John's Florida Real Estate Blog


Mothballs and the Problems They Can Cause in a Closed Up Vacation Home

As many of you may know, I work in an area that has a lot of winter residences. In the spring, many owners do a lot of work to prepare their homes for the summer when they will be living back up north. I have a brochure you can download for hints as to what you can do to get your home ready. Just click on the following link to download it in PDF Adobe format: Download Preparing Your Vacation Home for Summer

However, here is one thing that you may NOT want to do. I have warned sellers about this since it can turn off buyers when they tour homes, sometimes even more so than the smell of tobacco. This is the use of mothballs.

I have had numerous e-mails from one of last year's buyers who got a very nice home at a very nice price in a very nice mobile subdivision near Zephyrhills. Unfortunately, just before the sale was finalized, the seller tossed mothballs underneath the home. The idea is that this will keep bugs, snakes, and other critters away. Though I have seen no scientific evidence that proves this. Even though the mothballs were under the home their smell rose through the floors and permeated the interior of the dwelling.

The problem arose when the buyer's wife developed a cough that would not go away, even when they went back up north. She had to be hospitalized and was diagnosed with COPD, a breathing disorder! And her doctor said that the strong odor of mothballs in the home could have set this off!

The new owner recently asked me to go to the home to see if the smell was still there since his wife was worried about returning to the home. I went to the home with two friends to see what our noses could detect. Under the home we could smell nothing. I suspect that the fresh air movement, dew/condensation, and time had worked to dissolve the mothballs over the summer.

However, inside the home there was still the smell of mothballs. Not as strong as last year, but it was definitely there. The owner and I have discussed some ideas about how to get rid of this smell, but it will be difficult. It has permeated mattresses, blankets, cushions, plywood, rugs, walls, etc. Getting rid of it is going to take some time and probably some money. What a shame!

So, please think twice before you use this powerful smelling substance in and around your homes. Many people have breathing problems and do not need to be put in danger. Even if they do not have respiratory issues, just the smell, like a strong cheap air-freshener, can make your home an unpleasant place to visit. If you are trying to sell your home, it will definitely be a turn-off for buyers. A much better idea is to pay a little money, and have the outside of your home sprayed by a professional who will use materials that are appropriate for your particular situation.

It is my hope that when the owners of the home I mentioned above soon return, the airing out of the home will help to rid the place of its smell. But if you are considering using mothballs in your home while you are away, please think more than twice about doing this. I am sure the last thing you want to do is cause someone to have health problems. Avoiding the use of strong smelling materials like mothballs can go a long way to avoiding problems that can be much more serious than a bug or two under the sink.

If you would like to discuss this subject more, please feel free to contact me at: 813-783-4444 or e-mail me at:

John Elwell - REALTOR


Bill Nye Realty, Inc.


Licensed in Florida


Comment balloon 0 commentsJohn Elwell • October 18 2009 02:48PM


This blog does not allow anonymous comments