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Thread: Curing branches etc. for your enclosures! DIY

  1. #1
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    Default Curing branches etc. for your enclosures! DIY

    Since I've seen many past questions on how to cure wood and other things for use in all of your vivariums, I thought I'd share a quick outline of some of the many ways to effectively cure wood and branches.

    1.

    1:10 Bleach solution. This is probably one of the most effective ways, and works well for spraying on with a bottle. You can also soak in a bleach solution, though for this, more dilute is probably better. It is necessary to rinse the wood, stones, or branches multiple times after, to ensure no more chlorine bleach remains on the pieces.

    2. Alcohol.

    No. Not the drinking kind Most commonly available is isopropanol, which comes at about 70% in rubbing alcohol. Isopropanol is mildly more toxic (MSDS is usually 1.3.0) than recommended ethanol (yes, the kind you drink in low concentrations), but much less so than bleach. I would still recommend diluting it, maybe 1:3 parts water. Alcohol is best used to spray on, and it generally will evaporate after. If isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) is used, you may want to give it one good rinse before using it with your animals. On the other hand, ethanol can be sprayed directly on with a spray bottle, and doesn't require any dilution. It works extremely well and leaves nothing behind. If you can get "100%" ethanol, I highly recommend it.

    3. Heat treating.

    This is really common way to get rid of any pathogens or the like. Simply "baking" a piece of wood at 200 degrees F for 5-15 minutes based on size should be sufficient. Unfortunately, leaf matter and more flammable pieces cannot be cured this way.

    4. Boiling water.

    Supposing you can find a pot large enough for the branch you want to cure, it works well. If you can't, pouring scalding water over it works well too.

    5. Microwaving.

    This works very well for soil, leaf litter, peat, and any kind of heavily porous/particulate dry matter. For 50 ml (or 100 grams or so) of dry matter, I microwave on high or about 45 seconds. If what you are microwaving anything excessively dry, I'd recommend misting it, as the waves inside the microwave act only on the water molecules.

    6. Freezing.

    I'm lucky enough to work at a lab where I have an industrial -80 degree Celcius freezer. I personally have never used it to cure anything, but the small household work very much the same way. If you live in a very warm climate (never dropping below 40 degrees F in the coldest months), freezing branches works well - FL, HA, SoCal, TX... etc. If you are from a more temperate climate, this method will not work on wood products. If however you would like to ensure moss has no potential threats, you can put it in the freezer for a few hours. This works best when it is collected at warmer temperatures, so that most of the insects and "bugs" (ie bacteria and protozoa) have had time to become active and their egg stages have already morphed into adulthood, as they are more succeptible to cold temperatures.

    * These treatments are most effective when used alongside another, for example, freezing a soil sample then microwaving it will kill pests more thoroughly. Similarly, treating with boiling water and then baking, or washing with alcohol and then rinsing with very hot water.

    On the same note:

    - Always rinse thoroughly before baking anything treated with bleach. Chlorine bleach has a violent chemical change at an elevated temperature.

    - Do not bake items cured with alcohol. 3-Carbon alcohols (and less) are extremely flammable, with flash points under 100 degrees F.

    - When in doubt, if the branch or item still smells like bleach/alcohol, rinse again.

    Good luck, and feel free to contact me with any questions, also feel free to add any methods you have of curing and sterilizing things for your enclosures!

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    GREAT info, very helpful! I will be using this post today, actually.
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    Gotta keep this thread handy, thanks alot!

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    Thought this was worthy of a quick bump

    K

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    If I use branches from outside, I rinse them thoroughly, toss them in the oven at 220 degrees, cook for at least an hour, take out, cool down, spray with Chlorhexidine, and then rinse them thoroughly again.

    Though maple is completely safe to use with these guys, I find the sap a pain in the butt because when it cooks, it stinks up your ENTIRE house.

    I find my outside branches tend to mold faster inside enclosures as well.

    Any suggestions to keep them from molding as much?

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    Molding is natural. The trick is leaving the branches in past the mold-phase. It just means they're aging properly. However, some types of wood mold much less, typically those which are harder. I personally use oak, since unlike maple and other softer "hardwoods", it does not exude an alkaloid (the sticky white substance).

