How to Get Rid of Termites: 15 Most Effective Ways to Prevent and Kill Termites

If you're here searching for answers on how to get rid of termites, you've hit your breaking point. Yup, there comes a time in every homeowner’s life when they get sick of half-measures and wishful thinking regarding bugs, pests and insects inside the home. A final straw termite breaks their back and they decide it’s time to go full-on nuclear.

I doff my hat to you, angry homeowner, and offer to you this comprehensive list of methods for getting rid of termites once and for all.

But before we get started raining hellfire on the uninvited termites living in your home, you want to make sure that you’re either reducing your risk of inviting termites in (if you don’t already have an infestation) or lowering your chances of having a repeat problem on your hands after killing off the current colony giving you grief.

This means administering some termite prevention measures such as...

Prevent termites: Eliminate moisture

The definitive first step in preventing termite activity (or a great number of other pest/insects) is to eradicate any unwanted moisture wherever possible. Like all living things, termites need water and food to survive and given that they’re about the size of your fingernail on average, they don’t need a whole lot to get by.

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Something as simple as water collecting underneath your bathtub on a regular basis, leaky pipes, condensation or dampness seeping through to the interior of the home can be all it takes to draw a thirsty termite colony into your house.

Don’t underestimate the intrepid nature of the humble termite – they’ll travel far and wide for sustenance, no matter how inconsequential you may think it is. Make sure to clean your gutters to prevent any water seepage from above getting into your walls and attic space and seal up any leaking pipes (even if it’s just a drip every so often).

You'll also want to make sure the offshoot air from your air conditioning unit is funneled away from the house and if you live in a humid climate, consider getting a dehumidifier to keep room climates balanced. A dehumidifier is a simple solution for other humidity-related pest problems such as silverfish as well.

Prevent termites: Build a barrier

If your home is relatively modern, then it’s likely that your foundations have been covered in some form of waterproof sheeting or membrane to preserve them from seepage or damage from the surrounding soil. This goes a long way in keeping termites out, but it doesn’t have to end there.

Some grades of sand and soil are coarse and thick enough to actually pose as a near-concrete barrier for termites (even the dig-happy subterranean types); they simply can’t break through it. Many homeowners like to pack this denser material around their foundations and the surrounding exterior of their home to form a physical blockade against any burrowing colonies nearby.

Don’t worry: if you live in an older, well-established home, you can still attach a form of membrane to your foundations and fill in the gaps with more solid soil/sand if you so wish – just bear in mind that the laboring costs of such a project might be pretty steep. It all depends on how serious you take a termite threat!

Prevent termites: Cut down on wood

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It’s no secret that termites are hungry for all the wood in your home: their kingdom for a Trojan horse! So, it makes sense to try and cut down on your home’s wooden furniture, structures or panelling as much as possible if you really want to close your termite buffet for good.

Where you might previously have bought wooden tables, why not try something metallic or plastic for example? Now, this isn’t to say you have to upset your interior decorating and turn it into some futuristic sterile space station devoid of any wooden furnishing – but it’s worth thinking about how much exposed wood is sitting around your home.

Bonus tip: termites, like silverfish and some other leggy fiends, enjoy by-products of natural wood; paper, cardboard, books etc. A top termite tip is to switch from cardboard boxes to tightly sealed plastic containers for things you’re storing for a long time. Especially if you leave them in the basement or attic.

Prevent termites: Protect your wood

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If you still have lots of wood around the house, then you’d better make sure that it’s been properly treated, rather than left to the whims of any local termites that might happen by. There are a number of powerful wood treatments available on the marketplace and most have the same repellent effects over termites, carpenter ants and some wood destroying beetles.

Our favorite is Bora Care's Natural Borate Termite Control - simply spray, brush or roll it onto the surface of wood to kill existing termite infestations and keep future ones from taking up residence. ​

A simple coating can be all it takes to save your precious antique coffee table… Still use a coaster though.

