How to Dispose of Mothballs (Naphthalene Balls)

While mothballs can keep away moths and other fiber insects from destroying your clothes, they may be pretty dangerous when not disposed of properly.

A recent study has shown that children exposed to naphthalene (a chemical found in mothballs) may have a higher chance of developing cancer as adults.

Read on to learn more about how to dispose of mothballs safely and how to handle them properly.

How to Handle Mothballs Safely

Disposing of mothballs also involves handling them.

So, it is essential first to know how to handle these insect repellents safely to avoid getting contaminated with their toxic chemicals.

Let’s take a brief look at how to handle mothballs properly.

Put Them in an Airtight Container

Usually, mothballs contain naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene as the main ingredients that kill moths and other destructive insects.

These chemicals evaporate easily when the mothballs are exposed to air, therefore contaminating the atmosphere nearby for up to 8 hours.  

Inhaling this contaminated air may cause some severe health problems such as:

  • Eye irritation
  • Gastrointestinal issues like nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and vomiting
  • Neurologic problems such as convulsions

That is why it is vital to put your mothballs in an airtight container.

It is also advisable to place the infested clothes inside the airtight box. This will contain the evaporated chemicals, killing the moth larvae and eggs instantly.

Always Wear Rubber Gloves When Handling Mothballs

Mothballs can contaminate not only the air around you but also your hands.

Having traces of naphthalene in your hands can cause skin irritation.

What’s more, if you happen to eat with your contaminated hands, you may begin experiencing stomach issues such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, among others.

Wash the Contaminated Clothes Before Wearing Them

It is crucial to wash your clothes once you remove them from the airtight container with the mothballs.

Doing so will get rid of the naphthalene odor.

Before washing your clothes, it is also recommendable to keep them in a plastic bag to prevent them from contaminating other clothes.

Keep the Mothballs Away From Children

Toddlers might confuse mothballs for candy. Unfortunately, ingestion can lead to serious health issues.

For example, it may damage their red blood cells, causing kidney failure.

Now that we have looked at how to handle mothballs properly, here are tips on how to dispose of them safely.

Do Not Dispose of Them Together With Regular Trash

Like we mentioned earlier, mothballs contain high quantities of naphthalene, a chemical that is harmful to anyone who gets into contact with it.

That is why it is essential not to throw them away together with your regular household waste.

This is because trash collectors may accidentally inhale the toxic naphthalene fumes, endangering their health.

What’s more, their skin may get into contact with the mothballs, leading to severe skin irritation.

So, instead of throwing away your mothballs together with regular garbage, take them to a household hazardous waste (HHW) collection site.

These facilities are designed to destroy household hazardous garbage, reducing the risk of them harming the public and the environment.

If you cannot find an HHW collection site nearby, you can visit the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s website and search for a collection site near you.

Most of these household hazardous waste collection sites do not charge any fees for taking your garbage to the facility.

But they may have specific opening days and hours.

So, it is essential to find out when your local HHW collection facility is open before dropping off your waste there.

Do Not Flush Them Down the Toilet

Flushing mothballs down the toilet might seem like the easiest way to get rid of them. However, they may cause severe damage to the environment.

For starters, flushing insecticides down the toilet may contaminate the sewage wastewater.

Since most of these sewage treatment plants are not built to filter the dissolved mothballs, they will still be present in the recycled water from the sewage.

This water, which flows back to streams, lakes, and our homes, may be harmful to humans and aquatic wildlife.

Also, the chemicals in the mothballs are known to evaporate faster when they are wet.

So, dropping them into the toilet bowl may put you at a greater risk of inhaling those toxic fumes.

Avoid Disposing of Them in Your Yard

There are many sources that recommend throwing used mothballs around yards or gardens to keep pests and other destructive animals away.

But, they may actually do your plants more harm than good.

When you put mothballs in your garden, the naphthalene chemical may contaminate your soil, making it too toxic for your plants to thrive.

Avoid Burning Your Mothballs

As you may now know, the chemicals present in mothballs evaporate in almost all kinds of situations, and burning is no exception.

That is why it is advisable to drop them off at household hazardous waste facilities to be incinerated properly.

Do Not Bury Your Mothballs

Burying them is also not the best idea. As we mentioned before, mothballs can contaminate the soil, therefore destroying the environment in general.

Your pet may also dig them up and ingest them, causing it to develop severe medical issues.

Safer Alternatives to Mothballs

Of course, mothballs are effective in keeping those pesky moths from destroying our clothes.

However, tons of natural ways work well without putting yourself and those around you at risk of chemical contamination.

Read on to learn more about other safe ways of keeping moths at bay.

Use Cedar Chips

Not only are cedar bark chips excellent mulches, but they also serve as effective insect repellents.

All you have to do is place them inside your closet or clothes storage box and bid farewell to those destructive moths.

Try Using Lavender Sachets

While we love the scent of lavender, moths cannot stand it.

The aroma compounds in lavender, such as camphor and 1.8-cineole, make it unpleasant to moths and other insects.

Use Mint Sachets

Mint is also another aromatic plant that keeps moths and other fiber insects away from damaging your clothes.

You can put mint leaves or soaked cotton balls in your closet.

Spray Your Storage Area With Vinegar

While vinegar doesn’t keep adult moths away, it does a great job of killing their eggs and larvae.

Just mix some water and vinegar in a spray bottle and work your way through all clothes storage areas.

Try Using Moth Traps

Using a moth trap is another safe way to get rid of moths, especially if you notice that you have too many of them in your home.

These moths are designed to catch adult moths before they begin laying eggs.

With this trap, you no longer have to worry about toxic fumes contaminating the air.

Store Your Clothes Properly

Storing your clothes in the right way also plays a massive role in keeping moths away.

Typically, moths are attracted to dirt and dust. So it is vital to keep your clothes in airtight containers or garment bags to prevent them from collecting too much dust.

Also, ensure that they are well folded and iron them often, even if you don’t wear them regularly.

In the same breath, it is essential to dispose of clothes that you don’t need to reduce clutter in your wardrobe.

Use Rosemary Sachets

By now, you may have figured out that aromatic herbs are fantastic natural insect repellents, and rosemary is no exception.

Like the other two herbs we have looked at, you can also put rosemary sachets in your closet to keep moths at bay.

Alternatively, you can mix several herbs, put them in sachet bags, and place them in your clothes storage areas.

Clean Up After Your Pet Regularly

As surprising as it may sound, moths are also attracted to animals. To keep them from making their way to your clothes, clean up after your pet regularly.

It is also best to deep clean its cage and beddings frequently to remove any dirt that may attract moths.

Try Freezing Your Infested Clothes

Freezing clothes that moths have infested is also a great way to kill their larvae and eggs.

All you have to do is place the infested clothes in an airtight Ziploc bag, then put them in a freezer for at least a week.

After that, remove the bags from the freezer and thaw them. Then, wash your garments to remove the dead eggs and larvae.

Keep Your Closet Open

Like most insects, moths naturally hate light and movements. So, it is advisable to open your closet regularly.

Doing so will let the sunlight inside, therefore driving away these destructive insects.

You can also rearrange your clothes frequently to create movements that will drive the moths away.


For years, mothballs have been the most common way to keep away moths and other pests from our closets and homes in general.

Unfortunately, most people who use them don’t know how to dispose of them correctly, putting the environment and the public at risk of contamination.

That is why it is recommendable to try natural and safe ways of getting rid of these pesky insects.

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