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I recently purchased a LOT of cork. 5 quite large pieces of it. I recently discovered some of it has an ants nest inside of it. Although it's very cool to have your own ant nest, I'm afraid they need to go...

So I was wondering what is the best way to kill off any unwanted pests living inside? I heard that people use dry ice but I would prefer a cheap/free method. Should I soak them in the bath for a day or so to drown any invertebrates living inside? How do you guys do it?
 

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Oven might work. Dry ice would be effective due to the CO2. Water might. The issue would be the air bubbles that could be trapped inside.
 

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If you had access to an autoclave that would be the best, unfortunately, I am pretty sure most people do not have access to such things- but you never know.
 

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The only sure fire way to sterilize it is to heat the cork until it reaches an internal temperature of 150F + If the cork is small enough, you can do it in your oven, but it will probably stink up your house, and depending on what size nest is in the cork, you might end up with a lot of dead/flaming ants in the bottom of your oven.

A wood kiln would also work, but I'm guessing you have as much access to a wood kiln as you do an autoclave.
 

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If you had access to an autoclave that would be the best, unfortunately, I am pretty sure most people do not have access to such things- but you never know.
The autoclave is most likely the most effective form of sterilization on things like this, as other methods tend to only get through the surface and not to the center unless you spend a long time doing it, such as baking. An autoclave can be easily substituted for a pressure cooker as they are basically the same thing. I use my pressure cooker all the time to sterilize leaf litter and wood or rocks and it has always worked.

I will warn you now: DO NOT cook leaf litter inside, as the resulting scent from the water and steam will make your house smell like leaves and tea for DAYS.
 

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Absolutely do not use a pressure cooker with rocks. That is incredibly dangerous. Don't even boil them, bake them, or otherwise heat rocks. They can and frequently do explode.
 

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Keep in mind that boiling or other methods that use water are also going to result in the faster decomposition of the wood, leaves or other materials.

some comments

Ed
 

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Absolutely do not use a pressure cooker with rocks. That is incredibly dangerous. Don't even boil them, bake them, or otherwise heat rocks. They can and frequently do explode.
Yes, you are very correct on that. I strongly advise you do not heat rocks. When I did it(only once), I was sterilizing pea gravel, which was dry and pretty small, so I figured that it probably wouldn't explode. With large rocks I wash the dirt off and leave them out in the sun for a few weeks.
 

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Given the OP's original message of having 5 "quite large" pieces to disinfect, I don't think we should be talking about an autoclave or pressure cooker. Unless he has access to an industrial facility, he will not have access to equipment than can deal with large pieces of cork.

@Scarecrow - If you let the cork dry in an attic or other dry spot, the ants will die or leave. This will not _disinfect_ the wood but it will purge the nuisance you are worried about. You could also try submerging the pieces in a tub to encourage the ants to leave (or drown!).

After that, let the cork dry completely and then you should be safe enough to use it. Short of steaming, boiling or fumigating the material you won't fully disinfect it - but it will be likely clean enough not to cause you problems.
 

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If you can fit it in the oven do it, just heat them for a long time, do 250F over night. You may need to break pieces apart to get it to fit. I suggest full heat treating and sterilizing to the best of your ability anything you put in a tank to reduce chances of getting a pest.

CO2 bomb is a possibility but honestly its been ineffective for me in the past I simply do not trust it.

Some other options which may not work as well but could work would be.

Soak it in salt water for a long time, then soak in regular water to remove the salt.

Simply let it sit somewhere clean and dry for a long time. Unless they are eating the wood eventually they will need to find food and leave or die.


BTW I have autoclaved and heat treated cork multiple times. It still lasts pretty long in the tank, I have a tank that's more than 2 years old with autoclaved cork. No sign of issues so far, and I have older cork that was heat treated. Also a lot of autoclaves aren't very big either so if you are trying to source one check size too.
 
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