Few things in life smell better than a brand-new car. Unfortunately, that fresh, clean scent that we all find so appealing does not last forever. And, that is normal.

Your new car won’t smell new for much longer than a few months. However, what isn’t normal is for your car to start smelling like mothballs.

So, if you’ve noticed that the interior of your car smells like moth balls, you are probably concerned and a bit confused. After all, the mothball smell is very distinct and it is not that common in daily life. So,

Why Does Your Car Smell Like Mothballs?

If your car smells like mothballs it’s because naphthalene or a naphthalene-like chemical has worked its way inside the vehicle.

Now, there are several reasons why naphthalene or something that smells like it can come into contact with the interior of your car. And, while the lingering smell is not in and of itself a sign of a serious problem, it’s important for your comfort and peace of mind to figure out the potential causes.

Let’s discuss this.

Mothballs, Naphthalene, And Other Similarly Pungent Smells

Before we can understand the potential reasons why your car smells like mothballs, you should understand why mothballs smell like they do.

Mothballs are typically made out of naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. Both of these chemicals, which are derived from tar coal and benzene respectively, possess a similarly pungent smell that we’ve all come to associate with the small, white-crystalline balls.

So, there are several possible reasons why your car might smell like mothballs, Let’s look at the 

Possible Causes Of Mothball Smell In Your Car:

Causes Of Mothball Smell In Your Car
  • Your car’s interior has been cleaned recently: Many popular cleaning products contain naphthalene since it is a powerful chemical solvent.
  • Your car has a chemical or fuel leak: Sometimes the exhaust fumes or other maintenance chemicals can smell like mothballs because they contain naphthalene additives. For example, naphthalene has been added to gasoline to improve a vehicle’s fuel performance and reduce engine deposits.
  • Your car has a rodent infestation: the droppings and urine left behind by rodents such as mice, which are known to nest inside cars, can produce a very pungent ammonia smell that many people associate with the musky smell of mothballs.
  • Your car has a mold or mildew problem: if your car has developed mold or mildew due to dampness or high humidity, you may start to notice a vaguely musty, mothball-like smell produced by the mold/mildew spores that linger in the air.

If you’re concerned about the mothball smell in your car, you may want to have it inspected by a professional mechanic or technician to determine the specific cause and provide a potential resolution.

In the meantime, there are a couple of things you can try and get rid of the mothball smell.

How Do You Get Rid Of The Mothball Smell In A Car?

  • Use an air freshener: you can try to mask the mothball smell with a vehicle air freshener or spray. Thankfully, there are dozens of different scents and aromas, so you are bound to find one that suits your tastes. I keep a stock of these Febreze Car Freshener Vent Clips (from Amazon) handy at all times.
  • Use baking soda: baking soda is one of the world’s most effective odor eliminators and is a good, inexpensive option to get rid of the smell from your car. I personally like to use Arm & Hammer’s New Car Gel Air Freshener (from Amazon) to deal with unpleasant odors in my car because it both deodorizes and scents its interior.
  • Clean your car: oftentimes, cleaning your car is enough to eliminate unwanted smells. To clean your car and get rid of the mothball smell, use a combination of all-purpose, upholstery, and glass cleaners to freshen and odorize the interior.
How Do You Get Rid Of The Mothball Smell In A Car?

But what happens if you’ve tried these tips and your car still smells like mothballs? Should you worry?

Is Mothball Odor Harmful?

Generally speaking, the presence of a mothball smell in your car is not immediately harmful. If you notice that your car starts to smell like mothballs, you shouldn’t worry too much.

Nevertheless, mothballs are meant to be used as a chemical pesticide against moths and other similar insects. And while they are generally considered safe for human use, to a degree, mothballs have the potential to cause harm.

For example, if ingested or inhaled at high volume, mothballs can result in severe headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, respiratory distress, confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures, and coma.

However, the amount of naphthalene (the active chemical in mothballs) that a human has to ingest or inhale before experiencing these adverse side effects is very high. As per the CDC Table of IDLH Values, a human adult would have to consume 5 to 15 grams of naphthalene to reach levels that are considered immediately dangerous to life or health.

You should always make sure to keep mothballs away from children and pets. And you should seek immediate medical attention if you believe that you or someone you love has been exposed to dangerous levels of naphthalene.

Last update on 2024-05-29 at 16:35 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API