Prevent termites: Maintain your garden

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Not some zen imagery, but very practical advice: don’t let your garden fall into disrepair. Overgrown shrubs, trees with wandering roots, old unkempt stumps, poorly drained swamp land and neglected mulch are all huge invitations for termites, and often form perfect breeding grounds.

Keep your garden as trim, tidy and dry as you can and try not to let any vegetation get too close to your home or its foundations – this is just asking for trouble!

Now that you've got termite prevention measures in place, you're probably itching to kill some termites. Right, let’s get to the killing...

Kill termites: Nematodes

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Whilst I’ve got your attention on the backyard, let’s take a look at ‘beneficial’ nematodes (hungry little worms). These little guys lust after whatever pests and insects haunt your backyard’s soil. Simply introduce them into the dirt and let them do their work… Which is actually pretty gruesome.

Nematodes search around for hosts to attach themselves to (usually favoring larvae or the younger bugs) before burrowing through their bodies until they die. Once the deed is done, they’ll use the corpse to spawn their own larvae and move on to the next meal…

You almost feel bad for the termites now, huh? No, not really? Good. Go order yourself millions of nematodes straight from Amazon - they're a little over $10 and will do your yard a whole lot of good.  

Kill termites: Garden stakes

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A nice killing method to fold in to your garden alongside the termite-seeking worms is the use of killing stakes or termite detection stakes as they’re sometimes known. Again, there are many different brands available across the pest-killing marketplace, but the best is Spectracide's Terminate.

These stakes are laced with deterrents and toxins which either repel termites or kill them off when they come in contact with the stake. Often, you’ll buy many at a time (say 20) and dot them around your garden, which is where the detection aspect comes into play. Once termites have activated a stake, the mechanism will pop up – alerting you to the very specific area of your garden the termites are inhabiting.

From there, you can either let the stakes do their work or get your shovel out and try to dislodge and disrupt their underground hive.

Kill termites: Direct sunlight

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And on that note: it’s worth remembering that termites absolutely despise direct sunlight. In fact, if they’re exposed to UV rays for too long they’ll die; which makes the great ball of fire in the sky your cheapest and handiest termite removal tool.

If you have detection stakes in your garden, then all you need is a shovel to unearth the dodgy areas and let the sun do its damaging work on the exposed termites – but beware, they’re not going to take that lying down. You’ll have to dig pretty deep and consistently.

Got termites on your wooden furniture? Drag it outdoors and let it suntan while the termites die.

Kill termites: DIY Cardboard traps

Let’s move on to something a little tamer and domestic. A perfect DIY indoor killing method is to set up cardboard traps (or wood traps) to catch any roaming termites living in particular areas of your home.

The principle is simple – you take some cardboard strips or absorbent wood strips/panels and soak them in water to give it that damp luster that brings all the boys (termites) to your yard (home). Simply leave the baited trap out overnight or for a few nights and then dispose of it once the material has dried or is overflowing with greedy termites.

In terms of disposal; make sure to you get rid of it far away from your home to minimize the chance of any Leonardo DiCaprio-esque termites clawing their way back from death to wreak vengeance on your home. Most folk just burn the cardboard.

Kill termites: Orange oil

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It’s quite common for household pests to detest the scent and taste of citric acids and fruits; termites are no different when it comes to the chemical makeup of oranges… or rather, orange skins.

Inside the rind of an orange, the chemical compound D-limonene is found. If that’s ringing any bells for you, it’s because D-limonene is the active ingredient in most of the household cleaners you have stored under the kitchen sink. But it also doubles up as a brilliant killer of drywood termites (not dampwood or subterranean termites).

You can either purchase the chemical itself, or ‘orange oil’ which has a heavy dose of the substance in its ingredients list.

Now, obviously you can’t just coat your home in a layer of orange oil and hope for the best. Aside from anything else, you’d be slipping and sliding all over the kitchen. Orange oil is best used in specific areas that you’ve already identified as being termite hubs. Drill holes into the wood where the termites live and spray the natural termite killer. 

Think of it more like a seek and destroy option.

