Moth Ball Alternatives

by healthnutmama on January 11, 2010

mothphoto credit: marcusrg

I was very disappointed when I pulled a never-before-worn wool sweater out of my closet that Josh got me last year, only to find that a moth had feasted on it, leaving not one, not two, but three holes in it.  I bet I can find more if I look more closely.  But those were the big ones.

I’ve never had a moth problem before, but now I do and it’s time to take care of it.  And I’m not going to use moth balls.  Just the smell of those things should raise red flags.  Moth balls are not something I want in my home.  Let me tell you why.

Moth balls contain (here’s some big words that are hard to pronounce) naphthalene and are considered a pesticide. They also contain paradichlorobenzene.  The gases produced from these compounds grow and ferment over time and can be dangerous to humans and animals.  Inhaling the vapors can cause bad headaches, dizziness and respiratory distress.

Here are a few more of the possible symptoms you can have from exposure to naphthalene:

  • Irritated eyes, headache, dizziness, respiratory distress, liver damage, confusion, excitement, malaise (vague feeling of discomfort), nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, irritation in bladder, profuse sweating, jaundice, hematuria (blood in the urine), renal shutdown, dermatitis, optical neuritis, corneal damage

Um.  No thank you.  I’m sure the above list is referring to extreme exposure to this chemical, but still.  I don’t even want a little of the chemical in my home.

A nightmare scenario is a child in the house thinking that the moth balls are candy and attempting to eat it.  Ingestion of moth balls can lead to seizures, liver damage, respiratory failure and even death.

I remember as a child handling moth balls, thinking they looked cool, (don’t worry, I didn’t eat them), and not thinking a thing of it.  I don’t think anybody did.  It just wasn’t something we thought about because it was so common to have moth balls fall out of a winter clothes box.  If you handle moth balls, wear rubber gloves.

What are the alternatives?

The most common used alternatives are cedar and lavender.  Even rosemary is used and supposedly works.  There are many different ways you could combine these “ingredients”.  Here are a few:

  • If you are feeling crafty:  make some cute sachets out of cloth, and fill it with cedar shavings (you can get those pretty much anywhere that carries pet supplies) and dried lavender and dried rosemary.  If you don’t have lavender or rosemary, you should buy the essential oils and drop several drops on your cedar shavings.  In fact, you should add the essential oils anyway to create a more robust deterrent.  Follow the links to see some good prices on these oils.  Keep in mind that these oils have many purposes, so buying them to keep on hand is a good idea.

Cedarwood Essential Oil

Lavender Essential Oil

Rosemary Essential Oil

  • If you are not feeling crafty, stuff an old sock or fabric bag like the one below (if you have one on hand) with the same ingredients.
  • You can just buy cedar balls and disperse them generously.

*Post Edit:  Make sure to include cedar in your recipe.  As in, don’t use just lavender or just rosemary.  Those are extra ingredients.  Cedar is stronger deterrent of all of the above.  But together, all the ingredients make a more powerful moth deterrent.

Curtains from World Market came in this bag.  I kept it.

lavenderLavender from my mom’s garden.  Also a pretty centerpiece. =)

The best thing to do is contain the concentrated odors of the cedar and lavender by putting your wool garments in a drawer or box with your new creation.

Let me know if you have other moth ball alternatives that you use.  I would love to hear it!

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