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help – mothball smell

suesew | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

Someone just gave me six grocery bags filled with good usuable fabric! But much of it has a very strong mothball smell. I’ve washed a bunch of it twice and have it sunning in the back yard but it still is unusable as it is. Does anyone have a solution? Thanks


  1. SewTruTerry | | #1

    Have you tried drying the fabric in the dryer, sometimes a little heat will help to dissipate the problem.  Also try some Febreeze or other kind of fabric deodorant.  But definetly the airing of the fabric outside is a good way to go but it may take a little longer than just a few hours on a really sunny and breezy day.  Good luck.  If I think of something else I will let you know.

    1. edgy | | #2

      If you wash again, try baking soda. You could also sprinkle it on the clothes while they're in the sun.


  2. Lword | | #3

    Try washing once again with about a cup of vinegar in the wash, or after dry, putting back into a plastic bag with a fabric softener sheet. I think the plastic adds to whatever is the predominant scent. It could take weeks to rid the scent, and some say it will never come out depending on the fabric. I think the key might be patience, sorry to say, and the culprit is probably the plastic they have been stored in or the contained heat it might generate.

    You could also hang them among pomanders (oranges studded with cloves) to help rid the mothball scent. It is nasty, isn't it? I now use cedar which isn't all that great a scent in "big numbers" either. I don't know what is in mothballs but the cedar seems to work fairly well and you could try that as a "covering" scent.

    1. SewTruTerry | | #4

      Before there were mothballs people used to use a combination of cedar and pine and lavendar.  It really is quite effective and a much more pleasant odor if you ask me.  Also if the clothes are put away after having been cleaned either by a dry cleaners or at home and have been brushed throughly then there should be no reason that you should have to use any kind of deterent as you have gotten rid of the main culprits food that draws them and the eggs that will hatch later to eat your clothes.

      1. Elisabeth | | #5

        More pleasant and better for you. The main component in mothballs is naphthalene, a relative of benzine. The moths are smart, they stay away. We should be as smart since mothballs are poisonus to us as well.

        1. suesew | | #6

          Thanks to everyone for the anti-odor ideas. I have now washed everything twice - the second time with some Borax I had on hand. That seemed to help some. Then I put it in the dryer with a fabric softener sheet. I had been hesitant to put it in the dryer and heat set the smell in it permanently but it really did a good job. Now I am giving it all some time in the sun which has been difficult since we have had rain every day since I was giv en the fabric. Since some of these pieces of fabric are big, my yard looks like one of those "drape the Grand Canyon" art projects. But the smell isdefinitely going away. Thanks again.

          1. Barbaran8 | | #7

            I just stored all of my winter sweaters in one of those "Space bags" sucked all the air out with the vacuum cleaner - and threw them in the chest freezer in the garage for the Summer. I lost one of my favorite Cashmere sweaters to moths this year - and I'm not taking any chances!!! This is what museum curators do to protect their fine and ancient fabrics - three weeks in deep freeze gets every possible moth egg.

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