Rats and mice can be a nuisance, damaging property, spreading disease, and contaminating food. If you have a rodent problem, you may be wondering if mothballs can be used to keep them away. In this comprehensive article, we’ll examine the age-old question: do mothballs keep rats away?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Mothballs contain chemicals that act as rat repellents, but their effectiveness is limited and they can be toxic to humans and pets. While mothballs may deter rats initially, they often become ineffective as rats grow accustomed to the smell.

What Are Mothballs?

Mothballs are small, white, solid balls that are commonly used to repel moths and other insects from clothing and stored items. They are composed of either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, both of which are highly effective at deterring pests.

Mothballs have a distinct, pungent odor that can be overpowering if used in enclosed spaces. While they are primarily used for their intended purpose of protecting clothing, some people also believe that mothballs can repel rats and other rodents.

Made of Pesticides

Mothballs are made of pesticides, specifically either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. These chemicals work by sublimating, which means they transition from a solid state directly into a gas. The fumes released by mothballs are toxic to insects and pests, making them an effective deterrent.

However, it is important to note that these chemicals can also be harmful to humans and pets if not used properly. Mothballs should always be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and kept out of reach of children and animals.

Release Fumes Over Time

One of the key characteristics of mothballs is that they release fumes gradually over time. This slow release allows the chemicals to remain active for an extended period, providing long-lasting protection against pests.

However, it is important to understand that the fumes released by mothballs are not selective in targeting specific pests. While they may be effective at deterring moths and other insects, there is limited scientific evidence to support the claim that mothballs can effectively repel rats and other rodents.

It is worth mentioning that the use of mothballs as a rat repellent is not recommended by experts. Rats are highly adaptable creatures and can easily overcome the deterrent effect of mothballs. Additionally, the toxic fumes released by mothballs can be harmful to the environment and pose a risk to other animals.

Therefore, it is best to explore alternative methods for rat control, such as sealing entry points, removing food sources, and using traps or professional pest control services.

Do Mothballs Repel Rats and Mice?

Many people believe that mothballs can be an effective deterrent for rats and mice. However, the effectiveness of mothballs in repelling these rodents is a topic of debate among experts.

Contain Rat-Repelling Chemicals

Mothballs are small balls made of either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, both of which are known to have strong odors. These chemicals are used to repel moths and other insects and are not intended for use as rodent repellents.

While the strong smell of mothballs may be unpleasant to rats and mice, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that these chemicals are effective in keeping them away.

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, mothballs are not registered or approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use as rodent repellents. The EPA only approves specific pest control products that have been proven to be effective and safe for use.

Effectiveness Varies

The effectiveness of mothballs in repelling rats and mice can vary depending on several factors. These factors include the size of the infestation, the location of the infestation, and the behavior of the rodents.

In some cases, the smell of mothballs may initially deter rodents from entering a certain area. However, rodents are intelligent creatures and can quickly adapt to new smells and environments.

Rats and mice are known to have a strong sense of smell, but they can become accustomed to certain odors over time. This means that even if mothballs initially repel rodents, they may eventually become ineffective as the rodents become accustomed to the smell.

Rats Can Get Used to Smell

Rats, in particular, are highly adaptable and can develop a tolerance to various scents, including those of mothballs. Additionally, rats are known to be attracted to certain types of food and can easily find alternative food sources even if they are repelled by the smell of mothballs.

If you are dealing with a rat or mice infestation, it is recommended to consult with a pest control professional who can provide effective and safe solutions. They have the knowledge and expertise to properly identify and address the root cause of the infestation and implement appropriate control measures.

Remember, while mothballs may have their uses in deterring moths and other insects, they are not a reliable or proven method for repelling rats and mice. It is best to explore other options for rodent control to ensure the safety and effectiveness of your pest management efforts.

Using Mothballs to Deter Rats

Many people wonder if mothballs can be an effective method to keep rats away. Mothballs contain a substance called naphthalene, which has a strong odor that is known to repel certain pests, including rats.

However, it is important to note that using mothballs alone may not be enough to completely eliminate a rat infestation. They can be used as a supplementary measure in conjunction with other rat control methods.

Placement Tips

When using mothballs to deter rats, proper placement is key. It is recommended to place mothballs in areas where rats are likely to enter or frequent. This includes attics, basements, crawl spaces, and other dark and secluded areas.

Make sure to keep them away from children and pets, as mothballs can be toxic if ingested.

Tip: Rats are known for their ability to squeeze through small openings, so it’s important to seal any cracks or holes in walls, floors, or foundations to prevent their entry.

Replacing Mothballs

Mothballs have a strong odor when they are first used, but over time, the scent can fade. It’s important to regularly replace mothballs to ensure their effectiveness in deterring rats. Typically, mothballs should be replaced every few months, or as soon as their scent becomes faint.

Fun Fact: Did you know that mothballs were originally designed to repel moths and protect clothing from damage? Their repelling properties against rats and other pests were discovered later.

Protecting Humans and Pets

While mothballs can be effective in deterring rats, it is crucial to take precautions to protect the health and safety of humans and pets. Mothballs contain toxic chemicals and should never be used in areas where they can come into direct contact with food, water, or pet bedding.

Additionally, it is important to store mothballs in a secure location that is inaccessible to children and animals.

Important: If you suspect a rat infestation in your home, it is recommended to consult with a professional pest control service. They have the expertise and knowledge to effectively eradicate rats and prevent future infestations.

For more information on rat control and prevention, you can visit the Environmental Protection Agency website.

Other Ways to Get Rid of Rats


Traps are a commonly used method to eliminate rats from homes and buildings. There are different types of traps available, including snap traps, glue traps, and live traps. Snap traps are the most traditional and widely used. They are designed to kill the rat instantly when it triggers the trap.

Glue traps, on the other hand, use a sticky surface to trap the rat, making it unable to move. Live traps are humane options that capture the rat alive, allowing you to release it elsewhere. It is important to place traps in areas where rats are likely to travel, such as along walls or near entry points.


Rodenticides, also known as rat poisons, are chemical substances that are designed to kill rats. These products are typically available in the form of pellets or blocks. Rodenticides work by either causing internal bleeding or disrupting the rat’s nervous system.

It is crucial to use rodenticides with caution, as they can be harmful to humans, pets, and wildlife if not used properly. It is recommended to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer and to keep rodenticides out of reach of children and pets.

Preventative Measures

Preventing rats from entering your property in the first place is key to avoiding infestations. Here are some preventative measures you can take:

  • Seal any cracks or gaps in your home’s foundation, walls, or roof, as rats can squeeze through very small openings.
  • Keep your surroundings clean and tidy, as rats are attracted to food sources and clutter.
  • Store food in sealed containers and dispose of garbage properly.
  • Trim tree branches that are close to your home, as rats can use them as bridges to access your property.
  • Keep your yard well-maintained, as overgrown vegetation can provide hiding spots for rats.

By implementing these preventative measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of rat infestations in your home or building.

For more information on rat control and prevention, you can visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website or consult with a professional pest control company.


While mothballs containing naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene can initially repel rats and mice, their effectiveness often decreases over time as rodents become desensitized. Using mothballs rarely provides a long-term solution on its own.

For best results, incorporate mothballs into an integrated pest management plan that also utilizes preventative measures, traps, and rodenticides. Be sure to place mothballs safely out of reach of kids and pets. With diligence and patience, you can get rid of unwanted rats and keep them away.

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