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How to Kill Woodworms in Antique Furniture

By Edited Feb 12, 2016 1 3

Many homeowners choose to decorate their homes with antique furniture to give the space a vintage feel.  Some homeowners add just a piece or two of antique furniture as an focal point to bring great lines or interest to the room. Finding vintage furniture is oftentimes regarded as a treasure hunt with decorators painstakingly searching yard sales, flea markets and antique stores as well raiding grandma’s or great aunt Susie’s attics.

What are Woodworms and Where do They Come From

Buying or finding the perfect antique table, sideboard or chair from a yard sale, flea market or estate sale can come with unwanted guests, namely woodworms. Woodworms are the larvae of a beetle, not actually real wiggly worms. Woodworms boar homes deep inside the wood on the furniture, not limiting themselves to antique wood or vintage furniture. Woodworms will go where they can hide and have a good supply of food, which just may happen to be your new furniture find. As the woodworm larvae grows, it soon becomes time for them to leave the small confines of the inside of the wood.  The woodworms begin to bore their way out of the wood. As they exit the furniture, they leave tiny circular holes on the furniture, which is the first sign your beautiful table has woodworms.

Are Woodworms Dangerous

Unfortunately, woodworms will not stay in just one piece of furniture, as their population grows they will try to find new place to live. The new living space can be other pieces of furniture in the home or your wood kitchen cabinets or your doors, decorative moldings or even the wall studs and ceiling joists. They are not particular, they will look for other wooden accommodations. Typically, woodworms are not thought of as dangerous to people, but they can be dangerous to the health and structural integrity of your home especially if a large infestation finds its way to your wall studs or ceiling joists. The other danger they pose is they will weaken wood furniture to the point of breaking, which can be hazardous for those who sit on the chair.

Before you bring home Grandma’s awesome china closet or Great Aunt Susie’s wood fireplace mantel or that unbelievable deal you got from a flea market or yard sale, inspect the wood before bringing it into your house. Even if all looks and seems safe, your furniture and other wood items can still be at risk for an infestation. Always keep a watchful eye out for the classic signs of woodworms – small holes on any surface of the wood. If you’ve already noticed the telltale exit holes – don’t take any chances treat the furniture to kill the woodworms and save your other items from damage and a possible infestation as quickly as possible.

Treating and Killing Woodworms

Lay a large tarp or drop cloth outside at a fairly good distance from your house – at least 10 to 20 feet away. Do not place possible woodworm infested furniture near other furniture, cabinets, doors, moldings or wood structures. In other words do not let the affected furniture come near any wood source in or around the home.

Set the infected chair, table, molding or whatever wood item you have on top of the tarp or drop cloth. If it may rain, cover the furniture with a plastic tarp to keep it from getting wet and possibly ruining the wood more so than the woodworms.

Buy a ready to use or powdered insecticide made specifically for treating and killing woodworms or a treatment that is used for termites. Mix the insecticide with water if called for in the manufacturer’s instructions -- if it is not the ready to use type. Ready to use insecticides may come in a spray type bottle.

Put on a pair of safety goggles, dust mask and a pair of work gloves. Wear old clothes or a disposable jumpsuit.

 If the woodworm killer comes in a spray bottle as a ready to use preparation, spray all surfaces of the furniture liberally.

Turn the furniture upside down, and on each side to aim the woodworm treatment at the cracks, crevices and furniture joints. If the woodworm treatment is the type that has to be mixed, brush on a thick coat with a paint brush on all of the surfaces. The furniture needs to be thoroughly coated in the insecticide in order for it to be effective. A too light coating may just make them burrow deeper inside the wood and fight their way out later.

Let the wood furniture remain outdoors for at least 24 hours before bringing it back inside the house. Many woodworm killers may recommend less than 24 hours, but it is better to be safe than sorry.


Before bringing home a piece of vintage or antique furniture check it out thoroughly for signs of woodworms. Turn the pieces of furniture on all sides and upside down. Look closely at the legs, open drawers and remove them.

Look at the furniture in strong daylight.

Use a magnifying glass to really inspect the furniture.

If you are in a dark area, bring a drop light or a strong flashlight with you when you inspect the furniture.

If you had the piece of furniture that was infested with woodworms in your house, apply the insecticide to other pieces of furniture that were close to it.

Fixing Woodworm Damage

If the woodworm damage is bothersome, fill in the holes with a matching color wood putty or wood paste.

If the color of the wood is difficult to match due to the age, you can make your own wood putty – turn the furniture upside down to gain access to an area that is not seen.

Wrap 320-grit sandpaper around a sanding block and sand the unfinished wood to create saw dust.

Gather the saw dust in a small plastic cup. Slowly add wood glue to the saw dust while stirring continuously with a small wood stirrer such as a popsicle stick or tongue depressor until it reaches a paste like consistency.

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Press the mixture into small holes and immediately wipe away the excess with a damp rag.

Allow the glue to dry and touch up the tiny patches with a matching cover liquid or marker type scratch repair.



Apr 17, 2012 11:35am
You have some great tips about how to avoid woodworms. Thank you!
Apr 17, 2012 11:37am
Thanks! Many people don't realize those small holes in furniture typically aren't supposed to be there.
Jan 1, 2016 11:51pm
Great tips to avoid woodworms! Thanks
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