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Mothball smell out of silk?

Kilroy | Posted in General Sewing Info on

I *thought* I scored some wonderful used kimono silk at the expo… Until I got it home. and smelled it… I’ve hand washed it cold – because it is not very colorfast to hot, and it smells *worse* post washing. How do I get rid of the smell?


  1. suesew | | #1

    Sunshine sunshine sunshine. Air it out in the sunshine and you will be amazed.
    Someone once gave me bags on fabric all stored in mothballs. I washed it all and it hardly helped at all and then someone suggested putting it out in the sun. It really solved the problem on almost all of it.

  2. GailAnn | | #2

    Just go outside and hang it on the line, a fence, or drape it over your bushes, early one morning, and leave it until just before dark.  It should be much improved.  Gail

  3. starzoe | | #3

    Sunshine is death for silk, it deteriorates very quickly when subjected to sunlight. Perhaps a shady spot outdoors will do the job.

    1. Kilroy | | #4

      I agree about the ultraviolet in sunshine being very hard on silk, and this is old enough that I think a day in hard sun (not that we ever have that in Seattle) would shatter it. I also don't think an airing even at night is going to take the smell out if washing it doesn't.

  4. katina | | #5

    I had a similar problem with an antique kimono. After a quick cold water handwash, I made a solution of bicarbonate of soda and soaked the kimono briefly, patting it down in the bucket. Then I rinsed with cold water, and repeated the process in a fresh solution. I hung the kimono on a drying rack in the shade and rinsed it for several minutes with the hosepipe. Following that, I rolled it in towels until I'd removed as much water as possible and dried it indoors under a ceiling fan, with all the windows open in the room. This worked well for me, and hopefully will for you too. If you do try this, make sure the kimono is well supported on a drying rack or something similar - hanging it from a coat hanger might cause the fabric to rip from the weight of the water.

    Good luck.


  5. Pattiann42 | | #6

    Have you tried Febreze for laundry?  I would try a scrap before submerging the entire yardage.

  6. SewingWriter | | #7

    I use a lot of recycled kimono silks in my work.  Were your pieces overdyed? If so, some color loss is to be expected. 

    A good soaking in Biz does a great job of removing odors.  If you're brave (and provided there are no metallic threads in the cloth) you can even try throwing the fabric in the washing machine and dryer.  I often do this, figuring however it comes out will determine how it's used.  Of course, if you already have a particular project in mind you won't want to gamble with changing the texture or drape.

    1. Kilroy | | #8

      this has already been picked apart, so I can take one of the smaller scraps and throw it in the washer with some febreze fabric softener and see what happens, thanks!

      1. jjgg | | #9

        This is from the EPA website - about mothballs.
        Mothballs are the most toxic chemical we have in our homes ( or those that have them). They are absolutely deadly to cats. I would not even want to inhale the vapors of the silks if it is indeed from mothballs. If you can't get the odor of mothballs out, I would throw the silks out!http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/hlthef/naphthal.html"Naphthalene is used in the production of phthalic anhydride; it is also used in mothballs. Acute (short-term) exposure of humans to naphthalene by inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact is associated with hemolytic anemia, damage to the liver, and neurological damage. Cataracts have also been reported in workers acutely exposed to naphthalene by inhalation and ingestion. Chronic (long-term) exposure of workers and rodents to naphthalene has been reported to cause cataracts and damage to the retina. Hemolytic anemia has been reported in infants born to mothers who "sniffed" and ingested naphthalene (as mothballs) during pregnancy. Available data are inadequate to establish a causal relationship between exposure to naphthalene and cancer in humans. EPA has classified naphthalene as a Group C, possible human carcinogen."

  7. gwoman | | #10

    In my experience, baking soda will remove the most challenging odors.  I'd sprinkle the fabric, fold it and leave it for a couple of days.   You may have to repeat.  I've never rinsed anything in a baking soda solution, but I don't see why it wouldn't work.


    Good luck.

    1. Kilroy | | #11

      Well, I washed and dried the pieces on delicate, using a febreze fabric sofener. I'm not sure if it was the washing or the tumbling in the dryer, but the smell is gone, and they did not lose much more color.

      1. User avater
        paddyscar | | #12

        Charcoal is also a good odor remover.  You could place some in a paper bag and place it in a box, cover with some loose layers of tissue and close it up for a few days.

        The only good use for mothball crystals is to remove the smell of pet urine from cement. :)


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