About moth balls
A quick breakdown of moth balls
Moth balls are a very simple product – they are usually comprised of a ~99% active ingredient, and ~1% additives. The active ingredients in moth balls are typically either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. Naphthalene is the older ingredient. It has a strong and recognizable smell, but it’s harmless to people (the smell, that is). Para-dichlorobenzene has risen to popularity in recent years, as it is more or less odorless, which is why people don’t just smell of naphthalene balls all the time anymore. However, there are some that raise concerns about the health safety of para-dichlorobenzene, but we’ll take a more detailed look at that question below.
Whether they are naphthalene balls or para-dichlorobenzene (para-DCB), moth balls are solid balls, usually enveloped in a thin cloth, that slowly evaporate in the air until they are gone. It’s that evaporation that kills any clothes moths and their larvae, as well as any carpet beetles. That’s also what keeps other pests at bay and makes the moth balls such an effective prevention tool.
How long do mothballs last?
The longevity of a moth ball depends on several factors, including its quality. Lower quality moth balls, whether naptha mothballs or Para-DCB ones, can evaporate really quickly. For our Top 3 list, we really tried to focus on high-quality moth balls only. This may sound weird as we just explained that the mothball chemical ingredients are typically just a single chemical. Still, depending on the quality of the ingredient itself, on the other 1% supporting ingredients, as well as on how the product has been stored, significant variations in the final quality tend to occur.
Another factor that can affect the longevity of your moth balls is how exactly you use them.
Moth balls are best used in enclosed areas which retain the chemical vapor and stop the ball from evaporating too quickly.
Where to buy mothballs?
Moth balls can be bought from almost anywhere. Online, from home supplies stores, from general goods stores. Moth balls have been a standard item in Western households for more than a century, so they are pretty easy to find. In fact, if you consider some of the natural ways to repent clothes moths (such as chestnuts), it could be said that some variations of moth balls have been used for millennia.
Are there any health dangers to moth balls?
This is a more complicated question than it seems and can easily be answered either way. Generally, both naphthalene moth balls and Para-DCB moth balls are considered harmless if used correctly. And by that we mean, when you follow the product’s instructions and set up the moth balls in such a way that you minimize the amount of inhalation you or your family will do. Making sure that no human or pet will inhale too much of the moth ball’s vapor at once is another key reason why moth balls should be placed in air-tight areas only. Inhaling too much moth ball vapor even from a naphthalene moth ball, can cause dizziness, eye pain, and head pain.
Para-DCB is feared even more than naphthalene by a lot of people. There isn’t any conclusive evidence that Para-DCB can be dangerous to humans when inhaled in even moderate quantities. However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that para-DCB can be anticipated to potentially be a carcinogen. Permanent exposures to very high levels of Para-DCB, especially when coupled with other occupational exposures, may even cause liver and kidney damage or even birth defects. None of this is conclusive, but the state of California, for example, has already declared this compound as a human carcinogen. Most other countries and states still view Para-DCB as harmless when used properly, but it’s worth a thought, especially if you have children at home.
Additionally, moth balls can also be dangerous if they are simply found and physically interacted with by a child or a pet. In ingested, a moth ball pf either naphthalene or Para-DCB can have disastrous health consequences. That’s why it is always advisable to be safe when placing moth balls and put them out of your kids’ and pets’ reach.
Other alternative options to use instead of moth balls
Whether you don’t want to use moth balls because of their smell or because of possible health concerns, there are alternatives that you can employ. For starters, there are some other chemical products that serve a similar purpose:
Clothes moth killer sprays are not as much of a preventive measure as they are a treatment against existing moths. They are intended for use on the inner walls of your closet, drawers, or other enclosed spaces and they kill moths and their eggs or larvae. Depending on the spray, they may also have a strong preventive function and ensure that there won’t be any future moth infestations in the near future. Even such sprays are more of a treatment method than a preventative one compared to moth balls, however.
