How to Get Mothball Smell Out of Camper

Mothballs are commonly used in campers to deter pests and insects. While effective in this regard, the lingering smell of mothballs can be overpowering and unpleasant. Most of the time, proper ventilation is all you need for a mild mothball smell issue.

This article is my guide for you to go through the process of removing mothball odor from different surfaces in your camper, and suggest effective odor-absorbing agents. I will also highlight the potential health risks associated with mothball exposure, and provide alternative products for pest control.

How to Get Mothball Smell Out of Camper

What is Mothball and Why It’s Used in Campers

Mothballs are small balls made of naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, chemicals that can repel and kill cloth-eating moths and their larvae. Campers often use mothballs to protect upholstery, clothing, bedding, and other fabrics when storing RVs for long periods. However, mothballs have a very strong, unpleasant smell that can linger.

How to Get Rid of Mothball Smell

From Clothes

If clothes have picked up the mothball smell, first try hanging them outdoors to air out. Sunlight and fresh air can help dissipate odors. If that doesn’t fully remove the smell, wash clothes in hot water with an extra rinse cycle. Adding white vinegar or baking soda to the wash can help purge odors too.

From RV Furniture

Mothball smell can really cling to soft furnishings. In addition to airing items out, use an upholstery attachment on a vacuum to remove any mothball residue deep in the fabric. Steam cleaning can also force out odors from cushions or mattresses. Use an enzyme cleaner made for pet odors to attack the mothball smell on a molecular level.

From Hard Surfaces

Washing hard surfaces like countertops, plastic ware, and vinyl flooring can eliminate stubborn mothball smells. Use an all-purpose cleaner mixed with some baking soda and wash thoroughly. Going over the area afterward with either straight vinegar or lemon juice also helps deodorize.

From the RV Itself

Opening up the camper, turning on fans, and running the AC can speed up odor removal. Placing bowls of vinegar around the interior and leaving them for several hours helps absorb smells too.

Odor Absorbents You Can Use to Deodorize Your RV

Vinegar – The acidic properties of white vinegar make it useful for washing away mothball smell from surfaces and fabrics. It can be used diluted as a cleaner or placed straight in small bowls around the RV interior to actively soak up odors.

Baking Soda – Spread baking soda over upholstery and fabrics and let it sit for a few hours before vacuuming up. The particles will pull odor molecules out of the materials. It can also be washed down the sink to remove lingering smells.

Charcoal – Opening containers of activated charcoal or charcoal bags in the RV will help pull smells from the air over time. Position them near odor hot spots.

Citrus Peels – Leaving drying citrus fruit peels in bowls absorbs unpleasant smells, leaving a fresh citrusy scent instead.

Effect of Mothball Smell on the Human Body

Exposure to naphthalene can cause nausea, headache, and damage to red blood cells. Paradichlorobenzene has been linked to cancer in animals. Mothballs should always be used carefully, in ventilated spaces according to the package directions. 

Smelling mothballs over long periods has been found to affect liver and kidney health. Their fumes are especially dangerous for babies and small children. Eye and lung irritation has also been reported.

Alternative Products

Cedar blocks, lavender sachets, protective loose covers for furniture, and vacuum-seal storage bags make good moth-repelling substitutes for traditional mothballs. 

Keeping the RV clean and dry is also key to preventing moth infestations when in storage.


Are mothballs safe to touch?

It’s best to minimize direct contact with mothballs. Wear gloves when handling them and thoroughly wash your hands afterwards.

How long does the mothball smell last?

Depending on the intensity of the original exposure, mothball smells can linger for months if no remediation steps are taken. Using odor absorbers, cleaners, and ventilation will help speed dissipation.

Are there any health risks if I air out the camper instead of washing it?

Air exposure is the most critical step. However, washing and vacuuming thoroughly ensures fewer particles lingering on belongings and interior surfaces which could still cause issues over repeat or prolonged exposures. Completely cleansing the space is the safest approach.

Can moths still get in if I seal everything tightly in storage?

While sealing storage bags and containers provides additional protection, some moth eggs or larvae may still be present so precautions are still required. Diatomaceous earth sprinkled around the exterior storage area provides an additional chemical-free deterrent.

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