The Best Way to Get Rid of a Mothball Smell

You can eliminate the smell of mothballs by using vinegar and washing affected fabrics. While the scent of mothballs is strong, it’s not impossible to remove.

Mothballs are a combination of pesticides and deodorant. They work well for repelling moths, silverfish, and other insects, but the odor they release is long-lasting. 

Get Rid of a Mothball Smell

If you’ve removed items from storage or bought something secondhand, here’s how to eliminate the mothball smell.

How to Remove Mothball Smell from Your Clothes

While mothballs prevent moths from eating through your natural fiber clothes, the fumes they emit are toxic. So before you wear the clothes you’ve kept in storage, you need to wash them.

Step 1: Wash the Clothes with Vinegar

Vinegar is a natural odor neutralizer. It’s safe for most clothing and can erase the mothball smell.

Gather any affected clothes, add them to your washing machine with one cup of white distilled vinegar, and wash on your regular cycle.

Step 2: Rewash with Regular Detergent

Run the washing machine a second time, using only your regular detergent. Then, dry your clothes according to the care tag.

How to Get Mothball Smell Out of Your Closet, House, or Camper

Mothballs emit a pungent fume that spreads if you don’t keep them in an air-tight container. If you’ve used mothballs and the smell has permeated, these steps work to clear a room, closet, or camper of the odor.

But, before you start, dispose of any mothballs in the area and open windows to increase ventilation.

Step 1: Remove Any Fabric with Mothball Odors

Remove all clothes, linens, and other fabric items from the offending room. Next, add them to your washing machine with one cup of vinegar. After you’ve washed the fabrics in vinegar, do a second wash with your regular detergent and dry as usual.

Step 2: Wipe Down Hard Surfaces with Vinegar and Water

Mix a solution of half-white distilled vinegar and half water. Then, wipe all hard surfaces in contact or close to the mothballs.

Use this solution to wipe down walls, sealed wood, ceilings, dressers, and tables. 

(If you need to wash your walls and ceilings, dust them first, or you’ll leave dirt streaks behind. You can also spot-test the solution to ensure it doesn’t damage the wall before using it.)

Step 3: Use Odor Absorbers

Rather than masking a smell, odor absorbers pull bad smells out of the air. There are many types of odor absorbers you can use, including bowls of vinegar, bags of charcoal, or odor-absorbing candles.

If the mothball odor is in your carpet or upholstered items, sprinkle baking soda over the affected area, allow it to sit for 24 hours, and then vacuum it.

Related: How to Identify Musty Smells in Your Home

How to Get Mothball Smell Out of Your Car

The best way to get a mothball smell out of your car is to let it air out. On a warm, sunny day, open the windows and doors to allow air to circulate. If there’s bad weather, move your car to a garage and open doors for circulation.

You can also add odor absorbers to the car, like a hanging charcoal air freshener or an opened box of baking soda.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

Can you get rid of a mothball smell without washing your clothes?

Since mothballs contain pesticides, washing affected clothes is the best option. If you can’t wash your clothes, try hanging them outside to air out. Fresh air and sun can help remove lingering odors.

What can I use instead of mothballs?

If you want to keep moths out of your clothes without using mothballs, consider vacuum sealing the clothes you don’t wear, keeping them in an air-tight container, or repelling insects with lavender essential oils.

Will Febreze get rid of the mothball scent?

Febreze can help eliminate a mothball scent and is appropriate for spraying on clothes, curtains, and upholstered furniture.

Does mothball smell go away?

A mothball smell can stick around for weeks to months if you don’t take steps to eliminate it.

Final Thoughts

Mothballs release pesticides that kill and repel moths, silverfish, and other insects. While these round balls of chemicals and deodorant keep bugs from eating through fabric, they also emit a toxic and unpleasant scent. The best way to eliminate the smell is to wash all affected fabrics in vinegar to neutralize the odor.

If the mothball smell has spread to your room or camper, air out the space, wipe down hard surfaces with diluted vinegar, and set out odor absorbers. It might take a day or two, but the smell will disappear.