Mothballs: what use at home? How to use it ?


No doubt your grandmother used mothballs to repel moths. Because clothing moths are widespread pests. Clothing and fabrics are the preferred food sources for their larvae. Once the larvae have established themselves, it is difficult to get rid of them. That’s why your grandmother probably prevented this risk by slipping mothballs between the clothes of the whole family.

What is mothballs and how are they used?

When we think of mothballs come to mind images of small white balls that we slide into the laundry to keep moths away and to perfume the laundry. This small white ball discovered in 1920 is a crystallized form of naphthalene hydrocarbon. Is it really harmless? Not really, it’s a highly toxic product. It is present in cigarette smoke, in automobile fuel, in fumes from plastics. It is a chemical pesticide recognized as dangerous to health and banned for sale in France and Europe since 2008. Mothballs are therefore no longer legally available in stores. You will only be able to find it for sale on certain websites.

What’s the best way to use mothballs?

In order to develop their optimal effect, mothballs should be evenly distributed in their place of use. Their range of action being limited, the cabinets and chests are particularly suitable. There is no restriction on the placement of the small balls. They can be placed between clothes.

But the use of these balls is to be avoided since it is prohibited. They contain naphthalene and are therefore toxic to humans and also to animals. Mothballs release chemicals in gaseous form, which can cause eye and respiratory tract irritation if inhaled. Symptoms such as headache and nausea are also possible with prolonged contact. In addition, these substances are difficult to break down and can affect the environment, among other things, permanently polluting groundwater. Naphthalene is said to be carcinogenic. Its components can on contact cause itching, breathing difficulties, nausea and headaches. If swallowed, abdominal pain and vomiting are also possible.

Due to the risk of overdose, these mothballs can be especially dangerous for young children. In children, prolonged exposure to the chemicals in mothballs may trigger an allergic reaction. Mothballs can also have an irritating effect on many animals. Special caution is needed if you have cats. In case of contact, urgently consult a veterinarian.

What are the natural alternatives to mothballs?

Natural alternatives to mothballs are cedarwood, sachets of lavender, thyme or rosemary, cloves and essential oils.

  • The natural scent of cedar wood is an effective repellant against moths. Cedar wood comes in different forms. It can be small objects, chips or discs.
  • Lavender has a moth deterrent similar to many chemicals. Unlike these, however, lavender is safe for humans. Lavender against moths is available in small scented sachets. These can be hung or placed between clothes and give off their natural scent over time. If your clothing closet is already infested with moths, with lavender bags taking a long time to take full effect, using stronger chemicals may make sense here. Contrary to popular belief, lavender is safe for cats. However, due to the unpleasant smell, pets prefer to stay away from lavender sachets. For rabbits and hamsters however, lavender is poisonous. You can create your own lavender sachets yourself. And do the same with the thyme. Although for thyme, for reasons of diffusion, it is better to leave it in a small cup. Rosemary leaves also act like lavender or thyme
  • Cloves disturb moths by their smell. Plant cloves in a citrus fruit or in the skin of a citrus fruit (orange, lemon) and place them in your cupboards. The sour smell will keep moths away
  • Essential oils are versatile products. They are also suitable for getting rid of moths from clothing. You can choose between different oils, one or the other you can have at home anyway. Essential oils can be applied on a wooden support or used to regularly refresh scented sachets. Even if the scent of the bouquet of herbs (thyme, rosemary, lavender) mentioned above fades, a few drops of essential oil make it more effective again. When it comes to essential oils, lavender oil also tops the list of moth repellants. For the best use, just pour a few drops, on small wooden blocks, clothespins or the like that you place between your clothes. Pine essential oil like lavender oil keeps moths away and contributes to restful sleep. You can also use it for its double effect. The essential oil of tea tree which is also found in many household uses can be used. Thanks to its strong smell, it also keeps moths away from your clothes.