February 8, 2011 4:10 AM   Subscribe

We are visiting my in-laws. Lingering mothball fumes permeate their guest rooms, despite MIL's insistence that they were removed months ago. Aside from fresh air, how can we *quickly* abate the odor from the air, closets and bedclothes?
posted by gnutron to Home & Garden (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Mothballs are made of naphthalene, which partially sublimes (i.e. vaporizes directly from solid form to gas without going through a liquid phase) at room temperature. That means that the vapor also recrystallizes in minute amounts on every surface it touches. Which in turn means that every surface that's been exposed to the smell of mothballs will act as a repository for that smell until all those tiny naphthalene crystals re-sublimate. The only way I know of to make that happen is to flush all the involved surfaces with copious warm, fresh air.

You might get quicker results by getting the entire room (literally!) stinking hot with whatever heater you have available, then quickly venting all the room air to outside with a box fan in the window. Doing this several times should reduce the stink to acceptable levels.
posted by flabdablet at 4:33 AM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and hanging the bedclothes outside in the sun will help, as will tumble-drying them warm (but make sure the tumble dryer vents to outside, or you'll just make the laundry stink of mothballs).
posted by flabdablet at 4:34 AM on February 8, 2011

I like the idea of heating the room and venting, if you can. Napthalene is more toxic than most household chemicals, so you want to do more than just mask the odor.
posted by ldthomps at 6:19 AM on February 8, 2011

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