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Camphor vs. Mothball: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Camphor is a white, crystalline substance with a strong odor, used in medicine and as an insect repellent, whereas mothballs are small balls of chemical pesticide and deodorant, primarily used to protect clothes from moths.
Camphor vs. Mothball

Key Differences

Paragraph 1: Origin and Composition
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 04, 2023
Camphor is a naturally occurring compound found in the wood of the camphor laurel tree. It has a strong, penetrating fragrance and is known for its medicinal properties. Mothballs, on the other hand, are manufactured products typically made from naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, both of which are chemical compounds with a distinct, pungent odor. These substances are primarily used for their ability to repel or kill moths and other insects.
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Dec 04, 2023
While camphor is widely used in medical applications such as pain relief and reducing itching, it is also employed in religious ceremonies and as a moth repellent. Mothballs are specifically designed for protecting clothing and other materials from moth larvae, which can cause significant damage. Unlike camphor, mothballs are not used for medicinal purposes due to their toxic nature.
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Dec 04, 2023
Camphor is a waxy, transparent solid that easily sublimates at room temperature, releasing its characteristic odor. This odor is pleasant to many and is often associated with cleanliness. Mothballs, conversely, are small, white balls that also sublimate at room temperature but tend to have a more pungent and less pleasant odor. The odor of mothballs is often associated with storage or old clothing.
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Dec 04, 2023
Camphor, though natural, can be toxic if ingested in large amounts and must be used with caution. It is generally safe when used in topical applications or in small quantities. Mothballs, made of chemicals like naphthalene, are toxic and can be harmful if inhaled over a long period. They pose a risk to children and pets if accidentally ingested.
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Dec 04, 2023
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The use of camphor is largely unrestricted and it is widely available in various forms. However, environmental concerns are minimal compared to mothballs. The use and disposal of mothballs, given their chemical composition, are subject to more stringent regulations due to their potential environmental impact and health hazards, particularly their toxicity to wildlife and water sources.
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Comparison Chart

Primary Use

Medicinal applications, religious ceremonies, insect repellent
Clothing protection, insect repellent
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Origin

Natural (from camphor laurel tree)
Synthetic (naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene)
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Odor

Strong, medicinal, sometimes pleasant
Pungent, often associated with storage
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Safety for Humans

Moderately safe (toxic if ingested in large amounts)
Toxic (harmful if inhaled or ingested)
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Environmental Impact

Minimal
Significant, subject to regulations
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Camphor and Mothball Definitions

Camphor

Fragrance Component
The camphor added a refreshing scent to the homemade potpourri.
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Nov 24, 2023

Mothball

Pest Control Agent
Mothballs are placed in wardrobes to prevent moth damage to clothes.
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Nov 24, 2023

Camphor

Insect Repellent
They burned camphor in the room to keep mosquitoes away.
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Mothball

Deodorant
They used mothballs in the attic to mask old odors.
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Nov 24, 2023
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Camphor

Medicinal Substance
Camphor is used in topical pain relievers for its cooling effect.
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Nov 24, 2023

Mothball

Storage Aid
Mothballs are commonly found in boxes of stored garments.
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Nov 24, 2023

Camphor

Religious Symbol
Camphor is burned in temples as a part of ritual offerings.
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Nov 24, 2023

Mothball

Protective Substance
To preserve her wedding dress, she packed it with mothballs.
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Nov 24, 2023

Camphor

Moth Repellent
Camphor balls are placed in closets as a natural alternative to mothballs.
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Nov 24, 2023

Mothball

Chemical Pesticide
Mothballs contain naphthalene, a strong pesticide.
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Camphor

A fragrant white or colorless crystalline ketone, C10H16O, obtained naturally from the wood of the camphor tree or synthesized from pinene and used as an insect repellent, in the manufacture of film, plastics, lacquers, and in medicine chiefly in external preparations to relieve mild pain and itching.
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Oct 19, 2023

Mothball

A marble-sized ball, originally of camphor but now of naphthalene, stored with clothes to repel moths.
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Camphor

(organic compound) A white transparent waxy crystalline isoprenoid ketone, 1,7,7-trimethylbicyclo[2.2.1]heptan-2-one, with a strong pungent odour, used in pharmacy.
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Mothball

A condition of long storage for possible future use
Put the battleship into mothballs.
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Camphor

A tough, white, aromatic resin, or gum, obtained from different species of the Laurus family, esp. from Cinnamomum camphara (the Laurus camphora of Linnæus.). Camphor, C10H16O, is volatile and fragrant, and is used in medicine as a diaphoretic, a stimulant, or sedative.
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Oct 19, 2023

