Placing mothballs inside drawers and cabinets is great for keeping pesky insects away from your clothes. Unfortunately, mothballs give off a strong, pungent odor that can stick to clothes. Knowing how to get rid of the mothball smell in clothes is a must if you can’t avoid using this insect repellant.
Aside from making you into a head-turner for all the wrong reasons, mothball odor also poses a potential health risk. Fortunately, there are natural alternatives. I’ll discuss those later in the post.
Why You Should Get Rid of a Mothball Smell
The wonders that mothballs can do for protecting your clothes from moths and other fiber insects are undeniable. What makes it an effective solution for killing moths is the naphthalene or para-dichlorobenzene in it.
Unfortunately, it also makes it toxic to humans and even animals. It turns out this ingredient is carcinogenic. Apart from that, it can cause dizziness, nausea, restlessness, headaches, fatigue, and more.
The smell of mothballs in clothes isn’t only embarrassing; it’s dangerous too. That said, you might want to get rid of its smell as soon as possible.
5 Natural Ways to Get Rid of a Mothball Smell
If you’re a mom in charge of the laundry and organizing seasonal storage, like me, you sure know how bothersome moths can be. Unfortunately, using mothball repellants might be even worse due to the high chemical load that leaves a lingering smell on the fabric. Don’t worry, though. There are ways to remove the strong chemical smell from clothes with safe, everyday ingredients you probably already have in your home.
White vinegar has earned a spot on nearly every DIY list of household cleaning ingredients. This is because of its acetic acid, which allows it to neutralize mothball odors. Vinegar is all-natural and light on clothes. The best thing is that it’s probably already in your kitchen. Vinegar is my go-to solution for cleaning a dehumidifier, around the house, yucky carpet stains, and puppy accidents.
If you want to try this method, here’s all you’ll need:
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar
- Your regular amount of detergent
For this method, here’s what you can do:
- Add one cup of white vinegar to every load you wash and run it through a washing machine cycle.
- Run another regular wash cycle but with detergent as you normally would.
- Let your clothes dry, and the unpleasant smell should be gone.
If there’s still some mothball smell left, or if you want to make sure, you can repeat the process a second time until all the smell is gone. The mothball scent should be gone once the clothes finish the second wash.
Check them before you put the dryer on. If there’s any smell remaining, repeat this process again. You don’t want to run the risk of setting the smell by applying heat to the garment before it’s odor-free.
If you’re dealing with a particularly strong smell, soak your clothes in vinegar before washing them in the machine. If you’re not crunched for time, this is the best way. Here’s what you need:
- 1 part distilled white vinegar
- 8 parts warm water
Here’s where the magic happens:
- Combine one part vinegar with eight parts of warm water.
- Soak your clothes for at least an hour.
- Rinse them with clean water or run them through a cycle with detergent.
- Check if the smell is gone before drying.
Who says baking soda is only for cooking? Like white vinegar, baking soda is also one of the kitchen products that often tops the list of many DIY solutions for cleaning. This is because it neutralizes odor by balancing pH levels.
Here’s what you’ll need if you want to try out this method:
- 1 cup baking soda
- Regular detergent
Get rid of the pungent smell of mothballs with this procedure:
- Pour a cup of baking soda into your laundry load.
- Add your favorite laundry detergent.
- Run a wash cycle in your machine.
You can also leave a small bowl of baking soda in your closet. This will absorb the smell and moisture, keeping your wardrobe fresh.
I buy baking soda in a 12-pound bulk bag because it’s that useful. For cleaning, cooking, laundry, and more, baking soda is a must-have. Although, I learned how to make banana bread without baking soda, so that’s one thing you don’t need it for.
You will need a good amount of sunlight and an open space with good air circulation for this method. Fresh air will help the smell to dissipate without much effort from you. Simply hang your clothes outside in the direct sunlight for several hours.
If you are confined to an enclosed space, here’s what you can do:
- Start with open windows.
- Place a large fan in front of your window, but make sure the back end is facing the window so it can blow fresh air onto your clothes.
- Hang your clothes near the fan.
What I love about this method is that you don’t have to do much. However, note that this only works for mild odor.
If you have more time or don’t want to wash clothes immediately, you can use activated charcoal.
