How to Remove the Smell of Mothballs from Clothes
By SJ Johnson
Originally published on Yahoo! Voices
Mothball Odor Removal from Fabrics
Whether you placed your clothing in mothballs, or purchased clothes from a vintage store - at some point, you may need to remove the smell of mothballs from clothing. The chemicals in the mothballs, Naphthalene and Para-dichlorobenzene, produce vapors that are released into the air. In high temperatures and poorly ventilated areas, the mothballed clothes give off noxious fumes that can be highly offensive. For example, if you are in a tightly packed elevator, the smell will be more intense than outdoors in colder temperatures.
Sometimes, even after washing or dry cleaning, the mothball smell does not go away. The easiest solution is to let the garments air outdoors for a few days-make sure to bring them inside at night- because the sun works to eliminate the mothball odor. However, for most city dwellers, this is not an option. Another option is to hand wash the clothes. Hand washing is an inexpensive, hassle-free way to salvage your clothes.
A word of caution: Do not try this with your great-great-grandmother's handmade quilt. This is a rigorous process. However, if you have tried EVERYTHING imaginable to remove the smell of mothballs from your clothing, and the only thing left is to throw everything away-Try this first. I had the misfortune of having to figure out how to remove the smell of mothballs from twenty wool garments and developed this system through trial and error. Thankfully, my garments not only look, but -- more importantly -- smell as good as new.
What You Need:
White Vinegar, Gentle Detergent (Cashmere Rinse), an old White Towel, and a Blow Dryer
Steps to Remove Mothball Odor:
Do not try this on delicate fabrics. The times are approximate. Test a small area before using this process on the entire garment.
1. Soak the garment in a basin of cold water and 1/3 cup of white distilled vinegar for 10 minutes.
2. After 10 minutes, rinse in cold water to see if the color has changed. Do not discard the water/vinegar mixture.
3. If the color is fine, place the garment back in the water/vinegar mixture for another 20 minutes (30 minutes total). If the garment is not colorfast, be aware that it may fade in the washing process.
4. Rinse in cold water. If the mothball smell is still there, start over again with a new mixture of water and vinegar.
5. If the mothball smell is gone, soak the garment in cold water and a small amount of gentle detergent. If you can find cashmere or wool rinse, that would be perfect. If you are desperate, try a small amount of your shampoo.
6. After approximately 5 minutes of soaking in the detergent, check to make sure the color of the water has not changed. If the water becomes the color of the garment, remove the garment. Rinse the garment in cold water. If the water has not changed color after soaking in detergent, leave the garment to soak for an additional 20 minutes.
7. Rinse the garment in cold water.
8. If the smell of mothballs is still strong, then gently hand wash the garment in detergent and warm water. There may be slight shrinkage and fading, so use this as a last resort.
9. After washing the garment, soak the garment again in cold water and white vinegar. Let the garment soak for 20 minutes.
10. Rinse the garment in cold water. Do not wring the garment.
11. Take a dry, old white towel and lay it flat. Place the garment flat on the towel. Roll the towel with the garment inside to remove the water from the garment.
12. If the garment is still wet, use another dry towel to roll the garment again.
13. Take the garment and place it on a flat surface.
14. Take a hand-held blow dryer and dry the garment. Remember to keep the blow dryer moving. Do not stay in one area for too long. You do not want to shrink the garment. This not only dries the garment, but also removes the smell of vinegar.
15. Allow the garment to air dry for a few days in a well-ventilated area to avoid mildew.
This process should remove even the most stubborn mothball odor. If your clothes are not extremely toxic, feel free to omit some of the soaking in vinegar steps.
Moth Balls," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Melissa Healy, "Mothballs should be put away forever, say doctors Down Under " Los Angeles Times
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