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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70 replies
  1. Lisa says:

    I love Nok-out and have recommended it to others. It would be great to get it for free as a winner in the give-away. Thanks!

  2. Linda says:

    When you start pressure canning don’t go with a cheap gasketted canner…I used them for years….inherited and from garage sales. The best advise I have for someone starting to can is buy the canner with a machined fit and wing nuts. This canner is easier to control temperature and it allows you to fit in the most jars. I bought the second biggest….the next size up cost a hundred do,Lars more and didn’t allow you many more jars.

    Once you have had home canned tuna you will look at the cans from the store as cat food. Beef and pork are wonderful canned….quick meals for the working wife. When turkey is cheap I can that…add chicken broth for moister results. Remind people not to throw away the juice from the jars, mix it back in.

    Going to make your bacon jam for Christmas baskets.

  3. Jennie M says:

    After all the hub-bub about Sniper, I’m anxious to try it. We have 3 animals in the house & 2 teenagers. I’ve wanted to try it since you first posted, but since I don’t buy things online, that’s kind of tough. I think you’ve find a miracle here!

  4. Beth says:

    I’ve been wishing we had a supply for our front-loading washer, and the many odors our littles produce. I want to test it’s efficacy on eliminating odors from my DH’s favorite clothes, too!

  5. Cathy Mortensen says:

    Mary, thank you for the many ways to use Nok-Out. I have tried this product and it works great. We have a pet in the house. Nok-Out really saves me. Thanks for introducing your readers to this product. I love your column.

  6. gayle says:

    My daughter was cleaning out the pantry for me recently and accidentally dropped a bottle of orange blossom water (a gift I never figured out how to use). Wow, was it strong. I sprayed Nok-Out on it and the smell decreased by about 90%. Thanks for introducing me to this great product!

  7. Marg says:

    Help! Can you recommend how to rid a wooden trunk of the smell of mothballs? Have you heard of ozone producing machines for home use? The results sound miraculous but I don’t know anyone who has used them who can verify results.

  8. Corinne says:

    I’d love to try Nok-Out/SNiPER on the old house we’re trying to sell. It’s been empty for 6 years, and believe me, it has some ODORS!

  9. Gehugh says:

    Oh, the grandmotherly/grandfatherly smell of mothballs. Maybe the use of mothballs contributed to their dementia! Keep your old mothballs out of your garden, especially your vegetable garden. Ask your local sanitation/waste disposal provider how to PROPERLY dispose of petroleum based pesticides. And then if you have a chance view ‘Poison in the Rockies’ (1990 PBS) before you decide to add to your watershed’s demise.

  10. Elizabeth Sheehy says:

    My mother is a hoarder! I’ve used SNiPER to rescue items from the hoard and make them useable/respectable again, most recently an antique table which belonged to my great-grandmother. Wouldn’t use anything else, as I trust this product to be safe and effective. Also did a wonderful job on black mold (Ack! A Fungus Among Us!) and the mystery pink gunk that grows in my daughter’s bathroom…Safe to use around my cats – biggest plus for me!

  11. Mary Johnston says:

    I would love to win this Nok-Out give a way, because I know I good it is and I need some more. I am just about out and will need to order soon. I have pets in the house and I use Nok-Out for odor control and clean with it.

  12. Michelle Bryk says:

    We are waiting to see if Nok-Out can work it’s magic in my brother’s house that he is trying to sell. I can’t imagine anything else that would really work.

  13. Tanya Powers says:

    I’ve always wanted to try this product. Your reviews have convinced me to get it the first time I run into a major odor issue!

  14. Carol says:

    I like to read customer reviews of products before I try them. I’ve never read any as glowing as Mary gives Nok-Out, so it must be a wonderful product! I’m definitely going to give it a try!

