I receive a lot of e-mail from frustrated readers who have learned about the National Toxicology Program’s designation that moth balls are potential carcinogens, have removed moth balls from their home, and can’t rid their clothes or furniture of the toxic
smell of moth balls. They are also looking for effective moth ball alternatives.
is an interesting question because there is only one thing known to remove moth ball odors:
Removing Moth Ball Smell
The bad news about removing the smell of moth balls is that it is not easy. The only way that I know of to remove the smell (and this is confirmed by many discussions with other experts) is by putting the clothing and furniture in the sun. Keep repeating until the smell is gone.
Before packing woolens away, there are a number of important steps to take to prevent moths, including washing the wool. Here you can learn about how to wet clean wool without shrinkage, how to make your own natural moth balls (repellent sachets), and what to do if you already have clothing moths.
How to Repel Clothing Moths
1. Clean woolen items before storing.
To wet clean wool: The key to not shrinking wool is to never twist it, agitate it, or wring it out. Gently swirl the wool in the water, then rinse and press the water out. Wool is an acidic material, so use a shampoo with its acidic pH. Or an acidic detergent. Any soap or detergent with a pH above 8 will harm wool. To lower the pH of a soap or detergent, add 1 tablespoon of white distilled vinegar or lemon juice before washing. Water temperature when washing wool should be around 100 F. Block wool—lay it flat and shape it—before drying.
2. Air woolen clothing in the sun for a few hours before packing them away.
3. Make your own moth ball alternatives.
Natural Moth Balls (Repellent Sachets): These sachets are lovely to tuck into sweater drawers and hang in closets. Most health food stores sell bulk dried herbs.
2 ounces each of dried rosemary and mint
1 ounce each of dried thyme and ginseng
8 ounces of whole cloves
Combine the ingredients in a large bowl. Blend. Make sachets by choosing a 4 x 4 inch piece of natural fiber with a tight weave, such as silk. Sew three sides together, then fill with the herbs and sew the fourth side shut. You can adapt this pattern to any size you want (2 x 2 is the traditional size for the undergarments drawer, for example). A good idea for small sachets is to fill cotton teabags sold for making your own tea (these are often sold in health food stores). If you are really in a rush, just tie the herbs up in a cotton bandana or handkerchief; place the herbs in the middle, gather the edges together, and tie with a ribbon.
Variation: Other herbs that are good for repelling moths include lavender, lemon, sweet woodruff, and tansy.
4. Completely seal clean woolen items in bags, boxes, and chests. Cedar chests help repel moths, but they must be sealed.
5. If you see moths, freeze the item of clothing for two days in the freezer.
Wool Moth Spray
If you have wool moths already, the best spray is to make one of neem oil, adding 1/4 cup of neem oil to 1/2 gallon water, with a dab of liquid castile soap, in a spray bottle.