Don’t put mothballs in the attic/odor elimination

Discussion in 'Horn Depot' started by axle hongsnort, May 29, 2008.

  1. axle hongsnort

    axle hongsnort 250+ Posts

    So we’ve had an ongoing issue with squirrels getting into the attic. We tried patching the conceivable entrances. We tried the plug in high frequency noise makers. Somehow the squirrels persevered.

    The little f-ers have eaten away at furniture stored in our attic, and eaten part of our overhangs that we have twice had patched and painted costing over $1,000.

    So this handy-man we have used mentions a solution that he swears has worked for others. He suggests we throw mothballs in the attic and that will keep them away. This sounds reasonable, so two weeks back - without doing any research - I buy four small boxes of mothballs and proceed to throw them ALL over my attic.

    Within 5 minutes I knew I made a horrible mistake as the toxic stench of mothballs was permeating my house. Not a whiff here and there, but a full on stench.

    I spent the first two days “spelunking” in my freaking attic trying to recover mothballs from the deepest recesses of my attic. I developed a system of high-powered lamps, 2x4’s spread across the existing ceiling framing, knee pads, ventilation mask, and an extendable “pincher” to pick stuff up from afar.

    This was one of the worst experiences of my life. Sure, some mothballs are visible on the surface, but the ventilation is like snow and many of the balls dipped under the surface. After 15+ hours in the attic, I probably got half the mothballs.

    Two weeks later the house still smells. We have aired out the house as much as possible, including all windows and doors open accompanied by a system of fans to force as much air as possible. We have several bags of volcanic rock natural deodorizer. We have a few jars of “fresh scent” which is another all natural solution. We have tried bowls of vinegar and plates of fennel seed.

    Someone just suggested I rent an ozone generator from a janitor supply shop. Anyone know anything about them????

    Someone also suggested I set up multiple fans in the attic to foster a circular air pattern, so I will try that next. I have read that mothballs evaporate over time, but this sucks soooo bad!

    Anyone have other suggestions?

    PS – the squirrels are gone.
    • Funny Funny x 3
  2. 01 grad

    01 grad 250+ Posts

    Sorry to hear about that, sounds terrible! Your description of events I found quite entertaining though.

    If you only removed half of the moth balls, I'd think anything you do would be futile. You need to continue spelunking. Then I'd try **** loads of febreeze and lots of fresh air through house for a few weeks.
  3. LH-Pools

    LH-Pools 100+ Posts

    I bet with you working up in the attic, it has kept the squirrels out. So maybe the mothballs did work.
    • Funny Funny x 1
  4. zzzz

    zzzz 2,500+ Posts

    You might want to add an attic vent with fan like this person did: In reply to:

  5. utflipmode

    utflipmode < 25 Posts

    must have been some really big moths. [​IMG]
  6. Uninformed

    Uninformed 5,000+ Posts

    That stinks
  7. coopntex

    coopntex 25+ Posts

    Cant be worse than the massive coon that died in my attic. Try finding someone willing to crawl around in your attic and remove a dead animal. It had crawled in a place that was impossible to get to and stunk up the entire house.After a week of trying to find it and mask the smell I cut a hole in the ceiling above my living room just big enough to get my shoulders through. I was lucky , stuck my head in and there it was. I hate racoons.
  8. campwillben

    campwillben 100+ Posts

    Charcoal soaks up stink. You might want to give that a whirl.
  9. wolfman

    wolfman 1,000+ Posts

    Im guessing that it would probably be too expensive, but have you checked into having your attic insulation replaced? Get new stuff and have the moth balls removed at the same time.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. axle hongsnort

    axle hongsnort 250+ Posts

    I've got the bags of lava rock, which I believe has the same effect as charcoal, but it couldn't hurt to throw some regular charcoal into the mix.

    If it does not improve over the next week I plan to look into an additional fan on the roof and/or getting the insulation replaced. The insulation replacement was my initial reaction, but I wanted to pursue cheaper options at first and see how this saga progressed. Let me know if anyone knows of a Dallas roofing / insulation crew.

    I am sure that sucked, but I wish it would have been one dead animal, at least there is one sizeable target! Searching through insulation for hundreds of little white balls of hate and traversing the hot stuffy attic was pure hell.

    I hope to look back one day and laugh at this life lesson. In the mean time I am spreading the word that MOTHBALLS ARE EVIL.

    NCAAFBALLROX 1,000+ Posts

    If you're in the "Greater Austin Area" & want that new attic fan installed, let me know.

  12. kjgirl

    kjgirl 500+ Posts

    We also had a problem with squirrels and did moth balls in the attic along with some music. We did only 1 box of mothballs and yes, it did smell the house but only for about a week and then it faded away.