    K

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    hahaha K! I love the pictorial!! Good info to pass on! Thanks!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Panther View Post
    Since I've seen many past questions on how to cure wood and other things for use in all of your vivariums, I thought I'd share a quick outline of some of the many ways to effectively cure wood and branches.

    1.

    1:10 Bleach solution. This is probably one of the most effective ways, and works well for spraying on with a bottle. You can also soak in a bleach solution, though for this, more dilute is probably better. It is necessary to rinse the wood, stones, or branches multiple times after, to ensure no more chlorine bleach remains on the pieces.

    2. Alcohol.

    No. Not the drinking kind Most commonly available is isopropanol, which comes at about 70% in rubbing alcohol. Isopropanol is mildly more toxic (MSDS is usually 1.3.0) than recommended ethanol (yes, the kind you drink in low concentrations), but much less so than bleach. I would still recommend diluting it, maybe 1:3 parts water. Alcohol is best used to spray on, and it generally will evaporate after. If isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) is used, you may want to give it one good rinse before using it with your animals. On the other hand, ethanol can be sprayed directly on with a spray bottle, and doesn't require any dilution. It works extremely well and leaves nothing behind. If you can get "100%" ethanol, I highly recommend it.

    3. Heat treating.

    This is really common way to get rid of any pathogens or the like. Simply "baking" a piece of wood at 200 degrees F for 5-15 minutes based on size should be sufficient. Unfortunately, leaf matter and more flammable pieces cannot be cured this way.

    4. Boiling water.

    Supposing you can find a pot large enough for the branch you want to cure, it works well. If you can't, pouring scalding water over it works well too.

    5. Microwaving.

    This works very well for soil, leaf litter, peat, and any kind of heavily porous/particulate dry matter. For 50 ml (or 100 grams or so) of dry matter, I microwave on high or about 45 seconds. If what you are microwaving anything excessively dry, I'd recommend misting it, as the waves inside the microwave act only on the water molecules.

    6. Freezing.

    I'm lucky enough to work at a lab where I have an industrial -80 degree Celcius freezer. I personally have never used it to cure anything, but the small household work very much the same way. If you live in a very warm climate (never dropping below 40 degrees F in the coldest months), freezing branches works well - FL, HA, SoCal, TX... etc. If you are from a more temperate climate, this method will not work on wood products. If however you would like to ensure moss has no potential threats, you can put it in the freezer for a few hours. This works best when it is collected at warmer temperatures, so that most of the insects and "bugs" (ie bacteria and protozoa) have had time to become active and their egg stages have already morphed into adulthood, as they are more succeptible to cold temperatures.

    * These treatments are most effective when used alongside another, for example, freezing a soil sample then microwaving it will kill pests more thoroughly. Similarly, treating with boiling water and then baking, or washing with alcohol and then rinsing with very hot water.

    On the same note:

    - Always rinse thoroughly before baking anything treated with bleach. Chlorine bleach has a violent chemical change at an elevated temperature.

    - Do not bake items cured with alcohol. 3-Carbon alcohols (and less) are extremely flammable, with flash points under 100 degrees F.

    - When in doubt, if the branch or item still smells like bleach/alcohol, rinse again.

    Good luck, and feel free to contact me with any questions, also feel free to add any methods you have of curing and sterilizing things for your enclosures!
    Panther,
    Very good post! However I just wanted to add something. I have never used the bleach or anything like that, I simply just bake them at 400 F for an hour. However what I wanted to add was I have baked dead/dry leaves for about 10 minutes and they have worked just fine. IF YOU DO THIS, THOUGH MONITOR THEM VERY CAREFULLY!

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    Thanks Armen

    Just as a note, the flash point of dry wood is 572 F, and considerably lower for less dense materials (i.e. paper or leaves being around 450 F). So if you bake, it is safer to wet the material you are curing, or bake much lower than the flash point. And at 150 F, it already exceeds the temperature most bacteria/protozoans found on natural items outdoors can tolerate.

    K

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    Quote Originally Posted by Panther View Post
    Thanks Armen

    Just as a note, the flash point of dry wood is 572 F, and considerably lower for less dense materials (i.e. paper or leaves being around 450 F). So if you bake, it is safer to wet the material you are curing, or bake much lower than the flash point. And at 150 F, it already exceeds the temperature most bacteria/protozoans found on natural items outdoors can tolerate.

    K
    Very good post. I agree completely

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