Activated charcoal is known to absorb odors well and be useful around the home. Unlike briquettes for your grill, activated charcoal has gone through a chemical or heat treatment that has made it more porous. And the more porous a charcoal is, the better it can absorb odor-causing molecules.
For this method, you will need:
- Activated charcoal
- A small bowl
To make it work, here’s what to do:
- Add the activated charcoal to the bowl.
- Arrange it on a level place in your closet or drawer.
- Leave for as long as needed to absorb the smell, then discard.
Similarly, you can also buy odor-absorbing activated charcoal sachets. This 10-pack also has hooks to hang a bag over the closet rod. I find that very handy; it’s a great way to spread these out through all the clothes.
The sachets are just as effective but save you the hassle of worrying about spilling the charcoal. Trust me, this stuff is m-e-s-s-y! And it stains fabric, so be extra careful to keep your clothes from touching it in the bowl.
$9.99 ($0.62 / Ounce)
Cedar chips are yet another easy solution for your mothball-smelling clothes. Adorn your closet with fragrant pieces of wood by tucking large pieces into drawers and pockets. Smaller pieces can go in a breathable pouch. Like charcoal, they are easy to use and can be found almost everywhere.
For this method, here’s what you’ll need:
Here’s what to do:
- Put a handful of cedar chips along with your clothes inside a bag.
- Pull the drawstring closed, and you have a sachet! Make a few and leave them in the closet for two to three days.
Homode offers a pack of options, including wooden blocks, rings and balls that fit in almost every space. Plus, premade sachets too. This pack is a good idea if you’re looking for something to get rid of the bad smells now and prevent months from returning in the future.
5 Natural Alternatives to Mothballs
Mothballs are effective at killing moths and other insects. But then, again, its smell lingers. Plus, it’s dangerous to your health. Luckily, there are some alternatives you can try that will also keep your clothes smelling fresh as you store them in your closet. Here are some of them.
Lavender has an uplifting floral scent that smells like a spring bouquet. But did you know that it’s also a good alternative for mothballs? It’s a great mosquito repellant, too!
Moths and other insects don’t like the smell of lavender. This means you’ll love it. I like using lavender satchels as they have a mild but pleasant smell.
If you want to know how to get rid of mothball smells in your closet with this, simply hang it or pop them in your clothes’ pockets. Regardless, this will not only keep insects at bay, but you can also freshen up your wardrobe.
Cedar chips aren’t just for landscaping. They can also help you keep moths away from your clothes.
Cedar chips release aromatic oils that moths and other insects don’t like. With this, you won’t have to worry about insects ruining your clothes. What I like about this is that it makes the clothes smell clean too. So, if you’re sensitive to strong fragrances, you’ll love it.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Mint can make your wardrobe smell minty and fresh, but it’s not just for deodorizing your closet. It can also repel moths. As we reviewed with lavender, you can also use dried mint to make a sachet and place it in your wardrobe or your clothes’ pockets.
Peppermint oil works too. It also has a minty smell to it that moths hate. Soak cotton balls with it and place it in your storage area for a a fresh smell.
Cloves, Rosemary and Thyme
If you’re experienced in the kitchen, you probably know these small spice powerhouses for spicing up your dishes. But did you know that you can also use them against moths?
Herbs and spices can keep moths away. This includes cloves, mint, ginseng, rosemary and thyme. Take advantage of these to replace toxic mothballs in your home.
Mix 2 ounces of rosemary, 2 ounces of mint, 2 ounces of thyme, 2 ounces of ginseng, and 8 ounces of whole cloves in a sachet bag, and you will have a natural moth repellent from Mother Nature’s pantry. A word of caution, though, there’s something about their smell that might make you hungry.
Camphor Essential Oil
Camphor essential oil is a common ingredient found in topical analgesics. It has a cooling note of eucalyptus that smells fresh and relaxing. Camphor oil seems to have a similar effect on bugs as lemongrass and citronella essential oils. If you like fragrances like these, you will love camphor oil as an alternative to mothballs.
My kids and I love this scent because it has many uses. Not only does it make a great mothball alternative, you can also use it as a base for making soaps, DIY candles, and bath bombs.
Knowing how to get rid of the mothball smell in clothes can be challenging, but it can save you from the discomfort of lingering mothball fumes. With these effective solutions, I hope you can finally say goodbye to the mothball smell and save your clothes from pesky moths while enjoying the aroma of natural alternatives instead.