Mothballs are typically small balls of deodorant and chemical pesticides that are kept with clothing to store them safely without the risk of mold damage or moth infestation.
Although they can prevent damage to your clothing, mothballs are notorious for the overpowering smell they can transfer to clothes. However, many people aren’t aware that there are two kinds of mothballs available on the market. There are odorless and chemical-based mothballs – the latter tend to be odoriferous.
Storing your leather articles such as leather bags, shoes, coats, jackets, or gloves, with certain types of mothballs, increases the high chance of the porous leather material absorbing the mothball smell.
Therefore, if you have made the error of storing your leather items with chemical-based or odor-emitting mothballs, you should remove the odor before using the item out in public, or you’ll risk carrying the smell with you.
There are a few methods to removing mothball smells from leather, which we have summarized below:
- Method 1: Using Activated Charcoal Bags
- Method 2: Using an Odor Remover
- Method 3: Using Baking Soda & White Vinegar
- Method 4: Ventilating Your Leather Articles
- Method 5: Using a Leather Cleaner & Conditioner
This guide will cover the most effective methods to remove the unpleasant and chemical smell of mothballs from your leather clothing articles. We’ve also made sure to include a section where we teach you how to properly store your leather items, as well as share some of the best practices and prevention techniques.
Method 1: Using Activated Charcoal Bags
One of the best methods to remove the smell of mothballs from your leather articles is using charcoal. Charcoal is a naturally effective deodorizer and can easily absorb moisture from its surroundings.
You can place activated charcoal pellets, bags, sachets, or charcoal in bowls near the affected leather items. You can also leave them in the closet, after removing the mothballs. Just ensure that you regularly ventilate it to promote air circulation.
After about 1 to 2 days of leaving charcoal bags in the closet where the leather items are stored, the mothball smells will get neutralized.
Method 2: Using an Odor Remover
Odor removing or leather deodorizing sprays are highly effective in eliminating mothball odors from leather articles. You should choose a high-quality deodorizing spray that is leather friendly to avoid any damage to your leather products.
Ensure that they are suitable for leather, or you’ll end up damaging the material. Carefully read the ingredients and avoid products that contain chemicals, a high percentage of alcohol, or non-natural ingredients.
You should also take note that most deodorizers only mask smells and don’t necessarily neutralize them – so keep an eye out and read the product descriptions carefully.
After ensuring all ingredients of the deodorizing spray are safe for your leather product, spray a small quantity of it on a clean, lint-free cloth and wipe the entire leather surface.
Make sure to apply a light layer of deodorizer to your leather product and wipe it off after some time with a clean, dry cloth. This method will provide your leather items with a light fragrance and an added shine and should completely remove the mothball smells.
Method 3: Using Baking Soda & White Vinegar
Baking soda and white vinegar are the most commonly used home-based ingredients that are used to remove smells and clean leather. You can make a solution of 1-part of water with 1-part white vinegar and lightly wipe the surface with the solution using a soft, clean cloth.
This method works best on leather items with larger surfaces, such as leather jackets, bags, and pants. Once the solution has dried, use a clean damp cloth to remove the vinegar solution from the surface and leave the leather article to dry completely.
If the mothball smell persists after the vinegar solution application, move on to using baking soda for deodorization. For small leather items, pour some baking soda into a Ziploc bag and put the bag inside a large paper bag or garment bag.
Place your leather articles in the paper or garment bag along with the baking soda and seal it. After about 1 to 2 days, the mothball smell from the leather article will neutralize, and you can begin wearing it again.
Method 4: Ventilating Your Leather Articles
One method that is also effective – and that you should consider regardless of the method you select – is regularly ventilating your leather articles, as this removes tough odors such as mothball smells. This can even help mothball smells from forming at all.
Leather can begin to smell musty and have a clinging mothball smell if it has been stored inside the closet for a long time. By airing out your leather article, you can ensure that your leather items smell fresh every time you take them out for wearing.
To ventilate your leather items properly, place them in an open room or verandah where there is cross ventilation. You can also turn on a fan to air out your leather clothing articles in your room or place a portable fan near a window to promote fresh airflow.
If you have a larger closet with doors, you can also open them to ensure that proper air circulation.
Method 5: Using a Leather Cleaner & Conditioner
The best method to restore your leather clothing item after long disuse and get the mothball smell out of it is to use a leather cleaner and conditioner. A leather cleaner can remove mothball smells from leather by replacing the mothball vapors that have permeated the material with nourishing ingredients and fragrance.
Not only can a leather conditioner provide an added fragrance and shine that can remove and overpower the persisting mothball odor, but it can also add a protective layer, sealing its pores and also making the surface easier to clean.
Use a clean cloth to apply a leather-friendly cleaner or saddle soap to the entire leather surface. You should also ensure to apply an even light coat even in the crevices.
After at least 10 minutes, remove the saddle soap or leather cleaner using a lightly damp cloth. After the leather dries completely, apply a thin coat of leather conditioner to restore the leather article with necessary nourishing ingredients.
How to Prevent Mothball Smells on Your Leather Articles
While we have detailed effective ways to remove mothball odors, there are ways you can avoid mothball smell from clinging to your leather items entirely. You’ll be able to find some of the most effective tips and tricks below.
- Use Odorless Mothballs – Instead of using mothballs that contain chemicals for storing your leather articles, you should choose odorless mothballs that will protect your clothing and will not leave a bad smell behind.
- Use Natural Mothball Alternatives – You can choose fresh-smelling cedarwood or lavender moth repellent sachets as alternatives to traditional mothballs. These natural mothball alternatives are highly effective in keeping your leather articles smelling fresh by repelling moths.
- Keep Your Closet Ventilated – Mothball odors can often get trapped in leather if you do not air out your leather clothing regularly. Airing out your leather clothing and keeping your closet ventilated can prevent the odors from getting trapped in your leather articles.
- Condition Your Leather Articles – By conditioning your leather articles, you can protect and seal the absorbent pores of the leather. This ensures that the strong mothball odors cannot permeate the leather keeping them fresh and clean.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this section, you’ll find some frequently asked questions about the effect that mothballs have on leather and about removing the smells using some of these methods.
Can Mothballs Damage Leather?
Mothballs typically contain naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene as an active ingredient. These ingredients are classified as toxic and can emit a chemical smell that can linger on your leather clothes.
If found in too high concentrations or if used in unventilated areas, they can damage leather fiber structures, especially in damp and humid environments.
What Are the Best Alternative to Mothballs for Leather Items?
If you’re looking for alternatives to repel moths, we suggest cedar blocks, lavender leaves, or odorless mothballs, for two reasons. Firstly, they are much safer, and secondly, they don’t emit any chemical smells that linger on your leather articles.
Co-Founder, Researcher & Writer At Leatherskill
I’m a leather enthusiast who spends most of his free time crafting, researching, and writing about the many facets of this versatile material. Thanks for reading!