Mothballs have been used to kill moths and drive off silverfish and mice from a long time now. Traditionally naphthalene was used as the main ingredient in them, but due to its flammability, it was replaced with p-DCB (para-dichlorobenzene) which is commonly used in deodorizing cakes and urinal cakes for toilets. Both mothballs and moth crystals are used for killing moths and other insects and has the same odor. However, although their efficiency at killing moths is the same, these two are different products as the main ingredient in both differ.

It is worth to note that mothballs do pose possible health hazards to humans when exposed to large amounts of mothball gases. The ingredients in mothballs can cause potential health risks for children when consumed orally. And the toxic odors released by the mothballs made of naphthalene can cause nausea, giddiness, and vomiting.

Wondering what do mothballs smell like? Just smell old clothing that is stored in closets and where mothballs are used to protect them from moth damage. And if you have ever smelled this odor then you know that it is not only pretty specific, but that is also is hard to get rid of even after several cleaning attempts. But not only clothing can smell of mothballs, upholstery, woodwork, and furniture can, too, get infused with mothball odor. So if your cause of concern right now is how to get mothball smell out of your house then we have a few methods and techniques that you can employ to remove the toxic and unpleasant odor from your house effectively.

How to get rid of mothball odor from furniture?

Getting rid of mothball smell from furniture is difficult as furniture can’t just be simply thrown into the washing machine as clothing can. The minute crystals of mothballs penetrate the wood pores of your furniture the mothball odor will linger even after thorough wiping and dusting of the furniture. The best remedies 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 mothball odor. Which is why often sunlight is cited as the best remedy for mothball odor.

Pro tip: Never rinse your furniture with water to get rid of mothball smell. It will only make it worse.

What to do when sunlight doesn’t work?

Sunlight and air work best in removing mothball odor from clothing. Hang the clothes on the clothing rail or on a clothesline and leave them out in the sunlight for a few days. However, in places where sunshine is rare, and the weather does not permit you to dry your clothes in sunlight, you can use vinegar and detergent mixture to wash your mothball-smell infused clothing with. Use a cup of baking soda in addition to the detergent and vinegar mixture for the odor that has really set into your clothing. One or two washes should be able to make your clothes smell free.

Removing mothball odor from upholstered furniture

It is often challenging to get rid of mothball smell from upholstered furniture as the smell penetrates the weaves of the fabric and therefore is really hard to remove. Leaving the furniture out in the sunlight is the best natural remedy to get rid of the mothball odor. However, if the furniture cannot be left outside then raising the temperature of the room using a heater is the best alternative. Make sure that there is a good circulation of air in the room. The microscopic crystals that are embedded in the cloth will evaporate leaving the furniture odor free. While mothball smell from woodwork or a wooden framework can be reduced by sanding it. However, even after sanding the furniture, 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 mothball odor is to avoid using mothballs altogether. Considering safe and natural alternatives to mothball can help to keep your furniture and clothing safe and mothball-odor free. Sachets filled with a combination of herbs and spices is the best do-it-yourself alternative for mothballs. You can find loads of these DIY moth repellent formulas online. And most of them are an effective and efficient way to keep moths and other pests away.

Of course, in some extreme cease mothball use is necessary, but the purpose of this moth repellent method leaves behind a horrible and intolerant odor which is a nightmare to get rid of. So even if your clothing moth problem is terrible, you might want to think about other ways to rid your home of moths. But if the use of mothballs can’t be avoided, here are a few alternative ways how you can eliminate the odor problem.

Ozone and ionic products

An ionizer helps in removing mothball odor quickly. These devices work by releasing particles that attach to the odor-causing particles and absorb these particles effectively eliminating 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 from most major retail outlets as well as online.


Charcoal is one of the safest and most natural ways how to remove odor from your surroundings. Charcoal is well-known for its smelling absorbing properties. So leaving a bowl of charcoal in your closet or rooms will help you get rid of bad odors.

Fennel seed

And fennel seed is another natural way to get rid of strong and unpleasant odors. No matter if it is a mothball odor or any other odor in your home fennel seeds placed in a bowl and left out in the places that smell bad will absorb the bad odors and your home will be left smelling clean. So fennel is another safe, natural and effective way to get rid of mothball odor from furniture and upholstered furniture.
Mothball odor is considered an unpleasant yet essential side effect of using mothballs to get rid of moths and other pests. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. Because, as explained in this article, there are many ways to make get rid of mothball smell and make your clothes smell good without the use of chemicals.