partial, temporary solution, you can mask the scent temporarily with deodorants or perfumes.

How to get rid of the smell of a mothball from shoes?

You can use the same mixture of vinegar and lemon juice. 

Another way to get rid of mothball smell from shoes is to stuff a paper pouch of freshly ground coffee beans inside.

Leave it inside for at least a week. 

The smell of coffee grounds has the power to suppress the smell of the mothballs. 

The method works similarly with baking soda—it absorbs the smell just like coffee grounds do.

If you need to remove the chemical odors of a mothball from a blanket, there is another way. 

Start with tossing a blanket in a dryer on the air dry air-only mode. 

Hot air will help the mothball scent go away. 

You can later also press the blanket with a hot iron or bask it in sunlight.

Get rid of mothball smell from a room and furniture in your house with baking soda. 

After you get mothball out, it’s time to deal with toxic chemicals that have remained in the air. 

Take some baking soda and mix it with warm water.

Then, mop the floors with this solution.

You want to ensure you well ventilated your room when mopping. 

To remove the smell altogether, place a bowl of vinegar, a bowl of coffee grounds, or a plate of activated charcoal in the room (or furniture, like a closet).

Baking soda, vinegar, coffee grounds, and activated charcoal will absorb any leftover mothball smell. 

Meanwhile, before you get rid of mothball for good, you can choose a temporary odor removing option.

Get scented house cleansers and air fresheners in your space.

If it seems like mothballs odors are here to stay, it’s time to take more significant steps. 

Rip up and replace the carpet to remove the mothball smell from your room. 

Unfortunately, the fabric of a carpet may be tough to deal with in scent odor removal.

It does take some effort to remove the odor of mothballs, but it’s doable. 

How long will mothball smell odor removal take?

Realistically, getting rid of mothball smell will take at least a month.

And we’re not talking about any kind of challenging circumstances!

It’s how much time mothball odors need to go away in a warm, well-ventilated area. 

If you can’t wait that long or simply things don’t go as planned, get in touch with an odor removal specialist. 

This person knows exactly how to get rid of mothball smell for good.

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Frequently Asked Questions

It's a common misconception that mothballs can repel mice and rats. While they contain naphthalene, which is a deterrent in enormous quantities, mothballs aren't powerful enough to get rid of mice and rodents.
Suppose you don't feel like using toxic mothballs. In that case, you can always find natural substitutes. Try lavender satchels (moths stay away from this smell), cedar chips and blocks (repel many kinds of insects and pests), mint, cloves, rosemary, and thyme, white camphor essential oils. Also, store your clothing in vacuum sealed bags.
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