Safety Precautions to Take When Using Naphthalene Balls

July 28, 201911.19AM

Once the cold season gets over, you launder your favourite woollens, pack them up and store them away at the back of your closet to be forgotten till the next time winter rolls around.

Safety Precautions to Take When Using Naphthalene Balls

However, next time you get out your favourite cashmere or that trendy woollen pullover, you discover, to your shock, that the clothes have been chewed through and you are left with a closet full of winter wear that is full of holes. This devastating situation happens because of moths, or more specifically, moth larvae.

While the common perception is that moths destroy clothes, it is actually their slimy larvae that chew through your woollens. Adult moths cannot chew through clothes as they lack mouths. The only time that moths have mouths during their developmental stage is when they are still larvae. If an adult female moth gets into your clothes, she deposits a mass of fertilised eggs, ranging from 50 to 1000, on your clothes. Since moths have a specific diet, the female moths usually pick clothes made from animal fibres, such as silk, angora, fur, wool or other materials, which contain keratin. Keratin is an animal protein fibre and can also be found in your hair and skin. Keratin is essential to moth larvae’s growth. Moth larvae generally avoid synthetic or plant-based fabrics unless they are blended with animal fibre. Purely plant-based fabrics or synthetic fabrics lack protein and therefore are of no interest to moth larvae. Female moths prefer the dark depths of closets where they can deposit their eggs undisturbed on a suitable garment that can provide nourishment to the growing larvae. 

Naphthalene balls or moth balls are small spherical white balls made of camphor and the pesticide naphthalene. These balls are widely used to store woollen or silk garments in order to protect them from moth and moth larvae. The insecticide in moth balls vaporise at room temperature and kill the larvae that hatch from moth eggs. Naphthalene balls are also often used in urinals or bathrooms to repel cockroaches and other pests. Naphthalene balls can also work as a deodorant in urinals and help in neutralising the strong urine smell. But, in spite of its many uses, the fumes from naphthalene balls are quite harmful. The chemical is not only poisonous but also carcinogenic (cancer-causing). It poses several other health hazards as well ranging from nausea and headache to damaged blood cells. 

To prevent poisoning or toxic reaction from using naphthalene balls, there are certain precautions that one needs to take when using naphthalene balls. Given below are some of the ways in which you can minimise risk from using naphthalene:

  • A common mistake when using naphthalene balls is to use containers that are not airtight. This can release toxic vapours into the air and cause health problems from long-term exposure. When using naphthalene balls, place the balls in a properly closed container so that pesticide fumes do not accumulate within the living space. This prevents people or pets from breathing them in for long periods of time. When storing clothes with naphthalene balls, keep the garments in a zip-locked bag or airtight box along with the balls. The vapours from the naphthalene balls will accumulate inside the containers and eventually be released to kill the moth larvae on clothes. If you can smell the naphthalene balls, then the container or bag is not airtight, which means you need to use a different storage receptacle.
  • Naphthalene balls should never be used in gardens or lawns to controls snakes, pests or other harmful wildlife. Using them outdoors can be dangerous for pets as well as children. It can also harm plants, birds and other harmless wildlife. Moreover, the residue from naphthalene balls can contaminate the soil and water and seep into edible plants, too. 
  • Naphthalene balls should be used only to protect natural animal fibres. As mentioned earlier, moth larvae only feed on fabrics that contain keratin. Synthetic fabrics, such as rayon, nylon or polyester, do not need protection from moths and can be stored safely without the need for naphthalene balls. 
  • There is no need to use naphthalene balls for garments that are used frequently or in rotation within a period of 30 days. Use these balls only for those garments that need to be stored for more than a month. For the other clothes, linens, beddings etc., basic laundering can wash out any moth eggs and keep the fabric intact. 
  • When using naphthalene balls, make sure you use the appropriate size and amount of moth balls as compared to the number of items and the size of the containers. As a general guideline, it is suggested to use ¼ of a naphthalene ball for one shirt, which is stored in a gallon-sized bag. For a large storage bag containing several items of clothing, use two or three ½ inch diameter balls. Use up to four one-inch diameter balls for a large trunk. 

Naphthalene balls are quite useful things but should always be used with caution. You should be careful when packing the clothes and also after you have unpacked them. Given below is a step-by-step guide on storing and using clothes safely using naphthalene balls – 

  • Firstly, wash and dry your clothes so that no dust, eggs, mites or any other pest is present within the fabric of the clothes. Pack your clothes in a re-sealable and airtight container or pouch. It is better to use plastic boxes or packets so that they can be stored easily.  Lay the clothes inside the container and line the box or bag with an appropriate amount of naphthalene balls. Do remember that though moths do not eat synthetic fibres, they can chew through them to get to the animal fibres. So, pack your clothes accordingly. 
  • When placing the naphthalene balls do refer to the instructions on the box if any. Different brands of naphthalene balls have different chemical compositions. So, while one brand may be very potent and only one ball will suffice for a container, other brands may be milder, and you may find that you need to use more balls to protect your clothes. To effectively fight against moth larvae, you need to use an adequate amount of naphthalene balls. 
  • Seal the container making sure that no air can escape and store it in a safe spot, away from dampness. Over time, the mothballs will dissolve and kill any moth eggs that may be present in the clothes. 
  • Clothes stored with naphthalene balls have a strong smell and need to be washed thoroughly before being used. When you need to use those stored clothes again, take them out of the containers and wash with vinegar. Soak the clothes in a mixture of equal parts of water and vinegar or, if you are using a washing machine, then add a cup of vinegar to the cycle. For items which cannot be washed, spray a solution of water and vinegar on the garment.
  • Do not machine dry garments that have a naphthalene ball smell. Air dry them till all the smell is gone and only then start using a dryer. 
  • The containers in which the clothes were stored also need to be cleaned out so that all residue of the naphthalene ball is washed away. Clean the containers using an equal amount of vinegar and water. Soak the container in this solution for a few minutes and then rinse out with warm water. Vinegar can also be used to clean out closets or other storage spaces that smell like naphthalene balls. 

When used carefully, naphthalene can be very effective in protecting clothes from pest damage. If you require naphthalene balls to store your clothes, blankets or other items, we have three very good recommendations for you – 

Home Mate Naphthalene Ball 250g

Home Mate Naphthalene Ball 250g

Home Mate multi-purpose naphthalene balls are colourful moth balls designed to keep your woollens, furs, leather and other animal-based fabric safe from moths and other insects. These cute looking balls look harmless but pack a punch with strong deodorising action and a powerful chemical composition. Unlike traditional naphthalene balls, these have a nice fragrance that leaves your clothes smelling fresh. 

Home Mate Naphthalene Ball 200g

Home Mate Naphthalene Ball 200g

Home Mate naphthalene balls are quite potent at keeping out moth larvae and other insects from your clothes. These naphthalene balls come in different colours and look good as well as do their job well. Keep your clothes protected with Home Mate naphthalene balls.

Home Mate Naphthalene Ball Colour 200g 5pcs

Home Mate Naphthalene Ball Colour 200g 5pcs

If you have plenty of clothes to put away in storage, then this five-piece pack of naphthalene balls from Home Mate is just right for you. Designed to keep away insects and moths from your loved garments and other animal fibre items, this pack will serve your purpose quite efficiently. These colourful balls look good and smell quite nice as well. Buy a pack and never endure another season’s worth of damaged clothes again. 

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