How to clean termite mud tubes?

One of the many after-effects of a termite invasion is the appearance of small, dirt-colored tubes running up the sides of your home.

Some people mistake these for cracks in their home’s foundation, but they are mud tubes, which termites use to travel between their nests and food sources.

If you see mud tubes on the side of your home, it’s a good indication that termites are already present. It’s also a good sign it’s doing significant damage to the structure of your home.

Termite mud tubes on a concrete wall

Cleaning termite mud tubes is a tricky business. If you disturb the tubes, the termites will build new ones.

Even if you clean them away, there’s no guarantee the termites won’t come back. The best way to deal with termite mud tubes is to understand when to clean, how to clean, what to use, and what to do after cleaning them.

What are Termite Mud Tubes?

A mud tube is a small, dirt-colored tube that subterranean termites build to travel from their nests to a food source.

The tubes are about the width of a pencil and are made of soil, saliva, and feces.

Subterranean termites use the tubes as transport channels for food and as a way to protect themselves from the sun, wind, and predators. They also help keep their bodies at a consistent temperature.

Mud tubes are one of the most common signs of a termite infestation. They are most commonly found on the exterior of buildings but can also be found inside.

Termite Inspections

If you see mud tubes around your home, having a professional inspect your property for termites is a good idea.

Types of Termite Mud Tubes

Subterranean termites’ mud tubes might look the same to your eyes, but they are different.

Just like we build tunnels for different purposes, these little pests also have different types of mud tubes. Some are for food, while others are for shelter.

Here are the four main types of termite mud tubes:

1. Exploratory Tubes

As the name suggests, these termite mud tubes are created by termites when they first infest a property. They are used as a way for the pests to explore their surroundings and find a suitable place to build their colony.

These types of tubes are usually thin and small and can be found in cracks or crevices in the foundation or walls of a home.

2. Shelter Tubes

Shelter tubes provide the termites with a protected environment where they can travel back and forth between their nests and food sources.

These tubes are usually thicker and taller than exploratory tubes. They are often found on the exterior of a home. The tubes also help to keep the termites hidden from predators.

3. Swarming Tubes

Termites use swarming tubes during their reproductive cycle. These tubes can be up to 12 inches in diameter.

Swarming tubes are typically found on a structure’s exterior or in areas with moisture.

The termites build these tubes to protect their swarmers (reproductive termites) from predators. The tubes also help to keep the swarmers hidden from the sun and wind.

4. Drop Tubes

Termites use drop tubes to travel from the ground to an elevated food source. You will mostly find them hanging from the ceiling or running down the wall.

These tubes are usually thin and small and can be multiple meters in length. They provide an alternative or shorter path for the termites to travel to their food source.

Drop tubes are typically found in areas or rooms with higher humidity levels and little disturbances.

Should You Remove Termite Mud Tubes?

You may be tempted to remove the mud tubes yourself before calling a professional, but this is not recommended.

Termite mud tubes are one of the most surefire signs of an infestation, and if you remove them without getting rid of the termites themselves, you could end up making the problem worse.

Trying to clean the termites’ mud tubes while the termites are still active won’t do you any good. A 2018 study shows that subterranean termites could quickly rebuild their mud tubes within 24 hours.

What’s more, if you disturb a mud tube, the termites inside will be alerted that something is not right.

They could decide to abandon their current food source and find a new one, which could end up inside your home. In addition, if you damage a mud tube, the termites could decide to build another one in its place.

The best thing to do if you see mud tubes on your property is to call a professional for help. A trained exterminator assesses the situation, determines the best course of action, and gets rid of the termites for good.

The good news is, with the availability of effective treatments, getting rid of termites isn’t that hard. However, once the termite problem is all done, you’ll need to take some precautionary steps to ensure they don’t come back.

These steps include:

  • Cleaning the termite mud tubes
  • Sealing any cracks or openings in your foundation
  • Eliminating sources of moisture around your home
  • Repairing any leaks in your plumbing

Taking these steps will help deter termites from returning to your home and will also help prevent other pests from getting inside.

How Do You Clean Termite Mud Tubes?

As mentioned above, the availability of effective treatments makes getting rid of termites less complicated.

While professionals will take care of cleaning all the mud tubes for you, if you do decide to do all the work yourself, you will be left with a mess of termite tubes to clean up.

So, how do you clean the termite tubes?

You want to take the process bits by bits and do it right, then leave a path for the termites to return. Cleaning the termite tubes is not complex, but it is time-consuming.

