Deterring moths is essential to safeguard natural fibres. But you don't want your cashmere to smell of moth balls either.

“A plague on both your houses” writes Shakespeare in Romeo & Juliet. But when it comes to moths and moth damage, he might have been talking about the plague that strikes all our houses. Moths.

The smell of moth balls will waft through tweeds and wardrobes, the strong sickly odour caused by the naphthalene, or paradichlorogenzene, in them, which is hard to remove from clothing and furniture. It’s not the best scent, so how can you control moths and get rid of the lingering smell of moth balls?

A reader wrote to The Field, saying: “I have some lovely old furniture but it smells of moth balls and I am unable to store clothes in it. Do you have any tips to rejuvenate the wood and make it smell fresh?”

vintage oak chest

Take drawers out, wipe down and leave to air for a few days

Ways to eliminate the smell of moth balls

In furniture, take any drawers out of the frame and wipe the wood, taking care not to soak it, with a vinegar/water mix.  Leave to dry and air in a well-ventilated room with the door open or better still outside in the sun if it’s a dry or breezy day. (You can do the same with wardrobes, wipe inside and leave the doors open.)

If this does not help, repeat, this time using a solution of bicarbonate of soda and water rather than vinegar. Again, leave the drawers to dry and air for at least a week.

If the smell still persists, sprinkle fresh coffee on to the wood or place it in a saucer and allow a few days for the coffee to absorb the smell; cat litter is said to have a similar effect.

Moth balls are pungent so be patient. You won’t get rid of the smell of moth balls overnight.

As the odour lessens, introduce a new one, such as strongly scented lavender bags, which should eventually override the stench of the moth balls. (You might like to read how to stretch a hat.)

Shopping list (and alternatives to moth balls)

This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.

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