Kill termites: Cedar spray

To keep the more natural termite deterrent/killer theme going, let’s take a quick look at cedar essences, sprays and oils. If you’re new to the world of pest control then you might be surprised by how potent and all-encompassing cedar seems to be when it comes to combating nasty little beasties that harbor in our homes.

For some, it acts as a simple repellent (scorpions, for example) but when it comes to termites, things get a little more sinister. The overpowering scent of cedar is enough to actually shut down the termite’s breathing system, meaning they effectively suffocate when they come in contact with cedar sprays or oils.

You can buy cedar spray as, well… a spray which you can use to target specific areas or ad hoc termites you see hovering around your furniture, or you can buy it as a wood treatment for longer lasting protection – the choice is yours.

Note: cedar sprays are recommended, mostly, for killing subterranean and drywood termite species.

Kill termites: Electrocution

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We’re into the realm of seeking professional, qualified help with your termite infestation – electrocution. No, I’m afraid this doesn’t mean strapping each termite, one by one, to an electric chair and blasting it away; rather, the exterminator will come equipped with something akin to a cattle prod (except, much more technical and science-y).

Electrical currents will always follow the path of least resistance, which falls perfectly in line with termites and their tendency to dig out hollow tunnels and pathways in wood which (when combined with the moisture in the air of these tunnels) makes them a lightning rod for the current.

Now, most of these electrical currents are running at around 90,000 volts and it can be difficult to tell when a termite gallery or hive has even been struck – which is why a professional with the right equipment is 100% necessary for this technique.

Kill Termites: Extreme heat and cold

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The unconventional methods don’t stop there, however. Temperature can also be your friend, but again this method will require a qualified professional unless you want to burn your house down or turn it into an ice cavern.

Temperature increases and decreases are generally only effective for drywood termite colonies; so it may not be the ultimate solution for everybody. As with most of these methods, the actual application is fairly self-explanatory: termites cannot survive extreme heat or extreme cold.
Basically, the process involves the exterminator sealing off a particular area of your home where termite activity has been most troublesome – this will usually be in a small or fairly secluded space already, such as a crawl space or in your attic. The professional will then seal this area off, properly, to keep it insulated and then blast hot air (around 140 degrees!) into the space for half an hour or so.

Once the air has circulated a few times around the area and maintained its scorching heat – the termites will have roasted to death.

The process for cold treatment is similar, but in this instance the exterminator will use liquid nitrogen and it can take quite a bit longer, perhaps even days, with a resting temperature of around 15 degrees.

Depending on how bad your termite problem is, where the issue is located and the condition of your home, your exterminator will judge which type of treatment is necessary and talk you through the whole process before beginning. But remember, this isn’t a first step method! Try some cheap pesticides before going full Armageddon on them.

Kill termites: Outdoor pesticides

Speaking of which: outdoor pesticides are your insect exterminating bread and butter, which is why I always leave it to last. You’d have missed out on all the fun ways to kill them if you’d just stuck with some pesticides!

Now, naturally, outdoor pesticides are really only for subterranean termites – depending on the grade and potency of the toxins – and should only be used outdoors, rather than in the home. The application is fairly self-explanatory, but it will require you to have some knowledge of where your termites are… It’s neither great for your garden nor your wallet to just spray it liberally without any real target!

Due to the high toxicity of outdoor pesticides, it’s very important that you wear the correct safety gear, follow all labelled instructions and only dispense in favorable weather conditions.

Kill termites: Indoor pesticides

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There are, of course, some indoor pesticides which can be used safely around pets and children (caution is still required), such as foam or aerosol pesticides. These options are very much for very specific instances, however: locations that you know the termites are holed up in.

After you’ve fired from the hip and killed off any pockets of termites, you should always seal up the gap or space where you found them to try and cut down your risk of having to deal with a future termite colony in the same place. If you’ve used a foam solution, don’t be fooled into thinking that this will act as a permanent blockage – it won’t!

Note: most foam and aerosol pesticides are effective over all kinds of termite.

Phew. That’s your lot. It’s all over to you now – best of luck! Go forth and get rid of those termites!

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