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How to Get Mothball Smell Out of Clothes, Furniture & More!

White naphthalene mothballs on black velvet

Mothballs are ideal for keeping moths and other insects out of your clothes in the closet, and they can even help keep rodents out of your things in storage. However, they can leave behind a bad odor that remains even after you discard them, which can be embarrassing and can bother people who are sensitive to it. If you need to eliminate the mothball odor in your home, keep reading as we provide you with several methods that you can use for relief.

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Before You Begin

Many people don’t realize that mothballs are extremely flammable, so don’t smoke while working with them. Open windows and use fans to get as much ventilation as possible. Wear gloves while handling the mothballs, and you might also want to consider wearing a dust mask and eye protection.

How to Get Rid of Mothball Smell

1. Fresh Air

woman standing by window and opening curtains
Image By: Monkey Business Images, Shutterstock
  • Time required: Afternoon

If you are attempting to get the mothball smell out of your clothing or another small, lightweight object that you can carry, moving it outside can be a big help. Hang material from a clothesline, and place your objects where they can access the wind for several hours to help them air out. The longer you let them sit out, the better it will work, especially if it’s windy and sunny.

2. Water and White Vinegar

pouring white vinegar
Image Credit: Michelle Lee Photography, Shutterstock
  • Time required: A few hours to 1 day

A great way to remove the smell of mothballs from your clothing and fabric is to soak it in a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar for several hours. White vinegar is an excellent deodorizer, so a single application is likely all that you will need. Use a clean cloth dipped in the solution to rub it into your furniture or carpet to help eliminate the mothball odor from these items. Once you scrub them with the white vinegar solution, let them dry completely for the day and repeat if the odor remains.

3. Bleach

pouring bleach in measuring cup
Image Credit: Cassiohabib, Shutterstock
  • Time required: A few hours

Bleach is extremely effective at removing the mothball odor from clothes, but it will only work on white fabric if you use bleach containing chlorine. If you need to remove the mothball smell from colored fabric, you will need to use one of the many non-chlorinated bleaches available. Add the bleach to the washing machine, and wash the clothes as usual to remove the mothball odor.

4. Baking Soda

baking soda in wooden bowl with wooden spoon near a glass of water
Image Credit: al1962, Shutterstock
  • Time required: A few hours to a few days

Baking soda works as well as vinegar at removing odors like mothballs, and in some ways, it is more versatile. If you need to remove the odor from clothes or fabric, you can soak it in a solution that you create by adding 1 cup of baking soda per gallon of water. You can also add 1–2 cups of baking soda to your washing machine as you are washing the clothes to remove the odor. If the smell of mothballs is in a closet or attic, place a box of baking soda in the vicinity, and it will help absorb the scent. You can also use it to dust your furniture, allow it to sit overnight, and vacuum it to help eliminate the smell of mothballs.

5. Cedar Shavings

Wood Shavings
Image Credit: Optimarc, Shutterstock
  • Time required: A few days

While cedar shavings don’t do much to remove the smell of mothballs, it’s a fragrant wood that many people enjoy, and it can help mask the odor, making it more tolerable and even overtaking it completely. You can also try sealing your clothing or small objects in a bag with the cedar shavings to help mask the smell of mothballs.

6. Activated Charcoal

Activated Charcoal
Image Credit: Alexsander Lepetukha, Shutterstock
  • Time required: A few days

Activated charcoal is a highly absorbent substance that works as well as baking soda to absorb odors. Place a box or bowl of it in a closet, drawer, or wherever you smell mothballs to help eliminate the smell.

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What Option Is Best for Clothes?

White vinegar added to the washing machine while you do the laundry works well and is inexpensive, and many people already have it in their homes. Bleach also works well but use non-chlorinated bleach with colored clothing.

What Option Is Best for Furniture?

We recommend using the water-and-white vinegar solution to remove the scent of mothballs from your furniture or other large objects. Dip a clean cloth into the solution, and scrub it into the fabric where the mothballs were. Dusting furniture with baking soda, allowing it to sit overnight, and then vacuuming it is also effective.

What Can I Use Instead of Mothballs to Protect My Clothing?

Since mothballs can be dangerous, we recommend switching to lavender or cedar chips to keep insects and other pests from damaging your clothing.

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White vinegar is one of the best deodorizers available. Many people already have it in the house, so you can quickly eliminate the smell of mothballs by following the method presented here. Baking soda is another common item that works well, especially in areas where you can’t get wet or can’t pinpoint the location of the fragrance. Once you eliminate the odor, we recommend switching to lavender or cedar chips to protect your clothing.

Featured Image Credit: Vinod K Pillai, Shutterstock


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