Removing Mothball Odor From a Cedar Chest?

March 8, 2011

Cedar ChestHow can I remove the smell of moth repellent from an old cedar chest? I have tried sanding it down, wiping it with vinegar, setting it out in the sun, wadding up newspaper to absorb the odor and many other things as well. Nothing has diminished the smell. I love the chest, but I don't want anything I place in it to smell like moth balls! Please help. Thanks in advance.


By Laurie from Waldo, ME


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September 8, 20050 found this helpful

How do you remove the scent of mothballs from an old cedar chest?



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March 9, 20110 found this helpful

I would use baking soda, but don't just open the boxes and put those in the chest. I would dump them inside the chest and after a couple of weeks I would vacuum it out. Then you can proceed with sanding if necessary.

February 2, 20162 found this helpful

I just inherited a lovely cedar chest and put some blankets in it, and in a month, everything reeked of moth balls that had formerly been in the chest. After trying a few web suggestions, one suggestion, spraying Fabreeze in the chest, actually WORKED!


A furniture maker also said that heat (space heater or blow dryer) and air movement will help the chemicals in the mothballs dissipate. Haven't tried that yet. So far, the Fabreeze is holding! Can't believe my nose!

October 9, 20180 found this helpful

I tried Febreeze in my Cedar Chest and it did nothing whatsoever.

June 16, 20190 found this helpful

I don't have an answer but wish to offer a perspective based on my knowledge of chemistry. Moth balls are usually either 1,4-dichlorobenzene (AKA para-dichlorobenzene) or napthalene, though sometimes, camphor. All of these are semivolatile non-polar compounds. They will not react with acids (vinegar) or baking soda. Fabreze kills odors by sorbtion, and will only work short-term. The mothball chemicals are designed to vaporize and condense on the clothing stored in the chest, but they also condense in the wood, which is somewhat porous, and a bit oily--the cedar oil is why cedar chests work to protect clothing.


So it takes a long time for the chemicals to re-vaporize and leave the wood. So heat and ventilation should accelerate the process, but it will take patience. If kept warm and ventilated, it should eventually disappear, but it may take weeks or months.

June 30, 20191 found this helpful

will activated charcoal remove moth ball odor from a cedar chest?

December 31, 20190 found this helpful

Worked for a few days then the smell came back

November 22, 20200 found this helpful

After trying MANY options over the years, nothing worked except this:
I have a beautiful old solid cedar chest from my grandmother that until now was unusable due to the mothball odor.


So I went to a store that sells aquariums and bought a 39.00 container of activated charcoal kernels (about 1/2 gallon size). I spread them out all over the bottom of the inside of the chest, then loosely crumpled up newspaper pages (about 10 sheets) and floated them above the charcoal. Within a few days the mothball smell was COMPLETELY gone!
Then I just vacuumed out the charcoal.
Trust me...this is THE best option!


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November 22, 20200 found this helpful

Wow, thanks for letting us know. That's a great tip.

November 15, 20210 found this helpful

Is the mothball odor still out a year later?

January 5, 20220 found this helpful

Thank you I will try it

October 21, 20230 found this helpful

So, the cedar chest company suggested wiping the entire interior surface with mineral spirits. Stating it would draw the naphalene out of the wood when it evaporates, may take several time.


Once the smell of napthalene is neutralized then sand the interior of cedar chest with 400 grit to create a fresh cedar surface.

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4 More Questions

Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community.

June 27, 2013

I've seen countless posts on "what to try" to remove mothball odor from a dresser and I've tried many of them without success. I also don't see any follow up posts of folks saying what actually worked for them. My next attempt will be to cover the entire inside with polyurethane. Has anyone tried this? Does it work?

I'm asking that answers don't include "what to try" -- there are so many posts on the web to that effect already. Instead, I'd like to hear "what worked".



By Mike D


October 22, 20142 found this helpful

Get a bag of cedar shavings from the pet store (hamster or guinea pig litter). Put a 2 inch layer in the bottom of the cedar chest and close it up for 2 days. Clean it out (I used a shop-vac and reused the cedar shavings as mulch) and leave the chest open to air for a day. Repeat- this was fine for me. Repeat again - passed my wife's smell test.

August 28, 20160 found this helpful

I don't think I would use polyurethane. That would seal the wood and not help recover the cedar smell. I am about to tackle the same problem. Hope you are successful.

August 28, 20160 found this helpful

I don't think I would use polyurethane. That would seal the wood and not help recover the cedar smell. I am about to tackle the same problem. Hope you are successful.

October 22, 20170 found this helpful

I used cedar rings and balls and still have the smell in it

October 27, 20190 found this helpful

I always used pine shavings/bedding from Walmart for kitty litter. It completely absorbed all the odor from a litter box. So I dumped a bunch inside a cedar chest that has a strong mothball for. I plan to leave the shavings in the chest with the lid closed for at least a week. Will report back.

June 25, 20210 found this helpful

I think if the sun can get tomato stains out of plastic it should get mothball smell out of my cedar chest. I am going to set mine in the hot southern sun for a few days. Wish me luck!!

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August 9, 2011

How do I get rid of moth ball smell in a blanket chest? It is part cedar and part particle board. I did not want to damage the wood, so I have just been airing out the chest when the weather is nice.

By Donna


August 10, 20110 found this helpful

Try a bowl of vinegar or coffee beans. The acidity should take care of the smell.

June 20, 20150 found this helpful

Pour some rubbing alcohol in a pump-type sprayer and mist the interior of the chest wait a minute and do it again, but this time wipe out the interior. Repeat a couple more times and stop for the day since you don't want to oversaturate it and also so you can check your progress in a couple days. If you have a place where you can put it in direct sunlight, place it there to dry. Drying it with a hair dryer works too (the heat helps it dissipate).

In between treatments, place a homemade deodorizer in the chest. Get some cedar chips from the pet store and also some activated charcoal. Mix together and put in an old stocking or two (easier than just dumping it in and taking it back out) and place your "log" in the chest and close the lid.

Repeat if necessary in a few days.

I had a chest that had a full box of mothballs PLUS a mothball holder (shaped like a daisy of all things) closed up in a chest for over 40 years. That chest took five treatments.

Actually, after the fourth I sanded down the interior and placed fresh deodorizer logs.

It smells great now. When the cedar smell starts to fade a bit I just scuff the inside lightly with a piece of sandpaper and it renews the smell. I have heard of people using natural cedar oil, especially if their piece wasn't solid cedar.

December 4, 20160 found this helpful

I've tried both and both worked for a while. Neither was a permanent fix. I've also tried kitty litter which was unsuccessful.

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November 23, 2013

How do you remove the smell of moth balls from fabric and from a cedar chest?

By rel9465


September 28, 20190 found this helpful

I poured vinegar (3/4 of a gallon) on material, in the washing machine, and washed it. I then rewashed it in detergent... it worked perfectly... I have not found anything that works on the cedar chest so of yet

June 19, 20210 found this helpful

Have you tried Smelleze? I just ordered some to try and get the smell out of an old cedar chest. Good testimonials, is you can believe such. Anyhow, for $15 I'll give it a try.

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February 22, 2012

I have a cedar chest that had mothballs in it for about a year and I am trying to get rid of the smell. Can anyone help me?

By Lucretia D.


February 24, 20120 found this helpful

That's a shame, best air it out, time will heal, also lightly sand inside of the chest and the cedar will be so renewed. gl

September 2, 20141 found this helpful

I used a charcoal closet deodorizer I bought at the hardware store. I put it in, and I honestly forgot about it. I don't know how long it took, but it got rid of the odor .

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