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How to Remove Mothball Odor

Grandma never got the memo – mothballs stink! Not only do they make the clothes smell, but an entire room can absorb the smell of mothballs. Even if those wool sweaters escaped unscathed from moths, no one wants to wear a stinky sweater. There is also evidence that mothballs may have negative health consequences, especially for sensitive individuals. Removing mothball odor may require some patience if the area has been affected for a long period of time. 

What Do I Need to Remove Mothball Odor?

The supplies you’ll need to remove mothball odor are probably around your house already: a spray bottle, white vinegar and a few rags should get you started. Activated charcoal and an ozone machine may be necessary if these supplies can’t remove the smell. 

Steps for Removing Mothball Odor

1) Wipe Down Surfaces

Begin by removing the mothballs. Air out contaminated clothing outdoors for at least a day. The fresh air and sunlight will help minimize the odor. Spray the clothing with a 50-50 mixture of water and vinegar. Use a rag and this solution to wipe down hard surfaces and storage containers throughout the room.

2) Wash Clothing

Launder clothing that still smells, using vinegar as the detergent. Simply add a half cup of vinegar before you wash the clothes. Follow up with a regular wash cycle with your normal detergent. The vinegar smell will dissipate once the clothing dries.

3) Air Circulation & Purification

If the room still smells after you’ve wiped everything down, place bowls of white vinegar or activated charcoal around the room. The vinegar or charcoal should be replaced every few days as they absorb the odor. If you don’t like the smell of vinegar, add a few drops of essential oils to the bowl. 

If weather permits, leave doors and windows open to encourage air circulation. If you can’t open windows, an air filter / purifier with a HEPA filter will help remove any odor-causing molecules.

4) Ozone Generator

If the mothball odor refuses to leave, an ozone generator is the next-best option. You can purchase or rent these machines from your local hardware store. They work by producing pure ozone, or “activated oxygen,” which destroys odor molecules through oxidation. Simply leave the ozone generator running in a closed room for the period of time recommended by the manufacturer. 

Mothball Alternatives

Next time you want to prevent insects from eating your clothes, try natural alternatives. Cedar wood is an effective moth repellent. Homeowners can store clothes in a cedar chest or even line the closet with cedar wood. Red cedar is the most popular type of cedar for closets and storage, due to its pleasant aroma. Another option is to use cedar chips in sachets to disperse the cedar smell. Replace the chips when the smell wears out. Not only does cedar smell great; it doesn’t have the harmful (or smelly) side effects of mothballs.

There is also evidence that lavender, cloves and mint can repel moths. You might experiment with using herb sachets or essential oils (in small bowls) in storage areas. Homeowners can also store clothing in sealed bags. Vacuum-sealed garment bags help save space and guarantee no critters will find their way into your clothing.

Find the Source of the Problem

Look for the source or entry point of the moths to prevent future infestations. Clean the affected room thoroughly: Vacuum or steam clean the carpets, dust and wipe down all surfaces with vinegar, and keep an eye out for any larvae or eggs. Moths thrive in dark, humid conditions, so consider getting a dehumidifier to control their populations. If you’re worried about hidden eggs on certain garments, toss them in the freezer for four days. 

Help from the Experts

Look for the source or entry point of the moths to prevent future infestations. Clean the affected room thoroughly: Vacuum or steam clean the carpets, dust and wipe down all surfaces with vinegar, and keep an eye out for any larvae or eggs. Moths thrive in dark, humid conditions, so consider getting a dehumidifier to control their populations. If you’re worried about hidden eggs on certain garments, toss them in the freezer for four days.