February 25, 2022

Natural Mothball Alternatives for Storage

If you’ve ever dug your favorite cashmere sweater out from the back of your closet only to find it ridden with holes, then you probably already have a vendetta against moths. 

Unfortunately, it’s an all too common problem as your clothing provides a delicious feast for moths and their larvae. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a preventable issue. 

While many of us have long turned to toxic mothballs as the end-all-be-all solution, there are only ways to deter these insects from dining on your clothes. In fact, there are various natural repellents that are quickly becoming the more popular—and safer—solution. 

In our guide below, we’ll provide you with the best tips on how to get rid of moths without using mothballs

Why Did Moths Eat My Clothes?

First, it’s important to better understand moths before figuring out how to get rid of moths naturally

Moths are attracted to dark, warm, humid places. So if this describes the current atmosphere of your closet, attic, or storage space, then there’s a good chance you’re creating the perfect environment for moths to gather. 

And once those moths get to that breeding ground, they’re going to be hungry. Moth larvae are especially drawn to fibers and fabrics of animal origin. So yes, that means your mohair, cashmere, silk, and wool clothes are the first on the menu, but that doesn’t mean they won’t touch other fabrics like cotton, too. 

Why Should I Consider Mothball Alternatives?

Maybe you’ve heard a bad thing or two about mothballs already, or perhaps this is the first time you’re learning about the negative side of mothballs. Regardless, here are a few reasons why it might be time for you to find a safer alternative. 

Mothballs are Toxic 

Moths aren’t the only ones that can be harmed by mothballs. These bug repellants usually contain either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, which are dangerous chemicals that are toxic to humans. In fact, Under California Proposition 65, they’re both considered carcinogens known to cause organ damage. 

When you smell the vapors that these mothballs give off, you’re essentially inhaling insecticide. And if you’re exposed to high enough levels of these fumigants, they can cause adverse health effects, like dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and potentially more long-lasting damage like cataracts and retinal hemorrhage. 

What’s more, if your child or pet swallows them, they can cause more severe health issues or even death. 

Mothballs Have a Distinct Smell 

Not only are mothballs dangerous to have on hand, especially if you have small children or pets, but they also give off an unpleasant smell. This pungent smell can linger on your clothes long after you’ve taken them out of storage and in your storage areas. 

If you could avoid this musty smell, why wouldn’t you? 

Mothballs are Outdated

The first mothballs date back to 1948, when they quickly became all the rage. However, as we’ve become more aware of their dangers, they’ve since become an old-fashioned practice as safer alternatives have taken their place. 

If you’re still using mothballs, it might be time to make the switch. 

What are Some Natural Moth Repellents I Can Try?

The good news is we’ve come a long way since 1948, and we’re now aware of more non-toxic moth deterrents. If you’re wondering how to get rid of moths without using mothballs, check out some of the best alternatives to mothballs below. 

That said, do realize that these solutions are moth deterrents, not killers. The following options won’t hurt or harm moths but rather help keep them showing up in the first place.


Mmmm. Take a whiff of lavender, and you might immediately feel a sense of calm. That’s because lavender is renowned for inducing a relaxing atmosphere. But while you might feel great when you smell this herb, moths don’t feel the same way—in fact, they hate the smell. So, to deter moths, place lavender in your clothing storage area, like drawers, closets, or containers to prevent them from visiting. 

There are several ways you can go about using this mothball alternative. For one, you can purchase already-made cloth sachets filled with lavender, or you can make your own by putting crushed, dried lavender into breathable bags. Another route is to soak cotton balls in lavender essential oils. 

With this alternative, you’ll get to enjoy the aromatherapy benefits of the lavender and keep your moths away. It’s a win-win!

Natural moth repellent

Cedar Chips

When figuring out how to get rid of moths naturally, consider cedar. Like lavender, cedar gives off a pleasant smell to us that isn’t so welcoming to moths. Sometimes referred to as the organic mothball, cedar offers a great natural alternative to traditional toxic mothballs. 

You can purchase cedar balls, chips, and blocks that are specifically designed for protecting your clothing. As with the lavender option, place these where you’re storing your clothes. 

However, do keep in mind the cedar scent tends to wear off after a few months, so you will want to periodically replace them to keep them smelling strong and fresh. 

Cloves, Rosemary, and Thyme

If you’re looking for even more natural substitutes for mothballs, simply head to your kitchen pantry. You might be surprised to learn that the smell of many of the herbs you use for cooking naturally deters moths. 

If you have cloves, rosemary, or thyme on hand, any of these will do the trick! Sprinkle one—or all three—into a pouch. For extra strength, you can even wrap some cloves in tissue paper and place them in the pockets of your jackets or pants. On the other hand, if you only have the essential oil version of these herbs, you can use them to douse cotton balls, just as we recommended with the lavender option. 

The good news is that the scent of these herbs is strong enough to last up to around six months. If you notice the smell starting to wane, go ahead and replace them. 

Are There Other Ways I Can Ward off Moths?

Aside from experimenting with these natural substitutes for mothballs, are there other ways you can prevent moths in storage? Yes, follow some of these tips below for additional backup against moths and other critters. 

Wash Your Clothes Before Storing Them

Avoid putting away dirty clothes, especially if you’re storing them for the long term, as moths are attracted to the smells they give off (yes, your body odor and food residue smell good to them!). Thoroughly clean your clothes and be sure they’re completely dry before packing them away. 

Note: This step is especially crucial if you’ve already noticed moth holes or moth larvae on your clothing. Laundering your clothes will help get rid of any remaining moths and larvae. The same goes for if you notice any larvae or remnants of moths in your storage area—clean and vacuum the space to discourage moths from lingering or revisiting. 

Store Your Clothing in Air-Tight Containers

Another way to deter moths is to keep them from reaching your clothes in the first place. Once your clothes are clean and dry, place them in an air-tight container. As you can imagine, this not only keeps out moths but also other critters and pests. For extra protection, add one of the natural repellents mentioned above to your container. 

Choose the Right Storage Space

As we previously mentioned, moths—like other insects—prefer damp, dark, humid spaces, so you’ll want to take extra care when choosing your storage space. For example, this might mean storing your clothes in your closet rather than your underground basement. 

However, if you can’t find a suitable space in your home or would rather have an off-site option, storage units provide a great solution. You can even find climate-controlled units that maintain set temperature and humidity levels, offering a more suitable environment for storing your clothing. 

Learn More About Stor-It

Here at Stor-It, we know everything there is to know about storage. After all, we’re the oldest and largest storage facility in the entire state of Idaho. Whether you’re looking for storage advice or want to rent a non-climate controlled storage unit, we have you covered. Contact us today to learn more!