Can I use mothballs to repel insects or animals?
No, not unless the label describes that type of use pattern. The label of any pesticide product, including mothballs, tells you exactly where and how a product is supposed to be used. Using the product in any other way could put you and others at risk. Besides, they have little or no effect as repellents.
Many years ago, mothballs may have been made out of different chemicals. Older product labels may have said it was okay to use them as repellents. This might explain why so many people think that mothballs can be used in such a way. However, our understanding of pesticides and the possible risk(s) of using them has come a long way over the years.
Today's mothballs are typically almost 100% active ingredient, either paradichlorobenzene or naphthalene. These chemicals turn into gases that build up inside airtight containers, killing clothes moths and their eggs.
When mothballs are used properly inside airtight containers, the exposure risk for people and pets is low. However, if mothballs are used out in the open, the gas is released into the environment where people can breathe the vapors. If you can smell the mothball odor, you are breathing in the pesticide.
Exposure to gas from mothballs can lead to headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, eye and nose irritation, and coughing. More serious effects, like liver and kidney damage, can be caused by longer-term exposures. Mothballs are not meant to be used as animal repellents and should not be used in ways that allow people or animals to become exposed. To make sure you are keeping your risk low, be sure to follow all label instructions and remember to keep all pesticides out of the reach of children and animals.
If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378 (8:00am - 12:00pm PST), or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.