How to Quickly Get Rid of Mothball Smell from the House
Mothballs are great for protecting your clothing against moths and other insects. Unfortunately, they have a pungent odor that can be hard to get out of your house. Here are some tips for getting rid of that distinctive mothball scent from your home, clothing, and furniture.
Charcoal is one of the best ways to get a pervasive odor out of a room, once and for all. Due to its chemical structure and ample surface area (it’s quite porous), it pulls moisture and smells out of the airs, making it a great way to get rid of that nasty mothball smell.
These air purifying bags are filled with eco-friendly bamboo charcoal, and can be placed or hung around your home to discreetly deodorize your indoor air. Unlike many other kinds of air fresheners, charcoal actually neutralizes odors, rather than just masking them.
The Hamilton Beach Room Odor Eliminator contains three carbon filters, which pull the chemicals responsible for unpleasant odors out of the air when it’s moved through filters by the fans. It’s available in three different styles: a small wall plug mount, the plug mount with a built in nightlight, and a larger Whole Room Odor Eliminator.
This device is quite small, at just eight inches tall, and the fans are surprisingly quiet. Plus, it’s very energy efficient, consuming less electricity than a meager 15 watt light bulb. It’s one of the most effective products out there for thoroughly and reliably getting bad odors out of your house.
How to Get Rid of Mothball Smell from the House
The chemicals in mothballs – traditionally naphthalene, but nowadays often other compounds like 1,4-dichlorobenzene – are designed to slowly sublimate from a solid ball into a toxic gas, which acts as an effective insecticide.
While the chemicals aren’t really harmful to humans in the amount you’d be exposed to from regular household mothballs, the pungent odor can get into the air in your home, as well as getting on your hands and clothes.
Here are some methods for getting rid of the smell around your house.
- Use charcoal. You can use little bags of charcoal, or activated charcoal tablets set out in a bowl or dish, to pull in the mothball odor out of the air.
- Leave out bowls of vinegar or coffee grounds. Like the charcoal, vinegar and coffee grounds will help deodorize a room or closet.
- Set out a box of baking soda. This is a common, tried and true household odor remover that can work for mothball smell.
- Get some ventilation in the room. Open up the windows, and turn on the wall and ceiling fans to help push the air outside.
- Use cedar chips or cedar balls. Cedar has a pleasant smell, and can absorb other odors from drawers, closets, and cabinets.
- Spread zeolite – or household cat litter – on wood and furniture. Along with getting into the air, mothball smell can also permeate wood and upholstery. Zeolites are a group of minerals that have a structure that atoms and ions will adhere to, pulling the chemicals responsible for odors out of the air. It’s the main ingredient in cat litter.
- Mop the floors in the room. This can also help deodorize a room and remove mothball scent. To aid the process, you can add a little bit of baking soda to the water.
- Use air fresheners. Gel, plug-in, or spray air fresheners can help, especially when combined with odor absorbents like cat litter or charcoal.
- Use an air ionizer. Air ionizers use electricity to release negative ions into the air, which then bind to particles that can cause allergies and odors.
How to Get Rid of Mothball Smell from Clothes
Mothballs are a go-to solution for keeping clothes moths from damaging clothes in your closet, but the smell often seeps into the fabric. Here are some ways that you can get it out.
- Use a white vinegar and lemon juice solution. Mix up some white vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl. Then, use a clean cloth the gently dab the mixture onto the areas of the clothing that smell strongest.
- Use heat. Ironing a piece of clothing will generally remove mothball odor, as well as other unpleasant smells. If the garment should not be ironed, try hanging it out in the afternoon sun and letting it warm up. You may need to let it hang out over several days to completely get the smell out.
- Air it out. Try hanging the clothing outside, as long as the weather’s nice. For shoes, you usually want to avoid too much sun exposure.
- Run it through the dryer on the “air fluff” setting. You can also use a low heat setting, but be careful with fabrics prone to shrinkage, or that otherwise need to be air dried.
- Run the clothes through the washing machine with only vinegar, and not detergent. Run them through with the vinegar, then wash them a second time with regular detergent and fabric softener. Most of the mothball smell should disappear.
What causes a house to smell like mothballs?
Mothballs are basically a solid chunk of naphthalene or another chemical pesticide, most of which will sublimate directly into a gas and diffuse through the air. The noxious smell will keep moths and other insects away, and may even deter larger animals like mice and rats.
Because naphthalene and other mothball chemicals sublimate quickly and smell strongly, the odor can stay behind for quite some time after the mothball itself is long gone.
There are also a few other things that can cause a very similar smell. Tobacco smoke contains some naphthalene, as does the air outside sometimes in areas with heavy industrial pollution.