How Long Do Mothballs Last?

Storing clothes inside the wardrobe for an extended period of time often causes musty-smelling and moth-damaged items that we couldn't use again. We've looked into this issue in-depth and we have some information on how to use mothballs properly to protect your items, as well as other clothes storing tips in this post.

Mothballs deter moths from damaging clothing and other items stored inside your wardrobes and cabinets. They can last for about 3 to 6 months in the open air before they can dissipate entirely. If kept underneath clothes or it is otherwise unexposed to air, mothballs can last for more than a year.

Knowing the proper ways to use mothballs can be a little confusing. This is why we will be elaborating more about the proper use of mothballs in this article. Keep reading to learn more about how long your mothballs can last and other ways how you can prevent moth damage to your clothing.

spilled mothballs from a glass jar on a blue background. How Long Do Mothballs Last

How Long Do Mothballs Last?

Mothballs are solid chemical pesticides typically used to keep away moth larvae and moths from ruining stored clothing. In older homes, mothballs are typically stored with seasonal clothes which are typically stored for months at a time.

To store these items, mothballs are placed inside the wardrobe or closet in the open air to allow the chemical pesticide to dissipate inside the storage space. Mothballs that are stored this way will last for about 3 to 6 months before the mothball completely dissolves and dissipates.

However, some mothball users put them in between layers of clothes or hidden in the corners of the wardrobe. Mothballs that are used in this manner typically take longer to dissipate due to the lack of air. These mothballs can last for 6 months or even more than a year before they completely dissipate.

Naphthalene mothballs on yellow background

How Do You Store Unused Mothballs?

Since mothballs are chemical pesticides in solid form, it is important to store them properly to avoid kids and pets from reaching them. Mothballs can be poisonous and can cause adverse side effects if they are ingested due to poor storage.

Before purchasing your mothballs, make sure to buy just enough for what you will need at home. It would be best to have just a few unused mothballs that you need to store instead of buying them in bulk. Mothballs do lose their potency the longer they are unused.

If you have mothballs that are unused, keep them stored in an airtight container. Place them in a location that is hard for children and pets to reach. Remember to properly label the container with the date and contents to ensure other people what the contents of the container are.

Still life of various laundry supplies photographed against a backlit window.

How Safe Are Mothballs?

Generally speaking, mothballs are safe to use at home because it is a regulated pesticide. However, mothballs are made of naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, and if this chemical is consumed via inhalation, dermal contact, or other methods, it can cause health problems.

According to the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC), mothballs can be toxic to pets and humans, especially if exposed in high amounts. The toxic fumes from the dissipation of mothballs can compromise indoor air quality and leave potent chemical smells in your home.

If you are using mothballs at home, remember to always have ample ventilation and use air purifiers to get rid of the pollutants in the air. Remember to always vent out areas where mothballs are used to prevent the vapors from accumulating.

If the smell of the mothballs is becoming too strong in your home, it might be a sign that there is an overaccumulation of vapors at home. It would be best to contact your local Poison Control and seek help on what to do.

Can Mothballs Touch Clothing?

One of the disadvantages of using mothballs is the possible health hazards it causes when it is inhaled or touched. Because of this, always remember to keep mothballs away from directly contacting your fabrics. Mothballs can often cause skin irritation and rashes so do not put them with your clothing.

If you will be using mothballs in your wardrobes, moths and other insects are repelled simply by the vapor of the mothballs. To use mothballs, you can simply put them inside a porous drawstring mesh bag and hang them inside the closet.

linen and towels inside a white closet

How Do You Remove Mothball Smell From Clothes?

If you've used mothballs before, you will know the smell as soon as those closet doors open. We often always relate mothballs to the smell of storage and this smell can linger for a very long time. More often than not, the question that is commonly asked is how to get rid of the mothball smell from clothes.

There are a few ways to remove this chemical smell from your stored items. The smell of mothballs may take weeks before they disappear, so you may need to do these methods several times. Here are some suggestions:

1. Vinegar

For delicate items, soak the mothball-smelling clothes in a bucket filled with 1 part white vinegar to 8 parts warm water and leave it for about an hour. Rinse it with clean water, and repeat if the smell still lingers.

You can also use this method on the washing machine. Place your clothes in the machine and run a cycle with one cup of vinegar. Run another cycle with detergent and dry your clothes as you normally would. This should take care of removing the mothball smells from your clothes.

2. Baking Soda

Soak your clothing in a bucket filled with warm water and a cup of baking soda to remove the smell of mothballs. You can also run a wash cycle with a cup of soda and your regular amount of detergent to help remove the smell.

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3. Bleach

If your clothing can handle bleach, you can use this to remove the smell of mothballs on your clothes. Make sure to use non-chlorine bleach and run a cycle in your machine with your regular detergent and water. Don't forget to check your items if they are safe for use with bleach to prevent damage.

4. Fresh Air

Air out your musty, mothball-smelling clothing and leave them to dry under the heat of the sun. Spread out your clothes and leave them outside to help dissipate the remaining odors in the air. This is best done with other methods that we have listed above to completely remove the smell of mothballs.

5. Cedar Chips or Activated Charcoal

Cedar chips or activated charcoal are also great alternatives to keeping moths and other insects from infesting your closets. Aside from this, cedar chips and activated charcoal are good air absorbers that can help remove the smell of mothballs in your closet.

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To do this, you can simply hang drawstring bags of cedar chips or activated charcoal inside your storage space after removing all of the mothballs. Keep the space ventilated from time to time and replace your chips or charcoal to refresh the smell of your closet space.

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naphthalene mothballs on blue backgrond. How Long Do Mothballs Last

Final Thoughts

Mothballs are one of the most used moth and insect repellants to avoid damage to clothing, but it isn't the safest out there. For storing clothing, keep in mind that proper, clean storage and natural insect deterrent alternatives will be better and safer for you and your family in the long run.

Are you looking to learn more about proper storage for your clothes? It's a good thing we've got these articles that might spark your interest:

Can You Store Clothes In A Cardboard Box?

How To Keep Clothes Smelling Fresh In Storage Bins