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How Many Mothballs To Use in a Room?

How Many Mothballs To Use in a Room?

Unless you have a packet of mothballs at your disposal, you’re never immune to pulling out one of your favorite sweaters from the closet and discovering it’s been ruined by a pesky moth infestation.

But that doesn’t mean you should go out and buy the biggest bag of mothballs you can find. Mothballs can be just as dangerous as they are effective, and you need to use them sparingly to get the maximum benefit. So how many mothballs should you use in a room? 

In this article, we’ll provide all the information you need when using mothballs as a weapon against moths. We’ll even give some safer alternative options just in case you want to elude the noxious fumes of mothballs. Keep reading to learn more!

What Are Mothballs?

Mothballs are a form of pest control used to deter moths, silverfish, and other fabric-eating pests. They typically contain an insecticide like naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, which effectively repels moths and other fabric-eating pests.

In a peek, you’re likely to mistake mothballs for some kind of candy. After all, they’re usually white and small, just like a candy ball.

But hey, don’t be fooled; mothballs are not associated with anything sweet or even edible. In fact, mothballs are small balls of pesticide.

Yes, you read it correctly – mothballs contain a toxic chemical that kills moths, larvae, and eggs.

Some use naphthalene as the active ingredient, while others feature paradichlorobenzene.

The two chemicals are both fumigants, meaning they evaporate and create a fog that can kill moths and their larvae.

Naphthalene is more toxic than paradichlorobenzene, but that doesn’t mean you can go beyond the recommended dosage for either one.

Used more than should be, naphthalene-based mothballs may cause damage to red blood cells, the liver, kidney, among other problems. In fact, animal studies show that this ingredient could be a possible carcinogen.

As for paradichlorobenzene, its deleterious effects on human health include headaches, nausea, dizziness, eye and nose irritation, and more.

In any case, you need to be extremely careful when using mothballs, as both chemicals can be dangerous if misused. That brings us back to our main question – how many mothballs should you use in a room?

How Many Mothballs Should You Use in a Room, Garage, And Closet?

The number of mothballs that you should use in your space depends on the size of the area that needs to be treated. Use 2 to 4 mothballs for your room, 4 to 8 for a garage, and up to 2 for a closet. That way, the pesticide will release enough fumes to repel the moths but not too much to put your health at risk.

You see, as aforesaid, mothballs aren’t among the things you’ll want to mess up with when using in your home. So, you must be careful with how much you use in your space.

Sure, too much of it will wage a more fierce battle against mothballs, but it can also be dangerous for your health if not used properly.

Ideally, the number of mothballs you need to use depends on the size of your space. For a small room, 2 mothballs should suffice to keep your space moth-free. But for a bigger room, you may want to use more, but don’t exceed 4.

For your garage, you’ll want to use more mothballs than what you’d use in a room. Generally, 4 to 8 mothballs should suffice for your garage. You’ll want to place the pesticide along anything of fabric, say an upholstered seat, but putting it on or close to paper would also work fine.

For your closet, most people opt to put an open pack of mothballs in the closet. Others put these balls right beside their clothes. All these work fine, but I’d recommend working with only two mothballs for your closet, one on a lower shelf and the other on the highest.

And if you have more than one closet in your home, make sure to use a mothball in each one. You don’t want to make the smell too strong and oppressive.

Can You Sleep in a Room With Mothballs?

Yes, you can sleep in a room with mothballs, but only if the mothballs are in an enclosed space. According to the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC), you should only put mothballs in an airtight container along with the clothing materials. There, the fumes will build up in the container and kill moths without sneaking outside into your room.

As such, as long as you’ve got the mothballs contained within an airtight container, you can sleep in your room without any worries. That way, you’ll also reduce the chances of inhaling the active ingredient in mothballs, as well as other risks associated with its use.

What To Do If Your Clothes Smell Like Mothballs?

One reason mothballs keep moths away is because of the strong odor they emit. That smell may be off-putting to moths, but it’s also unpleasant for humans. If your clothes are starting to smell like mothballs, there are a few things you can do.

Here are some tips to help get rid of the mothball smell from your clothes:

Wash With Vinegar And Water

We already know vinegar has a thousand and one uses around the home. It turns out that it can also be used to help get rid of mothball smells in your clothes.

Just mix some vinegar with water and use it for a washing cycle. Make sure to add at least a cup of vinegar for every cycle. I’d suggest doing this two times at least to get the best outcome.

Soak Clothes In Vinegar

If you don’t want to use the washing method, you can soak the clothes in vinegar instead. Just put the clothes in a bucket and mix them with enough vinegar until they are completely submerged.

Let the setup sit for about an hour, and then rinse the clothes with cold water to remove any of the vinegar smell.

Use Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is another great way to help remove mothball smells from your clothes. All you have to do is fill up a bowl or sock with activated charcoal and place it inside the closet.

The charcoal will absorb any of the mothball smell in your clothes. Change the sock every few weeks or so to ensure it remains effective.

Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds are another great absorbent when it comes to mothball smells. It works like activated charcoal, except you don’t need to use a sock.

Just place them in a bowl and leave them inside the closet. Remember to change it every few weeks for the best results.

Dry Cleaning

Of course, if none of the above methods works, you can always take your clothes to the dry cleaners. They’ll be able to use special techniques and products to help eliminate the mothball smell from your clothes.

It may cost a bit, but it’s worth it if you want to eliminate the odor as soon as possible.

Use Enzyme Cleaner

Enzyme cleaners are great for removing persistent odors like mothball smells. All you have to do is spray some on the affected clothes and let sit for a few minutes before washing them as normal.

This should help get rid of any remaining mothball smell and make your clothes smell fresh again.

Alternative Ways Of Dealing With Moths

If you don’t want to take any chances with mothballs, there are also some other ways you can deal with moths.

Let’s take a quick look at 7 other ways to deal with moths:


Lavender is a great natural repellent for moths. Just mix the lavender essential oil with water in a spray bottle and use it to spray the affected clothes.

The lavender scent will help keep moths away without leaving any unpleasant odors. In fact, it will even give your clothes a nice, fresh scent.


Mint is another great natural moth deterrent. Just soak a cotton ball in peppermint oil and put it in the corner of your closet.

The scent of mint will help keep moths away and make your clothes smell nice at the same time. However, peppermint can stain clothes, so be careful when using it.

Cloves, Rosemary & Thyme

Perhaps you’ve used these herbs before when cooking. Well, they can also be used to repel moths!

It’s simple – mix them together and put them in small sachets. Place these sachets in your closet to help keep the moths away and make your clothes smell good.

Airtight Containers

If you want to take extra steps to protect your clothes from moths, use airtight containers. Not only will this help keep your clothes safe from moths, but it will also protect them from dust and other damaging elements.

White Camphor Oil

If you want to use something a bit stronger than the natural repellents, consider using white camphor oil. It’s much safer than traditional mothballs and can help keep moths away without leaving behind any unpleasant odors.

Just ensure you don’t use too much of it, as the smell can be quite strong.


Finally, cedar is a great way to keep moths away from your clothes. You can hang several cedar chips inside the target area, place a bowl of cedar chips in your closet, or use cedar wood for your cabinets and other pieces of furniture.

These will all help keep the moths away without leaving any unpleasant odors.


Mothballs are an effective way to get rid of pesky moths, but they can leave behind an unpleasant smell. But as long as you know how to use them properly and in the right amounts, you can keep your clothes safe from moths without worrying about any side effects or odors.

Alternatively, you can also try some of the natural or alternative methods we discussed. Whichever one you choose, just follow the instructions carefully and use the right amounts to ensure maximum effectiveness.