    It did keep the squirrels away too. I think we would do it again but maybe only 1/4 of a box
  13. Uninformed

    Uninformed 5,000+ Posts

    Okay maybe I can help with a real answer. Is the chemical paradichlorobenzene or Naphthalene? Naphthalene odor will be gone in about two months with an added attic vent with a fan. Paradichlorobenzene will dissipate even faster. You need good circulation as that will expedite the sublimation and will help bring fresh air inside while letting the naphthalene saturated air an avenue of escape.
    • Winner Winner x 1

    NCAAFBALLROX 1,000+ Posts

    Uninformed, the 2nd part of your post is what we, in roofing parlayance, call "Net Free Air" or a calculation based on square inches (or square feet) if intake vs. exhaust.

    The idea for a static system (i.e. ridge vents & soffit vents) is to have enough total size PLUS a good balance with sufficient numbers.

    Forgoeing that, you can have adequate intake & power exhaust the attic which will override any shortcomings in the intake end of it.

  15. axle hongsnort

    axle hongsnort 250+ Posts

    Thanks for the feedback, this has taken a turn for the worse, the wife, kiddo and I just moved into my mom’s house. Let me explain the latest.

    Until Thursday, I had been focused on all windows open and 5'ish fans going on the ground floor (1 story house, 2000 sq ft). The attic has several turbines sucking air up, but I also positioned a fan to suck air out of the attic into the garage via an opening in the garage that is basically a standard attic opening without a "pull down" set of steps like in the house. My thought was that if I left the garage door cracked that I was creating a flow out of the attic and out the garage.

    That seemed to work pretty well and we really thought things were slowly getting better. Well it started getting really hot and we had to turn the AC on, so we basically closed up the first floor but left the attic and garage door method going. To boot, someone recommended that I place multiple fans in the attic.

    So I did all of this and the house returned to an awful state we haven’t smelled since D-Day. I turned of the AC and let it go for 2 days with windows closed downstairs and the attic fans going upstairs. I was optimistic this was a “one step back – two step forward” thing and that the attic fans were expediting the evaporation, but resulting in expedited smell.

    Well, here is the weird thing, the smell is almost completely gone from the attic, but the house reeks, so bad that we can’t stay there. I do not believe mothballs got into the walls, maybe a few, but not many.

    My guess is that the moth-ball vapors are heavy and sinking into the house. Why else would the attic be okay, but the house not? Perhaps this was exacerbated the past few days with the AC on i.e., the cold air coming down was dragging the stink with it?

    As of now, we are resigned to staying at my moms and proceeding with as much fresh air as possible. I plan to switch the downstairs fans each day to suck air in one day, and then suck out the next. Maybe mix it up with half the house in, and half the house out. I am torn between wanting to get the bad air out and fresh air in, but can’t seem to get a flow of both at once.

    The balls were the naphthalene type, so it does look like were in for another month of chaos and hopefully can just ride this out. We just unloaded our cars at my moms and some piles of laundry that were lying around smell like mothballs. Now I am paranoid about furniture, drapes, and stuff.

    Appreciate any more advice anyone has, particularly about air flow in the house…how the flow in the attic varies from that of the house i.e., do they combat each other given the temperature extremes?

    Is opening all of the downstairs windows perpetuating the problem? Would sealing up the house speed up the evaporation giving the increased heat? I hope this is not the answer, but am reaching at anything at this point.
    • Funny Funny x 1

    NCAAFBALLROX 1,000+ Posts

    Bad move pulling air down INTO the garage FROM the attic; you should have had air coming FROM the garage & then forcing it OUT the attic & thereby through the turbines... heat rising, etc.

    I would suggest going to "big orange box" & buying the largest fan you think will fit into that attic opening, then laying it down so that air moves UP from the garage into the attic & forcing air OUT of the attic space.

    You need to force a LOT of CFM's out of the attic (cubic feet per minute).

    Plug the fan into a GFCI protected receptacle or a power strip that has a mini breaker bar... you'll need to leave the fan on for a LONG time.

    If you have the "typical" L shaped single story ranch with the garage forward & a gable roof ("A" shape, not
    like a pyramid slope), you might be forcing more air out the gable @ the garage end. If this is the case, then get some 2x6's, cut them to size, nail 'em down & block the span over the rafters @ the venting gable over the garage.

    Place the fan on the 2x's & maybe even rope it into place so it doesn't vibrate around & fall through or move position. Close the attic access door. You are now moving as much air through the attic as is potentially possible.

    You want fresh air sucking IN through the gable vent & then OUT the other gable & the turbines.

