Do Mothballs Keep Roaches Away?

Do-Mothballs-Keep-Roaches-AwayYou may have seen your grandma putting little white balls between her clothes to keep insects away. Ever wondered what they are? Those are mothballs, which release pungent fumes to repel insects, bugs, and roaches.

Mothballs are intoxicated, white balls made of camphor, pyrethroids, and other chemicals. When you put them in your closet, they turn into a gaseous form that insects and roaches hate. Thus, they stay away from those places.

So do mothballs help you to get rid of cockroaches or keep them away permanently? No, they don’t, but they are a convenient, short-term solution.

However, you must know how to use these balls properly since they are toxic for humans and pets. This guide will tell you four easy steps to use mothballs and some preventive measures to stay safe. So let’s dive right in!

Why Are Mothballs Effective in Keeping Pests Away?

Mothballs are super effective in keeping pets away because of their components: camphor and pyrethroids. These ingredients give mothballs the power to prevent several types of pests, particularly roaches.

  • Camphor. It is also available in the form of essential oil. Cockroaches hate the smell of almost all essential oils, including peppermint, eucalyptus, lavender, tea tree, and camphor oils.
  • Pyrethroids. These are insecticides with high efficacy against pests. Pyrethroids have been used in multiple sectors to control pests and insects, such as animal facilities, agriculture, buildings, greenhouses, and much more. One example of pyrethroids is transfluthrin.

Earlier, mothballs used to contain a chemical called naphthalene, but it is now banned in some places.

How Do Mothballs Work?

Mothballs are white and opaque solid balls that turn into a toxic gaseous form of camphor, pyrethroids, or naphthalene. This gas has a strong smell that pests and insects don’t like, so they stay from the places where you put mothballs in.

Some mothballs can also kill small household insects, such as:

  • Termites
  • Beetles
  • Moths
  • Silverfish

This pesticide also comes in the shape of flakes or little cakes, but balls are the most common form. People usually put mothballs in their attics between the clothes to keep them safe from pests, especially wool sweaters, skirts, and cardigans.

Do Mothballs Keep Roaches Away?

Mothballs keep roaches away because of the strong smell that these tiny pests hate. But you must know how to use these little, white balls to achieve your desired results quickly.

If you’re always on the go and don’t have time to search and try different DIY pest control techniques, mothballs give you an easy and simple alternative. Many homeowners prefer using mothballs because they are cheap, readily available, and easy to use.

Mothballs do a reasonable job repelling roaches, but it is not the perfect solution or may not work every time. There are two reasons for this:

  • Cockroaches are one of the most adaptable creatures. They can adjust to extreme environments, atmospheres, and smells.
  • They multiply rapidly and occupy your entire house within a matter of minutes. We all know how difficult it is to eliminate these roach colonies in your bathroom, bedroom, garages, kitchen, and whatnot. So you need something strong enough.

Unfortunately, mothballs aren’t that robust that keep roaches away in the long term. So putting these balls in the nooks and crevices of your home is just a temporary solution to repel cockroaches.

The toxic and pungent fumes of the mothballs will keep roaches away for a year or two. But soon, these annoying creatures get used to the smell, leaving you back to where you started.

This explains why roach populations have existed for more than 280 million years!

Do Mothballs Kill Roaches?

Mothballs can eliminate small household insects but are not that effective in killing roaches.

Their primary goal is to repel roaches, bugs, and insects by releasing a pungent smell of gasses. This smell can cause respiratory issues in cockroaches and may kill them. However, that happens very rarely.

Mothballs can be effective in preventing roaches from entering your home or killing only one or two of them in your bathroom. But if you are dealing with a large roach problem, mothballs aren’t the option you should rely on.

But not all hopes are lost. You can combine mothballs with different roach-killing methods to repel and kill roaches at the same time.

The best part is that some of them may already be present in your home, such as:

Again, roaches are experts in adapting to different environments and developing resistance against dangers. So combining mothballs with any of the ingredients above may not be a permanent roach infestation solution, but it will do the job reasonably.

How To Use Mothballs To Repel Roaches?

Mothballs can repel and kill roaches if you use them correctly, but doing so is quite tricky.

These tiny balls release solid and noxious fumes that can irritate you or your pets. Of course, you don’t want your entire home filled with these fumes, but you do want them to be strong enough to ward off roaches.

So what’s the correct and easy way to use mothballs in your home? Here are 4 steps to use mothballs to repel roaches away:

Distribute Your Items in Containers

If you want to protect different items from roach infestations, put each of them in separate containers. These could include clothing, blankets, pillows, and stuffed toys. Make sure that the containers’ lids are air-tight.

