Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thrifting Pitfalls: How I Overcame the Evil Mothball Stink.

Before I start, I am not going to save this for halfway through, you MUST read this now: If you have purchased or own something you think might be ponging from old mothballs, DO NOT WASH IT WITH ANY CLOTHING THAT DOESN’T. I’m serious, people, we’re talking total quarantine of the affected article. I damn near lost me a favourite sweater, and I don’t want anyone else to have to go through that!

So, I’m sure many of you may be able to relate to this, I was at my favourite local thrift store with a friend, perusing their latest offerings, when I came across the most magnificent forest green, knitted mohair (I am fairly certain?) sweater.
It was fuzzy, it was oversized, it was perfect, it STANK TO HIGH HEAVENS.  My word, I couldn’t believe it, my eyes were almost watering; the smell was somewhat familiar, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I decided that $7.00 was just too much of a steal, and parted with some dosh for my smelly dreamboat, thinking a simple cycle in the wash would solve the problem. Right? Oh dear.
I can’t tell you how wrong I was; I threw the sweater in with a few others I had at home which needed a wash, thankfully I always wash on the cold gentle cycle. After the wash finished up, I was greeted with a wave of that awful smell. I picked up the sweater, and it stank worse than before. It was almost slick feeling in my hands, and I had that awful slow motion dreadful realization that the REST of  the clothes stank too! Devastated and defeated, I thrust the main offender under Alex’s nose and screeched “THIS! WHAAAT IS THIS?!”
I was convinced I’d been duped into buying petrol soaked clothing, when Alex recognized the stink: the dreaded, undefeated champion of the unremovable stink world, ancient mothballs!

Any right thinking person would have just thrown the towel in, admitted defeat and tossed the jumper, but no-ho, not I! I wasn’t about to have some Naphthalene soaked abomination ruin my clothing, no sir! And neither do you! Turns out, removing stinky moth killer is easier than some people give mother nature credit for.  Please note, if you’re not comfortable with the idea of spritzing pure alcohol on your piece of clothing, take it to a professional!

All I needed was some baking powder, fresh air and no real urge to wear any of that load of washing. I think several days of cold wind helped, but that’s not anything you can’t re-create with a pedestal fan.
Naphthalene is the main ingredient in old school mothballs. It isn’t soluble in non-organic solvents, rather it’s totally soluble in organic solvents, so if you have any methylated spirits, or rubbing alcohol, or vodka, they all work wonderfully spritzed on in a spray bottle, undiluted, in a well-ventilated area.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any alcohol in the house, so I skipped to the next step.

Nasty ol’ Naphthalene is actually in its gaseous form when it contaminates clothing and imparting the stench, and dissipates in air. I hung my sweater up on my clothes horse flat across the wires, so I could ensure maximum air flow, and pegged it across the shoulders so it wouldn’t escape.
Finally, bicarbonate soda, a big ol’ badass in the stink-defeating world, is a good finishing touch to ensure the best results. I just poured the stuff straight onto the sweater, in a good even layer. Surprisingly, even though it was fairly gusty, the stuff didn’t blow away!
And that was that, all I could do was hope that in a few days, I wouldn’t be having my eyes burnt out of my head by crazy nanna mothballs. I washed my washing machine by putting it on a cycle with a couple of cups of vinegar in the barrel and a hot wash cycle, hopefully the smell of mothballs in my laundry will go away soon! I checked my sweater today, and guess what? The home remedies totally worked! I patted the bicarbonate off the fibers, and good ol’ windy days seemed to have done the rest. Hip hip hooray!

Gratuitous photos will follow, in the meantime, I suggest raiding your wardrobes and discarding any nasty chemical mothballs you might have. They cause nothing but misery when natural preventions work just as well without the dire consequences.
“But I have no natural prevention methods?” I hear you say, never fear! There’s a super easy way to keep your clothes smelling sweet & the hungry moths away.

Grab a pair of clean pantyhose/socks/or a hanky, and then go for a wander into your garden (or past someone elses!) and grab a fistful each of lavender flowers and rosemary sprigs.
I like to trim the stems and hold them together in a little bouquet shape with elastic, put the little bunch stem-first into the toe of some pantyhose, tie off the end and viola! Wonderful, natural and pretty smelling flowers to keep bugs away! :D
I’ve made a few by rubbing the leaves and blossoms together, and stitching them in a little pillow shape to hang on my coathangers with my wool jackets.
You can place these inside drawers, or inside the pockets of jackets when they’re not being worn. I particularly like to suspend some on little pieces of ribbons from the coathanger to hang down inside clothing to keep them smelling fresh and lovely.

Happy thrifting and crafting!



  1. I love reading your writing. You're so cute and entertaining. hehe. <3 Keep doing what you're doing, babe :)

  2. I stored away all my summer clothes in a plastic bag (zip lock kind that are meant for storing clothes). This weekend, I took these clothes out because its almost spring here and there was heavy whiff of naphthalene. I am going to sprinkle baking soda and lay clothes out outside in the balcony under sunlight.. I don't have a line to hang clothes so this is best I can do. I hope it works! Thanks!!

  3. I don't mind smelling like mothballs.

  4. Yeh, but EVERYONE ELSE minds you smelling like mothballs! Talk about a surefire way to NOT win friends NOR influence people to linger for long in your sphere! Maybe you enjoy extra-solitude; having folks ostracize you for being the odoriferous sub-noidal buttnoid from stinchville. Eccentric is cool. Mothball smell is just creepy creep.

  5. Yeh, but EVERYONE ELSE minds you smelling like mothballs! Talk about a surefire way to NOT win friends NOR influence people to linger for long in your sphere! Maybe you enjoy extra-solitude; having folks ostracize you for being the odoriferous sub-noidal buttnoid from stinchville. Eccentric is cool. Mothball smell is just creepy creep.

  6. I never Yard naphtalene nor snelle like IT. I bought a New jacket and work IT this winter, I wanted to wash it although the it was not particularly dirty, I used soap and perfumed softener that I always use. Guess what, the jacket cane out of the washing machine smelling so stinkey, a smell similar to a mixture of mothball and kerosene. What was it. What can I do??? Help...

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