Mothballs : what use is it at home ? How to use it ?

No doubt your grandmother used mothballs to repel moths. Because clothes moths are widespread pests. Clothing and fabrics are the preferred food sources for their larvae. Once the larvae have established themselves, it is difficult to get rid of them. That’s why your grandmother probably prevented this risk by slipping mothballs between the clothes of the whole family.

What is mothballs and what is it used for?

When we think of mothballs, images of small white balls that we slip into the laundry to keep moths away and to perfume the laundry come to mind. This small white ball discovered in 1920 is a crystallized form of naphthalene hydrocarbon. Is it really harmless? Not really, it’s a highly toxic product. It is present in cigarette smoke, in automobile fuel, in fumes from plastic. It is a chemical pesticide recognized as dangerous to health and banned for sale in France and Europe since 2008. Mothballs are therefore no longer legally available in stores. You can only find it for sale on certain websites.

What is the best way to use mothballs?

In order to be able to develop their optimal effect, the mothballs must be evenly distributed at the place of use. Their radius of action being limited, cupboards and chests are particularly suitable. There are no restrictions on the placement of the small balls. They can be placed between clothes.

But the use of these balls is to be avoided since prohibited. They contain naphthalene and are therefore toxic to humans and also to animals. Mothballs release chemicals in gaseous form, which can cause eye and respiratory tract irritation if inhaled. Symptoms such as headache and nausea are also possible with prolonged contact. In addition, these substances are difficult to decompose and can affect the environment, among other things, permanently pollute groundwater. Naphthalene is said to be carcinogenic. Its components can cause itching, breathing difficulties, nausea and headaches on contact. If swallowed, abdominal pain and vomiting are also possible.

Due to the risk of overdose, these mothballs can be particularly dangerous for young children. In children, prolonged exposure to the chemicals in mothballs may trigger an allergic reaction. Mothballs can also have an irritating effect on many animals. Special caution is required if you have cats. In case of contact, consult a veterinarian immediately.

What are natural alternatives to mothballs?

Natural alternatives to mothballs are cedarwood, sachets of lavender, thyme or rosemary, cloves and essential oils.

  • The natural scent of cedar wood is an effective moth repellent. Cedar wood comes in different forms. It can be small objects, shavings or discs.
  • Lavender has a deterrent effect on moths similar to many chemicals. Unlike these, however, lavender is safe for humans. Lavender against moths is offered in small scented sachets. These can be hung or placed between clothing and release their natural scent over time. If your clothes closet is already infested with moths, as bags of lavender take time to exert their full effect, using stronger chemicals may make sense in this case. Contrary to popular belief, lavender is safe for cats. However, due to the unpleasant smell, animals prefer to stay away from lavender sachets. For rabbits and hamsters however, lavender is toxic. You can create your own little lavender sachets. And do the same with the thyme. Although for thyme, for diffusion issues, it is better to leave it in a small dish. Rosemary leaves also act like lavender or thyme
  • Cloves bother moths by their smell. Plant cloves in a citrus fruit or in the skin of a citrus fruit (orange, lemon) and place them in your cupboards. Acidic smell will keep moths away
  • Essential oils are versatile products. They are also suitable for getting rid of clothes moths. You can choose between different oils, one or the other of which you can have at home anyway. Essential oils can be applied to a wooden support or used to regularly refresh scented sachets. Even if the scent of the bouquet of herbs (thyme, rosemary, lavender) mentioned above fades, a few drops of essential oil make it more effective again. When it comes to essential oils, lavender oil also tops the list for moth repellents. To use it best, simply pour a few drops, on small wooden blocks, clothespins or others that you place between your clothes. Pine essential oil like lavender oil keeps moths at bay and contributes to restful sleep. You can also use it for its double effect. Tea tree essential oil, which is also found in many household uses, can be used. Thanks to its strong smell, it also keeps moths away from your clothes.

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