The Truth: Do Mothballs Keep Roaches at Bay?

by Derrick | Last Updated: May 1, 2023

Mothballs have long been suggested for repelling various pests. However, before you start using them for this purpose, it’s important to understand what mothballs are and how they work.

As always, I don’t want to assume every reader knows what a mothball is (skip to the next paragraph if you do. A mothball is a small, round, or oval-shaped solid ball, typically about the size of a marble (around 0.5 to 1 inch or 1.3 to 2.5 cm in diameter). Mothballs are typically white or off-white, although they may sometimes be slightly translucent or pale yellowish. The surface of a mothball is usually smooth, and they are sometimes wrapped in a thin layer of paper or placed in a breathable mesh bag for storage. Mothballs are made from chemical substances like naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, which slowly vaporize, releasing a strong, pungent odor that repels moths and other fabric pests.

In this guide, we’ll explore the use of mothballs and if they work for roach control. We’ll discuss the different types of mothballs available on the market today and whether they are effective against cockroaches. Furthermore, we’ll cover some safety considerations when using these chemicals in your home.

Do Mothballs Keep Roaches Away?

Can mothballs keep roaches at bay? The answer is yes but with a few precautions.

While they can provide an inexpensive and easy DIY solution to repel these pesky insects, using them incorrectly may not be enough for a heavy infestation.

Cockroaches are resilient creatures that can survive harsh environments and adapt quickly. This makes it difficult to remove them once they invade your home. So while mothballs can deter them temporarily, it’s not a foolproof solution.

Mothballs work to repel pests by slowly releasing volatile chemicals, such as naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, through sublimation. Sublimation is when a solid substance turns directly into a gas without passing through a liquid phase. As the mothballs sublimate, they release a strong, pungent odor that is toxic and repulsive to moths, larvae, and other fabric pests.

Although mothballs are cheap and readily available, their use requires safety considerations due to their toxicity levels. Mothballs can harm humans and pets if ingested, inhaled, or if there is prolonged contact with the skin. They should be used cautiously and kept out of reach of children and pets.

Do Mothballs Kill Roaches?

Mothballs are known to repel cockroaches, but they are not effective when it comes to killing them. Although mothballs release gases that may cause respiratory distress in roaches and lead to their death, it’s not a reliable method.

This approach may only work on a few cockroaches and will not eliminate the bigger problem. Therefore, if you seek to remove these pests permanently, using boric acid or other methods is more effective than relying on mothballs alone.

However, it’s important to remember that cockroaches can adapt quickly and resist certain methods over time. In conclusion, while mothballs have some repellent properties against roaches, they cannot be relied upon as a permanent solution for removing these pesky insects from your surroundings.

The Best Ways To Use Them To Repel Roaches

When it comes to using mothballs to repel roaches, certain precautions must be taken. Before discussing the best ways to use mothballs, it’s crucial to note that they should not simply be scattered around the house. Mothballs are designed for closed containers only and should never be used near food prep areas or open spaces.

Place each type of item in a container with a tight-fitting lid for effective use, and put one or two mothballs in each container. Close the lid tightly and tape around the edges if needed. This will ensure the fumes do not escape into your home.

When you’re ready to reaccess your items, do so in a well-ventilated area while wearing protective gear such as gloves and masks. Good ventilation is key, as fumes from dissolved mothballs can be toxic.

Using mothballs this way should keep your belongings cockroach-free during storage or relocation. Although they can be an effective repellent when used properly, it’s important to follow safety guidelines for yourself and any children or pets in your household.

Safety Considerations

Handling mothballs with extreme care is important as they are a pesticide. Take the time to read and understand all instructions for usage and precautions listed on the packaging, as this will prevent potential health issues or emergencies.

Although naphthalene is no longer present in most mothballs, the gases that they emit can still be very hazardous. Always use them in tightly sealed containers to ensure safety and avoid placing them in open areas such as closets or attics. Be aware that once you can smell the mothballs, you breathe in their toxic fumes.

Mothballs should never be accessible to children or pets as they may mistake them for food. Adults should also take precautions when handling them and only use them in well-ventilated spaces while wearing protective gloves and masks.

Exposure to mothball fumes may result in unpleasant symptoms like headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, or even hemolytic anemia. It is believed that prolonged exposure could lead to cancer development, making following recommended safety measures critical.

When using mothballs made from camphor or para-dichlorobenzene – which are less dangerous than those made from naphthalene, store both used and unused balls in non-reactive plastic containers such as polyethylene or polypropylene that have been tightly sealed.

What Other Ways Can You Remove Roaches From Your House?

There are several effective methods to remove and prevent roaches from infesting your house. Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Maintain cleanliness: Regularly clean your home, paying special attention to the kitchen, bathroom, and other areas where food and moisture are present. Remove food debris, clean up spills, and avoid leaving dirty dishes overnight.
  2. Seal potential entry points: Inspect your home for cracks, gaps, and crevices that roaches might use to enter. Seal these entry points with caulk or other appropriate materials.
  3. Store food properly: Keep food in airtight containers and avoid leaving pet food out overnight. Store garbage in sealed containers and dispose of it regularly.
  4. Eliminate water sources: Fix leaky pipes, faucets, or drains, and avoid leaving standing water in sinks, bathtubs, or other containers.
  5. Use roach bait stations: Place bait stations in areas where roaches are likely to be active, such as behind appliances, under sinks, and cabinets. The bait contains a slow-acting insecticide that roaches will take back to their nests, eliminating the colony over time.
  6. Apply insecticides: You can use sprays, dust, or gels to treat areas where roaches are present. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use and safety precautions.
  7. Utilize sticky traps: Set up sticky traps around your home to catch and monitor roaches . This can help you identify the areas with the highest infestation levels and target your treatment efforts more effectively.
  8. Diatomaceous earth or boric acid: Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth or boric acid powder around areas where roaches are likely to travel. These substances will damage the exoskeleton of roaches, causing them to dehydrate and die.
  9. Call a professional exterminator: If the roach infestation is severe or you cannot control it, consider hiring a professional exterminator to assess the situation and provide a comprehensive treatment plan.
  10. Preventive measures: To avoid future infestations, maintain cleanliness, seal entry points, store food properly, and monitor for signs of roaches. Regularly inspect your home for any signs of infestation and address them promptly.


In summary, while mothballs may have some repelling effects on roaches, they are not proven effective or safe for eliminating them. It’s important to consider alternative methods for removing roaches and taking necessary safety precautions when using pest control products. By exploring other options and staying informed, you can find the best approach for keeping your living space free from unwanted pests.