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Do Mothballs Actually Repel Pests?

“Do mothballs repel chipmunks?” “Do mothballs keep skunks away?” “Do mothballs repel snakes?” This is just a small selection of many mothball-related questions that populate Google’s autofill when you type in, “do mothballs”. So what’s the deal with all this mothball talk? And is any of it actually true? We took a swing at cracking this “mothball as a pest repellent” nut, and some of the answers we came up with were pretty surprising. 

First thing’s first…what are mothballs anyway? 

Mothballs, despite their name, are not actually the result of anything organically related to moths. What they actually are all small balls made up of chemical pesticide and deodorant These little pesticidal balls are typically used when storing clothing or other fabrics that are susceptible to mold or- you guessed it- moth larvae, hence their name. 

So, do mothballs actually repel pests? 

Mothballs do effectively do their job when it comes to repelling their namesake: moths. In fact, mothballs can even kill any moths that are trying to use an article of clothing as a moth larva feeding ground. But what about the rest of the pests? There are a few common pests that are alleged to be repelled by mothballs, but is there any truth to it? Let’s break it down a bit:


In short, mothballs do not deter mice. There is a substance called naphthalene in mothballs that can be a deterrent to mice in large quantities, but you would need a whole lot of mothballs to even phase a mouse, let alone actually deter them. Realistically, mothballs are no good for mice. 


The story goes that by placing mothballs out around the home and/or in areas that these critters usually hide, there’s a chance they could be deterred. However, much like mice, the amount of naphthalene found in mothballs is not enough to actually deter chipmunks. In fact, instead of drawing this list out, let’s be clear about what other critters and insects that mothballs frankly do NOT do much for deterrence: 

  • Snakes 
  • Mosquitoes 
  • Skunks 
  • Rats 
  • Roaches 

Mothballs are good at repelling one thing specifically, and that thing is moths. In fact…

Using mothballs to repel pests can be downright dangerous

Why? Because mothballs are meant to specifically ward off moths, and this is done by being placed in a sealed bag. Removing mothballs from their bags and using them to try and ward off other pests (which is very unlikely to be successful) is an easy way to open yourself up to all kinds of health hazards. In 2010, half of all the National Pesticide Information Center’s inquiries related to mothballs were regarding toxic exposure. This toxic exposure to mothballs can lead to all sorts of issues, including

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

And more seriously: 

  • Cancer
  • Anemia 

Of course, it is tempting to think of mothballs as a sort of simple, DIY solution to pest problems, but the truth is they aren’t. They can be seriously harmful to adults, children, and pets, and any website telling you that mothballs are a quick and easy solution to a pest problem are being outright irresponsible. 

What’s the alternative? 

The professionals. Handling pesticides on your own is super risky, which is why its best to leave this sort of application to someone trained and experienced. City Wide Exterminating is that someone. With generations of experience under our belts, we won’t just get the job done, but we’ll get it done right so that you and your family can rest safe and sound knowing your pesticide application is being handled with the utmost care and professionalism. 

Want to learn about our pest control plans? You can learn more here. And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!

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