Can Mothballs Ward Off Ants? Risks and Eco-Friendly Alternatives

Ever found yourself in a battle with ants invading your home? You’ve probably heard that mothballs can be your secret weapon. But do mothballs really keep ants away? Let’s delve into this common household query.

Mothballs, traditionally used to protect clothes from moths, have been touted as an effective ant deterrent. The idea is that the strong smell of naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, the chemicals found in mothballs, is too overpowering for ants.

But how much truth is there to this claim? Are mothballs a reliable solution or just an old wives’ tale? We’ll explore the facts and myths surrounding this topic. Stay tuned as we unravel the mystery behind mothballs and ants.

Key Takeaways

  • Mothballs, traditionally used to shield clothes from moths, contain strong-smelling chemicals (naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene) that may deter ants.
  • Despite anecdotal evidence endorsing mothballs as an ant deterrent, there is no scientific consensus supporting this belief.
  • Ants are sensitive to strong smells which may cause them to divert their paths temporarily, but mothballs are unlikely to be a long-term solution to ant problems.
  • Mothballs contain chemicals recognized as potential carcinogens, therefore prolonged or heavy exposure can prove harmful to humans and pets.
  • Alternatives to mothballs for repelling ants include natural, environmentally-friendly substances like vinegar, cinnamon, or essential oils, which are less likely to be harmful.
  • When using mothballs outside their intended purpose for moth prevention, ensure to be aware of potential health risks and considerations. It is always best to prioritize the safety of your household.

While mothballs are commonly thought to repel ants, this is not their intended use, and they pose significant health and environmental risks. Dengarden explains why mothballs may deter ants temporarily but are unsafe, particularly around pets and children. Pest Strategies reviews safer and more environmentally friendly alternatives that are specifically targeted at managing ant infestations effectively. For those seeking natural remedies, EarthKind provides a list of home remedies and preventive measures that avoid harsh chemicals.

Understanding Mothballs

In their core, mothballs are solid pesticides often used as a storage fumigant to protect clothes from moths as well as other fabric-damaging insects. They typically carry a strong, distinct smell that’s linked to the potent chemicals housed within – primarily naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. Both of these substances release a gas when exposed to air, and it’s this output that serves as an insecticide.

Naphthalene is an organic compound that forms either white or colorless crystals, and it can become flammable when in the right conditions. Yet it’s not solely found in mothballs. You’ll also find it in other products, such as repellents for snakes and mice. On the other hand, paradichlorobenzene – a less commonly used chemical in mothballs – presents in deodorizers and insecticides.

However, these chemicals exert more than just a potent smell. Prolonged or heavy exposure could prove harmful to mammals, including humans. In fact, both naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene are considered potential carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Physical formWhite or colorless crystalsWhite or colorless crystals
Common useIn mothballs, snake and mouse repellentsIn mothballs, deodorizers and insecticides
RiskPotential carcinogenPotential carcinogen

So, it’s important to handle mothballs with caution. Consider wearing gloves, avoiding inhalation, and keeping them away from children and pets. Also, if you’re currently using mothballs and want to switch to a less harmful method to deter ants or other pests, it’d be wise to research more environmentally friendly options.

Let’s now transition from understanding what mothballs are, to diving into the nitty-gritty of mothballs’ effectiveness against ants. Because it’s not only about whether they’ll keep ants at bay, but also if they’re the safest option available.

How Do Mothballs Work as Ant Deterrents?

Some may wonder how mothballs could possibly deter ants. Usually, you find these little white balls tucked away in wardrobes or stored with clothing, perhaps even in a bathroom cabinet for those who like to keep their linens smelling fresh. But before we dive into their effectiveness against ants, let’s briefly discuss how they function.

Primarily, mothballs are designed to release specific gases when exposed to air, specifically naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. These gases are lethal to clothes moths and other fabric-eating pests, not unlike how salt is used to melt ice on the driveways of homes or the roads traveled by cars and trucks. Herein lies the basis for the ant deterrent theory.

People speculate that the strong smell released by these gases may also be effective at deterring ants. It’s thought that the powerful aroma proves overwhelming for the ants’ advanced sensory apparatus, disorienting them and discouraging them from venturing too close, much like how bright lights can disorient moths or how loud noises can scare away birds near boats at the marina.

However, no scientific studies conclusively prove mothballs can effectively deter ants. Most actual evidence comes from anecdotal personal home experiences, often shared among friends and family in the cozy confines of a bedroom or kitchen. So arguments for mothball use against ants often lean on a “they worked for me” basis.

While they may be potentially useful for some, it’s essential to weigh the possible harms against the potential benefits. As previously mentioned, the gases released by mothballs are harmful to humans and animals. This raises a question about safety, especially for homes with young children and pets, who might mistake mothballs for something as innocuous as candy or playthings.

Remember, having ants in your home is a common issue faced by many around the world. But when addressing the problem, it’s crucial to prioritize your family’s safety and consider environmentally-friendly alternatives. You could try natural alternatives like vinegar, cinnamon, or essential oils, which have minimal impact on the environment and are far less likely to be harmful to humans or pets, allowing your home to be as welcoming and safe as a calm harbor for boats amidst a storm.