This step is crucial if you’re shifting to a new home and don’t want to take these pests.

Put Mothballs

Next, put one or two mothballs in every container and immediately close the lid tightly. To ensure the lid is secured perfectly, you can tape it around its edges. Doing so is important as you don’t want the fumes of mothballs spreading in your entire home.

Place Containers in a Safe Area

Put the containers in a safe place for a few days or as long as you don’t need those items. The best place is to put them where you don’t spend time often, such as in the basement or garage.

Wear Protective Gear and Open the Containers

Don’t forget to wear a mask and gloves before opening the containers. Carry them to a well-ventilated place since mothballs’ fumes are pretty intoxicating, and you don’t want them to take over your home.

Finally, open the containers, remove your items, and discard the mothballs.

Note: Don’t scatter mothballs in every place of your home. Also, never put them under the fridge, stove, or kitchen cabinets, as these places carry food items. Mothballs release gasses that can intoxicate your food over time.

Safety Precautions When Using Mothballs

Mothballs are pesticides. They contain chemicals and multiple components that can be dangerous for humans, pets, and kids. So, you need to handle these white balls with utmost caution.

If you have decided to use mothballs to repel roaches, keep the below things in mind to stay on the safe side.

Read the Label

Always read the instructions label on your mothball packaging. It will help you understand the number of mothballs you must put in different places along with precautions. Taking out a few minutes can prevent multiple health issues.

Use Camphor-Made Mothballs

Since mothballs are toxic, it’s better to search for those made of camphor or para-dichlorobenzene. These mothballs are less dangerous than naphthalene ones, but you should still follow precautionary measures when using them.

Camphor-made mothballs are as strong as naphthalene ones, so don’t worry about their efficacy in repelling the roaches.

Only Use Mothballs in Tight Containers

Thankfully, mothballs no longer come with naphthalene. But the gasses in their fumes are still pretty dangerous for humans.

So always put mothballs in air-tight containers to prevent fumes from spreading in your home. This also applies to unused mothballs as well. Store them in sealed containers, preferably made of polyethylene or polypropylene plastic.

Leaving mothballs in open areas, particularly the kitchen, attics, suitcases, or closets, is not recommended.

Wear a Mask and Gloves

Always wear a mask and gloves when handling mothballs. Their fumes can cause irritation or breathing issues in humans. Also, ensure that you’re in a well-ventilated area.

Keep Mothballs Far Away From Children and Pets

You may know it already, but never keep mothballs near your children and pets. If these balls can harm adults, imagine the damage they could cause to your precious kids and pets.

Your pet or kid may assume these little white balls as candies or treats. That could lead to a life-threatening situation if you’re not nearby to stop them. So always put the used and unused mothballs in air-tight plastic containers.

Seek Immediate Medical Help

Apart from irritation, prolonged exposure to mothballs’ fumes can cause:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Breathing issues
  • Hemolytic anemia
  • Cancer

So always follow safety precautions to avoid these symptoms as much as possible. However, immediately rush to your doctor if you notice them after using mothballs.


Do Mothballs Kill Roaches?

No, mothballs don’t kill roaches but only keep them away. Sometimes, you may see the dead bodies of one or two bugs lying around after using mothballs. However, that is not a common occurrence.

Where Do You Put Mothballs for Roaches?

Mothballs for roaches must be put in closed containers with air-tight lids. Then, place the container in the area where you don’t go much, such as the garage, attic, or basement. Never put mothballs in open spaces.

How To Use Mothballs Safely?

To safely use mothballs, read the instructions on the mothball packaging carefully. It may tell you to use mothballs only in closed areas or containers. So don’t put them near heat, food preparation, or open spaces. Always wear protective gear when handling the mothballs and keep the balls away from your pets and children.


Mothballs are tiny, white balls with a pungent smell that cockroaches hate. They contain toxic chemicals that keep roaches away and may even kill small household insects and one or two roaches. However, they are not as effective as other ingredients.

To increase their effectiveness, you can combine mothballs with other components, such as boric acid, lemon, or DE. The correct way to repel roaches from your belongings is:

  • First, put your items in different air-tight containers
  • Then, put mothballs in every container.
  • Place the containers in an open and safe area
  • Open the containers after a few days while wearing protective gear

Mothballs can be harmful to humans and pets, so you must handle them with care in the following ways:

  • Read the mothball’s packaging instructions beforehand
  • Use camphor-made mothballs
  • Never put mothballs in open spaces, especially in the kitchen
  • Store and use the mothballs in air-tight plastic containers to prevent the toxic fumes from spreading into your home
  • Keep your children and pets away from mothballs