Fumigation kills insects using an odorless lethal gas from the chemical sulfuryl fluoride. As a warning precaution, trace amounts of tear gas (chloropicrin) are released at the time of fumigation since tear gas has a strong odor and causes eye and respiratory irritation. Fumigation must be carried out by a professional fumigator who will tent the entire outside of your home with large tarps, and fumigate with sulfuryl fluoride pumped through a special hose. Precautions must be taken when having your home fumigated.

Precautions Taken by the Homeowner

The homeowner should make sure all people, pets and plants are removed. Seal food and medicine in fume-bags provided by the fumigator. Remove all outside plants that are close to the home, and water the soil heavily to prevent the fumigant from getting into the soil. Remove weather vanes, chimney caps and antennas to allow for proper placement of the tent. Remove boards or posts of fences that abut the house so tarps can reach the ground. Remove waterproof covers from mattresses and pillows. Inform neighbors that you are fumigating so they can watch for thieves while you are away. Neighbors can help keep pets and children away from the fumigation site.

Precautions Taken by the Fumigators

The fumigator staff tents the outside of your home with plastic tarps Staff place long, cylindrical sandbags end-to-end along the home's foundation to seal the bottom of the tent and keep the gas inside. They open all drawers and cabinet doors to allow gas into the areas and back out again. This prevents gas from being trapped in closed spaces, which can be dangerous later when opened. Fumigator staff make sure no pilot lights are on to prevent a fire flareup. The staff places several powerful fans throughout the house to circulate gas to all areas under the tent. Then, staff secures the doors with secondary locks to ensure that no one re-enters until it is safe. The fumigator will place warning signs outside the home that it is unsafe for entry.

Precautions for Safe Re-Entry

The fumigator has sophisticated equipment that detects when the sulfuryl fluoride has dissipated. The fumigation time is usually between 16 and 24 hours. After fumigation, the fumigator will aerate your home by opening doors and windows, and running fans for a full hour. Then, the fumigator will secure the home again and allow another six to eight hours for final aeration. After the fumigator determines that the gas in the air is 5 parts per million or less, he will allow re-entry by posting a notice on the property that it is safe.