How To Treat Wood Furniture For Bugs

by | Insect Control, Insects, Pest Control, Termites

This post contains affiliate links: Full Disclosure 

If you have wood furniture, there’s a chance you might find bugs on these items. Some of these bugs make wood furniture their home and others eat the wood.

So how do you keep your wood furniture bug free?

You can treat wood furniture for bugs by heating it up in the sun, freezing it in a commercial freezer or in the snow, or spraying it with commercial insecticide. As an eco-friendly alternative, a solution of borax and water, dish soap and water, or pure orange oil can be effective at killing wood-destroying insects.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to treat wood furniture for bugs, which bugs are most likely to move into your wood furniture, and how to tell which bugs are doing the damage.

How to treat wood furniture for bugs

Photo of outdoor wood fruniture

Below are some of the most effective ways to get rid of bugs in your wood furniture.

Use heat

The heat from the sun kills many bugs in wood furniture. To use the sun to kill bugs in your furniture:

  • Put the furniture in a sunny spot outside on a hot day
  • Cover the furniture with a thick plastic sheet
  • Weigh down the edges of the plastic sheet with something heavy, so the sheet doesn’t blow away in the wind
  • Leave the furniture outside in the heat for a few days for the best results

This method works because the temperature rises rapidly under the plastic sheet and stays hot, killing wood-destroying bugs or forcing them to leave.

All this sunshine and heat dry out the wood too, making it a good time to varnish and seal the wood to prevent future infestations.

Use cold

If you have access to a large commercial freezer or chest freezer, or if it snows where you live, put the wood furniture in the freezer or outside in the snow. Leave the furniture to freeze for at least 72 hours, to kill any bugs living in it.

If the furniture is badly infested, you can freeze the piece for 72 hours, thaw it out, then freeze it again for another 72 hours to kill any larvae that might have hatched when the furniture thawed out.

Use insecticide

Insecticides are another option for ridding your wood furniture of bugs that won’t move out.

If you want to save cash and do it yourself, choose an insecticide spray that prevents and keeps wood-destroying insects under control, such as this one that’s popular on Amazon or this non-toxic wood guard with lifetime protection.

Always follow the instructions on the packaging for the best and safest results.

Use homemade methods

There are some homemade methods that you can try to get rid of wood-destroying insects in your wood furniture…

Set a trap

Set a trap to lure insects out of your wood. Put some layers of wet cardboard where you think the insects are hiding out. Leave it there for a few days, making sure the cardboard stays damp.

Keep checking to see if any insects have moved out of the wood and into the wet cardboard. If you see any insects, try to identify them so you know what is living inside your wood furniture and you can take steps to kill any that are left.

Burn the cardboard to destroy the insects on it.


This solution will protect untreated wood from infestation, but might not reach the deeper layers in the wood where termites thrive.

To use borax, mix 1 teaspoon borax in 1 cup of warm water. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and spray it directly onto your wood furniture.

Do this every day for five days, to give the solution enough time to soak into the wood and be effective.

Orange and neem oils

Pure orange oil and neem oil (Amazon links) have been used for a long time to kill wood-destroying insects.

If you see holes in your furniture and you know that insects are in there, inject neem or orange oil directly into the holes. This should kill any insects in the holes.

You’ll need to do this every time you see a new infestation as the oils get soaked into the wood and stop being effective.

Dawn dish soap

Dish soap kills carpenter ants on contact. You can read why dish soap spray works so well and how to use it by clicking here to read my blog post on the topic.

To make dish soap spray, mix 2 tablespoons of Original Scent Dawn dish soap (Amazon link) in 1 gallon warm water. Mix these well and spray the solution directly onto the carpenter ants.

** If you live in the UK, Europe, Australia, or New Zealand, try this dish soap instead of Dawn dish soap. It’s made by the same company (Procter & Gamble) but is sold under another brand name

Which bugs live in wood furniture?