Here are the steps you need to take:

1. Gather your materials

Start by gathering all the necessary tools and materials for the job. This includes:

  • A putty knife: it will come in handy for removing the mud tubes
  • A wire brush: this will help you scrub away any remaining dirt and debris
  • A vacuum cleaner: this is for cleaning up the area after you have removed all the termites and their mud tubes
  • A bucket of soapy water: this is for cleaning the putty knife and wire brush after you are done

2. Remove the mud tubes

The termite muds tend to be found on your home’s walls, ceilings, and other hard surfaces. At times they are easy to remove by hand, but other times you may need extra force for the job.

Use the putty knife to scrape away at the mud tubes. You may need to use some force to get all of the mud off. Be sure to eliminate any that you see, no matter how small.

Once the mud tubes are removed, use the wire brush to scrub any remaining dirt and debris. Be sure to get into all the nooks and crannies. That’s where the termites are likely to hide.

You can also use a gas-powered pellet gun to blast away the mud tubes. Just be sure to use safe practices when handling the gun. It tends to be a messier and more time-consuming method, but it can be effective.

Caution: Be careful not to damage the wood while cleaning it. The last thing you want is to create a path for the termites to return. But you want to expose the surface to whatever is left to assess the damage.

3. Clean up the area

Use the vacuum cleaner to clean up the area, removing any remaining termites and their mud tubes.

Be sure to vacuum the area thoroughly. You don’t want to leave any termites behind. You want to ensure the area is as clean as possible to prevent the termites from returning.

4. Repair and Restore

Once the area is clean, you can start repairing and restoring any damage done. This may include sanding down rough edges, painting over damaged areas, and so on.

Be sure to repair any damage as soon as possible to prevent the termites from returning.

If the damage is too significant, you may need to replace the piece of wood entirely. This is something you will want to consult with a professional about. An expert will advise you on the best course of action.

5. Take preventive measures

Once you have gotten rid of the termites and their mud tubes, you will want to take preventive measures to ensure they don’t come back. This may include:

a) Eliminate sources of moisture around your home

Termites are attracted to moisture, so it’s crucial to eliminate any sources of moisture around your home.

Even though they use their saliva to break down wood, they still need water to survive and produce saliva and dung to create the mud tubes.

So, if you can eliminate sources of moisture, you will make it much harder for them to survive.

Some sources of moisture around your home include:

  • Leaky pipes
  • Damp crawl spaces
  • Condensation on windows
  • Wet foundation walls

b) Inspect your home regularly for termites

Make it a habit to inspect your home regularly for termites. This way, you can catch them early and get rid of them before they have a chance to do too much damage.

Ensure you check all the hard surfaces in your home. This is where they are most likely to build their mud tubes.

Some signs of termites include:

  • Mud tubes on the walls or ceilings
  • Discarded wings
  • Damaged wood

If you see any of these signs, be sure to call a professional to come and take a look. They will be able to confirm whether or not you have termites and advise you on the best course of action.

c) Keep trees and shrubs trimmed away from your home

Trees and shrubs can provide a path for termites to get to your home. So, it’s essential to keep them trimmed away from your home. This will make it much harder for the termites to get to your home and do damage.

d) Store firewood away from your home

If you have firewood, it’s essential to store it away from your home. This is because termites are attracted to wood, and if they find firewood near your home, they may be tempted to infest it.

You want to make it as hard as possible for them to get to your home, so storing firewood away from your home is a good idea.

e) Use termite-resistant wood for any new construction or repairs

There are some types of wood that are naturally resistant to termites. So, if you are doing any new construction or repairs, use termite-resistant wood. This will make it much harder for the termites to damage your home.

f) Regularly treat your home with a termiticide

A termiticide is a pesticide that is specifically designed to kill termites. So, if you regularly treat your home with a termiticide, you will be able to kill any present termites and prevent new ones from moving in.

This is one of the best ways to protect your home from termite damage.

g) Call a Professional

If you suspect you have termites, the best thing to do is call a professional for inspection and treatment. They will be able to correctly identify the problem and advise you on the best course of action.

Additionally, they will have the tools and experience to eliminate the termites and prevent them from returning correctly.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning termite mud tubes requires you to ensure the termites are gone and then take some preventive measures to ensure they don’t come back.

Once you get rid of the termites, only then can you start cleaning their mud tubes.

This will allow you to regain structural stability and assess the damage done so you can make the necessary repairs.

Take the necessary measure to prevent these pests from returning, and your home will be termite free in no time.