How to Get Rid of the Smell of Mothballs

Mothballs have been used to kill moths and to drive off silverfish and mice for a long time now.

Traditionally, naphthalene was the main ingredient but due to its flammability, it was replaced with p-DCB (para-dichlorobenzene) which is commonly used in disinfectant and urinal cakes for toilets.

Both mothballs and moth crystals are used for killing moths and other insects and have the same odor. But even though they are equally efficient at killing moths, these are two different products as their main ingredients differ.


It is worth noting that mothballs do pose possible health hazards to humans who have been exposed to large amounts of mothball gases. The ingredients in mothballs can cause potential health risks to children when consumed orally. The toxic fumes released by naphthalene mothballs can cause nausea, giddiness, or vomiting.

Are you wondering what mothballs smell like?

Just smell any old clothing that has been stored in closets where mothballs have been used to protect them from moth damage. If you have ever smelled this odor, then you know that it not only is pretty specific but that it is also hard to get rid of even after several attempts at cleaning.

Not only clothing can get that mothball smell, but upholstery, woodwork, and furniture can also become infused with the odor of mothballs.

So if you are concerned about how to get that mothball smell out of your house, then we have a few methods and techniques that you can employ to effectively remove that toxic and unpleasant odor from your house.

How to remove the smell of mothballs from furniture?

Getting the mothball smell out of furniture can be difficult as pieces of furniture cannot simply be thrown into the washing machine as clothing can.

The minute crystals from mothballs penetrate the wood pores in your furniture the mothball odor will linger even after a thorough wiping or dusting of the furniture.

The best remedy to get rid of the odor in such cases is ventilation and sunlight. Placing the furniture in a hot place with ample ventilation increases the rate of sublimation and will remove the mothball odor.

Expert tip

Never rinse your furniture with water to get rid of any mothball smell. This will only make it worse.

This is why sunlight is often cited as the best remedy for the smell of mothballs.

What to do when sunlight does not work?

Sunlight and air are best at removing the odor of mothballs from clothing.

Hang your clothes on a drying rack or a clothesline and leave them out in the sunlight for a few days.

In places where sunshine is rare, and the weather does not permit you to dry your clothes outdoors, you can use a mixture of vinegar and detergent to wash your mothball-infused clothing. Use a cup of baking soda in addition to the detergent for odors that have really set into your clothing.

One or two washes should be all you need to make your clothing odor-free.

Removing the smell of mothballs from upholstered furniture

It is often challenging to get the mothball smell out of upholstered furniture as it can penetrate the fabric, making it really hard to remove.

Leaving the furniture out in the sunlight is the best natural remedy to get rid of any mothball odor.

However, if your furniture cannot be left outside then raising the temperature of the room using a heater is the best alternative. Make sure that there is good air circulation in the room.

The microscopic crystals embedded in the cloth will evaporate leaving your furniture odor-free. The mothball smell in woodwork can be reduced by sanding it but after sanding, it will need a new coat of varnish which can be a time-consuming and costly affair.

Mothball alternatives

One of the best ways of getting rid of the smell of mothballs is to avoid using them altogether. Consider using safer, natural alternatives to mothballs to can help keep your furniture and clothing safe from moths and odor-free.

Sachets filled with a combination of herbs and spices are the best do-it-yourself alternative for mothballs. You can find loads of these DIY moth repellent formulas online. Most of them are an effective and efficient way to keep moths and other pests away.

Of course, in some extreme cases, the use of mothballs is necessary. But this method leaves behind a horrible and intolerable odor which can be a nightmare to get rid of.

So even if your moth problem is severe, you might want to think about other ways to rid your home of moths. If the use of mothballs cannot be avoided, however, here are a few alternative ways to eliminate the odor problem.

Products you can use to get rid of the smell of mothballs

And here are suggestions of some products you can also use to fast-track the process of removing the mothball smell from your clothing, furniture, and other household things.

Ozone and ionic products

An ionizer helps to quickly remove any mothball odor. These devices work by releasing particles that attach themselves to the odor-causing particles and absorb them to effectively eliminate the smell.

Ionizers are often used in hotels, public offices and other businesses where maintaining cleanliness is a must.

Want to get one and try it out? The good thing is that they can be purchased at most major retail outlets as well as online.


Charcoal is one of the safest and most natural ways to remove odor from your surroundings.

Charcoal is well-known for its smell-absorbing properties. So leaving a bowl of charcoal in your closet or in your rooms will help you get rid of bad odors.

Fennel seed

No matter if it is a mothball odor or any other odor in your home, a bowl of fennel seeds left out in the places that smell bad will absorb the bad odors and leave your home smelling clean. This makes fennel another safe, natural, and effective way to get the mothball odor out of your furniture.

The smell of mothballs is considered an unpleasant yet essential side effect of using them to get rid of moths and other pests. But it does now always have to be that way because, as explained in this article, there are many ways to get rid of mothball smell and to make your clothes smell good without the use of chemicals.


Tobye Scheer

I’m selling a house that smells like moth balls, how do I get the smell out of the house.


    Sunlight and plenty of fresh air are the best remedies for getting rid of mothball smell. So try airing out the house as much as possible by opening all windows and doors. Another alternative is to crank up the heat in the house and ventilate it as best as you can.

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