Your outdoor wood furniture can be a safe haven for many bugs. Here are three of the most common types of wood-destroying insects you need to look out for in wood furniture:

  • Beetle larvae of wood boring beetles, called woodworms
  • Termites
  • Carpenter ants
Infographic of insects that live in wood: woodworms, termites, and carpenter ants

Signs of beetles in wood furniture

Wood boring beetles, such as powderpost and longhorned beetles, lay their eggs in cracks in wood furniture.

When their larvae are born, they are called “woodworms” because they are worms that can spend the next several years eating the wood around them.

Tiny holes and tunnels in your furniture around one-sixteenth to one-eighth of an inch wide tell you that woodworms are the problem, especially if you see little sawdust piles around these holes. The woodworms leave this sawdust behind when they chew on the wood.

Signs of termites in wood furniture

Termites usually eat wood furniture from the inside out. Over time, the wood becomes weaker and can crack or splinter under pressure.

Here are some ways to tell if you have termites in your furniture:

  • You see mud tunnels along the outside of the wood
  • You notice areas of the wood getting darker or blistering
  • When you tap on the wood with the back of a screwdriver, the furniture sounds hollow
  • You see termite droppings that look like little wood-covered pellets or sawdust

Signs of carpenter ants in wood furniture

Carpenter ants don’t eat the wood in furniture but they do dig tunnels in the wood to build nests and lay eggs in.

These tunnels weaken the structure of the wood, and the furniture eventually breaks under some pressure. If you tap the wood with the back of a screwdriver, it will sound hollow where the ants have built nests inside.

Carpenter ants take pride in their tunnels: After digging a wood tunnel they smooth the walls of the tunnels. The shavings from smoothing these walls get pushed out of the holes. If you have carpenter ants, you’ll see little piles of wood shavings near the holes in your furniture, which may or may not have other dead ants or dead insects in them.

You can also tell you have carpenter ants if you see ants walking in a line, and the ants are larger than the average ant by 1/2 an inch or so.

How to stop bugs from getting into wood furniture

One of the best ways to stop bugs from infesting your wood furniture is to buy furniture made from bug-resistant wood. These woods include:

  • Acacia
  • Cedar
  • Cypress
  • Eucalyptus
  • Redwood
  • Teak

The natural oils in these woods make them more bug-resistant than other woods.

Don’t pick up free wood furniture on the side of the road, as you might bring home more than just furniture.

And my last tip is to apply a sealant or varnish to all wood furniture, and in any new cracks or crevices that you find, which will help to stop bugs from getting inside.

Final thoughts

Wood furniture is a wonderful long-term investment for your outdoor space, but because wood is a natural material, it also makes a tasty treat and a warm home for many insects.

Protect your wood with a good varnish or sealant, and check the furniture regularly for any signs of bug damage. If you do spot small holes, tunnels, wood shavings, or hear a hollow sound when tapping the wood, take steps to eliminate the bugs before they destroy your furniture.

If you get a really bad infestation, burn the furniture so the bugs don’t spread to your house or to someone else’s place. Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to backyard pests.

I'm Monique. I love gardening and spending time in my backyard growing things. Here's where I share what I know about backyard pests and what to do about them, so you can enjoy your yard too.

Legal stuff heading

Backyard Pests participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, the ShareASale affiliate program, and other affiliate programs. This means that if you buy a product or service through one of our links, we may receive a small commission from the sale for referring you. Thank you for your support!


Monique loves gardening and spending time in her backyard, where she grows flowers, succulents, herbs, fruits, and vegetables.

Monique spends a lot of time researching how to protect her backyard from harmful pests and trying to attract beneficial insects and animals.

She shares everything that she learns and tests here at Backyard Pests.


4 Ninja Ways To Find Where Maggots Come From

4 Ninja Ways To Find Where Maggots Come From

If you have maggots, you need to locate the source as quickly as possible so you can kill them before they turn into flies. But there are many, if not hundreds, of places in your home and on your property where maggots could be hatching from fly eggs. Below is my list...

read more