How to Get Rid Of Mothball Smell

Do you have any clothes made from natural fiber that you love?

If yes, then there is a bad news – moths seem to love them as much as you do!

Surely, you do not want to see holes in your favorite cardigan or pullover when you take it out of the storage, next season, and if you are like most people, you will opt for mothballs.

For those who do not know, mothballs are small balls made of chemical pesticides that have long been used to protect stored clothes from moth damage.

Moths, silver fish, and carpet beetles are pests that love the warm and quiet areas of your home and lay eggs in corners where there is abundance of food available for their larvae. Moth larvae feed on woolen garments and natural materials, like pet dander and hair.

Moths could have made our lives terrible had someone not created mothballs.

Mostly made of naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, these chemical balls effectively kill moths and their larvae and also ward off a few other pests, like silverfish.

Some people also use them to keep mice and snakes away from their homes. However, the effectiveness of mothballs for this purpose has not been established.


How Do Mothballs Work?

Mothballs kill moths as well as prevent them from breeding in your closets and clothes trunk by undergoing the process of sublimation.

The fumes that are released from mothballs are toxic for moths and either kill them or repel them from the area where they are placed.

However, for mothballs to work effectively they need to be in close proximity with moths and their larvae, in a closed space; unfortunately they don’t work in open spaces. This makes them ideal for closets and sealed containers.

Tips for using mothballs safely:

  • Place mothballs only in sealed containers and bags so the chemical vapors cannot spread to surrounding areas.
  • Do not throw mothballs down the drains.
  • Do not immediately wear the clothes that have been kept with mothballs – air them for at least a day or wash before use (do both for children’s clothes).

Do not place mothballs in areas where children and/or pets can reach them.

The Downside of Using Mothballs

The only major downside of using mothballs is that they leave behind a strong, intense, and distinct chemical smell. Mothball smell in house can be bothersome and can make your nose itch.

What’s worse is that it often lasts for a very long time, even when mothballs themselves have completely dissolved.

How to Remove Mothball Smell?

While we cannot ignore the benefits of mothballs (they protect our clothes!), their smell is off-putting and it often becomes really difficult to remove mothball smell from house.

Not anymore!

Keep reading to learn some simple, yet effective tips and tricks to get rid of mothball smell.


Home Remedies to Get Rid Of the Smell of Mothballs

Here are some tried and tested ways to remove mothball smell:

For Clothes and Other Fabrics

The easiest, but not the instant, way to remove mothball smell from your clothes is to hang them at an airy place for a couple of days. But, if you don’t have time or want a quick fix, then vinegar is your best friend. It can be used in a variety of ways to get mothball smell out of clothing:

  • Add some vinegar and lemon juice in water and soak your clothes in this solution for some time and then rinse with warm water.
  • Another way to use vinegar to remove mothball smell is by adding it to your washer. Run a cycle with vinegar and water mixture followed by a regular wash with detergent and the mothball smell will disappear from your clothes.
Important: Whenever you are using vinegar for any home remedy, make sure to always use the white variety, unless otherwise specified.

 For Carpets

  • Mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray this mixture over the carpet and then vacuum with a wet/dry vacuum cleaner. This method not only helps to remove mothball smell from carpet, but is also effective for getting rid of fleas, bed dugs, and other tiny pests.

For Shoes

  • Add some freshly ground coffee beans in a small paper bag or a piece of cloth and place it into the affected shoes. Transfer the shows to a sealable plastic bag and leave for 5 to 7 days.

How to Remove Mothball Smell from Furniture?

Getting rid of the smell of mothball from wooden furniture is probably the most difficult task because you can’t throw your furniture pieces into washing machine like clothes.

No matter how much you dust and wipe your furniture, once the smell has penetrated into the wood, it generally lingers for a long time.

Wondering if there is any way to get mothball smell out of wood?

Sunlight and air is your best bet!

Place the furniture piece that smells of mothballs in an area (read lawn or backyard) that’s well ventilated and ideally, gets lots of sunlight.

This will speed up the sublimation process and the smell will be gone in a few days.

If leaving your furniture outdoor is not an option, turn on the heater and open the windows. This method is particularly useful for upholstered furniture. The heat will make the microscopic chemical crystals evaporate from the cloth leaving your furniture free of any smell.


Note:  Washing your furniture with water will not help removing the mothball smell. It will in fact make it worse.

Ozone generator treatments and thermal fogs only mask smells and not remove them completely, so using any of them is not a permanent solution for mothball smell.

Ways to Remove Mothball Smell from House

A few natural ingredients that are known to help removing any and all types of odors from your home are:

Fennel Seeds

Fill a few small bowls with fennel seeds and place them in areas that smell of mothballs. You will be surprised to see that they will absorb the bad smell leaving your house smelling clean.


Known for its smell absorbing properties, charcoal works great for mothball smell. You can also use activated charcoal.

There are many charcoal odor absorbers and deodorizers available in the market. But, you can also make your own charcoal satchels. For that, take pieces of breathable cloth, like muslin, cheesecloth, or nylon hose as per your needs and make small pouches or satchels filled with charcoal pieces. Now, just hang them in the closet, attic, basement, or in and around any other affected area.

This homemade, non-toxic odor eliminator will quickly remove the smell of mothballs from your home.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is another natural ingredient that is widely known for its odor absorbing power. Place baking soda in small bowls and leave it in the smelly areas for a few days to get rid of mothball smell.

Here you go – these are some very simple, but effective ways for removing mothball smell from house and clothes. Try them out rather than continuously using air fresheners and perfumes; they only mask the smell and not eliminate it.

There are some good reviews for some commercial odor eliminators as well, such as Nok-Out. As per consumer reviews, the liquid odor eliminator is great for removing all types of smells, including mothball, vomit, pet pee, and cigarette smoke. According to the manufacturer, the formula is non-toxic, hypoallergenic, biodegradable, and does not cause any bleaching or leave stains (when used diluted). You may try out this commercial odor eliminator if home remedies are not your thing.

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