Clothes moth foggers are similar to killer sprays, but much more “heavy-duty”. They are the hand grenades of the anti-moth war. They come in canisters with a “total release” cap. The idea is that you will pop the cap, throw the canister into the room or area you need gassed, and close it. After several hours of work, the canister should have exterminated pretty much any living thing in that room. This is obviously a very powerful tool with quite a limited range of applications. This makes it less of an alternative to moth balls and more of a final measure if you haven’t been using moth balls and your closet space has been contaminated.
Don’t wash possibly infected clothes with your other clothes. Machine washing isn’t guaranteed to deal with clothes moth larvae and can instead just spread them to your other clothes.
A middle-of-the-road option between clothes moth killer sprays and moth balls, clothes moth dust function as both prevention and treatment. They usually come in a canister or a tube and are meant to be spread with a brush in all hard to reach spots in your house. Behind baseboards, under carpets, under low furniture, and so on, clothes moth dust go where clothes moth balls and clothes moth killer sprays can’t reach.
Clothes moth killer kits are essentially kits that consist of all of the above. Because different clothes moth killer tools have different uses and applications, such kits include multiple tools to help you deal with any situation.
All this brings up the question of how to get rid of clothes moths naturally. All methods we’ve talked about so far include the use of heavy chemicals that some homeowners don’t really want in their homes. Of course, there are more natural options.
There are clothes moth killer sprays and moth balls that don’t include any naphthalene, Para-DCB, or any other similar chemicals. Such items are sold anywhere on the market and are usually intended for prevention only. They can work if used properly on an un-infested or lightly-infested area but can struggle to deal with full-blown contamination.
Chestnuts, oak nuts, and some weeds are known to have scents that repel clothes moths. Such natural prevention methods have been used in the past before chemical moth repellents were invented. Again, they can work as a preventive measure, but they can’t really deal with a developed infestation or protect you from a strong “invasion” of clothes moths.
Instead of using any clothes moth repelling methods, you can also just not leave your clothes exposed to an infestation.
Clothes moths don’t just attack any clothes they find – they need to find enclosed spaces that are devoid of any light and airflow, that you don’t reach into and move clothes around. So, your every-day closet that you use 7 days of the week is pretty much safe from clothes moths.
What you need to worry about are the clothes that are out of season and that stay untouched for months. Instead of using chemical preventive measures like moth balls, you can instead just seal all such clothes and textiles into air-tight sealed plastic bags. You can also make sure to frequently vacuum and air these enclosed areas. Letting such clothes hang instead of sitting horizontally also reduced the risk of a moth infestation.
Lastly, dry cleaning is one of the best ways to deal with clothes moth eggs and larvae.
If you’ve discovered a clothes moth infestation, after dealing with the adult moths themselves, it’s best to get your clothes to a dry cleaner regardless of whether you have clothes moth killer tools or not.
Moth ball buying guide
All these questions will help you adequately choose the ideal moth balls for your situation. The key features you need to focus on are their size, strength, longevity, and odor. In some cases, you will need weaker but more long-lasting moth balls, while in others you need a strong short-term help with an existing problem.
All these factors should be viewed with a priority over the moth balls’ price since even the more expensive moth balls aren’t usually that pricey. In fact, moth balls tend to be a product group where the price reflects the quality of the product pretty well, so it’s good to keep that in mind.
Other useful information on mothballs
However, if you are going to use moth balls for such a situation, it’s important to take a lot of safety measures.
Toxic moth balls that are just left lying around in your garden or garage can be played with or even eaten by your pet or child, which can lead to serious health concerns.
Moth balls buried in the garden soil to prevent insects are also not recommended as they can harm the soil and your plants.
All in all, using moth balls for such purposes is possible, but applying caution is strongly advised.
How to use moth balls
Aside from the safety measures you should take, there is also the matter of their application. It’s important to use your moth balls in accordance to their user guides and the space they are meant in. Using too few moth balls in too big of a space can make them ineffective while using too much moth balls in a small space can lead to too strong of an odor.
If you want to prolong the life of your moth balls (so they can last you throughout the entire winter or the entire summer), you can use a ziplock bag with a few tiny holes punctured in it. Putting moth balls in such a bag will help them last longer although it will also lower their effectiveness.