  15. OK.OldKinderhook says:

    Nok-Out does work great to remove odors from clothing, but be sure to test an inconspicuous part of the garment to make sure there are no unwanted outcomes. I sprayed two Pima cotton shirts with Nok-Out; one color was fine, but the other developed streaks and spots in the shirt’s dye 🙁

  16. Carolyn Carani Cuzzone says:

    The smell of mothballs still reminds me of my grandma! SNiPER sounds like a great product to keep on hand.

  17. Melanee says:

    I run a ferret shelter and Nok-Out / SNiPER Disinfectant and Odor Eliminator is the best to use on soiled ferret cages. It really eliminates the odors and cleans up everything and is safe to use near the ferrets!

  18. Stephanie Lebron says:

    SNiPER/Nok-out sounds like quite a product, and between the Eastern Missouri Ozarks and local hotel businesses I housekeep for, there are numerous places to test and tout your product.

  19. Diane Mayotte says:

    This sounds like such an amazing and versatile product. My window ac units don’t smell as fresh as they used to and the washable filter is the first thing I would use it on.

  20. Cath McC T says:

    I never use mothballs, but my mother does. When the day comes when I have to clean out her house, it won’t be just the smell of mothballs I have to worry about, but all sorts of bad odors that have built up over the years. I need all the help I can get.

  21. Kim H in GA says:

    There are so man uses for Nok-Out. I’d like to try it on a smelly chair and a musty china cabinet that I refurbished.

  22. Gia says:

    i have been hearing great things about Nok-Out for awhile now and I would love to give it a try. I would love to win a gallon of it to use around my house.

  23. CarlaMc says:

    Nok-out is pretty great! It completely eliminated the sweat smell my husband left on our sofa. I am now in need of mass quantities as my daughters car had an A/C malfunction that caused water to leak in the car and soak the carpet. It now smells like a sour swamp, magnified by the Texas heat. Yuck!

  24. Becky Egeland says:

    Nok-out is the BEST and only thing I have used that will totally eliminate the smell from cat urine. Thanks, Mary, for introducing me to this fantastic product.

  25. Sherri McEarchern Bailey says:

    I love Nok-out, or Sniper! We bought a living room set that had been in the home of a smoker and after a couple of applications, the smoke odor wad gone!

  26. Sandy says:

    I love Nok out, Sniper. It is the best for getting rid of dog urine on rugs. I recommeded it to my cousin to get the mildew out of a cushioned chair. I need some more of it to use in my bathroom and outside my kitchen door where my dog goes.

  27. Remembrances BacktoBasics says:

    If I win, I am going to keep some at our property up north, since I have 2 dogs and have been alerted to the presence of skunks a couple of times!

  28. Karen says:

    I would love to win SNiPER/NokOut because you recommend it so highly – I have plenty of odors and germs I’d like to test it out on!!

  29. Dana says:

    If I win the Sniper!, I’m going to try it out on my daughter’s athletic clothes (Dri-Fit). According to a web search, I’m not alone in battling odors on these types of clothes. Thanks for the contest!

  30. PH says:

    I use NokOut for mainly for geriatric dog odors around the house and I love it. It’s pricy so I would love to win a supply!

  31. Mountain Miss says:

    I have always wanted to try Nok-Out, er SNiPER, because of your recommendation. We have a dog, chickens, musty smells, and grandchildren that are potty training! Thanks Nok-Out for the raffle!

  32. Lori Hatcher says:

    I just ordered Nok-Out to remove cigarette smell from a car we inherited from my mother-in-law. I hope it works. If I win the contest, I plan to use Nok-Out to remove the cigarette smell from a beautiful china cabinet that also belonged to my husband’s mom. My husband remembers when his dad bought the piece, and we’d like to keep it as a remembrance of his mom and dad, but can’t tolerate the smoke smell. De-odorizing it would take more Nok-Out than we can afford to purchase, hence my contest entry. I’d love to surprise my hubby by saying, “Guess what, we can keep the cabinet after all!”

  33. 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!

  34. 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!

  35. 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.

  36. 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!

  37. 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!

  38. 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!)

  39. 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!

  40. 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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