Do Mothballs Keep Roaches Away?

There are different types of mothballs in the modern market. Some of them do not have a smell that can repel bugs while some have. Mothballs can keep roaches away but only if you use the old school ones that have an irritating smell.

Mothballs release a bitter pungent smell that can repel roaches. It can also kill roaches thanks to its naphthalene content which is poisonous to bugs.

Place this efficient poison in potentially infested locations to effectively repel cockroaches from your home. However, be careful to keep them in hidden areas away from kids and pets because mothballs can be harmful to them.

How it works

When mothballs are positioned in a location infested with roaches, the irritating smell or vapor released affects their breathing systems. As a result, the bugs will be annoyed, have breathing difficulty and run away to a safe place. Although this may occur occasionally, cockroaches exposed to the toxic smell, for longer, may even die.

Roaches hate the harmful ammonia-like gas that comes from mothballs. You will find mothballs as a simple method of keeping the insects away from your space. They are cheap to buy and easy to find and set up with your hands, unlike other do-it-yourself pest control methods.

Cockroaches, like other insects, have a sense of smell that is highly developed, which is why mothballs can affect them significantly. Due to their superior ability to detect an odor, they can communicate with each other via chemicals released outside their bodies.

Where do you put mothballs to kill roaches?

Put mothballs close to the stove, garbage cans, sewer pipes, wardrobe, sink, and refrigerator. The goal is to position the chemical pesticide in areas that may serve as hideouts and have a better chance of killing roaches.

Roaches like to attack the area behind your stove because it offers them food residue. The dirty and greasy environment also attracts these types of bugs. 

Use only a few moth flakes since they are toxic to human health. Since the crystals evaporate slowly, it makes sense to place only a few behind the stove at a time. As a mothball produces its gas, its size gets smaller and smaller until there is nothing left to see. 

Sometimes you may be forced to put mothballs in or around home entry points, especially when the cockroaches are coming from the outside. Roaches can use your doors, windows, sinkholes, and drains, to get inside your space. 

Do not place mothballs close to food or a food preparation area so that there is no contamination risk. In case it is a must to have moth flakes near your food, store the food in the refrigerator or closed containers.

How do you use mothballs for roaches?

Before using mothballs for roaches, follow the directions of use on the label to minimize the risk of harm to humans and pets.

  1. The first rule demands that you place mothballs in closed spaces and tightly sealed containers to reduce human or pet exposure. Placing the chemicals in a narrow or closed area will also deliver a higher gas concentration and efficient working.
  2. Have some hand gloves and a mask on so that you do not touch mothballs with your bare hands or breathe in the dangerous gas.
  3. Assemble the items you would like to keep roaches away from, including your clothing and beddings. That may come in handy if you are moving to a new home and need not carry bugs.
  4. Place every item you need to be protected against cockroaches in different containers or boxes. 
  5. Insert a few pesticide crystals in every container and close them with tightly-fitting covers or lids. Taping around the lid edges can deliver tightly closed containers. Loosely fitting lids will promote the escape and spread of mothballs’ fumes across your rooms.
  6. Carry and put the containers in a safe location until you require the items. Your belongings will not be attacked by roaches, and other bugs due to the toxic gas moth flakes readily release in plenty.


Put mothballs in any spaces, dark and moist with food particles, infested or frequently visited by cockroaches. The locations may include next to garbage cans, the pantry and cabinets, and behind a refrigerator. 

If you need your stored clothes and other items, open the containers carrying your items and mothballs in an area with proper air circulation. Handle your belongings if you are wearing a one-time use mask and gloves.

Leave the moth flakes for a week or two for the odor to spread in a larger area. Although the smell may not be likable, put up with it to achieve the ultimate goal of repelling roaches. Repeat the application process as many times as possible during the year to repel cockroaches and discourage an infestation.

Is it safe to use mothballs to kill roaches at home? 

It is safe to use mothballs for roaches at home as long as you adhere to use instructions provided because the chemical is dangerous. Just like the effects of the pesticide can harm roaches, the same may apply to you, other members of the family, and pets.

Even if you try to use mothballs carefully, dangers are always one mistake away. A possible result of exposure to the fumes of mothballs is that a child may have a higher risk of getting cancer. That can happen as the DNA of a kid suffers from damage.


Kids may consume mothballs as they are more likely to confuse them with candies. According to the public health department in Connecticut, over 3,500 kids get exposed to moth flakes every year. About 500 of the kids end up requiring treatment.

Babies are more prone to the effects of the pesticide since their bodies are not capable of faster eliminating toxic substances that have found their way into the blood. 

Exposing yourself, children, or pets to the powerful odor of moth flakes may trigger the destruction of red blood cells. Fewer red blood cells reduce the ability of your body to transport oxygen to body tissues.


Other health effects due to mothballs are skin allergies, eye and nose irritation, headaches, and damage to the liver and kidney. In most cases, the dangers come in when using mothballs for lizards, roaches, or snakes. They are always left in the open since the pets do not have a specific route.

Another danger is that the chemical content of mothballs may be flammable. Exposure of the pesticide to a flame or source of heat can trigger an even bigger fire inside your house. 

As well, many people who use the roach repellant, most of the time, misuse it. People keep mothballs in open areas like the attics, kitchen, and bedroom. The chemical will not only have a minimized effect on roaches but be exposed to you, your family, and your pets.


The solution to keeping roaches away from your space is to take a few extra measures routinely. Maintain a clean environment, do not leave food residue or dirt lying around, and wash your dirty dishes and utensils as soon as you finish eating.

Do not forget to store your food and leftovers in tightly sealed cans or containers, and treating your pets with roach repellants can deliver a roach-free house.

A licensed pest exterminator can help you deal with your problem in an efficient and permanent manner. The only little disadvantage is that you have to spend some money.

In conclusion, although mothballs can repel roaches, they are not a reliable method for killing. Alternatives to mothballs may prove more effective. Remember, using mothballs comes with health risks to humans and pets. That being the case, determine whether the risks are worth the application of a chemical solution you have chosen.



  • Felix Odi

    Hi, I’m an experienced author and content creator with over 18 years of experience as a publisher. Growing up in rural areas of Bristol, FL, I developed an interest in pest control, fish farming, and poultry keeping. Farming is a main activity in the area, and pests are always part of our major setbacks. I had to learn how to get rid of them with simple DIYs.