Fumigation gets rid of unwanted household pests, most often termites. Termites seriously threaten the structure of a home, and once they’ve moved in full-force, fumigation is usually the only option. Infested homes are “tented” with a plastic coated canvas tarp that’s used to trap the fumigant over the infested area.
There are a number of measures that your household will be asked to take in order to prepare for the event. Your exterminator also takes steps to ensure a successful fumigation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the process of fumigation, and requires exterminators to be trained and certified.
Is Fumigation Safe?
Fumigation is safe when the proper precautions and preparations have been taken and a trained and certified exterminator is doing the job. During fumigation, all people, plants, and animals must be away from the premises and certain perishable food items have to be either double bagged in special bags or removed from the home. Several additional precautions must be taken as well.
The fumigant dissipates from the area once the tent is removed from the home. After about six hours the exterminator will test your home for traces of fumigant with a fumiscope before allowing your family to return (once traces of the fumigant are less than one part per million).
What Happens During Fumigation?
Once your home is tented, the fumigant is released inside at levels determined by both the size of your home and the size of the infestation. These two factors plus the temperature outside also determine how long the fumigation process will take—usually anywhere from 24 to 72 hours. When contained in an enclosed area, the fumigant is able to penetrate wood and other porous surfaces where pests may be hiding or building nests. Rainy weather can affect the fumigation process, so you may have to reschedule your fumigation if rain is in the forecast.
How to Prepare Your House for Fumigation
There are certain steps you need to take during the days before your fumigation. It can take several days to prepare, so make sure you have a plan of action to follow and don’t wait until the last minute to get started. Your exterminator will provide you with a checklist of items to help you prepare.
Call the gas company: If you use natural gas as an energy source in your home, you’ll need to have the gas shut off before fumigation begins. Schedule a temporary shutoff to happen first thing in the morning the day fumigation begins. If you have a propane tank you can shut off the source to your home yourself, or call the propane company for assistance.
Remove plants, animals, and people: Anything that’s alive will need to be removed from the inside of your home and kept away from the house. For example, your dog can’t stay in a fenced-in backyard and outdoor cats must be removed from the area; both animals could get into a spot where they would be exposed to the fumigant. Houseplants can be moved outdoors to a shady spot several feet away from the home’s exterior. You will need to find a place for your family and pets to stay for up to three days.
Food: Perishable food items, including those inside your fridge and freezer, must be either removed from the home or double bagged in special fumigation bags. Items you must double bag if they are to remain inside include items such rice and cereal that are packaged in plastic or cardboard, even if these items are unopened. Any canned or bottled items that are unopened/still sealed may remain inside your home. Don’t forget to remove bagged pet food too, even if it’s unopened.
Medications: Vitamins, over-the-counter medications, and prescriptions must also be double bagged or removed from your home. Make sure you pack any medications you take regularly to keep with you and double bag all other items, including things like cough drops.
Landscaping and shrubbery: You’ll need to cut back plants and shrubs that are close to your home so that they will remain outside the tented area. This can be a good excuse to get some much-needed pruning done. Once pruning is complete, thoroughly water the perimeter of your home to further protect the plants from the fumigant.
Remove plastic from indoor items. The plastic tent is used to trap fumigant inside your home, but when plastic is covering items inside the home, the gases can get inside or underneath and become trapped, so they are not able to dissipate once the fumigation is over. Any items covered in plastic should have the plastic cover removed. These items can include baby crib mattresses and furniture, but don’t forget to look for other items such as garment bags used to protect clothing. Plastic storage totes should have the covers removed as well. If you’re not sure whether an item in plastic is airtight or not, remove it from the property.