Pest Treatment

Walk-through freezer at the museum's Avenir Center
Photo by William Atkins / The George Washington University

Our guidelines can help you understand pest control, but if you have a rare textile, consider the condition of the object before you treat it and ask a conservator for professional advice.  

Freezing

Freezing is an effective and safe method of eradicating an insect infestation. To use freezing to get rid of insects:

  1. Roll or fold the infested textile, then package it in a clean, clear 3-4 mil. weight polyethylene.
  2. Remove excess air to prevent risk of condensation in the bag, but avoid damaging the textile by compressing it too much.
  3. Seal the package with duct tape (other tapes such as masking or packing tape do not hold their seal during the freezing process). Small pieces can be frozen in heavy weight food grade zip-lock bags.
  4. Place the packaged textile in a chest freezer for a minimum of 1 week. Most refrigerator freezers do not reach the necessary low temperatures of -4 to -13°F (-20 to -25°C).
  5. It is imperative that the freezer not be opened at any time during this process in order to maintain a constant temperature.
  6. After freezing, allow the textile to completely thaw before removing it from the package. Condensation will appear, but only on the outside of the package. Inspect the textile carefully, and if you don’t feel certain everything has been killed, repeat the procedure.
  7. Carefully vacuum the textile to remove frass and insect debris before returning it to display or storage.

Actions for Routine Pest Control

  • Good housekeeping is essential in preventing any kind of infestation.
  • Periodic inspection of textiles and/or storage areas is necessary for insect control.
  • Screen windows, air ducts and chimneys to prevent the entry of flying insects.
  • Proper storage facilities include a dry, clean environment.
  • Proper air circulation, 45-55% relative humidity, and a temperature of 68-72°F in storage areas will prevent mold and mildew.

Additional Resources

CCI Notes 3/3, Canadian Conservation Institute (1997). Controlling insect pests with low temperature. Ottawa: CCI

National Pest Management Association
10460 North Street
Fairfax, VA 22030
Phone: (703) 352-6762 (NPMA) 

Pest Control Technology
4020 Kinross Lakes Parkway
Suite 201
Richfield, OH 44286
Phone: (800) 456-0707
Fax: (330) 659-0823

Systematic Entomology
10300 Baltimore Boulevard
Building 003, RM. 223, Barc-West
Beltsville, MD 20705