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Do Mothballs Keep Roaches Away?

Those tiny snowballs that your grandmother used to keep along with winter clothes are called mothballs. The mothballs slowly release toxic fumes of either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene at room temperature. These fumes are pungent enough to keep many insects, including moths, silverfish, bed bugs, and termites, at bay.

Yes! Mothballs keep roaches at bay in closed spaces, including kitchen and bathroom cabinets, drawers, attic, and closets. However, because the fumes emitted by mothballs are not strong enough to cover a large area, they are not entirely effective at repelling roaches in open spaces.

Mothballs should only be used under strict supervision and only in closed spaces that are unreachable to children and pets. This is because mothballs are highly toxic and cause esophagitis, respiratory problems, and hypoxic brain injury ( References Highlighted). Therefore, I am against using mothballs to repel roaches because of the availability of more effective natural roach repellents (details in the blog below).

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How do mothballs keep roaches away?

Mothballs are made up of white crystalline or colorless solid called naphthalene. Naphthalene is derived from benzene, an aromatic hydrocarbon. Under room temperature and humidity, the mothballs emit highly pungent gas.

Insects including roaches have a highly developed sense of smell and are known to communicate with each other via pheromones. This is why they are attracted to the smell of food and filth. On the other hand, roaches are repelled by strong pungent or aromatic smells.

To make a long story short, the mothballs emit a strong and pungent smell perceived as bad by insects and roaches, keeping them at bay.

How Effective are mothballs at keeping Roaches away?

Though the effectiveness fades over time, mothballs keep releasing toxic gases for a long time. At the average humidity of 70%, mothball releases 80 % of the gas in 2 months. When kept in air-tight containers, the mothballs can last up to a year.

Mothballs are known to keep a variety of insects away, including roaches. However, they are effective in closed spaces such as drawers, cabinets, attics, and closets. In open-air, mothballs are not entirely effective at keeping roaches away.

Therefore, mothballs are not recommended for keeping roaches away in bedrooms, kitchens, and open spaces.

Does Ultrasonic Pest Control Work on Roaches? Read this article to know more.

Mothballs are not safe to use around children and pets

Mothballs are made up of either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. Naphthalene is far more toxic than paradichlorobenzene and is dropped for further use in mothballs.

Accidental mothball ingestion is very common among children because it appears like candy (Reference). Mothballs are known to cause cellular injury and have been noted to cause severe brain injury, hemolysis, and hypoxia in children deficient in the G6PD enzyme (Reference).

Mothballs should never be kept in open spaces because of the potential for inhalational injury and damaged lungs.

Pets are also known to ingest mothballs and have the same type of poisoning as humans do.

Do you know killing a roach attracts more?


My personal experience with mothballs to keep roaches away was just satisfactory. However, Mothballs only kept roaches away from closed spaces and failed to affect roaches in open spaces. Moreover, I always had fear for pets and children’s poisoning.

Therefore, I do not recommend using mothballs to keep roaches away. Instead, I advise using natural, organic, and safer repellents such as Lavender Sachet and Cedar Bags.

Additional Read!