Fact or Fiction: Do Mothballs Keep Snakes Away?

mothballs won't keep snakes away
There are better ways to keep snakes away from your house than using mothballs.

This article addressing if mothballs keep snakes away has been repurposed from The Antidote, a newsletter of the Blue Ridge Poison Center.

Many people still use mothballs around their home to try to keep snakes away. However, studies have shown that mothballs are not effective for this purpose.

Do Mothballs Keep Snakes Away? No

“Don’t believe everything you read on the internet!”, says Kathy Mayo, RN and Certified Specialist in Poison Information at the Blue Ridge Poison Center. “The use of mothballs as a snake repellent is an old wives’ tale that just won’t go away. When people sprinkle them under or around a house, it increases the likelihood that a child or a pet will find them and eat them. They look just like candy to young children. Also, the toxic vapors can seep up into the living spaces, sickening all of the people inside.”

The Dangers of Mothballs

There are two types of mothballs on the market. They look identical, but some are made with the chemical naphthalene, while others are made with paradichlorobenzene. Both chemicals become a gas when exposed to air and cause the strong mothball smell. Naphthalene is the more toxic of the two chemicals.

The fumes from mothballs can cause headache, dizziness and irritation to the eyes and lungs. If swallowed, naphthalene can cause a condition called hemolytic anemia. This is when red blood cells break apart and can no longer carry oxygen to all parts of the body. Symptoms of this condition may include fatigue, shortness of breath and painful urination, with discolored urine.

Call the Blue Ridge Poison Center

If you or someone in your family has eaten a mothball or is not feeling well after breathing the fumes, call 1-800-222-1222. Nurses are available 7 days a week to help you know what to do.

Kathy adds that in the warm months, when snakes are most active, the Blue Ridge Poison Center sees an increase in calls from people who have been exposed to mothballs, because they are being used as repellents.

If someone in your family swallows a mothball, or has been breathing the fumes and suddenly doesn’t feel well, nurses like Kathy are standing by at the Blue Ridge Poison Center 24 hours a day to help you know what to do.

Is There a Safe Snake Repellent?

Most snakes are harmless and provide a valuable service around your home by keeping pests and rodents away. Still, some people find the presence of snakes alarming and want to keep them away from their property. Like mothballs, commercial snake repellents have not proven to be successful at keeping snakes away. It is also never a good idea to leave any sort of pesticide lying around where children might find it.

Instead, follow this advice from The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries:

  • Snakes are attracted to areas that provide them with cover and shelter. Remove log or trash piles close to your house. Keep the grass or other vegetation near your house closely mowed or trimmed.
  • Tight-fitting screens and doors will keep snakes out of the house. Seal off all cracks and holes into your crawl space or basement.
  • Check the roof for overhanging vegetation. Snakes are good climbers and can also enter through the attic where trees provide access.
  • Have your house checked for rodent problems. If you can eliminate the food source, the snakes will go elsewhere.

Comments (10)

  1. edward says:

    We have had snakes in the house – in a rural area – from time to time. I have a settled routine for rescuing them from the house and returning them to the natural world. One of the family will keep an eye on where she/he/they is and might go, while I put on boots, long pants tucked in, and a heavy pair of work clothes. I grab two trash cans. I get its tail and whip it into one trash can and quickly seal the can with the second can (one larger, one smaller works best). Even with heavy gloves I have had one bite (it drew blood which I washed with hot water and soap for a couple minutes). It’s easy then to carry Mr/Ms/Their Snakey outside far away from the house. We believe that generations of snakes may have found a home in or near the house. Sometimes we’ve seen them slivering out of nearby grass fields heading for the house. Then, its easy enough to grab a hoe to re-direct them away from the house (it can take minutes to re-direct them completely because they seem determined). We’ve talked with animal control and read some research that suggests that snakes may return to the place where they were nurtured as baby snakes. So, by re-directing them we hope to re-orient them to a new ‘home’. Of course, a key reason snakes come inside is because they are hunting food – that is field mice/house mice around or in the house – so managing mice is key to managing snakes in the house, it seems. We know that some snakes likely came in through open windows on second floor, acquiring the roof from trees (perhaps seeking birds’ nests?); so we ALWAYS keep second floor windows closed or screened, and keep trees, ivy vines, etc away from the roof. What other snake stories do people have?

  2. Maher says:

    is there any natural matrials could be used to keep the snakes away from home ?

  3. Barbara Johnson says:

    My daughter has a snake in her trailer and she did put out moth balls in an attempt to get rid of it. What can she do to get rid of it without the use of an exterminator as sje is unemployed at this time?

  4. DL says:

    I have heard this many times about moth balls not being an effective deterrent to snakes, but if you were to look at the Snake Away repellents and others like it, a great deal of the product is crushed moth balls.

  5. julio albeytar says:

    nnakes they are funny but there is on thing that they dont like is gasoline fumes, this process is used to remove snakes from holes in the ground a rose is used with a cloth tie up at the end and a small amount of gas in inserted inside the hose and introducede in the hole and than blow so all the fumes will inundate the snake refuge forcing it out

  6. Patty says:

    If moth balls don’t work why do they make snake repellent out of moth balls?? Because I have purchased it and paid 4 times what a box of moth balls… just saying…

  7. Terry Edwards says:

    I have dealt with snakes for over thirty years. Snake-Away is not my first choice for a repellent. Mainly it consists of crushed up moth balls which by themselves are ineffective. Regular everday lyme that you can buy at any farm supply or garden center is your best repellent. The under part of a snake’s belly is warm and moist. The lyme will burn their skin. Lay down a good foot wide border around your property and another around your house. Unfortunately, the rain will dissolve most of it so if you have a serious problem, mix it with sand and form a burm about 6 inches high at the edge of your property or along ditch lines.

  8. D Woodall says:

    I would like to provide some references that will convince you that MOTHBALLS, SNAKE-A-WAY, and LIME or NOT EFFECTIVE at repelling SNAKES. Do NOT take my word for it but please view for yourself the following VIDEOS where you can see and decide for yourself.

    Check out this Video where Snake-A-Way is tested against snakes.
    The later part of the video also demonstrates the effectiveness of mothballs.
    After viewing what do YOU think? Is it an effective snake repellant?

    Some say use LIME – but does it repel snakes? See for yourself in the VIDEO at the URL below

    I encourage you to learn about snakes. They can be our friend not our enemy. They can reduce rats, mice and insects.

  9. Mike Doby says:

    Moth Balls are effective in helping to keep snakes away. I use them every spring around my apartment complexes and only see snakes when we do NOT use them. As several had already said, most of your more expensive repellants such as Snake Away are primarily ground up moth balls.

  10. DANIEL HANSON says:

    You laid it out in a circle. How could they avoid it?

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