How to Get Rid of Termites in Furniture

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Termites might be tiny, but their impact on wooden furniture can be huge. They can be quite sneaky, gnawing stealthily on the wood until significant harm is done. Knowing how to get rid of termites in furniture can help you maintain the integrity and beauty of your cherished wooden pieces. 

Here are the best strategies and preventive measures to tackle this pesky problem.

Understanding Your Enemy: Types of Termites

Before you declare war against termites, it’s important to know your enemy and identify the type of termite you’re dealing with. In Florida, for instance, there are three main types of termites: dampwood, subterranean, and drywood.

Of these, drywood termites are the primary concern for furniture, as they can live and feed within it without needing external moisture sources.

Subterranean termites, while being the most destructive in the United States, generally don’t target furniture due to their preference for moist environments. They often attack wooden foundations from underneath.

How to Check for Termites in Furniture

How do you know if your furniture is hosting these unwelcome guests? These creatures are masters of concealment, often causing damage from the inside out. However, there are telltale signs of termite infestation to watch out for:

  • Hollow Sound: Tap on your furniture. A hollow sound can indicate internal damage by termites.
brown colored termite droppings on a surface
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  • Frass – Termite Droppings: Look for termite droppings, also known as frass, which resemble sawdust or coffee grounds. These are usually the same color as the wood.
  • Visible Damage: While not always immediately apparent, over time, you may notice damage to the surface of your furniture, such as small holes or cracks.
wings fallen off termites
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  • Discarded Wings: Finding tiny wings around your furniture? That’s a red flag. Swarmers, or winged termites, shed their wings after finding a mate. Piles of wings near your furniture are a clear sign of termite activity.

How Termites Invade Your Furniture

Termites can sneak into your home and furniture in various ways, and wood furniture can be an inviting target, especially if it’s antique or not properly maintained. Here are some common ways termites find their way into furniture:

  • Swarming: Just like birds, termites have a migration season. If your wooden furniture is in their flight path, they might just decide to stop over and stay.
  • Second-Hand Furniture: Buying used furniture is cost-effective, but it can come with hidden termite problems. Always inspect second-hand items thoroughly before bringing them into your home. You never know if you’re bringing home a beautiful antique or a termite colony.
  • Built-In Furniture: Those elegant wooden built-ins can be a hidden haven for termites. Regular inspections are necessary, especially in homes with a lot of woodwork.

Home Remedies to Get Rid of Termites in Furniture

Taking immediate action is essential once you’ve identified a termite problem in your furniture. Here are some DIY methods to eliminate termites:

1. Sunlight Exposure

Termites despise sunlight and can’t survive in strong UV rays. By placing your furniture outside in direct sunlight, you create an inhospitable environment for the termites.

Be mindful, however, that prolonged exposure to sunlight can also affect the color and quality of the wood.

However, this method is particularly effective for small pieces of furniture that can be easily moved outdoors. Remember to rotate the furniture to ensure all infested areas receive adequate sunlight and to leave it in the sun for at least three days for maximum effectiveness.

2. Use of Orange or Neem Oil

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Both orange and neem oil are natural termite repellents. These oils interfere with termites’ ability to shed their skin and lay eggs, leading to their eventual death.

To create a termite-repelling spray, mix water with a few drops of orange or neem oil and a few drops of dish soap. Apply this mixture to the affected furniture regularly until you notice a decrease in termite activity.

Keep in mind that it may take some time for the termites to be fully eradicated using this method.

3. Diatomaceous Earth

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Diatomaceous earth is a fine powder made from the fossilized remains of tiny aquatic organisms called diatoms. When termites come into contact with this powder, the sharp edges of the diatoms cut through their waxy exoskeleton, causing them to dehydrate and die.

Apply diatomaceous earth around infested furniture and areas where termites are likely to enter, such as near doors and windows.

Remember to wear protective gear like a mask and goggles when applying DE, especially if you have sensitivities or allergies.

4. Boric Acid

boric acid in a bottle
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Boric acid is another effective and natural way to eliminate termites. It disrupts their nervous system and dehydrates them, leading to their demise. Sprinkle boric acid around your infested furniture, focusing on areas where termites are likely to travel or hide.

Boric acid can also be mixed with water to create a spray solution, but diluting it curbs some of its effectiveness.

You should handle boric acid with care. Use gloves and a mask. While it’s less toxic than other chemicals, it can still cause irritation and should be kept out of reach of children and pets.

5. Aloe Vera

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Aloe vera is not just for skin care; it’s also a natural deterrent for termites. The aloin in aloe vera acts as a barrier that termites cannot cross. Mix pure aloe vera gel with water and apply it generously to the affected furniture. Repeat this process several times over consecutive days to ensure that the wood absorbs the solution.

Be cautious when applying this method to antique furniture or items with delicate finishes, as the moisture from the aloe solution could potentially cause damage.

6. Vinegar Solution

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Don’t underestimate the power of vinegar. This common household liquid is acidic and can be a natural termite repellent. To use it, mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray this solution onto affected areas or where you suspect termites might be present.

Do this regularly for several days to ensure any foraging termites are deterred from the area. You may also directly inject the mixture into drilled holes that lead to termite galleries within furniture.

7. Freezing Treatment

For small wooden items, freezing out the termites can be an effective method. Wrap these items in plastic to prevent moisture damage, then place them in a freezer at 0°F (-18°C) for at least two weeks.