Mothball

A condition of being set aside or discarded
Have put the plan into mothballs.
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Oct 19, 2023

Camphor

Originally, a gum resembling ordinary camphor, obtained from a tree (Dryobalanops aromatica formerly Dryobalanops camphora) growing in Sumatra and Borneo; now applied to its main constituent, a terpene alcohol obtainable as a white solid C10H18O, called also Borneo camphor, Malay camphor, Malayan camphor, camphor of Borneo, Sumatra camphor, bornyl alcohol, camphol, and borneol. The isomer from Dryobalanops is dextrorotatory; the levoratatory form is obtainable from other species of plants, and the racemic mixture may be obtained by reduction of camphor. It is used in perfumery, and for manufacture of its esters. See Borneol.
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Mothball

To remove (a ship, for example) from active service or use and put into protective storage.
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Camphor

To impregnate or wash with camphor; to camphorate.
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Mothball

To defer indefinitely; shelve
Mothball a project.
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Camphor

A resin obtained from the camphor tree; used in making celluloid and liniment
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Oct 19, 2023

Mothball

A small ball of chemical pesticide (typically naphthalene) and deodorant placed in or around clothing and other articles susceptible to damage from mold or moth larvae in order to protect them from this damage.
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Mothball

(transitive) To store or shelve something no longer used.
They mothballed the old version after the new one came out.
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Oct 19, 2023

Mothball

To stop using (something), but keep it in good condition.
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Oct 19, 2023

Mothball

A small sphere of camphor or naphthalene used to keep moths away from stored clothing.
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Oct 19, 2023

Mothball

To put into long-term storage; as, to mothball the battleships not needed after the war.
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Oct 19, 2023

Mothball

A small sphere of camphor or naphthalene used to keep moths away from stored clothing
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Mothball

Put into long-term storage
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

Can camphor be used in cooking?

No, camphor used in cooking is a different variety (edible camphor) and should not be confused with the common camphor used for medicinal purposes.
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Is camphor natural?

Yes, camphor is a naturally occurring compound.
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Are mothballs toxic?

Yes, mothballs made from naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene are toxic and can be harmful if inhaled or ingested.
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Are mothballs and camphor the same in terms of use?

No, mothballs are specifically used for protecting fabrics, while camphor has broader uses including medicinal and religious purposes.
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Is camphor safe for skin?

Camphor is safe for topical application in small quantities but can be irritating to the skin in higher concentrations.
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What are mothballs?

Mothballs are small balls of chemical pesticide and deodorant, used primarily to protect clothes from moths and other insects.
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Dec 04, 2023

How long does the smell of camphor last?

The smell of camphor lingers for several hours to a few days, depending on the form and quantity used.
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What is camphor?

Camphor is a white, crystalline substance with a strong odor, derived from the wood of the camphor laurel tree, and used in medicine and as an insect repellent.
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Why do mothballs have a strong odor?

The strong odor of mothballs comes from the volatile chemicals they are made of, like naphthalene.
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How should mothballs be disposed of?

Mothballs should be disposed of according to local hazardous waste regulations due to their toxic nature.
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Can camphor be harmful if inhaled?

Inhaling camphor in small quantities is generally safe, but it can be harmful in larger amounts or over prolonged periods.
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Do mothballs dissolve in water?

No, mothballs do not dissolve in water; they sublimate, turning from a solid directly into a gas.
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Can camphor be used as a moth repellent?

Yes, camphor can be used as a natural alternative to mothballs for repelling moths.
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How do mothballs work?

Mothballs release a gas that is toxic to moths and other insects, effectively acting as a pesticide.
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Can mothballs be used to repel other pests?

Yes, mothballs can repel various pests but should be used carefully due to their toxicity.
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Dec 04, 2023

Are mothballs safe around pets and children?

No, mothballs are dangerous if ingested and should be kept away from pets and children.
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Dec 04, 2023

Can camphor be used for headaches?

Yes, camphor is an ingredient in some topical treatments for headaches.
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Dec 04, 2023

Is camphor used in aromatherapy?

Yes, camphor oil is used in aromatherapy for its refreshing and clearing properties.
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Dec 04, 2023

What are the environmental impacts of camphor?

The environmental impacts of camphor are minimal compared to synthetic chemicals like those in mothballs.
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Dec 04, 2023

Can the smell of mothballs be removed from clothes?

Yes, but it may require several washes and airing out to completely remove the mothball odor from fabrics.
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Dec 04, 2023

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Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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