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Alternatives to Mothballs (And Why You Should Use Them)

Learn how to make natural and DIY mothballs that will keep your clothes safe without the harmful side effects of chemical alternatives.

By: Kaylee Pope, Editor, DIYIdeaCenter.com
Updated July 01, 2019
Alternatives to Mothballs

Many households have been plagued with the tragedy of clothing moths eating away at their clothing or crafting supplies. A clothing moth infestation can be heartbreaking and expensive. If you've ever battled clothing moths in your home, you know that it can give you a serious case of the creepy crawlies and anxiety for your stored items and clothing. 

One of the most well-known and oldest ways to keep moths out of your closet and clothing is the use of mothballs. As it turns out, this is can be bad for your yarn and your health! What you can use instead of mothballs is mothball alternatives like DIY lavender sachets and cedar.

Read on to learn all about the dangerous effects store-bought mothballs can have on your home and family. Plus, find 4 easy to make-at-home alternatives to traditional mothballs. It's easy to trade the stinky and dangerous chemicals in moth balls for cedar or lavender.

Mothballs and Clothing or Craft Supplies: A Bad Combo

Mothballs can often leave your yarn, fabric, and other supplies with a pungent odor that's not as easy to get rid of as it is with clothing (that you can dry clean). Not only is this odor unpleasant, it can actually be bad for your health. That bothersome smell is actually fumes from a toxic chemical.

Since mothballs contain chemicals, they can react with popular storage containers for yarn like plastic tubs and bags. The combo of these chemicals might cause plastics to melt and fuse to your supplies (especially wools). It can also cause similar reactions in acrylic yarns, felt, or other plastic-based materials. Exposing your items of clothing and other materials to these can actually have a destructive effect if you're not careful.

Storing Yarn? Check out AllFreeKnitting's guide to Clothes Moths & Yarn: How to Protect and Preserve Your Yarn.

Why Mothballs are Dangerous

Mothballs and Your Health

If you do use mothballs, be sure to take precaution. Mothballs contain a toxic chemical called naphthalene (which is also found in jet fuel and burning coal). A high concentration of this can make you sick (especially kids or the elderly) and can even cause anemia. If you do use mothballs, be sure to wash the yarn or garments thoroughly before using or wearing them. If you live in a small space like an apartment, mothballs are not recommended since it will cause a higher concentration of the fumes. 

Older mothballs that have been stored with clothing for 10+ years are especially dangerous as they were likely manufactured with a higher concentration of chemicals. If you do have these in your storage or attic, be sure to air it out and clean the clothes thoroughly.

Alternatives to Mothballs

Mothballs work because they hide the smell of the yummy fibers moths larvae love to munch on. Moths pretty much exclusively eat animal fibers which is why they love yarn (wool, alpaca, angora). What you can use instead of mothballs is organic ingredients to do the very same thing. Some of the best scents to use are cedar and lavender. 

Homemade Lavender Sachets: Lavender is an excellent pest deterrent and has a pleasant smell. These simple sachets fit perfectly in pockets to protect your clothes.

Homemade Lavender Sachets

Simple Sewn Lavender Sachets: This quick and simple little sewing project is an ideal ten-minute project. They make great gifts too.

Simple Sewn Lavender Sachets

Modern Mothballs Herbal Sachets: This simple combo of herbs is guaranteed to keep bugs away. Combine cedar, lavender, and cinnamon in simple muslin bags.

Modern Mothballs Herbal Sachets

Cedar Sachets: Follow along with this easy tutorial for how to make a mothball alternative that is chemical free.

Cedar Sachets
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Woah! I didn't know moths actually ate animal fibres. Mothballs are quite effective but the smell puts me off. I didn't know it could damage your yarn and crafting supplies though and the best part is masking the animal fibres scent can be accomplished by using lavender. It's natural and mild.

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