Moth balls have a smell that is hard to forget.
It is a heavy, sharp odour that lingers on anything it touches and often is hard to remove. The smell probably brings to mind old people, old clothes and old furniture. Of course you don’t want your personal belongings to smell like moth balls – especially your clothes. And I’m sure you’ll find that washing the clothes in a normal washing machine with normal laundry detergent is not likely to make much of a dent in the smell.
Naphthalene, a common ingredient in moth balls, is actually harmful and is not recommended for use with clothing although some people still use it. It is also very dangerous for newborn babies and children up till the age of three (although it’s not very safe for any age.)
Below you’ll find some basic steps to take to rid your clothes of the odour and remnants of moth balls, as well as some alternatives to moth balls to stop moths getting into your clothes and leaving holes.
Removing the Odour and Traces
Bleach. This is a strong disinfectant that is great for killing a large variety of germs as well as removing strong smells. Throw some in with the washing if the colors are suitable.
White Vinegar. If you are worried about the color fastness of your clothing or prefer an alternaltive that isn’t quite so strong, add some white vinegar to your washing load. It also acts as a disinfectant and can remove strong smells.
Fabric Softener. Doing another wash cycle with fabric softener helps get the deep seated smell out and also leaves them smelling fresh. It also cuts down on any harshness left in the fabric from the previous washes.
Sunlight. This is one of nature’s strongest natural disinfectants. By hanging the effected clothes out in strong sunlight (mid day is best), you’ll make sure that any remnants of odour and poisonous naphthalene are removed from the garments.
Moth balls & Naphthalene in Baby Clothes
If you’ve had a well meaning old aunt or friend give you baby clothing that has been stored with moth balls, don’t fret. Following at least three of the above steps should remove any odor and remaining chemicals from your baby’s clothes. If there is any lingering smell, give them an extra wash cycle or two with bleach or vinegar.
Alternatives to Moth Balls
There are natural alternatives to stop your precious clothing being eaten from moths that are safe and won’t have any impact on you or your family’s health.
Cedar Balls – Cedar is a natural moth repellent and can be either purchased as blocks to fit on your hangers or as cedar balls. Great alternative for men who prefer not to have ‘girly’ smelling clothes.
Lavender – Lavender is another natural moth repellent. It can be used in conjunction with cedar balls or used in cloth packets. Great alternative for the ladies.
Safe Storage – Sealing your moth liable clothing in air tight storage containers is another way to keep them safe.
Just found out the hard way that mothball smell (naphthelene) is not soluble in water after my son bought an OLD secondhand army jacket and I threw it in with a load of colors. EVERYHING then reeked of mothballs, including the washer! We ran everything through again, with vinegar and baking soda and hot water, then set out to dry in the sun. The clothes started to smell ok, but the washer was sTill smelling AWFUL. There was not a lot of good credible information on the internet for how to remove this smell. Reading more about naphthelene solubility – much of what dissolves it is heavy duty dangerous solvent stuff – but I found some hopeful information about ammonia. I am happy to report that a Cleaning cycle, with only a 1/2 cup of ammonia in the detergent container (NO BLEACH!!), has eliminated mothball smell from my washer. Just an FYI in case you get in this situation and don’t want to buy a new washer. That stink is powerful and can cause some serious headaches/migraines.