Moths can damage stored clothing and shoes, sometimes severely, so it's smart to ward the pests off before they have a chance to attack. Mothballs release a pungent chemical odor that keeps the insects from bugging your belongings. That odor, unfortunately, isn't pleasant to humans either. The smell of mothballs can cling stubbornly to shoes for quite a while, but it usually fades over time. If you can't wait, you may be able to banish the odor yourself.

Remove the shoes from their storage area. If there are mothballs inside the shoes, discard them.

Set the shoes outside but away from direct sunlight. Fresh air is one of the most effective ways to eliminate mothball odor. Leave the shoes outdoors or in an area that gets fresh air, such as the garage, for several days in a row, if possible. Bring them inside if it rains or snows so they don't get wet. Extreme temperatures may damage some shoes, so don't leave them outside if it's very hot or cold.

Dampen a cloth with an odor-eliminator product. Pat the shoes with the odor eliminator, and then allow them to dry. Some odor eliminators will work better than others, so you may need to experiment to find one that's effective against mothballs.

Fill a paper bag with coffee beans. Place the paper bag and your shoes inside a larger plastic bag. Seal the plastic bag or tie it shut; let it sit overnight. Coffee beans can absorb strong mothball odors.

Remove the shoes' laces and inserts. Mist the shoes with water from a spray bottle, and gently scrub them with a soft bristle brush and a neutral cleaner. Spray them with clean water, and then let them air dry. This works best for canvas and nylon shoes. Water can damage leather and suede shoes.

Run an ozone machine next to your shoes. These machines get rid of powerful odors, including mothball scents. If you or anyone in your home has a respiratory problem, such as asthma, do not use an ozone machine. It can make the condition worse.


Cedar chips work as well as mothballs, and they smell better, too. Alternatively, fill a sachet with herbs, such as rosemary, mint, lavender or sweet woodruff. Store the sachet with your clothes and shoes. These herbs help repel moths and other pests.

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