Do Mothballs Keep Roaches Away: Mothballs Or Alternatives – What Works Best?

Do Mothballs Keep Roaches Away

Roach infestations can be a persistent and unsettling problem for homeowners. When searching for a solution to keep these unwanted guests at bay, many turn to mothballs, a common household item with a reputation for deterring various pests. But do mothballs genuinely work as a roach repellent, or is this a mere myth? In this article, we will delve into the effectiveness of using mothballs to keep roaches away and explore the potential risks associated with their use. By the end, you will have a clearer understanding of whether mothballs are a viable solution for your roach-related woes.

Do Mothballs Keep Roaches Away?

Mothballs are not a guaranteed or recommended method for keeping roaches away. While they contain chemicals like naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene that can deter some insects, they are primarily designed to repel moths and other fabric-damaging pests. Roaches are more resilient and adaptable, and there is limited scientific evidence to support mothballs as an effective roach repellent. Additionally, using mothballs indoors can pose health risks to humans and pets due to releasing toxic fumes. It’s better to explore alternative, proven methods for roach control, such as sealing entry points, maintaining cleanliness, and using appropriate pesticides if necessary.

How Mothballs Are Believed To Work Against Roaches?

Mothballs are believed to work against roaches primarily by releasing toxic fumes containing chemicals like naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. These chemicals evaporate into the air when mothballs are exposed to the environment. Here’s a detailed explanation of how they are thought to repel roaches:

Olfactory Overload: Mothballs contain chemicals like naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene that produce a strong and distinctive odor. Roaches have a highly developed sense of smell, which they use for locating food, water, and suitable nesting sites. The overwhelming and pungent smell of mothballs can disrupt their olfactory senses. When the roaches encounter this powerful scent, it can create sensory overload, making it challenging for them to navigate effectively.

Respiratory Irritation: The fumes emitted by mothballs contain volatile compounds that can harm insects, including roaches. These compounds can irritate the respiratory systems of roaches, leading to discomfort and potentially causing damage to their delicate respiratory organs. As a result, roaches may avoid areas where mothball fumes are present, seeking refuge in locations with better air quality.

Confusion And Disorientation: Roaches communicate with each other through pheromones, chemical signals that convey information about food sources, mating opportunities, and danger. The strong odors from mothballs can interfere with these pheromone signals, creating confusion and disorientation among roaches. This disruption in their communication can disturb their typical social behaviors and foraging patterns.

Psychological Barrier: Besides the chemical effects, mothballs can also create a psychological barrier for roaches. The mere presence of mothballs can signal to roaches that the environment is sterile or potentially dangerous. This psychological deterrent can discourage them from entering your living spaces or congregating in specific areas.

Longevity: Mothballs are designed to release their volatile compounds slowly over an extended period. This means that a single application can deter roaches for weeks or months without frequent replacement, which is convenient for homeowners seeking a low-maintenance pest control method.

What Factors Affect The Effectiveness Of Mothballs?

The effectiveness of mothballs as a pest deterrent, including their ability to repel roaches, can be influenced by several factors. It’s essential to consider these factors to maximize their potential effectiveness and understand their limitations:

Type Of Pest: 

Mothballs are primarily designed to repel moths and fabric-damaging pests. While they may have some effect on other insects like roaches, their efficacy can vary depending on the specific pest species you are targeting. Roaches are known for their resilience and adaptability, which can affect how they respond to mothballs.


Proper placement of mothballs is crucial. To have any chance of repelling roaches, strategically place them in areas where roaches are active or likely to enter. This may include dark corners, crevices, behind appliances, or near potential entry points. With correct placement, the fumes from mothballs may reach the roaches effectively.


The number of mothballs used can also impact their effectiveness. Using too few mothballs may not produce a strong enough odor to deter roaches while using too many can result in an overpowering scent that affects human and pet health. Finding the right balance is essential.


Proper ventilation in the treated area can influence how well mothballs work. Good airflow can disperse the mothball fumes more evenly, increasing their coverage and potential effectiveness. In contrast, a poorly ventilated space may trap the fumes and limit their reach.

Roach Species And Population Density: 

The species of roaches you’re dealing with can affect how they respond to mothballs. Some roaches may be more sensitive to certain odors, while others may be less affected. Additionally, the size and density of the roach population in your home can influence how effective mothballs are. Large infestations may require more robust pest control measures.


Over time, roaches can develop resistance to specific deterrents, including mothballs. If roaches have been exposed to mothballs for an extended period, they may become less responsive to their odor, reducing their overall effectiveness as a long-term solution.

Cleanliness And Food Sources: 

Mothballs may be less effective if there are readily available food and water sources for roaches in the treated area. Maintaining cleanliness and removing potential food sources can complement the use of mothballs in roach control.

Alternative Shelter: 

Roaches seek out hiding places that provide shelter and protection. If there are alternative hiding spots that are not treated with mothballs, roaches may simply relocate to those areas instead of leaving your home.

Health Risks Associated With Roach Infestations?

Roach infestations can have a substantial impact on human health, and it’s essential to be aware of the various health risks associated with these pests:

Roaches are a common source of indoor allergens. They produce proteins that can become airborne and contaminate the indoor environment. Exposure to roach allergens can trigger allergies in susceptible individuals, leading to sneezing, coughing, nasal congestion, skin rashes, and itchy or watery eyes. For people with asthma, roach allergens can worsen asthma symptoms and increase the risk of asthma attacks.

