Do Mothballs Keep Snakes Away?

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Published: June 19, 2022
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Snakes are typically shy and cautious animals that avoid contact with humans but won’t hesitate to give a bite when threatened. They can be useful in some ways because they consume slugs, insects, mice, grubs, and other pests and can also serve as food sources for other creatures like hawks.

Although most snakes in North America are harmless, there are a few poisonous species that may hurt humans and pets. For this reason, we aim to educate you on some strategies to keep snakes away (mothballs: what works and what doesn’t) without endangering yourself, pets, family, or the environment. Before any further ado, let’s talk about what mothballs are. 

What Exactly is Mothballs?

Mothballs are small balls made of deodorant and chemical insecticide used to store and preserve valuables prone to mold or moth larvae damage.

Mothballs, as the name implies, are small balls made of deodorant and chemical insecticide used to store and preserve clothes and other valuables prone to mold or moth larvae damage. This ball has gained more extensive use in the last few decades than its original purpose. Do they actually keep snakes away? Let’s find out.

Do Mothballs Keep Snakes Away?

Straight to the point, No. You may want to believe that mothballs are useful to repel snakes because they contain a somewhat unpleasant chemical to snakes; nevertheless, they are not. Mothballs are not only worthless in repelling snakes, but they are also unlawful to use outside. I bet a lot of people don’t know this fact: The EPA regulates mothballs; therefore, utilizing them for anything other than their original use is unlawful. Besides being unlawful, using mothballs is risky, especially if they come into contact with your children, pets, or other creatures, thereby causing injury. To be on the safe side, simply do not use it. Why then do people believe so much in it?

Why Do People Believe Mothballs Deter Snakes?

Many people have never had first-hand experience of using mothballs to ward off snakes. They only believe it works because they were told it does. Mothballs, in a real sense, are merely a classic old-time home treatment for keeping snakes away. However, this old fairy tale does not stand the test of science or time. It is safe to say that this tale is no longer valid or never had an actual root. Mothballs do not deter snakes. A reassuring fact is that snakes smell with their tongues; therefore, odor-based deterrents such as mothballs are unlikely to work on them.

Everyone knows the meaning and importance of communication in the olden days and the strength that goes along with it. Many stories, legends, and myths have been passed down from generation to generation (through oral and sometimes verbal communication), gaining ground and appearing true to everyone simply because our ancestors believed in them. But on the contrary, most of these tales, legends, and myths are not what they seem. They mostly have no evidence of truth, no scientific backing, and are therefore worth disregarding. 

For mothballs, you should know what it is before you start believing. Using mothballs to repel snakes is an old myth that just won’t die off. Our ancestors used them because they knew no other options. They thought that since mothballs would repel moths because of their strong smell, they should also repel snakes. And so the belief came to stay.

The Risks Of Mothballs

Mothballs emit poisonous fumes that can infiltrate into residential spaces, harming everyone inside.

Having discussed the false truth about mothballs repelling snakes, it is high time you knew the implications of using these balls unduly. Let me reinstate that using mothballs contrary to its originally intended purpose is unlawful because it is a regulated product.

When you scatter mothballs around or beneath a house to ward off snakes, your little child or pet animals will likely find and swallow them. Little children can hardly tell the difference between attractive balls and sweets unless you educate them. Furthermore, poisonous fumes can infiltrate into residential spaces, harming everyone inside.

On the market, there are two kinds of mothballs. They appear to be the same, but some are manufactured using naphthalene and others with paradichlorobenzene. When exposed to air, both compounds decompose and emit a distinct mothball odor. The more hazardous of the two compounds is naphthalene. Mothball emissions can induce dizziness, headaches, and irritation to the eyes and lungs. When consumed, naphthalene can induce hemolytic anemia, a situation whereby the process of oxygen transfer to all body regions is hindered due to breakage in the red blood cells. This disorder can cause shortness of breath, exhaustion, and painful urination.

Snakes and Humans: What Works?

Most snakes are harmless and serve an important function in your house by keeping pests and rodents at bay.

Jay Ondreicka/

While many people dislike snakes and wish to kill them on sight, others love them and even wish to keep them. However, for the most part, snakes are not allowed to live with humans because they are regarded as wild animals capable of doing more harm than good. Nevertheless, keeping them where they belong and away from homes might be challenging, especially if you live in areas prone to these reptiles. Our modest property is surrounded by children, dogs, and other creatures. Putting anything down (mothballs or chemicals) that may cause damage to the family or animals isn’t an option.

Most snakes are harmless and serve an important function in your house by keeping pests and rodents at bay. Still, some individuals are afraid of snakes and prefer to keep them away from their land. 

Here are some helpful natural remedies:

1. Snake Plant (Mother-in-Law’s Tongue)

A yard full of snake plants could be helpful because a snake’s senses are repulsed by the sharp leaves thereof. It is a succulent plant with pointy leaves. Unlike garlic and lemongrass, it has no odor and is easy to cultivate. 

2. Lemongrass (West Indian)

Lemongrass is an excellent plant to grow because it repels snakes, ticks, and mosquitoes. It is also beautiful. The lemongrass plant works well as a natural snake deterrent when grown in a yard.

3. Garlic Spray/Onions

Onions and garlic are considered one of the most potent snake repellents due to a chemical (sulfonic acid) that causes humans to weep when we slice onions. A mixture of these can help you repel snakes.

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