How to Get Mothball Smell Out of Clothes

Mothballs are commonly used to protect clothes and other items from moth damage. However, they have a distinct and often unpleasant odor that can be challenging to remove from clothes. If you’re dealing with mothball smell in your favorite garments, don’t worry. In this article, we’ll provide you with effective methods to get rid of the mothball odor and bring freshness back to your clothes.

Get Mothball Smell Out of Clothes

Mothballs contain a chemical called naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, which helps repel moths and prevent damage to fabrics. While they are useful in protecting clothes, their strong smell can linger even after the mothballs are removed. The odor can be particularly stubborn, making it necessary to take specific steps to eliminate it.

Method 1: Wash with Vinegar

One of the simplest and most effective ways to eliminate mothball odor from clothes is by washing them with vinegar. Follow these steps:

  1. Place your clothes in the washing machine.
  2. Add a cup of vinegar to the machine.
  3. Run a cycle using cold water.
  4. After the first cycle is complete, run another cycle with your regular detergent.

If the mothball smell persists, repeat the process until the odor is completely eliminated.

Method 2: Soak in Vinegar

If you prefer not to wash your clothes with vinegar, you can opt for soaking them instead. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Take a closed plastic bag.
  2. Put your clothes inside the bag.
  3. Add a cup of vinegar to the bag.
  4. Seal the bag tightly.
  5. Let the clothes soak in the vinegar overnight.

The acidity of vinegar neutralizes the smell of mothballs, and this method works particularly well when the odor is mild.

Method 3: Soak in Baking Soda

Another effective method to remove mothball smell is by soaking your clothes in a mixture of water and baking soda. Follow these steps:

  1. Fill a container or sink with water.
  2. Add baking soda to the water and mix well.
  3. Submerge your clothes in the baking soda solution.
  4. Allow them to soak for several hours or overnight.

Baking soda helps neutralize the chemical properties of mothballs, making them less effective and reducing their odor.

Method 4: Dry Clean

If the previous methods don’t yield satisfactory results, taking your clothes to a professional dry cleaner can be a reliable solution. Dry cleaners have access to powerful solvents that can effectively remove mothball smells from your garments.

Method 5: Use Charcoal

Activated charcoal is known for its odor-absorbing properties, making it an excellent option to eliminate mothball smell. Here’s how you can use it:

  1. Place activated charcoal inside a jar or sealable bag.
  2. Put your clothes on top of the charcoal.
  3. Seal the jar or bag and let it sit overnight.

The charcoal will absorb the mothball odor, leaving your clothes smelling fresh.

Method 6: Hang in the Sun

When dealing with mothball odor, allowing fresh air and sunlight to penetrate your clothes can be beneficial. Follow these steps:

  1. Hang the affected clothing, bedding, or linens outside in direct sunlight.
  2. Let them remain exposed for several hours.
  3. After sunning, wash the items using warm water, either by hand or in a washing machine.
  4. Add a cup of white vinegar to the wash water.

Sunlight and fresh air help dissipate the mothball smell, and the vinegar further aids in odor elimination.

Method 7: Place Bowls of Vinegar or Baking Soda in the Closet

If you’re looking to remove mothball smells from the storage area itself, you can use vinegar, baking soda, or coffee grounds to absorb the odor. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Place bowls of white vinegar, an open box of baking soda, or a bowl of coffee grounds in the closet.
  2. Change them out frequently until the smell is completely gone.

These absorbents will help neutralize the mothball odor in the surrounding space.

Additional Considerations

In some cases, the mothball odor may have permeated the storage area itself, such as drawers or closets. If this is the case, you may need to consider a surface treatment or professional cleaning service to thoroughly eliminate the smell. They will have the expertise and equipment to address any lingering odors effectively.


Mothball smell can be stubborn, but with the right methods, you can successfully remove it from your clothes. Whether you choose to wash with vinegar, soak in vinegar or baking soda, dry clean, use charcoal, hang in the sun, or employ bowls of vinegar or baking soda in the closet, you have various options to tackle the problem. Remember to be patient and repeat the methods if necessary until the mothball smell is completely eliminated, leaving your clothes fresh and odor-free.


1. Are mothballs toxic?

Yes, mothballs contain chemicals that are toxic if ingested or inhaled in large amounts. It’s important to use caution when handling mothballs and keep them away from children and pets.

2. How long does it take for the mothball smell to dissipate?

The time it takes for the mothball smell to go away depends on several factors, including the severity of the odor and the method used to remove it. With the recommended methods, the smell should gradually dissipate over a few days to a few weeks.

3. Can I use other types of vinegar instead of white vinegar?

Yes, other types of vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar or distilled vinegar, can also be used to remove mothball smell from clothes.

4. Can I use baking powder instead of baking soda?

No, baking soda and baking powder are not the same. Baking soda is effective in neutralizing odors, while baking powder is primarily used as a leavening agent in baking.

5. Can I use mothball alternatives instead?

Yes, there are mothball alternatives available in the market, such as cedar chips, lavender sachets, or herbal repellents. These alternatives can help prevent moth damage and do not leave a strong odor on your clothes.

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Camilo Kawas is a seasoned entrepreneur and expert in the field of commercial cleaning, with a specific focus on clothes, carpet cleaning and floor care. With a profound understanding of the importance of selecting the right products for effective stain removal from clothes, Camilo has established himself as a trusted authority in the industry.

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