Brand new unworn shoes reek of mothballs. Why?
June 19, 2014 6:18 PM   Subscribe

I just bought these incredibly handsome shoes. They were delivered today...along with an overpowering mothball smell. I've noticed the same odor on new denim products in several stores lately. I have two questions.

First, the obvious: How do I get rid of this smell? Because I need to start wearing these shoes right now. But also: Why is this smell suddenly all over denim products? Is there a huge denim factory somewhere that supplies a majority of the world's denim, and it was infested with moths so firetrucks came by and doused the whole place with mothball product? Googling variations of "mothball smell on new denim" only returns a few online reviews and Yahoo answers confirming this is, in fact, a recent problem, but nothing about why.
posted by Munching Langolier to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The active ingredient in mothballs is used to produce indigo dye
posted by KateViolet at 7:13 PM on June 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'd bet there is some insect pest wherever these things are made that importers are required by law to ensure does not come into this country on their products the way the Asian Staghorn beetle, which is devastating maples, came here, I think on wooden pallets.

Hence, mothballs.
posted by jamjam at 11:05 PM on June 19, 2014

I've often referred to that smell as "The smell of China." Nearly everything I've gotten that has been placed in its final, sale container in China (as opposed to being shipped here in bulk, then containerized here) has had that smell.

I know it mostly from tools bought at Chinese tool outlets like Harbor Freight. Many of my friends refer to it that way "Harbor Freight cologne" or "Eau de Harbor Freight."

I agree with jamjam, it must be some pest prevention tool. I imagine these giant warehouses where products are stacked up prior to going into containers and gassed with this stuff.

Don't know about textiles but on hard things like painted metal it goes away after about 3 days.

For the shoes - best I've got is to put them in front of a fan - constant air movement.
posted by BrooksCooper at 6:31 AM on June 20, 2014

Here's a bit more on fumigation of internationally shipped goods, from an international shipping company. Here's the Wikipedia page on International Standards For Phytosanitary Measures No. 15 (ISPM 15), except it seems that the two options for ISPM treatment are heat treatment and methyl bromide fumigation, and MB "is practically odorless but has a sweetish chloroform-like odor at high concentrations," and the 2013 North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual insect control chapter (PDF) only lists paradichlorobenzene for use against clothes and wax moths.

Also, with Zappos return policy, they might be doing some chemical cleaning of returned goods that are re-sold.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:01 AM on June 20, 2014

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