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Are mothballs an effective roach repellent?

November 4, 2023
Are mothballs an effective roach repellent

When it comes to dealing with unwanted pests like roaches, homeowners often search for unconventional yet cost-effective solutions. One such remedy that has caught the interest of many is the use of mothballs. 

These small, scented orbs have long been known for protecting clothing from moth infestations, but can they also serve as an effective deterrent against roaches?

In this article, we’ll see if mothballs can actually keep roaches at bay. We’ll also explore what they are and get into the benefits and drawbacks of using them for roach control. 

What are mothballs?

What are mothballs

Mothballs are those small, strong-smelling white balls that people often use to protect their clothes from pesky moths. They are usually made of two main chemicals: naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. 

Do mothballs keep roaches away?

Do mothballs keep roaches away

Mothballs work by sublimation, where the solid chemicals they contain transition directly into gas. The odor released by these gases is what repels insects. 

Mothballs can keep roaches away because the latter are sensitive to strong odors and dislike the smell of mothballs, with some even suffocating from them.

However, their effectiveness against cockroaches typically lasts for only 1-2 years. This is because cockroaches are highly adaptable creatures and may eventually develop some level of tolerance to the odor of the mothballs. 

Therefore, while mothballs can provide some level of protection against roaches in your home, they are not a long-term solution. 

If you choose to rely on mothballs as a natural roach repellent, you may need to seek alternative methods to deter roaches approximately every year to maintain their effectiveness.

Pros and Cons of Using Mothballs

Pros and Cons of Using Mothballs

Now, let’s see the pros and cons of using mothballs as a roach repellent in more detail:


  • Cost-effective
  • Minimal effort required


  • Not a long-lasting solution
  • Toxicity risks
  • Environmental concerns


  1. Cost-effective solution: One clear advantage of going for mothballs is their cost-effectiveness. 

They are widely available in most stores and come at a reasonable price, which makes them an affordable choice for managing roach problems. This accessibility means that you don’t have to break the bank to address roach issues.

  1. Minimal effort required: Using mothballs for roach control doesn’t demand a lot of effort. It’s a relatively straightforward process. 

You can strategically place them in areas where roaches tend to hang out, and then you let them do their thing. This simplicity can be quite appealing, especially for those looking for a hassle-free solution.


  1. Not a long-lasting solution: As mentioned earlier, roaches can easily adapt to a new environment so you might need a new method to keep them away after a year or two of using mothballs.
  1. Toxicity risks: The chemicals found in mothballs are toxic to both humans and animals. Once you smell mothballs, you are exposed to these chemicals.

Children and pets can sometimes eat mothballs because they look like food or candy, which can lead to serious health issues, such as headaches, nausea, irritation of the eyes and nose, and bouts of coughing. 

Exposure to naphthalene can result in more severe conditions, such as hemolytic anemia. It is also a potential carcinogen, which raises concerns that it might cause cancer. 

Additionally, prolonged exposure to mothballs can cause damage to the liver and kidneys.

  1. Environmental concerns: When used outdoors, the mothballs’ chemicals can contaminate the water and soil and contribute to air pollution.

How to Use Mothballs to Get Rid of Roaches

How to Use Mothballs to Get Rid of Roaches

To use mothballs effectively for roach control, follow these guidelines:

  1. Identify Areas Where Roaches Usually Go: Begin by inspecting your house to pinpoint the zones most frequented by roaches. Look for areas where there are roach droppings, shredded skin, or eggs. 

Be sure to avoid places where food is stored or prepared and areas easily accessible to children or pets since mothballs are toxic to pets and humans.

  1. Place Mothballs Strategically: Place two to three mothballs as close as possible to the identified roach hotspot. As roaches smell the mothballs, their curiosity may lead them closer to investigate. 

The potent scent of naphthalene present in the mothballs can interfere with the roach’s respiratory system and might even kill them.

Alternatives to Mothballs for Roach Control

Alternatives to Mothballs for Roach Control

If you’re hesitant about using mothballs or want alternative methods for roach control, consider the following options:

  1. Diatomaceous Earth:

Diatomaceous earth serves as a cost-effective natural insecticide. Wear gloves before handling it to prevent skin irritation and excessive dryness.

Also, make sure you have a mask and protective eyewear on when applying diatomaceous earth because even though it is generally regarded as a safer method for pest control, inhaling or getting it in your eyes can lead to irritation.

