If you are using the words “wool cloth or blankets, feathers and storage” in the same paragraph, chances are some sort of mothballs have been in use somewhere in your life, and the question “how do I remove mothball odors” has occurred to you.
Moth damage occurs during storage or when wool (or other susceptible articles) are not moved or worn on a regular basis. Clothes moths, which are small buff-colored moths, choose dark, quiet, undisturbed places to lay eggs. It’s the moth larvae that feed on wool, not the adult moths!
What are mothballs?
Mothballs are a fumigant used to protect clothing and other articles that are attacked by mice, silverfish, clothes moths and moth larvae. Napthalene is the older ingredient, while the more modern type is para-dichlorobenzene, or p-DCB. This is the same thing that is used in cakes for toilets and urinals and it also helps cut down on mold and mildew.
Both of these chemicals have a strong smell and are highly volatile, but they eventually evaporate when kept at room temperature. While para-di mothballs normally evaporate in a about one month, naphthalene can often take many months to dissipate.
Many Ways to Remove Mothball Odors
- Time and air circulation are the two primary factors in removing mothball odors; however, there are several methods that can be used for blankets, clothing, feathers and furs that will speed up the process.
- Activated charcoal is used in industrial air filtering applications, and there are commercial closet deodorizers available at home stores and grocery stores. One brand that works well is Pure Non-Scents®. This can be placed on flat trays or tied up in sachets and placed among the offending items. This will work better if there is good air circulation around the items.
- Items that will not fade and that are not affected by sunlight, can be set out in the sun for a short period of time. However, brightly colored items tend to fade, so they should be checked frequently.
- Another effective deodorizing agent is baking soda, and it will remove odors if placed in a confined space with affected articles. Place a quantity of soda in an open container and leave it with the items for several days.
- White vinegar is also good deodorizer, and items that will not be affected by water can be lightly sprayed with a weak solution of vinegar and water. Also, shallow bowls of vinegar can be set around the house, and clothes and bedding can be washed in it.
- Heat intensifies the release of odors and for items that can be dried in a clothes dryer, this works well. Dryer sheets will help remove the odor, but this should only be done using a very low heat setting. For items that cannot be placed in a dryer, they can be hung in an area with good air circulation.
- To remove odors from a home, try running the heater with the windows open for short period of time. The heat and air circulation will help remove odors.
Now that that the moth ball smell is gone . . .
You will still have times you need to store your wool and other items susceptible to moth damage. What to do and not repeat the moth ball smell cycle? Probably the best thing you can do to prevent moths (and their larvae) from getting to your wool is storing it in airtight containers. Plastic storage bags or boxes, especially the vacuum seal type, will deprive the insects of the oxygen they need and don’t require chemicals.
Moth damage to wools mainly occurs during storage or when wool articles are not moved or worn on a regular basis. Clothes moths choose dark, quiet, undisturbed places to lay the eggs that turn into the wool or feather eating larvae.
Brush wool items that are in active use on a regular basis – a lint brush or nylon bristled clothes brush works well for this. Most importantly, clean wool articles before placing in storage. Soiled wools (even those which have picked up invisible body oils) are more likely to attract moths. Both dry cleaning and laundering will remove any moth eggs or larvae. After cleaning, store wools in an airtight bag or container.