Does Mold Smell Like Mothballs?

No, mold doesn’t smell like Mothballs.

Molds are a different thing than mothballs, entirely. If your house or portions of it gives off an acrid smell or odor, it is like someone has dropped mothballs around somewhere.

Note the use of the word “acrid”. Some people would say the smell is unpleasant. Mothballs are naturally prepared to give off this strong smell because they are prepared using chemicals like naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene.

They are usually white and sometimes come in other colors. They are solid or liquid pesticides that keep moths and other insects away from homes. Molds are fungi that give off earthy or musty smells.

What else can smell like mothballs?

You may find your house smelling like mothballs even though you have not dropped any of those balls anywhere. Several other things smell like mothballs and they include the following:


If you move into a house where the last occupant smoked all the time, it may smell like mothballs because some cigarette brands also contain an amount of naphthalene which is a major component of mothballs.

You have to check around the house for cigarette butts to be certain though. Many times, if you can smell mothballs, it is because there are mothballs around or it has been used before in the house.

Ink, dye, coal, tar, tan leather

Companies that produce the above-mentioned things also make use of naphthalene in their manufacture.

So, if someone spilled ink or if there’s a storage of tan leather nearby or in your house then it may smell like mothballs.

Some dyes also contain naphthalene in them too so when you use them on your clothes regularly they will smell like mothballs in your closet.

Companies that use naphthalene nearby

If your home is situated near a manufacturing company that uses the chemical naphthalene, the whole place could smell like mothballs including your home.

Also, if you stay near the source of the chemical naphthalene your home may adopt the smell as well and smell like mothballs.

Bangar nut trees

If you have a bangar nut tree near you, your home can pick up the strong smell of mothballs too. The tree produces a bright red fruit. The flowers emit a strong smell like those of mothballs.

So, check around your home, it may be someone brought in the fruit of this tree which is why it smells so much.

What happens when you smell mothballs?

Mothballs are made of chemicals that can have effects on human health, most of which are mild and reversible. Others can be serious.

The following are what happens to you when you smell mothballs:

Gastrointestinal symptoms, or nausea

Inhaling mothballs is capable of causing skin and eye irritations. This can especially happen among toddlers and children who like to play about the house.

If they find mothballs lying around the living room and kitchen, they are likely to touch or ingest them. The naphthalene contained in the mothballs is what causes these reactions.

Skin and eye irritations

Smelling mothballs can also cause reactions on your skin. If you have touched one before you will notice the slightly oily feel. Well, it looks innocent on you until it causes irritations on your skin.

It may cause your eyes to itch if it gets into it. Children are mostly at risk of this because mothballs are dropped on the floor if your aim is to keep insects away.

Headaches, vomiting

In 1982 a woman in Jeffersonville, Indiana called the police to complain about how visitors to her home always felt sick in her house.

They became ill with symptoms of headaches, vomiting, and nausea while in her house. The health department found large deposits of mothballs in the home.

Subsequent testing revealed that the level of naphthalene in the home was high enough to cause these symptoms. After the mothballs were removed these symptoms stopped.

Inhalation of mothballs can lead to these symptoms especially when the concentration is high.


Mothballs are possible carcinogens. Inhaling them can alter the cells in your body and lead to cancers. You should avoid inhaling or ingesting them. And if they

Respiratory tract problems

Although mothballs may smell good to some, they may be tempted to sniff them every chance they get. Some may even use them to store dishes and utensils in the kitchen.

This is also dangerous. inhaling it can cause respiratory tract problems. The chemicals slowly eat away at the alveoli in the lungs. Avoid making it a practice to sniff mothballs.

Does a gas leak smell like mothballs?

No, it doesn’t. Natural gas is odorless. A gas leak can only smell like mothballs if the substance naphthalene has been added as an additive to the gas.

Since natural gas is odorless and colorless manufacturers, as a standard, add mercaptan. This substance produces a rotten egg smell. This is the odor you perceive when there’s a leak.

There are different types of gases. Some have talked about the gasoline they purchased in their car smelling like mothballs. There’s no evidence that substances like naphthalene which is in mothballs are added to gasoline.

As this article has shown many other things smell like mothballs and they could get in the gas tank of your car which may be what you smell.

Why does it smell like mothballs in my house?

Your house smells like mothballs because:

  • Mothballs
  • A substance with naphthalene in them
  • Someone’s been smoking in your house
  • Your house is suffering from pollution


The first reason why your house may be smelling of mothballs is likely because there are mothballs in your house.

The smell may also be a remnant of the odor left from the constant use of mothballs by the former occupant of your house.

You can ask the agent you bought the house from to ask the last owner about this.

Substances with naphthalene in them

If you have items that contain the substance that contains naphthalene in the house like spilled ink, or you have a stack of tan leather in your basement.

All of this can make your house smell distinctly of mothballs. It can also be a mix of several of these items.

Someone’s been smoking in your house

Some cigarettes have naphthalene among the substance in it. If you smoke a lot in your house it is likely for your house to smell of mothballs because of this substance.

If you don’t smoke and you walk into your home only to find it smelling like mothballs, check to see if there’s been a spill of ink. If not, then maybe your friend who smokes was around earlier.

Your house is suffering from pollution

If your house is close to a tannery, or a pen manufacturing company, it may take on the smell of mothballs because those industries use naphthalene which is present in mothballs and gives them that smell.

Consider reporting the case to the health agency in your area because naphthalene is dangerous to your health.

Is there a mothball spray?

There is only one spray that comes close to being a mothball spray that I found on Amazon.  It comes in an aerosol spray can. You will find it in stores citywide.

It can be used to kill and prevent moths. It prevents moths from food and clothes. This Mothball spray does not have the active ingredient naphthalene in them.

MothPrevention Pantry Moth Killer KIT

Note that moth sprays are not necessarily naphthalene dissolved in water. They are simply processed to kill moths and combat their proliferation in the home.

This product up there is designed for preventing the growth of moths in the kitchen, cupboards, and where you keep dishes. This one is called a pantry moth trap.

This product is children, pet, and fish friendly. If you have a moth infestation in your kitchen you can buy this product here at $70.14.

Caution: Some have asked if they can make their own mothball spray by dissolving mothballs in water.

Dissolving mothballs is pretty dangerous for your health and those of people around you. As I’ve shown in this article, the substance in mothballs can cause skin and eye irritations when you are trying to dissolve the mothballs.

Besides, inhaling the fumes from it can have adverse effects on your health because the naphthalene in mothballs is carcinogenic.

When using mothballs follow safety precautions like making sure that you don’t put too many of them around the house.

Also, wash your hands properly after touching them. Make sure they are kept where children and pets can’t find and ingest them.

Bottom Line

Mothballs keep moths and insects out of the house. They can also be hazardous to health. They have been known to cause cataracts and irreversible retinal damage.

If you have a moth infection in your home, or you simply want to protect your stored clothes from moths, depending on the space, use just a few.

Rather than use a large amount of them to keep insects and rodents away, buy an approved insecticide. Never try to dissolve mothballs that contain naphthalene.


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