What Are Mothballs Used For?

Published Categorized as Moths

Whenever you’ve experienced the unfortunate event of moths fluttering between the folds of your precious clothing, many of us would instantly begin searching for those chemically doused mothballs, in hopes of choking the pest before it can do any further damage. But do these mothballs serve any further purpose, apart from killing those grotesque butterfly imitators? And are they actually effective? Let’s find out what mothballs are actually used for.

What are Mothballs?

Mothballs are small white balls, that contain chemical pesticides and odours. They are used when storing clothing and other articles of material that can potentially become damaged from moths and other insects. Mothballs are commonly used as a type of pesticide to control silverfish and other fibre pests that will feed on certain types of fabric, like carpets or curtains made from natural fibres. These pests can be found in your home. You may even find them burrowed between the folds of your clothing, or in the little lift of your living room carpet! These almost comfy areas provide these pests a place to lay their larvae and hatch making an immediate meal out of your clothes.

Struggling with pests laying eggs in your carpets? Try: How to get rid of carpet moths.

What are Mothballs Made of?

Older types of mothballs included a chemical component called naphthalene. This chemical is produced from crude oil or coal tar that’s used primarily as an insecticide and pest repellent. However, naphthalene can also be hazardous to human health when inhaled in large amounts. It’s also flammable, which is why it has been removed from present-day mothballs. Nowadays these powerful little mothballs are made from many varieties of chemicals, the most common being 1,4-dichlorobenzene.

While these modern varieties are less dangerous than those made of naphthalene, they’re still hazardous to human health and animals. This chemical-laced mothball is broken down in the body to form other compounds that can be harmful to cells or organs – even at low levels of exposure over time.

What are Mothballs Used for?

Mothballs are used to kill moths and moth eggs, which can be found in clothing and other fabrics. These chemicals are designed to be stored in air-tight bags made of non-reactive plastic, such as polyethylene or polypropylene, that is then wrapped around your clothing.

Clothing that is being protected needs to be enclosed in plastic-sealed containers with mothballs placed on top of the clothing. This ensures that the chemical vapours from the mothball don’t spread into the home via air circulation or any other means. Don’t forget that these chemicals can negatively impact those in the home, including your pets and you.

When to Use Mothballs?

Mothballs work by releasing fumes that are toxic to moths. They contain chemicals that are poisonous to insects, and so when you place the mothball in between a garment, it will release these toxic fumes over time. This means that you can use your stored clothes without worrying about moths getting at them.

If you’re looking for a way to store your winter clothes during the warmer months of the year, mothballs are an effective solution that’s both inexpensive and easy to use. They’ll keep any unwanted pests away from your clothes while they’re being stored – which means they may even last longer than they would have if left in storage all year round. You can also use them on other items around your home, including pillow cases, bedsheets or upholstery, which often get chomped away by bugs such as carpet beetles as well!

For more on protecting your clothes from moths you may want to check out: How to get rid of clothes moths.

Can You Use Mothballs Outside?

If you’re wondering whether mothballs can be used outside your home, the answer is generally no. Although they are not technically toxic, these heavily chemicalised balls, happen to carry a strong odour that can become very toxic when exposed to natural organisms. They can also irritate your skin and eyes if you come into personal contact with them. In case you still decide to use them here is how long moth balls last outside.

In addition to their unpleasant smell, mothballs contain active ingredients that can be harmful to humans and animals when they seep into soil or water supplies. For this reason, they are not recommended for use outdoors where they may contaminate groundwater or potentially harm outdoor pets, especially when they sniff around the grass and soil!

Benefits of Using Mothballs

Mothballs are an effective way to keep moths at bay. Although there are other methods for dealing with these pesky insects, moth balls have been used for decades and have proven to be a reliable method of extermination. So what are the benefits of using moth balls? Well they happen to:

  • Remove Moths Completely
  • Repel Insects
  • Prevent Damage to Your Clothing

Remove Moths Completely

Removing moths from your house with mothballs is an effective way to get rid of them, because they contain toxic chemicals that are harmful to moths, preventing them from burrowing into certain places that the mothballs have been placed in, such as your wardrobes, carpets and drawers.

Because mothballs are poisonous, it’s important to not use them more than necessary, especially away from the areas of the house that children play in or frequently hang around. Also, be sure not to leave any mothballs out overnight because fumes from these chemicals can build up over time. Be sure to also avoid the use of mothballs on clothes or other fabrics, since this could cause excessive irritation if they are touched by someone who may have sensitive skin or allergies (such as those with asthma).

Repel Insects

Mothballs are not only used for clothing, they can also be used to repel insects such as cockroaches, bedbugs and mosquitoes. However, the chemicals present in mothballs may cause serious allergic reactions if inhaled by children or pets. You should avoid using them in closed areas like attics, basements and garages because of the toxic nature of these products.

