Alternatives to Fumigating Furniture for Bugs

if you're careful. April 24, 2014

I just called my normal furniture fumigator to find that they shut down their bug chamber. The two alternatives are either 50 miles away or $600 no matter what size item you bring in! The other issue is that living in California, Methyl bromide has been outlawed for years and the current gas used is not warranted to work completely. My customer is pushing us to use a localized produce like Boracare. The thought of injecting hundreds of holes is a little time consuming and how effective will it be? Yes, staying the finishing business for years will drive us all "buggy".

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
I have my doubts about Boracare in this case. The holes are exit holes, so there are no insects in the holes. I believe the product is mixed with water and then the wood is wetted or submerged for a while so that the water and chemical diffuse into the wood. Wetting furniture is possibly a bad idea. So itís fumigation or heat.

From the original questioner:
I am not sure that Boracare even kills, it just may only keep them from eating the rest of the wood? Can you expand upon heat.

From contributor M:
Heat the core of the wood to 130F for 6-12 hours and you should kill all insects and their eggs.

From contributor B:
Also, Boracare has a glycol based compound to enhance borate solubility and penetration into wood. So be sure to consider whether this might be an issue with something like stains and finishes.

From the original questioner:
So it looks like my solutions are to bake it and destroy all glue joints including the veneer hide glue or saturate the wood and destroy the joints? Would the microwave work or is that only if there is enough moisture in the wood? I guess I should find a strawberry field that still uses Methyl Bromide. I have a 17th century French Armoire that the customer does not want to crawl out of her house on its own.

From contributor T:
Hide glue should be fine at 130. It takes both heat and moisture to active hide glue. Hide glue in use should be kept at about 150 degrees. So you do have a little room at 130. Also if the glue is activated once it cools down it will maintain is adhesive strength. I would only be worried about the furniture coming apart if the glue does soften. Clamping may prevent that. But again, hide glue needs moisture and heat.

From contributor D:
We made a simple heat chamber with foil faced foam box around the beam and put a heat gun at one end and a thermometer at the other. When it reached a temp of 140 we let it stay there for 24 hours. It killed everything and also dried the beam out completely. We had 6" clearance around the sides and the thermometer end and 24" on the heat end. I would recommend only doing it outdoors and a heat gun will ignite wood, so monitor the process. The beam had been treated by supplier so we saved him a small bag of bugs.

From the original questioner:
Somehow I do not feel comfortable cooking a customerís prize heirloom. I cannot say that chemicals are any better. At least with gas, I should not have to re-veneer or re-glue joints.