  17. Uninformed

    Uninformed 5,000+ Posts

    ^^^ Follow the above advice. Also, I guess you need a word of encouragement: The strong smell is good. What you are smelling is the chemical in a gas state. Just redirect it in the proper manner.

    The heat will break down the balls faster so it is good that it happened in the summer: However, don't do anything with the above knowledge. Just listen to NCAA .
  18. Schlieffen Plan

    Schlieffen Plan 25+ Posts

    I thought that in the olden days people put mothballs in their closets, attics, chests etc. all over the place to keep moths away. How are they suddenly so toxic you can't even put them in your attic?
  19. axle hongsnort

    axle hongsnort 250+ Posts

    NCAA - Uninformed, thanks a million for the advice. That picture screams the hell that my house has become!!! :-0

    I am going to buy the biggest fan possible and try that approach next. I also have 2 contractors coming by this week for the roof/attic fan. That will be good to have anyway.

    S Plan - that is what I thought too. I have never thought more than 2 seconds about mothballs. That is why I threw them all around without thinking. Maybe one or two is helpful for moths, but geez, in mass the things are evil, trust me.
  20. viethorn

    viethorn 25+ Posts

    I don't have an advice for you but I make a mental note that I should inlcude a GPS with any mothballs I would keep inside my house. It would be cheaper [​IMG]
  21. CalHornGal

    CalHornGal 25+ Posts

  22. ChiroHorn

    ChiroHorn 100+ Posts

    Putrid story.
  23. JGares

    JGares < 25 Posts

    Please, Please Help!!!! I am wishing I had seen this BEFORE I did the same thing and put mothballs in my attic! Please tell me how you recovered from this nightmare. My son and I are not able to live in our home and I feel everything is destroyed. I am searching for what to do and how to recover. Your words of wisdom are needed. The mothballs have made us leave and we have nothing that does not gag us. I appreciate any information that you can provide.
  24. Uninformed

    Uninformed 5,000+ Posts

    Find as many mothballs as possible and remove them. Increase attic ventilation. Do not blow air from the attic into the house. Blow the air from the house into the attic so that air escapes through the attic vents (see NCAA's posts on this thread). It will take a couple of weeks probably to get all the smell out of the house, but you should see continual improvement. BTW, you haven't ruined anything. Mothballs sublimate meaning that they go from solid to gas, and you smell the gas. This gas will dissipate/diffuse in air.
  25. JGares

    JGares < 25 Posts

    Thank you Uninformed. I have hired some guys to remove the mothballs. They removed the insulation and vaccuumed out the attic. The situation had improved for about 12 hours. Soon as the guys blew in new insulation, the odor came back just as strong as before. Since the weather has been cold, using the heater has not helped. I did contact the compnay who manufactured the balls and they are sending me activated charcoal filters. Also, I turned it over to my home owners insurance. They have turned this over to a home restoration company. This is a resolvable situation but it is a long and exprensive process. I am blessed to have friends who have let me live with them these past few days.
    If ever you are told to use mothballs...DON'T!!!!!! These chemicals are dangerous if not used properly. Yes, grandma did use them. However, she also used lead paint, not good either.
  26. brntorng

    brntorng 2,500+ Posts

    It would seem that you would want to create constant positive pressure in the living quarters. This could be done by closing all windows, doors, etc. and putting a high pressure fan in one door or window and running it constantly. It would need to be sealed around the door or window so the pressure was maintained. If you've seen a contractor do a home energy audit, that's what they do--pressurize the house with a big fan sealed in a doorway and measure the air loss. Make sure the source of the air for the fan is fresh air--not air coming from the attic. Filtering the air with charcoal to absorb any of the odor would be a bonus. A high performance air filter would also prevent pumping your house full of pollen, etc. Here's a source.

    Also, several powered ventilators on the roof would be useful since they create negative pressure in the attic preventing the odor from finding its way into the house.

    I think it's important to have both in operation simultaneously.

    Good luck!
  27. JGares

    JGares < 25 Posts

    I am thankful for all the information and I am starting to become more hopeful [​IMG] My insurance company is actualy assisting me with all of the work! I am so lucky and grateful. Again, thank you.
  28. JGares

    JGares < 25 Posts

    Well, here is an update: It's been 3 weks and the smell is almost gone. Some days are better than others as well as some rooms. The closets are the worst even without anything inside them. It has been a busy clean up job for me. I am hoping that this will be 100% over with in another 2 weeks.
  29. Michtex

    Michtex 1,000+ Posts

  30. JGares

    JGares < 25 Posts

    Several weeks and still smells. Can't find them all. I am wondering how the temperature affects the problem and will the ones I cannot reach ever go away. Any ideas?

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