This substance works by dehydrating and damaging the roaches’ exoskeletons. After a few days, remove the diatomaceous earth and observe whether there are fewer roaches in your house.

  1. Rosemary Oil:

Rosemary oil is an effective roach repellent. Create a mixture by combining 1 part rosemary oil with 3 to 4 parts water in a spray bottle and spray this to areas in your home you’ve determined.

When using essential oils like rosemary oil, it’s important to avoid skin contact, as they can cause skin irritation. 

To ensure the mixture remains concentrated enough to be effective, be sure to keep it away from your skin, nose, and eyes during application.

  1. Baking Soda:

Baking soda is another natural remedy to stop roaches from invading your home. Simply sprinkle baking soda over diced onions and place them in areas where you frequently see roaches. 

Baking soda creates gas in the roaches’ stomachs and kills them.

After a few days, remove the baking soda by wiping it away with a damp cloth. If roach activity persists, consider repeating the baking soda application until the infestation stops.

  1. Boric Acid:

Boric acid is commonly found in detergent, fertilizer, and hand soap and is an effective method for eliminating roaches. While it doesn’t repel roaches, it is toxic to them when eaten. 

The substance sticks to the roaches’ bodies and kills them when they groom themselves.

When working with boric acid, be sure to wear a mask to protect yourself from inhaling it. Also, keep it out of reach of children and pets since it is unsafe for ingestion. Dispose of boric acid after a few days of use.

How to Prevent Roach Infestations

How to Prevent Roach Infestations

By taking some straightforward steps, you can effectively ward off roaches from infiltrating your living space. 

Roaches are drawn to damp areas, unsealed cracks, and unattended food, which makes it crucial to address these vulnerabilities in your home.

To prevent a roach infestation, consider the following measures:

  1. Maintain a clean home: Regular cleaning routines can significantly reduce the likelihood of roaches staying in your home. Sweep, vacuum, and mop frequently to eliminate crumbs and food residue that might attract them.
  1. Secure trash containers: Ensure that your trash cans have tight-fitting lids to keep roaches out. Empty them regularly, especially food-related waste.
  1. Practice good dish hygiene: Wash your dishes right away after using them. Avoid stacking dirty dishes in the sink or around the house.
  1. Practice proper food storage: Store your food in airtight containers, which prevent roaches from accessing and contaminating your food.
  1. Seal entry points: Identify cracks and gaps in your home’s structure and take steps to seal them off. Attach door sweeps to exterior doors and install weather stripping on windows to prevent roaches from entering.

Professional Pest Control

Professional Pest Control

When you find yourself dealing with severe or stubborn roach infestations, turning to professional pest control services is often the wisest course of action. 

Pest control experts have the knowledge, experience, and resources to completely address these challenging situations. Here are the two main benefits of using professionals for this:

Experienced Assessment of the Situation

Professional pest control specialists begin by conducting a thorough assessment of your specific roach problem. They have a trained eye for identifying the extent of the infestation, the types of roaches involved, and the factors contributing to the issue. 

This initial assessment is crucial as it guides the development of an effective treatment plan tailored to your unique circumstances.

Proven and Targeted Solutions

Once they have a clear understanding of the problem, pest control professionals can implement precise and effective solutions. These solutions may involve a combination of strategies, including:

  1. Chemical Treatments: Pest control experts can apply specialized insecticides that are safe for use in homes but deadly to roaches. They know the most effective products and methods for achieving long-lasting results.
  1. Sealing Entry Points: Professionals can identify and seal off potential entry points that roaches use to access your home, helping prevent future infestations.
  1. Trapping and Removal: In cases where a roach infestation has become severe, pest control experts may employ traps and removal techniques to capture and eliminate large numbers of roaches quickly.
  1. Monitoring and Follow-Up: Pest control is not just about eliminating existing roaches but also preventing future infestations. Professionals often provide ongoing monitoring and follow-up to ensure that the problem doesn’t recur.

Safe and Effective Elimination

Perhaps most importantly, professional pest control services prioritize the safety of your family, pets, and the environment. They are trained to handle and apply pest control products safely to minimize risks to humans and non-target species. 

They also stay up-to-date with the latest industry practices and regulations to ensure that their methods are effective while adhering to safety guidelines.

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