Mothballs as Snake Deterrents: Debunking the Misconception

Over the years, there has been a widely held belief that mothballs are the perfect solution to keep snakes at bay. Nonetheless, several studies have debunked this myth, concluding that mothballs are entirely ineffective at this task. In fact, mothballs are equally dangerous as the snakes, mainly because of their candy-like appearance and the fumes they produce.

What are mothballs?

Mothballs are tiny pellets that usually contain a compound known as naphthalene. While rare, some mothballs are made of paradichlorobenzene.

These pellets are used to preserve clothes by repelling moths and preventing them from spoiling your garments. When exposed to air, both chemicals sublimate into vapor, producing the strong odor that characterizes mothballs.

Of the two compounds used to produce mothballs, naphthalene has a higher toxicity level.


Faizal Ramli/

As mentioned earlier, the fumes which mothballs create pose a potential health risk for human beings. Among the possible side effects are headaches, nausea, dizziness, and irritation of the eyes and lungs.

If ingested, naphthalene mothballs can initiate the disintegration of red blood cells, rendering them incapable of transporting oxygenated blood through the body. This condition is known as hemolytic anemia and is often characterized by shortness of breath, fatigue, and painful or discolored urination.

Can mothballs repel snakes?

Despite the notion that mothballs can act as snake repellents, they are entirely ineffective. People usually believe that mothballs will have the same effect on snakes as they have on moths and other creatures. However, these individuals are often disappointed by the end results.

First, the compounds that make mothballs are highly water-soluble. Therefore, when it rains or they come into contact with water, they dissolve and are washed away. This renders them unusable in wet conditions.

Besides being soluble, these compounds are extremely poisonous, both to plants and animals. When a solution containing mothball chemicals touches grass, flowers, or other herbaceous plants, they start to wither almost immediately.

Furthermore, their solubility means that the harmful substances are easily absorbed by the soil and can, therefore, contaminate it for prolonged periods of time.

Effective mothball alternatives

While snakes are not entirely harmful, most people do not like encountering these reptiles. As a result, it is easy to be tricked by products that claim to be proven snake repellents.

Most of these fake repellents are substances with pungent odors that trick those shoppers who think that strong scents will keep snakes away, only to later find out that such methods are ineffective. Since the human olfactory system is different from that of a reptile, their smell perception is completely different, hence the futility.

Before attempting to chase a snake away, it is important to ascertain whether the reptile is poisonous or not.

As noted earlier, some species are useful at keeping pests and rodents away. However, if the presence of snakes makes you feel uncomfortable, there are surefire ways of dealing with this menace.

The following are some ways in which you can permanently repel any snakes in your vicinity.

Maintain a tidy yard

Generally, snakes prefer living in bushes, holes, and other stuffy places. By maintaining a tidy yard, you will deprive them of shelter and breeding locations. Therefore, this is perhaps the most effective way of curbing an influx of snakes.

Some of the things you can do to tidy up your yard include:

  • Weeding, pruning bushes, and removing any debris that may harbor snakes.
  • Regularly inspecting your surroundings to eliminate any rodents which might attract snakes.
  • Sealing any cracks to prevent snakes from entering buildings.
  • Ensuring that wood is stored on an elevated plank or stand.
  • Keeping compost and other household waste in an enclosure.
compost bin


Get rid of pests and rodents

Naturally, snakes feed on rodents and other household pests such as rats, lizards, geckos, and so on. Since food is as vital as shelter, the elimination of such creatures will significantly contribute to discouraging snakes from entering your property.

The first step to eliminating rodents is cleaning your surroundings, as explained above. In addition, it is a good idea to invest in a mouse repellent. Once the repellent is deployed and the rodents stop being readily available, any snakes will be forced to search for food elsewhere.

Use a natural repellent

It is important to note that the use of snake repellents is only effective after the implementation of the two steps mentioned above. Otherwise, the repellent will be rendered ineffective.

There are several proven recipes for natural repellents, but, as they are readily available ingredients, a mixture of cinnamon and clove oil comes highly recommended. For those individuals who prefer a hands-on approach, there are many videos on YouTube with in-depth guides to the process.

On the other hand, those who want a quick remedy can also purchase a repellent from their favorite stores.

In comparison with mothballs, natural repellents have the upper hand since they do not have any potential health risks and do not cause harm to the environment. Moreover, they make use of readily available materials and are thus significantly cheaper.

Install wire mesh fencing

Another effective way of keeping snakes away is by restricting their access to your yard.

Installing a wire mesh wire fence that is buried a few feet into the ground is an effective means of achieving this since snakes cannot climb over tall barriers. And the holes in the mesh should be small enough to bar entry to even the smallest of snakes.


So, can mothballs deter snakes?

Well, after evaluating multiple real-life cases, the use of mothballs to deter snakes has been proven ineffective. This myth is probably being shared by coaxing salespeople who want to sell their products to uninformed customers.

Often, it is better to simply leave snakes alone. After all, most of the species we encounter regularly are not harmful to humans. Such snakes are essential in balancing the ecosystem and to keep rodents away.

However, if you have any doubts about if a snake is venomous, it is imperative to consult the internet or your local animal control office for clarification.

Alternatively, if you find snakes irritating, the best method to get rid of them is by following the steps outlined above. Not only are they effective, but they are also easy to implement.


Herb Pilgrim

Thank you for the informative article. I believe tho that you made a ‘typo’ conveying the opposite intended message near the end.. thanks again!


    Thanks for the heads up! There was a typo indeed and it is now fixed. Glad you found the article helpful!

Griffen Tervaldi

Mothballs when deployed in a gallon jug half filled with water when placed at different areas around houses sheds or buildings will repell all types of snales and even rodents spiders and other such possibly dangerous creatures. Proof my family has been utilizing this tactic for a very long time. A similar trick can be used to rid your house of ants only add pure sugar instead of mothballs.
Heres why mothballs in water works. The animals smell the dissolved mothballs and it helps deter them. However its like all things its not 100 percent unless you do the work to keep your yard clean. Its not a cure-all. Also nothing works foever. They last 3 to 6 months before you must replace. Snakes are seasonal in most places. But rats and mice arent to keen on the mothball smell either. (by the way you use 10 to 25 mothballs or more no less)

    Kelly S Williams

    Thank you so much for your help. I have been noticing a few more snakes this year than normally, although they may be harmless to humans, I don’t like them, and they give me the creeps.i have a very big yard and I have to walk a pretty good way to get to my car or check the mail . I’m going to give it a try .

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