After this period, remove them carefully (as wood can become brittle), allowing them to return gradually to room temperature while remaining wrapped to mitigate condensation damage.

8. Cardboard Trap

Using cardboard traps is easy and environmentally friendly, although it’s more of a monitoring technique than an extermination one. Wet cardboard attracts termites due to its cellulose content, making it an appealing bait.

Create your trap by stacking damp cardboard pieces near suspected infestation areas and check regularly for termite presence. Once you’ve trapped a significant number of termites, remove the cardboard and burn it to kill them. This method can be particularly useful in identifying areas of high termite activity.

9. Salt Solution

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Salt absorbs moisture from termites when they come into contact with it—an unwelcome surprise for these pests who thrive in moist environments.

To apply salt against termites in furniture, dissolve finely ground salt thoroughly in warm water and inject this saline solution into crevices and nooks within your furniture using a syringe or sprayer—ideal focus points include entry points that you think may lead into internal colony structures.

Be mindful if dealing with delicate or antique woodwork—a strong salt solution could cause damage if not applied cautiously.

Professional Approaches: When DIY Isn’t Enough

Sometimes, despite your best efforts with DIY methods, you may find that the termite infestation persists or is too extensive to handle on your own. In such cases, calling in professional pest control services is a wise move.

1. Surface Treatments

Professional pest control experts have access to a range of chemical treatments specifically designed to penetrate and protect wood. These surface treatments work by seeping into the tiny crevices and pores of the wood, targeting termites wherever they may be hiding. It’s effective against both subterranean and drywood termites, the two most common types that infest furniture.

Tip: Always check with your pest control professional to ensure the chemicals you use are safe for indoor use and won’t harm the finish or integrity of your furniture.

2. Heat Treatments

When surface treatments are not suitable or if you prefer a non-chemical approach, heat treatment is an excellent alternative. This method involves heating your furniture to a temperature higher than what termites can withstand.

It’s a precise process that requires professional equipment and expertise to ensure that the heat penetrates thoroughly without damaging the furniture.

3. Fumigation

termites tenting on a house
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In cases of severe infestation, fumigation is often the most effective solution. This method uses a powerful gas, such as sulfuryl fluoride, to penetrate every nook and cranny of the furniture, ensuring that no termites are left behind. The furniture is typically placed in a sealed container or chamber where the gas is introduced.

Safety First: Fumigation requires strict safety protocols. Only licensed professionals can perform this treatment due to the hazardous nature of the gases used.

Preventive Measures: Keep Termites at Bay

While professional treatments are effective in getting rid of termites, it’s always best to take preventive measures to avoid infestations from occurring in the first place. Here are some tips to keep your furniture termite-free:

Use High-Quality Plywood Furniture

Opt for high-quality, boiling water-resistant (BWR) plywood when purchasing or crafting furniture. This chemically treated wood resists moisture and, consequently, termites. Some plywoods are even marketed as termite-proof.

Termite-Resistant Polish

Coating your furniture with termite-resistant wood polish creates a hard, glossy barrier. Ensure the polish is non-toxic and odorless. After application, allow 6-8 hours for drying, then finish with a veneer or laminate.

For existing furniture, we recommend you repaint and polish every five years, using either oil-based varnishes or termite-resistant options.

Moisture Control

Termites thrive in moist environments. Keeping furniture dry and away from damp areas is crucial. Ensure proper ventilation, particularly in kitchens and bathrooms. Regularly inspect your home for leaks or seepage and repair them promptly. When dusting, use dry cloths.

FAQ About Getting Rid of Termites in Furniture

What naturally keeps termites away?

Nature offers us a handful of scents and substances that termites find quite disagreeable. For instance, the aroma of garlic and cinnamon acts as a natural deterrent for these pests.

Other essential oils, like those derived from orange, geranium, cedarwood, and tea tree, also have termite-repelling properties.

How Long Can Termites Live in Furniture?

Worker and soldier termites, the ones most commonly found in furniture, typically have a lifespan of one to two years. However, in the right conditions, a queen termite, which is less commonly found in furniture, can survive for up to a decade.

Should I throw away furniture with termites?

Discarding furniture infested with termites isn’t always necessary. Consider these factors:

  • Extent of Damage: If the infestation is severe and the structural integrity of the furniture is compromised, it may be best to dispose of it.
  • Value of Furniture: If the piece is valuable or holds sentimental value, we recommend seeking professional advice on treatment and restoration.
  • Preventing Spread: If you decide to dispose of infested furniture, do so responsibly to prevent spreading the termites to other areas.

Say Goodbye to Termites, Hello to Pristine Furniture

In the battle against termites, knowledge is your best defense. Armed with the right strategies and preventive measures, you can protect your precious furniture from these tiny but formidable foes.

If you’re facing a stubborn termite infestation or simply want to ensure the best care for your furniture, we can help you connect with experienced termite control companies. These professionals offer tailored solutions to effectively deal with your termite problems and safeguard your furniture against future infestations.

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Adrian Nita

At Pest Gnome, Adrian Nita combines his expertise in writing with a deep understanding of eco-friendly pest control methods. Adrian is a nature enthusiast, and his outdoor excursions inspire his dedication to preserving the natural balance in homes and gardens.