Effectiveness of Mothballs in Repelling Ants

When dealing with ant invasions, it’s essential to study various viable solutions diligently. Some folks swear by the use of mothballs. The truth of the matter? It’s more complicated than you’d initially think.

Mothballs are primarily designed to combat moths, hence the name. They emit a strong, noxious gas designed to kill or deter these insects. Many people speculate that the strong scent of the mothballs also repels ants, but is it really the case? So far, there isn’t much scientific evidence to back up this widespread belief, aside from the occasional discovery of ant poop, which indicates their presence but not necessarily their deterrence.

A handful of people report having success with mothballs in combating ants, but these are strictly anecdotal instances, sometimes as unpredictable as a drawing not going as planned. It’s true that ants are sensitive creatures – they rely heavily on their sense of smell to navigate, search for food, and even paint their own paths with pheromones, not unlike artists with their brushes.

Realistically though, mothballs may cause ants to divert their path temporarily, much like a child avoiding their beds at bedtime, but they are unlikely to work in the long term as a durable, effective method. The quest for a solution requires more than just a strong scent; it demands an understanding of ant behavior and persistence in finding a method that works.

You may be tempted to give it a try, but do remember that mothballs aren’t created for pest control beyond their designated adversary – the moth. There are potential risks involved that could pose a danger to you, your family, and even pets.

In fact, mothballs contain ingredients like naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, known to be potential health hazards when inhaled or ingested, posing risks such as nausea, dizziness, or even long-term effects like cancer.

If you’ve got an ant problem, rest assured there are plenty of other methods out there to tackle it. Consider adopting eco-friendly alternatives such as vinegar, cinnamon, or essential oils. These are safer for you, kinder to the environment, and enhance your home’s ambiance.

So, while mothballs might be a quick, ad-hoc remedy to keep ants at bay, they certainly aren’t the most practical or safe solution. When it comes to effective ant control, the real winners are the natural remedies that are both safe and eco-friendly.

Potential Risks and Considerations

Before you decide to use mothballs as your go-to ant repellent, it’s critical to understand the potential risks and considerations associated with their use. Mothballs are made from specific chemicals – chiefly naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene. Both substances are notable for their strong fumes, buzzing with the potency to temporarily deter ants. Yet these chemicals carry significant health risks if misused or overexposed.

Firstly, naphthalene. You might be familiar with its strong, distinctive smell, which can take on an almost sweet, camphor-like quality. It’s this specific scent that can deter ants in the short term. However, consistent exposure to naphthalene can lead to adverse effects on your health. Symptoms can range from nausea and vomiting to severe anemia and damage to your cells and can become acute with prolonged exposure.

Similarly, the second prime ingredient, paradichlorobenzene, presents its health risks. While less toxic than naphthalene, there are still risks of liver and kidney damage with sustained exposure.

Chemicals in MothballsPotential Health RisksSymptoms
NaphthaleneSevere cell damage, AnemiaNausea, Vomiting
ParadichlorobenzeneLiver damage, Kidney damageVaries

Furthermore, animals and children are more susceptible to these dangers, as mothballs look similar to candy or other small toys, presenting a poisoning risk if ingested.

In addition, it’s crucial to note that mothballs are not designed for pest control purposes, other than combating moths and silversmiths. The US Environmental Protection Agency strictly regulates their usage, along with other countries. It’s strongly suggested to stick with the intended use of any product, especially one containing such potent and potentially harmful chemicals.

By using mothballs outside of their designated functionality, you might be stepping into a territory rife with unpredictability or even hazardous repercussions. Therefore, remember to weigh the potential risks against the perceived benefits of using mothballs to repel ants in your home. Fortunately, there are eco-friendly alternatives accessible that are not only safe but sustainable for long-term usage.


So, you’ve learned that mothballs aren’t the best solution to your ant problem. The risks, from health issues to environmental harm, far outweigh any potential benefits. Remember, these products contain dangerous chemicals that aren’t meant for pest control outside of moths and silversmiths. It’s crucial to keep them out of reach of children and pets who might mistake them for something else. Instead of reaching for mothballs, consider eco-friendly alternatives. There are safer, more sustainable ways to keep ants at bay. Be smart about your pest control methods and always prioritize safety.

What is the main concern about using mothballs as an ant repellent?

Mothballs contain harmful chemicals, naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene, that can cause severe health issues such as nausea, anemia, liver, and kidney damage with prolonged exposure.

Are mothballs safe for children and pets?

No, mothballs are not safe for children and pets. They can often mistake them for food or toys, leading to potential poisoning risks.

Is it legal to use mothballs for ant control?

Mothballs are strictly regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency and are not intended for pest control beyond moths and silversmiths.

Why shouldn’t mothballs be used for purposes other than their designated use?

Using mothballs for other purposes increases the risk of exposure to their harmful chemicals, thus posing health risks and potential legal issues.

What are the suggested alternatives to mothballs for ant control?

Eco-friendly alternatives are recommended for safer and sustainable ant control. They pose less threat to health and environment compared to chemical solutions like mothballs.