Roach infestations are a significant risk factor for the development and exacerbation of asthma, particularly in children. Children exposed to roach allergens are more likely to develop asthma, and those with preexisting asthma may experience more frequent and severe attacks when exposed to roach infestations. The allergens can inflame airways, making them more sensitive to other asthma triggers.

Roach infestations can lead to respiratory problems even in individuals without asthma or allergies. Inhaling roach allergens and airborne particles can irritate the respiratory system, causing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.

Roaches are drawn to food sources, and they can contaminate stored food items, utensils, and cooking surfaces with their saliva, feces, and skin. Consuming food that has been in contact with roaches can result in foodborne illnesses, including diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps.

Roaches can carry harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Clostridium, on their bodies. As they crawl over surfaces in your home, they can transfer these bacteria, increasing the risk of food poisoning and other infections. Roaches can be vectors for diseases when they come into contact with contaminated materials and contaminate other surfaces.

Although relatively rare, roaches have been implicated in transmitting certain diseases. They can carry and spread pathogens responsible for illnesses like dysentery, typhoid fever, cholera, etc. While other vectors like mosquitoes contribute more significantly to disease transmission, roaches can still pose a risk, particularly in unsanitary environments.

Roach infestations can exacerbate the health conditions of individuals who are already immunocompromised or have underlying health issues. The presence of roaches can make it challenging to maintain a clean and hygienic living environment, which is crucial for people with compromised immune systems.

The stress, anxiety, and embarrassment associated with a persistent roach infestation can have a detrimental impact on mental health. Living in a pest-infested environment can lead to helplessness, shame, and frustration, affecting overall well-being and quality of life.

Alternatives To Mothballs For Roach Control

There are several effective alternatives to mothballs for roach control. These methods focus on prevention, elimination, and deterring roaches without the health and environmental risks associated with mothballs. Here are some alternatives to consider:

  • Roaches are drawn to environments with access to food, water, and shelter. Regular cleaning is one of the most effective ways to prevent roach infestations. Sweep and mop floors, wipe down countertops, and clean up crumbs and spills promptly. Pay special attention to kitchens and dining areas.
  • Roaches can enter homes through tiny cracks and gaps. Seal these entry points using caulk or weather stripping. Inspect doors, windows, walls, and baseboards for potential entryways. This step can prevent roaches from gaining access in the first place.
  • Clutter provides hiding places for roaches and makes it harder to detect and eliminate them. Declutter your home, especially in basements, attics, garages, and storage spaces—store items in plastic containers with tight-fitting lids instead of cardboard boxes.
  • Roaches need water to survive, so it’s essential to address any moisture problems. Fix plumbing leaks and drips promptly. Use dehumidifiers in areas with high humidity levels, such as basements and crawl spaces, to reduce moisture and make the environment less inviting to roaches.
  • Roach traps and sticky traps are effective at capturing roaches. Place these traps where roaches are active or along their known travel paths. Check and replace the traps regularly to monitor and reduce the roach population.
  • Roach bait stations are a popular and effective method for roach control. These stations contain a bait that attracts roaches, which then consume the poison and carry it back to their nests. This approach can lead to the elimination of entire roach colonies. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when using bait stations.
  • Food-grade diatomaceous earth is a natural and non-toxic powder that can be applied in cracks, crevices, and other roach-prone areas. It damages the roaches’ exoskeletons, leading to their eventual dehydration and death.
  • Boric acid is another low-toxicity option for roach control. It can be applied as a thin layer in areas where roaches are likely to travel, such as behind appliances and wall voids. Roaches that come into contact with boric acid will carry it back to their nest, which can kill other roaches.
  • In cases of severe infestations or when DIY methods have not been successful, consider hiring a professional pest control service. They can access various safe and effective roach control methods, including insecticides and fumigation. A trained pest control technician can assess the situation and implement targeted solutions.
  • Some natural substances are believed to repel roaches to some extent. These include catnip, bay leaves, cucumber slices, and peppermint oil. While these natural repellents may not provide complete control, they can complement other prevention methods.

Final Words

Roach infestations can present significant health and hygiene concerns. While mothballs have been considered a potential solution for repelling roaches, their effectiveness remains questionable, and their use comes with health and environmental risks. Instead of relying on mothballs, it’s advisable to explore alternative methods of roach prevention and control. These alternatives include maintaining cleanliness, sealing entry points, using traps, baits, and natural deterrents, and seeking professional pest control services when needed.


What Are The Signs Of A Roach Infestation?

Common signs include the presence of live roaches, roach droppings (small, dark, cylindrical pellets), a musty or foul odor, and egg casings (oothecae). You may also notice chewed or damaged food packaging.

Are Roaches Harmful To My Health?

Yes, roaches can pose health risks. They can trigger allergies and asthma, contaminate food, and carry disease-causing bacteria. The presence of roaches in your home should be taken seriously.

What Are Some Natural Remedies To Repel Roaches?

Natural repellents like catnip, bay leaves, cucumber slices, and peppermint oil are often suggested. However, their effectiveness can vary, and they are generally more suitable for prevention than elimination.

Douglas Underwood

Douglas Underwood is a freelance news writer who specializes in writing about current events and politics. He has a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and has been working as a journalist for the past five years. He is an avid reader and loves spending his free time exploring new places.