Volume 7, Number 1, Jan. 1985, pp.6-7

Fumigation for Insect Control: Sensitive Structures, Museums and Art and Valuables Repositories

by William J. Arnold

The process of structural and space fumigation in museums, homes and other repositories for valuables, artifacts and art objects for the control of destructive insect pests is an effective, complex procedure and should only be attempted by well trained, expert fumigators who are completely knowledgeable in the art of fumigation.

The fumigation process can be hazardous and destructive if it is not conducted in a proper manner with full consideration for product label and extended labeling instructions.

Of the two structural fumigants available to use for this purpose, Vikane(r) (sulfuryl fluoride) should be given first consideration because of its relative trouble-free nature. Methyl bromide, on the other hand, has many chemical characteristics which may be detrimental to structures, valuables, equipment and to many forms of art.

In spite of the physical characteristics that make Vikane a near perfect structural fumigant when used in a manner completely consistent with label use directions; unacceptable damage and problems to structures, equipment, valuables and art can and have resulted many times during the history of its use because of the careless misuse of this product.

This paper is concerned only with the problems involved with the use of Vikane for controlling insect pests of sensitive structures, museums, and valuables and art repositories.

Physical Properties - Vikane

structural formula

       F -  S  - F

color                 none
odor                  none
boiling point         -67°. F
solubility, water     very low
solubility, oils      very low

Physical Properties- Methyl Bromide

structural formula

       H -  C - Br

color                 none
odor                  none
boiling point         42°. F
solubility, water     low
solubility, oils      high

Insects Controlled by Vikane

Other Pests Controlled by Vikane

Precautions for the Use of Vikane

Two major problems confronting the fumigator of sensitive structures, valuables and art objects are fire and water!


Sources of heat in the range of 500°. F such as pilot lights, open flames, electrical elements and heating units if left on during the process of fumigation, will convert Vikane into hydrofluoric acid according to the reaction shown below.

       F -  S -  F

        | FLAME  |
       \/        \/

HYDROFLUORIC ACID (causes corrosion, glass etching)


SULPHUR DIOXIDE (causes tarnish)

This acid can cause glass etching, staining and metal tarnish. To avoid these problems, all sources of heat in the 500°. F range must be eliminated from the structure during fumigation.


Because of the characteristic of Vikane to have a boiling point of -67°. F; if great care and a full understanding of the application of this product is not exercised, then problems may result. As the gas is being released from the cylinder and converts from the liquid state to the gaseous state, a resulting rapid drop in temperature takes place in the vicinity of the shooting hose inside the structure. This may result in the presence of visible water (fog) being generated. The amount of fog generated will be greatly increased by shooting the gas too fast and/or by conditions of high relative humidity within the structure. This fog that may be generated by the misapplication of the fumigant in conjunction with trace amounts of a corrosive impurity in Vikane, can be highly corrosive and staining to any items with which it comes into contact inside the structure. Extreme caution and proper shooting methods must be employed to avoid these problems of glass etching, staining, corrosion and tarnish.

Vikane can be successfully used for trouble-free insect control in museums, homes and other repositories for valuables and art if strict compliance to the Vikane label is adhered to and if the fumigator has a full understanding of the proper procedures of structural fumigation.

(This paper is not to be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author... WJA/11/84)

William J. Arnold
Structural Pest Control Consultant

William J. Arnold, the author of Fumigation for Insect Control, was formerly employed for a period of thirty-two years with Dow Chemical which manufactures Vikane and Methyl Bromide. He worked in the capacity of pesticide Research and Developer and as a sales person. He is currently a consultant in the structural pest control industry.

Mr. Arnold would be glad to answer any questions. Please write 5527 Layton St., Alta Loma, CA 91701 or phone (714) 989-7277.

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