Mothballs are a common home remedy due to their pesticidal properties and ability to negate other bad smells. The problem is that mothballs are themselves rather unpleasant smelling and tend to leave that odor behind long after the balls themselves dissolve.
Getting rid of that mothball smell can be difficult in many cases, but there are some great tried-and-true remedies out there.
What do Mothballs Smell Like?
While different people often answer this question differently, the basic consensus is that it initially has a sweet smell which soon becomes pungent the longer you’re exposed to it.
As the fumes are toxic and can cause physical and neurological damage with over-exposure, it’s best to get rid of the smell, when possible.
How Long do Mothballs Last?
When exposed to the elements, a mothball will generally last for between four and six weeks. However, the fumes can last much longer, allowing mothballs to effectively last for several years if in a properly sealed container.
Getting Rid of the Mothball Smell
While it’s possible to wait out the mothball smell, this isn’t recommended, in no small part because the poisonous residue will remain after the smell dissipates. The good news is that getting rid of that stench is fairly simple and involves products you likely already have in your home.
Related: How to Get Rid of a Dead Mouse Smell
From Your Clothing
Vinegar is your best friend when it comes to washable clothes. You can either soak the clothes in an equal mix of water and vinegar overnight, or run a cycle in the washer using vinegar instead of detergent, followed by a cycle using detergent. For delicates, you can also use a spray bottle instead of soaking.
An alternative to vinegar is unchlorinated bleach, although this is best reserved for whites or more durable materials such as jeans.
From Your Furniture or Carpets
Depending on the material your furniture is made of, you may need to get an odor eliminator to safely get rid of the mothball smell. For most couches and other fabric-covered furnishings (including carpets), however, you can use a wet-vac in the same manner as the washer.
First apply a layer of the 50/50 vinegar mix using the vac or a spray bottle, then go over the furniture as you normally would with the wet-vac. Not only does this method get rid of the odor, it will make the furnishings nice and clean; killing bed bugs, fleas, and other small pests.
From Your House
Getting the mothball smell out of a room or closet is a little more difficult than clothing, although the solutions themselves are simple. A bowl of vinegar or activated charcoal (available at most pet stores) will slowly absorb the odor safely.
You might also choose to use odor-absorbing candles or even coffee grounds. Just remember that you may need to change the item you choose frequently to have a maximum effect.
Using a Mothball Odor Eliminator
There are a number of mothball odor eliminators on the market, each with their own qualities. Most of these eliminators do a good job of eliminating the mothball smell, although they are a more expensive solution than the ones above.
Here are a couple mothball odor removal products we recommend: