Why Do Moth Balls Smell?


Mothballs are a solid pesticide that keeps moths from laying their eggs in your clothing. They are produced with a noxious chemical that evaporates, causing a buildup of odorous gas that kills insects.


  • Mothballs are small, round, synthetic balls that, when stored with clothing, prevent moths and other insect larva from invading the clothes. The gas they emit is toxic to moths and even human infants in concentrated doses.


  • Older mothballs emit naphthalene gas, which is flammable and has been replaced by paradichlorobenzene and camphor (the latter to help repel insects).


  • The concept of mothball odor works because the fumes build up in the boxes/containers to a toxic level, discouraging any insects from laying eggs in the vicinity.

Abuse Side Effects

  • Adolescents seeking intoxication by inhaling the vapors will have symptoms such as restlessness, headache, vomiting, lethargy, fever, kidney failure, seizures or even coma.


  • The protective odor from mothballs adheres to clothing well after removing the articles from storage. Tips to remove odor include airing the clothing in fresh, outdoor air until the gas dissipates, bringing them indoors at night. An alternative product, called Smelleze, claims to be able to remove the smell.

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