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Will Mothballs Keep Nuisance Wildlife Out of My House?

Mothballs are insecticides intended to kill clothes moths and other fabric pests. Controlled by the Environmental Protection Agency, they are illegal to use them for any purpose or by any method that isn’t specified on the label directions. This article explores whether mothballs are effective wildlife deterrents for mice, snakes, bats, and other creatures, and highlights important health factors based on existing research.

What Are Mothballs Used For?

Before modern air conditioning and heating systems were commonplace, households sought out natural airflow to regulate indoor temperatures, which brought with it the invasion of pests eager to eat homeowners’ favorite clothing. In response, mothballs became the first line of defense, a key element of clothing care and preservation. With synthetic materials like nylon and polyester now blended with natural fibers like cotton, moths rarely seek out clothing as a food source. Nonetheless, there are many advertised uses for mothballs in the house and outdoor areas for wildlife control, many of which are considered dangerous or illegal. 

How Do Mothballs Work?

Mothballs are round discs of solid pesticides with the active ingredient naphthalene, camphor, and paradichlorobenzene (dichlorobenzene). These solid discs release vapors that are toxic to moths and moth larvae, eliminating them or deterring them from the area. However, to be effective for pest management, mothballs must be placed in airtight containers where moths are exposed to high concentrations of vapors.

Do Mothballs Work as a Wildlife Repellent?

Mothballs are frequently suggested as a deterrent in both indoor and outdoor areas. These solutions are ineffective, dangerous to humans and pets, and illegal in some cases.   

Dangers of Mothballs Indoor

Mothballs are commonly made of naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, both of which are toxic to humans and have detrimental health effects. Accidental mothball ingestion is common in children. Fumes from naphthalene mothballs can escape into the air and can cause respiratory problems. High levels of fumes can accumulate in closed areas, and improper use of mothballs can lead to long-term exposures to people and pets. Medical issues as a result of mothball naphthalene poisoning include hemolytic anemia, methemoglobinemia,  and in rare cases, kidney damage.

For these reasons, mothballs should not be stored in closets, crawl spaces, attics, basements, storage chests, garment bags, or other spaces excluding airtight containers.

Dangers of Mothballs Outdoors

Mothballs are occasionally thrown in gardens and lawns to keep away pets and other animals. However, mothballs are ineffective in repelling wildlife in outdoor areas such as rats, mice, squirrels, bats, snakes, or other wildlife.  Mothballs may contaminate soil and water and their use as animal repellants is not appropriate and can be illegal.

Will Mothballs Repel Mice & Rats? 

Mothballs contain naphthalene, but the small quantity in mothballs is insufficient to effectively deter rodents, and the smell rapidly dissipates. The smell can be a deterrent in large enough quantities, but will not prevent rodent infestation, on top of health risks.

Will Mothballs Get Rid of Bats?

Unfortunately, there are no magical products to repel bats, including mothballs. Similar to mice, naphthalene is an annoyance to pests, but not enough to prevent the species from occupying your living space. 

Do Mothballs Work on Groundhogs?

Filling a groundhog hole with Mhballs is not effective, and increases the chance that the groundhog will simply create another den nearby until the smell dissipates, which happens rapidly. Groundhog-proof fencing or removal services are the only effective, guaranteed solutions.

Will Mothballs Keep Chipmunks and Squirrels Away?

While chipmunks and squirrels dislike the smell of mothballs, mothballs are a less effective option relative to trapping and removal services. Mothballs are considered an inhumane alternative as chipmunks and squirrels may die after consuming them. Lastly, the use of mothballs to deter chipmunks and squirrels may be illegal depending on your locality and is bad for the environment. 

How to Keep Nuisance Wildlife Away

Natural repellents like predator urine, citrus ammonia, and mothballs have low effectiveness as deterrents. 

Instead of using ineffective mothball solutions to remove mice or other wildlife, contact Critter Control technicians who can tailor permanent solutions for your wildlife problem. Mothballs are ineffective deterrents of wildlife, and most importantly pose health risks to the inhabitants of a home.