Does bleach kill woodworm?

Some people use bleach to kill woodworms that infest their wood. But is this an option over calling an exterminator to protect your wooden objects?
One of the best ways of killing woodworms is with bleach. It’s an effective way to destroy an infestation without harming the wood.
In this article, we’ll explain how to use bleach as a weapon against woodworms. Although severe damage is best left to a timber treatment professional, more moderate cases are something that an informed homeowner can easily solve by themselves.

Using Bleach on Woodworms: Upsides And Drawbacks 

There are some big advantages to bleach against wormwood that will certainly make you want to consider using it. But there are also some disadvantages. This chart will explain both aspects of using bleach:

Advantages of bleach

Disadvantages of bleach

  • You can kill the insects yourself, as opposed to having to spend the money on a pest control service
  • Bleach is inexpensive
  • Won’t cause any long-term damage to the wood itself, i.e., no harmful residue
  • Will remove stain and dye from the wood, although it won’t change the wood’s natural colour.
  • Not as effective against wood pieces that are too large to fully submerge

The loss of the wood’s stain and dye is something you must consider before choosing to eliminate woodworms with bleach. If you’re okay with losing the stain or have planned to apply a new stain once the woodworms are gone, then it’s okay to proceed. But if losing the stain is unacceptable to you, you’ll want to use a different method to tackle your woodworm problem. If you decide to go on and bleach the wood, here’s what to do next: 

Spraying Bleach on Wood To Remove Woodworm 

If you have a wood piece that has woodworm holes in it yet is still salvageable, Scott McCombe, CEO of the pest control company Summit Environmental Solutions, recommends the following procedure for using bleach to removing woodworms: 

  • Purchase a container of sodium perborate, which is used as bleach. This can be found at a hardware store. 
  • Additionally, you’ll want to have a face mask, rubber gloves, goggles and a garden sprayer. This will give you the means to apply the bleach and protect yourself from being harmed. Bleach is dangerous if inhaled, or if it comes in contact with human skin.
  • Cover the ground underneath the wood item that you’ll be spraying to prevent any damage to it. A tarp will work perfectly for this.
  • Mix the sodium perborate with water. There will be instructions on the container explaining the proper ratio to use. Once you’ve properly mixed the solution, pour it into the garden sprayer.
  • Spray the surface of the wood with the solution. Make sure you coat the wood evenly. McCombe says to wait at least one hour for the solution to permeate the wood. 
  • Repeat the spraying as necessary. You’ll probably want to spray the wood every few hours for a day or two, to assure that all of the insects have been weeded out.

A spray bottle isn’t the only way to expose woodworms to bleach, however. In some cases, submerging the wood in bleach might be the method you want to use.

Submerging Wood in A Bleach Solution

This method will work for smaller pieces of wood since not everything can fit in a bathtub. What you’ll need to do is:

  • Mix enough sodium perborate and water in a bathtub, that your wood piece is completely submerged.
  • Place the wood piece in the bathtub (be careful to use rubber gloves to avoid the bleach touching your skin) and leave it there for 24 hours.
  • Remove the wood from the liquid, drain the bathtub, and rinse the wood thoroughly with clean water.
  • Refill the tub, this time with regular, unbleached water, and let the wood soak for a few hours more.

Once you’re reasonably sure that you’ve killed all of the infesting woodworms, you can move on to the final step: filling in the holes they used to live in.

How to Fill In The Holes In Wood Created By Woodworms 

Fortunately, if you eradicate the woodworms and wood-eating beetles early enough, filling in the holes they’ve left behind is a pretty easy task.  One frequently recommended technique for repairing wood beetle holes involves the use of hardened wax. This can be purchased at hardware stores or online. It comes in various colours, just like a crayon, and you’ll want to find a colour that matches the wood you’re repairing. From there, what you can do is:

  • Simply rub the wax over the holes you’re filling in. Apply a large amount of pressure without damaging the wood.
  • Use a scraper to remove the excess wax from the wood
  • Buff the wood with a rag to make the wood as clean as possible 
  • Often, you’ll need to apply multiple coats of wax to eliminate the holes. Just be patient and apply as many coats as it takes, until you have an amazing piece of wood. In the best cases, there will be almost no external signs that the wood was ever damaged. 

Now that you know how to use bleach against woodworms, we’ll take a more in-depth look at some of the enemies you might be facing: 

Know Your Enemy: Four Types Of Wood-Boring Beetle 

According to structural repair products manufacturer Permagard, woodworm eggs are usually a creamy white in colour and curved in shape.

Wormwood infestations can easily be spotted. A contaminated piece of wood will have small (1-2 mm) holes pockmarking it, and there will be small piles of frass (wood dust) at the surface. If left untreated, these insects can cause severe damage to wood, including structural failure.

A publication titled Woodworm Identification And Treatment by Safeguard Europe Limited lists four of the most common wood-boring beetles and their characteristics:

Name Common Furniture BeetleHouse Longhorn Beetle  Powder Post BeetleDeathwatch Beetle
Common Furniture BeetleHouse Longhorn Beetle Powder Post BeetleDeathwatch Beetle
Size3-4 mm7-25 mm1 – 7 mm5-9 mm
AppearanceDark red or brown.Vertical, parallel lines on wings. Has long, curved antennae. Grey or white spot on each side.Red, brown or black. Slender with short antennae. Brown, hairy, cylindrical, hump-backed.
Wood preferenceSapwood of living trees, hardwood, softwood and plywoodSapwood of living trees, softwood(pine, cedar, fir) Hardwoods (oak, ash, elm and mahogany) Hardwoods, old woods softened by decay, historic buildings
LocationFound in Europe, Eastern North America and New ZealandCentered around Southeast England, such as Surrey and London. Less of a household problem, more common in timberyardsPrefers warmer climates, not generally found in Scotland 

The publication notes that the House Longhorn Beetle in particular can cause severe damage in a short amount of time, and recommends always using a timber treatment professional in these cases. For the others however, bleach will do the trick. 

Conclusion

Woodworm is absolutely no fun to deal with, but there are many ways of dealing with it successfully. Many woodworm infestations can be cured with a bit of bleach, and for more extensive or severe cases, professional pest control services are available. Your wood will be safe as long as you know how to keep it safe. 

SOURCES:

Permagard.co.uk “A Complete Guide To Treating Woodworm”. https://www.permagard.co.uk/advice/how-to-treat-woodworm Accessed April 13, 2021.

Steffani Cameron, Bob Vila. BobVila.com. “The Do’s And Donts Of Bleaching Wood”. https://www.bobvila.com/articles/bleaching-wood/ Accessed April 13, 2021.

Scott McCombe. WikiHow.com. “How To Treat Woodworm”. November 18, 2020. https://www.wikihow.com/Treat-Woodworm Accessed April 13, 2021. 

Woodworm Identification And Treatment. Horsham, England. Safeguard Europe Limited. Accessed April 14, 2021. 

Picture credit:

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Gilles San Martin, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons Lmbuga, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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Tony Moran is a writer, blogger and DIY enthusiast living in rural Norfolk, England, UK, with his wife and a lively border collie. Subscribe to this blog for updates and receive more awesome home improvement tips.

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