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How To Get Mothball Smell Out Of Clothes: Easy & Effective Tips

How to get mothball smell out of clothes?

Welcome to our easy & effective guide on “How to Get Mothball Smell Out of Clothes.” We understand how frustrating it can be to have your favorite garments smell like mothballs. Whether it’s vintage pieces you’ve picked up or clothes stored away for a while, we’re here to help you tackle this pesky problem with ease. Say goodbye to that musty odor and say hello to a wardrobe that smells fresh and clean again. In this article, we’ll share practical tips and effective solutions in a friendly, easy-to-follow manner. Let’s get started on reviving your clothes and making them odor-free!

What are mothballs and why do they smell?

Mothballs are small, potent balls used to protect clothes from moths and other fabric-damaging insects. They are typically made from naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, both strong-smelling chemical pesticides. 

Naphthalene is derived from coal tar, and paradichlorobenzene is a relative newcomer, each with a distinct, pungent odor. These compounds have a high vapor pressure, meaning they easily transform from solids to gas at room temperature. 

This gaseous form penetrates deep into fabric fibers, imparting a strong, lingering smell. Their effectiveness in repelling pests is due to this strong odor and their ability to remain in clothing fibers for extended periods. 

However, this persistence is precisely what makes the removal of their smell from clothes a notable challenge. The distinctive mothball odor is a byproduct of these chemicals’ properties, designed to deter insects but often leaving a lasting impact on stored clothing.

Easiest guide to getting mothball smell out of clothes

Removing mothball odor from garments may seem challenging, but fear not, it’s manageable with some perseverance and appropriate methods. Below is a helpful guide to effectively eliminate that persistent smell:

Let them breathe:

First things first, give your clothes some fresh air. Hang them outside on a sunny day. The combination of fresh air and sunshine works wonders in reducing that strong mothball scent.

Vinegar to the rescue: 

When you’re ready to wash them, add a cup of white vinegar to your laundry. Vinegar is like magic for neutralizing odors, and it’s gentle on most fabrics. Just remember to check your clothes’ care labels first.

Baking soda bath: 

For those stubborn smells, try soaking your clothes in warm water mixed with baking soda before washing them. Baking soda is a natural odor absorber and can help lift the mothball smell.

Activated charcoal trick: 

If you’re dealing with delicate items, try placing them in a sealed bag or container with some activated charcoal. Charcoal is fantastic at absorbing odors without adding any scent.

Enzyme cleaners: 

These are not just for pet messes! Enzyme cleaners can break down the odor-causing molecules and are a great option for getting rid of that mothball smell.

Steam with care: 

For delicate items that can’t handle a full wash, a gentle steam cleaning might do the trick. Just be careful with heat-sensitive fabrics.

Persistence pays off:

Sometimes, you might need to repeat these steps to completely get rid of the smell. Don’t lose hope – it’s normal for some fabrics to hold onto odors more stubbornly than others.

Remember, each garment is unique, so what works for one might not work for another. Always check the care instructions, and when in doubt, test a small area first.

Natural remedies to remove mothball smell

Natural remedies can work wonders in removing that stubborn mothball smell from your clothes. Let’s delve into these effective methods:

Vinegar solution:

What you need: White vinegar, a large bucket or basin, and water.


  • Mix one part white vinegar with three parts water in your basin.
  • Submerge your clothes in this solution and let them soak for a few hours or overnight.
  • After soaking, give them a thorough rinse with cold water.
  • Finally, wash your clothes as you normally would with a gentle detergent.

Vinegar is a powerful natural deodorizer and can effectively neutralize the mothball smell.

Baking soda treatment:

What you need: Baking soda, a large basin, water.


  • Fill your basin with cold water and add half a cup of baking soda.
  • Mix until the baking soda dissolves.
  • Submerge your clothes in this mixture and let them soak for a few hours overnight.
  • After soaking, rinse your clothes with cold water.
  • Proceed to wash them using a gentle detergent.

Baking soda is a fantastic odor absorber and can help lift the mothball scent from your garments.

Fresh air and sunlight exposure:


  • Hang your clothes outside on a sunny day.
  • Allow them to bask in the fresh air and sunlight for several hours.
  • The combination of UV rays and natural ventilation can help break down and dissipate the mothball odor.

This method is especially useful for items that can’t be soaked or washed, like coats or delicate fabrics. Just be sure to check care labels for sun exposure restrictions.

Remember, these natural remedies may require a bit of time and patience, but they are gentle on your clothes and environment. Feel free to repeat these steps if necessary, and soon your garments will be free from that pesky mothball smell.

Extra tips and tricks to get mothball smell out of clothes

Let’s explore some additional tips and tricks to help you in your quest to banish that mothball smell from your clothes:

Activated charcoal:

  • How to use: Place your clothes in a sealed container or bag along with activated charcoal. You can find activated charcoal in various forms, such as bags or granules.
  • Why It works: Activated charcoal is an excellent odor absorber. It can effectively trap and neutralize the mothball smell over time. Make sure the container or bag is airtight for the best results.

Scented laundry additives:

  • What to look for: When washing your clothes, consider using scented laundry additives. These can include scented detergents, fabric softeners, or scent-boosting beads.
  • How they help: Scented additives not only mask odors but also leave your clothes smelling fresh and pleasant. They can be especially useful if you want to add a specific fragrance to your garments.

Try these tips for fresh-smelling clothes: Activate charcoal absorbs odors, and scented additives leave a pleasant scent. Use alongside natural remedies.

How to prevent mothball smells in the future?

Preventing that unmistakable mothball odor from clinging to your clothes isn’t just about ditching the old-fashioned naphthalene balls. It’s about smart, alternative strategies to keep those pesky moths at bay while keeping your clothes fresh and ready to wear.

OPT for alternative moth repellents:

Ditch those pungent mothballs and embrace alternatives like cedar chips or lavender sachets. These natural options not only smell delightful but also do a great job of keeping moths at bay. Cedar hangers and blocks are excellent for closets, and lavender sachets can be tucked into drawers for a fresh scent.

Master the art of proper storage:

When storing clothes, cleanliness is key. Always wash or dry clean garments before storing them, as moths are attracted to dirt and sweat. Choose airtight containers or vacuum-sealed bags to keep your clothes safe and fresh. This method not only wards off moths but also prevents musty odors.

By incorporating these simple yet effective strategies, you can say goodbye to mothball smells and hello to fresh, well-preserved clothes!


In conclusion, knowing how to get mothball smell out of clothes is an essential skill for any wardrobe guardian. Whether you’ve recently discovered that unmistakable odor or you’re looking to prevent it in the first place, these strategies can be a real game-changer.

By using natural remedies like vinegar and baking soda, taking advantage of fresh air and sunlight, and employing handy tricks such as activated charcoal and scented additives, you can bid farewell to that stubborn mothball scent. 

With the appropriate procedures and time, persistence and patience are essential for producing moth-free clothing. Enjoy your clothing as they were designed to be: fresh, clean, and odor-free, allowing your wardrobe to shine once more.