How to Remove Mothball Smell from Clothes

Mothballs are a common household item used to deter moths and other pests from clothing, upholstery and other household items, but the smell can be overwhelming for some people. Thankfully, there are several ways to remove this pungent odor from your clothes and other items. Here are some examples of how to get rid of mothball smells quickly and easily.

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What are mothballs?

Mothballs are made of chemical pesticides (usually naphthalene) mixed into small balls. They are used to keep moths and other insects and rodents from eating and destroying clothes. An unfortunate thing about them is that the chemicals create an odor that is often unpleasant or even toxic for humans and animals. The odor can cause headaches, nausea, and other signs and symptoms of unwellness. 

How to get rid of mothball smell from clothes

I’ve been cleaning clothes for years and have tried all the do-it-yourself tricks to remove stains and odors. 

  1. Soak the clothes in white vinegar and water. An alternative is to soak the clothes in water with baking soda.
  2. Wash your clothes in the washing machine with a cup of white vinegar.
  3. Then wash your clothes a second time like you normally would with detergent. 

For delicate items, you may want to skip washing your clothes in the washing machine. Soak the clothes thoroughly in white vinegar and water and then hand wash or wash once in the washing machine. 

Other options to reduce wear and tear are to place them in laundry garment bags and wash on a gentler cycle.

Repeat this process if the mothball smell remains. You don’t want to put an item with mothball smell into the dryer because the heat may seal the smell into the item.

How to get rid of mothball smell from rooms

The mothball smell can linger in closets and rooms that house clothing and furniture, especially if the clothes or fabric has been stored for a while and there is no ventilation. Now that you’ve gotten the smell out of clothing, you may want to get the smell out of your rooms too.

Try using the same natural deodorizers as above and a few additional methods:

  1. Fill a bowl with white vinegar and leave it out for several hours such as overnight until the smell is gone. 
  2. Place charcoal sachets or containers around the room. These MOSO charcoal satchets are my favorite. The charcoal absorbs all of the mothball scent, leaving behind an odorless environment. Plus, they blend in around the house so you can leave them out when you have guests around. 
  3. Put baking soda or coffee grounds in a small box or container and leave it out in the room. This is a relatively inexpensive method or even free if you already have coffee made for yourself. 
  4. Place baking soda on furniture, carpet, and other items that may smell. Leave the baking powder there for several hours to absorb the odor. Then vacuum it up. Be careful doing this because baking soda can get messy and be difficult to fully remove off surfaces with cracks or texture. 
  5. Wipe down furniture and mop the floors. You may want to use a mixture of white vinegar and water in equal parts while cleaning to neutralize the smells.
  6. Air out the room. Open windows and doors to create a breeze through the room. This may be hard if the weather is bad or it’s too cold outside, but give it a try on a sunny day to get fresh air inside.
  7. Use other natural items that mask odors: 
  • Essential oils
  • Citrus peels
  • Candles

8. Try other products such as plug in or spray air fresheners like AirWick and Febreeze.

Alternatives to mothballs

After all the work of mothball odor removal, many people wonder what they can use to deter pests from their households without resorting to mothballs. Give these alternatives a try. 

  • Place cedar chips or blocks or even bay leaves in areas where there is a pest problem. They smell much better than mothballs and have the added benefit of repelling rodents too.
  • Use lavender sachets to repel moths and make your clothes and rooms smell heavenly.
  • Place cotton balls soaked with essential oils such as mint and lavender in the closet and in drawers.
  • Try combining other herbs such as cloves, rosemary, thyme, and cinnamon sticks to deter moths and freshen up the place. 
  • Store clothes in airtight containers or vacuum-sealed bags after washing and drying them thoroughly. I used containers like these, which guard against pests and are waterproof.

Above are the most effective ways to remove mothball scent from your clothes and your home. Whether you use do-it-yourself or commercial products, you’ll no longer be asking how to remove that unpleasant smell. You can enjoy fresh smelling clothes and a pleasant smelling home again. 

Have you tried any of these yourself? What has worked best for you?

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