How Long Do Mothballs Last When Placed Outside?

Nobody enjoys getting their favorite garments out of their wardrobe only to discover that it is full of holes. That is why protecting them from insects, and other clothes pests is essential.

Luckily, mothballs are made to fight moths and fiber insects that can ruin your clothes. But how long will mothballs survive outside? We've done our research to bring you an answer.

One mothball takes 3-6 months to completely vanish when left outside. The mothball will take up to a year to entirely disappear if it is not exposed to air, such as under fabrics.

However, even after fading, the fragrance of mothballs will continue to stay in your house for months or years.

The strong odor of mothballs may be your worry. Continue reading to learn more about mothballs, their uses, and how to remove their smell. We will also discuss its effect on your health.

How Long Do Mothballs Last Outside?

Mothballs work as soon as their fume spreads. They work best in enclosed areas where pests and moths quickly smell them.

Generally, they will last from three to six months when placed outside. They will gradually vanish in thin air in the form of gas.

White naphthalene balls on white wooden background

However, the scent of mothballs could still linger inside the house even if they had already dissolved. The vapors remain to circulate the space. Its scent can last for many years if it is not used correctly.

This is why it may be vital to seek countermeasures to effectively attack and eliminate the scent from your home's airspace.

Factors That Affect The Lifespan Of Mothballs

A hand holding full of white naphthalene or moth balls in a ceramic pot, How Long Do Mothballs Last When Placed Outside?

Though mothballs have a long lifespan, it still depends on some factors in the environment:


Mothballs dissolve more quickly in environments with high humidity. This indicates that one mothball may last fewer than three months if placed in a region with high temperatures.

However, they will dissolve more slowly if you place them in areas with low humidity or cooler temperatures.

Air Flow And Sunlight

When exposed to a lot of airflow and sunlight, mothballs swiftly dissolve. This explains why putting mothballs outside will help them evaporate more quickly.

Number Of Mothballs

The number of mothballs will also determine how fast it will dissolve. The more mothballs you have together, the slower it gets to dissolve.

It's important to know the correct amount of mothballs to avoid overexposure. If you have a small closet, one mothball is enough.

For larger closets, however, one or two mothballs will suffice, but you must lay one on the lower portion of the closet and the other on the upper part.

Pros And Cons Of Using Mothballs

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using mothballs:


Mothballs are commonly used on wardrobes because they are effective in killing moths and other fiber insects. Aside from its efficiency, it is also budget-friendly, which is one factor that makes it more popular.


The main drawback and complaint about mothball is their smell. Its smell stays on clothes and other fabric for a very long time, requiring you to rewash them before using them.

Moreover, because of its strong odor and chemical contents, it poses different health risks to people.

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How To Properly Use Mothballs

Moths love to live in fabrics made from natural and fine fibers. One thing you can do to eliminate them is to put mothballs inside the closet.

You should know how to handle chemically treated products to prevent health risks. Here are some proper ways how to handle and use mothballs:

  • Place the mothballs in an airtight container to prevent the strong odors from spreading.
  • Wear gloves and face masks when handling mothballs because they contain naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene, both toxic to humans.
  • Before wearing your clothes, air dry them outside for a day or two to remove the odor that sticks to the fabric.
  • Wash your clothes with detergent and water. Use fabric softener, as it will aid in removing the odor left by the mothballs.
  • Place in sealed garbage bags for proper disposal of mothballs.

Can You Use Mothballs In The Kitchen?

Due to their highly toxic chemical content to humans and animals, mothballs are not advisable in the kitchen.

Although the kitchen is prone to pantry moths, mothballs should not be used around food and food preparation areas to avoid harmful contaminations.

Health Risks For Mothball Exposure

Naphthalene balls on the hand


Mothball ingredients are toxic to one's health. It is too strong that a person's body cannot handle it.

You can be exposed to a chemical inside the mothballs called naphthalene through inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact.

Naphthalene exposure through the skin, air, or food can result in skin and eye irritation, nausea, vomiting, cramps in the stomach, and diarrhea. However, some people may not experience these symptoms upon exposure.

How Do I Get Rid Of The Mothball Smell?

Mothballs have a pungent, unpleasant, acrid, and camphor-like smell. Its smell is not comforting to the nose, so most people want to know how to get rid of them.

Proper Ventilation

Good airflow is essential if you're trying to eliminate a strong odor inside the house. To do this, you need to open the windows and doors to let air get in and out of the house.

You can also use fans to make the air circulation process quicker.

Air Purifiers

Air purifier in cozy white bedroom for filter and cleaning removing dust PM2.5 HEPA

Air purifiers are another great way to remove the mothball scent from the house. However, buy an air purifier that works on chemical and odor neutralization.

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Vinegar And Lemon Solution

Baking soda and vinegar

When it comes to the mothball scent on clothing, apply a small amount of vinegar and lemon solution to the fabric and rinse with water. Then, air dries them outside under the sunlight.

The sun's heat can help eliminate the strong smell of mothballs on fabric.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal powder

Activated charcoal is best for odor removal and odor neutralization. You can put them in a small bowl and place them where there is a mothball scent.

Also, activated charcoal can be used in other unpleasant smells in the room or the house.

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Coffee Grounds

Wooden bowls of coffee

Coffee grounds act like activated charcoal. They neutralize and absorb the smell. You can use them in any part of the house with an unpleasant odor.

Baking Soda

Baking soda in a glass jar

Baking soda is also a natural deodorizer that can be used to eliminate the strong scent of mothballs. You only need to open the box or put it in a small bowl and place it in areas where you want to remove odors.

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Are Mothballs Effective Outdoors?

Mothballs are pesticides used to get rid of fabric bugs like clothes moths. However, some people mistakenly use them outdoors to remove bugs and other outdoor pests.

Remember that mothballs contain toxic substances harmful to humans, plants, and animals. This is why using mothballs to eliminate outdoor pests is a bad idea.

You are only damaging the plants and animals that might come into contact with them.

What Should I Use Instead Of Mothballs?

Since mothballs are not odor friendly and risky to health, people are searching for alternatives that can get rid of moths without mothballs.

Alternatives are great, especially if you have small children and pets in your house.

The use of cedar chips, lavender, and cloves are some of the alternatives for mothballs. These are all-natural products and do not gives off a strong odor that may become health problems.

Aside from the mentioned alternatives, washing your clothes before putting them in your closet will not invite moths to your property. Always make sure that your things are clean before storing them.

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Our Final Thoughts

Clothes that are well-taken care of can save you money. One enemy of clothes is fabric moths, which can be eliminated with mothballs. However, you should keep in mind the proper use of mothballs to prevent some health problems when exposed.

Additionally, always keep the mothballs in an airtight container to prevent the spread of smell and prolong their lifespan.

Made it to the end? Check out these related posts below:

Why Do The Clothes In My Drawer Smell?

How To Get Rid Of Carpet Beetles?

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