Putting your clothes in storage is a great way to save space in your wardrobe and only have seasonally appropriate clothing to hand. So, you pack up all your thick woolen jumpers, jackets, and a few mothballs and store them away for the season.
But, it’s not until the last of the autumn leaves fall that you grab those boxes, take out your cozy clothes and take a whiff of old mothballs. Mothball scents aren’t very pleasant, but they are stubborn.
The vapors of the mothballs get into the woven fibers of your clothes and stay there until action is taken. Fortunately, there are a few ways to eliminate the smell of mothballs. Keep reading to learn how to clean your mothball-scented clothes.
Mothball fumes are pungent and stubborn and may not dissipate with regular washing. First, run a wash cycle with white vinegar added, or soak the clothing in water and vinegar. Then, run a regular wash cycle with some scented laundry detergent.
Ensure you dry the pieces thoroughly and inspect for any lingering smells. Finally, deep clean the storage space they came from to remove any smells that have penetrated the wood or plastic the items were stored in. You can do this with vinegar or baking soda. Add an air freshener, and you’re good to go.
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Why Do My Clothes Smell like Mothballs?
Mothballs are tiny pellets of a pungent substance used to protect clothes in storage from getting eaten by moths. They are handy at protecting clothing made from natural fibers because moths particularly enjoy eating these.
Mothballs give a toxic vapor to deter insects and emit a mild scent. Clothes are made from millions of small fibers that cling to scents. Have you ever been to a bonfire? Your clothes smell like smoke for days, even after being washed. Mothball fumes act similarly.
Additionally, mothballs can last for years. Over time, the small pellets shrink and fragment and can sit inside your clothes, sofas, and even the pores of wooden furniture.
How to Remove Mothball Smells from Machine Washable Clothing
Removing mothball smells from clothing is relatively easy, but they won’t go away on their own. Unfortunately, simply airing out the garments won’t help. However, with a few ingredients and steps, the smell should be gone.
What you’ll need:
- Distilled white vinegar.
- Laundry detergent.
- Fabric spray (optional)
Steps to follow to get rid of the mothball smell from clothing:
Step 1: Get Rid of the Mothballs.
As explained previously, mothballs can disintegrate and even dissolve over time. Make sure that you remove solid remnants of mothball before introducing water. Pick out the visible mothballs and discard them safely.
Take the clothes outside and give them a good shake. This will help to dislodge as many particles as possible. Pick up any larger particles incase animals or children get at them. Then, hang the clothing outside in the sunshine for a few hours. Make sure you thoroughly wash your hands after touching the mothballs.
Step 2: Apply Vinegar.
As with many good DIYs, distilled white vinegar will be your best friend. Vinegar is highly acidic, which can neutralize the mothballs’ alkaline odors. The vinegar acts as a natural, cheap deodorizer.
White vinegar is an affordable way to remove scents without adding color or introducing staining. First, load your clothing into the washer, and set it to a cycle that is safe for the fabric you’re washing. Then, add a cup of white vinegar to the dispenser tray and run the cycle. It doesn’t need to be a particularly long or hot cycle, just enough to rinse the clothes thoroughly with the vinegar.
Check out the link below to stock up on some white distilled vinegar.
Step 3: Wash as Normal.
The vinegar will neutralize the mothball scents, but now we need to wash the clothes as usual and introduce some lovely detergent smells. Run another cycle with some laundry detergent.
After this second wash, if you still notice a smell, repeat steps one and two. To save money, you can soak the garments in a bucket of water and vinegar first. Then, machine wash as normal.
Step 4: Fabric Spray.
For a quick scent boost, spray your clothes with some fabric refresher. You can buy any standard fabric fresher used on furniture and clothing.
Head to the link below to buy some Fabreze Fabric Refresher for odors:
Step 5: Clean the Storage.
Before you put any other items back in storage, you’ll need to remove any remnants of the mothballs; otherwise, the problem will repeat itself. Whether it’s a drawer, closer, or storage box, you’ll need to give the space a good clean. Grab some antiseptic spray or a mixture of vinegar and water, and thoroughly wipe down the surfaces. Afterward, if possible, take the item outside to air out.
Additionally, you can use something to absorb the smells. For example, you can place some scrunched-up paper in the space and let it absorb the toxic fumes for as long as possible. This could be a few hours or days.
Alternatively, you can fill a bowl with vinegar or baking soda, place it in the space, and let it get to work. Let the bowls sit for a few days, then throw away the contents. You can repeat this process a few times until the smell is gone.
Put a nice-smelling air freshener inside the space to add a final touch!
How to Remove Mothball Scent from Delicate Clothing
If your clothes are too delicate to machine wash, you’ll need to alter the above method slightly. Whether you are washing delicate or natural woolen clothing, follow these steps. First, adjust according to your garment fabric.
- Fill a bucker ¾ full with warm water and add 1 cup of distilled white vinegar. If you’re dealing with a lot of clothing, you could also fill the bath, stick to a similar ratio, and add more vinegar. This way you’ll be able to wash more clothes at once.
- Add a few items of clothing to the bucket or bath and swirl them around to ensure they are fully saturated.
- Leave the clothes to soak for at least an hour.
- Then, if the garment is machine washable, run a normal cycle. If not, wash by hand with a little detergent and gloves, and rinse with clean water.
- Hang the clothes somewhere to air-dry.
Will the Smell of Mothballs Go Away? How Long Will it Take?
Mothballs are powerful little things, and the fumes they emit are stubborn. If an item of yours has been tainted with the scent, it can take months and even years to fade on its own without a bit of cleaning.
Instead, it’s better to take action and remove the smells with a bit of cleaning. It should only take a few hours to eliminate the smell of mothballs.
Is it Harmful to Breath in Mothballs?
Mothballs are made from nasty chemicals; these chemicals are strong enough to scare away insects and can harm humans and pets. Occasional whiffs of mothballs are fine, but exposure to the stuff for prolonged periods can have side effects. If you’re dealing with a bad case of mothball odor, watch out for the following symptoms:
- Trouble breathing.
- Nausea and vomiting.
If you notice these symptoms, go outside and get some fresh air immediately. Wear a mask and gloves when dealing with many mothballs, and ensure the space is well-ventilated.
The most significant danger of mothballs is actually to kids and pets. Small, round mothballs can look deceptively edible to kids and animals. So make sure you keep them out of sight and reach of the little ones.
Mothball odors can be unpleasant, intense, and stubborn. The fumes sneak into your clothes, making you wish you’d just let your pink jumper get nibbled by some moths. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get rid of the smell.
Soak your clothing in water and white vinegar first, then run a regular wash cycle. Make sure you clean the closet or storage space before putting anything back because the smell will continue to taint your garments. Next time some mothballs ruin your day, don’t worry; we’ve got the solution.
As a busy mom, Raz knows firsthand the challenges of balancing parenting and household management. Raz is constantly searching for ways to simplify her life and loves sharing her experiences and tips with others. Whether it's finding creative meal solutions for picky eaters or discovering the latest time-saving home organization hack, she is always on the lookout for ways to make life easier for her family and herself.
Last update on 2023-01-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API