Prevent Damage to Your Clothing

There are several reasons why it is important to keep your clothing away from moths. Moth damage is one of the most common forms of fabric damage, and it can occur in any room with clothes. The most habitual problem is that moths will eat certain parts or materials of your clothes, leaving them with holes and tears.

If you have expensive clothing or other items that you wish to protect from moth attacks, then placing some moth balls in your cupboard or wardrobe can be a great way to prevent them from being damaged by pests. However, this method does not come without its downsides as the odours may not be so pleasant and leave your clothes smelling as if they had been soaked and rubbed excessively with these pungent chemicalised balls.

Can Mothballs Make You Sick?

Now, bearing in mind that the majority of mothball users are likely well-meaning folks who wish to protect their belongings from their inevitable demise from pesky moths, let’s take a look at some of the potential health risks associated with using them.

If you have expensive garments or other items that you wish to protect from moth attacks then placing some moth balls in between the folds of your clothing, tucked into the comfort of your cupboard or wardrobes, can be a great way to prevent further damage by pests. However this method does come with its cons, the major one being that the smell emanating from the mothballs is so overpowering, that your clothes will impart a lingering odour, that’ll have your nose wrinkling in discomfort.

Mothballs contain chemical compounds such as naphthalene, or paradichlorobenzene, both of which are deemed toxic when in close proximity to both humans and pets, although they’re not known to be carcinogenic. Mothballs should therefore be placed in an airtight container or closed space, where they can’t rush into the open air like other types of toxic chemicals are known to – and this is especially important to those who have small kids or pets around who may unknowingly, and accidentally ingest them.

Can Mothballs Be Used as a Repellent?

When it comes to mothballs, many people find themselves wondering whether they are as effective when used as a repellent for larger pests. This misconception has been around for years, but the truth is that most mothballs are designed with a specific purpose in mind, that is to kill moths, and their effectiveness as a pest repellent is largely limited to this one use.

Mothballs work by releasing a chemical gas into the air, which smells terrible and fumigates any area where they are placed. They’re particularly effective against moths because small insects are more sensitive to smell than humans; we only notice the odour when there’s too much of it to ignore!

However, because larger animals like snakes and raccoons also have a strong sense of smell (and tend not to be afraid of things that humans find offensive), using mothballs may attract them, contrary to what you had wanted, making them an ineffective method of keeping these unwanted critters at bay.

How Long Does Mothball Smell Last?

The smell of the mothballs can linger for a long time, depending on the type of things that you have in your home. Mothballs generally dissipate after 4 to 6 weeks, particularly if they are kept in an airtight space or bag.

However, if the mothballs aren’t contained correctly, and it reaches other parts of your home, it could take longer for them to go away completely. It may even remain there long after you think it has disintegrated. This can be especially true if you have placed the mothballs in an area of little circulation, such as an attic or basement where there is little to no fresh air coming into the room.

Step by Step Mothball Instructions

Like many chemical products, mothballs come with their very own instructions. To ensure maximum protection of both yourself and your garments!

  1. Take the clothing that you wish to protect from pesky moths and place them in a garment bag, storage bin or something else that is somewhat airtight.
  2. This will keep away adult flying moths, and prevent vapours from mothballs from being overly diluted
  3. Handle the mothballs with plastic or rubber gloves, double-check the packaging and see how many balls are needed. Place them with your garments, or in between the folds.
  4. Store the item of clothing for as long as you need.
  5. When it is time to unpack your clothing, bring the container or garment bag to a ventilated area (i.e., outside)
  6. Open the windows if possible. Remove the clothing and air them out for a few days, then proceed to wash before wearing


You can use mothballs for lots of things, including repelling insects and preventing damage to your clothing. If you’re looking for an affordable way to protect your clothes from moths, this is a great option!


What will Mothballs Keep Away?

Mothballs are designed to suffocate and repel moths, cockroaches, bed bugs and sometimes mosquitos.

Can You Sleep in a Room with Mothballs?

You can potentially sleep in a room with mothballs, providing that they have been sealed in an airtight compartment, whether that is your wardrobe between the folds of your clothes, or in a vacuum sealed bag, coupled with your item of clothing.

What can Mothballs Kill?

The fumes from mothballs kill clothes moths, their eggs and larvae that eat natural fibres in indoor storage areas, such as closets, attics, and basements. Mothballs are not intended to be used outdoors.

Where Should I put Mothballs in my House?

The appropriate place for your mothballs are , the inside of tightly closed containers along with clothing or materials.

By Travis Amos

My house is my castle, and there is no space for unwanted neighbors.

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