How to Rescue Fabric and Clothes from the Stench of Mothballs

I love fabric and fine textiles of all kinds, but mostly I love cotton goods—cotton sheets, cotton quilts. You might say I am a collector, but only in the best sense of the word. My friends know me as a recovering fabricholic. That’s why I was particularly drawn to a letter that hit my inbox recently. When I read the sender’s dilemma involved fabric, I was on it.

Dear Mary: I was recently given some fabric that had been stored in mothballs. Any advice on how to get the smell out? I tried washing and ended up with a whole load of laundry that smelled of mothballs. Thanks, Lucille


Dear Lucille: This a tough problem. So difficult, I called in the pros for advice on how to rescue your fabric and that load of laundry. Here’s what I learned:

Mothballs are small balls of chemical pesticide used to protect clothes from hungry moths and other insects while in storage. The active ingredient, depending on the age of the mothballs used, is either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, both of which are petroleum-based and toxic to both people and pets.

Typically, one puts clothes, or in your case fabric, in an airtight container so that the fumes are trapped and build up to a level that kills pests. There’s no doubt that mothballs do that, but the unintended consequence of the resulting odor, as you have learned, is .

The only way to get rid of that horrid smell is to oxidize it—transform the odor causing chemicals into something harmless that has no odor.

Nok-Out (soon we’ll get used to its new name SNiPER) is the only thing I know of that will effectively eradicate the smell of mothballs. Here’s how to do it:

[callout]Note: Don’t forget to use coupon code DPL when checking out at for 10% off your order[/callout]

Spray the fabric and clothing items with enough Nok-Out (or SNiPER) to make them completely wet. Next, massage it in so that the item becomes uniformly damp, but not dripping wet. Turn the item inside-out and repeat. Allow to dry fully. Repeat until the odor is gone. For really tough situations, it may three to four cycles to reach success.

Another option is to treat with Nok-Out in the washing machine, following these instructions. You may want to increase the amount of Nok-Out used in your washer when treating mothball odor.

Here’s some good news: While in the process of consulting on this with Ted Price at Nok-Out, he offered to host an Everyday Cheapskate Nok-Out Giveaway. And what a Giveaway it is!

  • 1st Prize: 1 Gallon SNiPER disinfectant and Odor Eliminator
  • 2nd Prize: 2 Quarts SNiPER
  • 3rd Prize: 1 Quart SNiPER

Enter the Giveaway below (or directly on the blog if you are reading this via your email inbox). In one week we will select the winners by random drawing and contact them directly for shipping information. You just might be the lucky winner of enough Nok-Out, uh, I mean SNiPER, to take care of this mothball problem, plus lots of smelly stuff you’re sure to encounter in the future. Unlucky entrants can still get a 10% discount on SNiPER products when they use the code DPL at checkout. Good luck to you and all of my lovely EC readers.

One last thing: For those who just happen to have a supply of mothballs, there is one good use for them. Provided there are no children or pets around in the area, spread them in your garden. Rabbits and deer are repelled by that smell just as much as Lucille and I are!

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  1. Joan Briggs Wamsley says:

    With a dog and a cat in the house there are many times I would love to use this SNiPER . Winning a free bottle would be awesome!

  2. Gina H says:

    So glad I learned about Nok-Out from you when my son was a teenager. It’s the only thing that worked on wet soccer cleats & cross country running shoes!

  3. Darla says:

    My grandmother loved to use mothballs! I would be excited to try this product to clean up a few of the sweet linens she left behind.

  4. tiffanyblitz says:

    I would be excited to try Nok-Out (Sniper!) after hearing from you about it for so long. We have kids, cats, amd chickens, so I definately have needs!

  5. Jennifer Heinz says:

    I love Sniper (Nok-Out) because it completely eliminated the moldy smells from a camper we got from friends that had let it sit, unused and leaky, for several years. I regularly use it for all the stinky shoes my family generates. Would love to get some more!

  6. Mrs. Potts says:

    I purchased Nok-Out last year and love it. But my supply is getting low so I certainly could use some more. (I specifically bought Nok-Out to get rid of cat urine odor on an outdoor cat house. It did the trick!)

  7. Linda Bush Cannon says:

    Mary, thanks you to I tried Nok-Out awhile back and can honestly say it works like a charm both inside and out! From pet smells on the concrete to fabrics in the house and clothes in the wash, it really does knock ’em out!

  8. MaryM says:

    I used mothballs inside the engine compartment of a car stored over the winter to repel mice. Did not work! but the smell remained…Anyway, I’d love to win this product!

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