How can I heat my entire car up to and hold at 160 degrees?
January 3, 2019 12:02 PM   Subscribe

I have a project car that is in the garage in pieces. Car can be rolled. Said garage has been infested with raccoons and is effectively a raccoon latrine. I am literally scared to death of Baylisascaris. Washing is ineffective, bleaching only separates the eggs from the droppings. Heat is the only solution.

Literally, heat is the only solution. The CDC recommends torching the ground of a raccoon latrine.

That's all well and good, but I've got painted steel and aluminum and plastic bits. A 50/50 xylene/ethanol mixture also works but there are crevices where the solution might not get to, and again, the paint.

The kill temp for the eggs is 160F. I was thinking about building a PVC and Tyvek frame around the car and putting one of those propane space heaters in one end, but I don't know if that'll get the temp where I need it (or whether it will burn down my garage, which only solves 1 of my problems).

Any ideas?
posted by hwyengr to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wouldn't it be easier to get in touch with a pest control company and request professional assistance in post-infestation clean up?
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:05 PM on January 3, 2019 [14 favorites]

Don’t people do a similar thing for bedbugs? I think they get some sort of enclosed pod/trailer and put all their stuff inside and heat it up to kill the bedbugs. Maybe bedbug remediation companies might be a place to ask.
posted by Weeping_angel at 12:15 PM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Is the car going to survive a temperature of 160 degrees? I honestly don't know, but it sounds to me like you're proposing to destroy the car, and if that's the case, there are probably easier ways to be rid of it.
posted by Naberius at 12:15 PM on January 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

This is firmly in “call a professional” territory, but I’ll bite on the thought experiment. Tyvek is the wrong material, not because it won’t burn, but because it is expensive and doesn’t insulate.

I would fuse together Mylar sheets, because they insulate and reflect heat, (melting point around 280f I think?) with aluminum duct tape (not regular duct tape, which has a lower melting point). Lay a huge square where the car will be rolled into, and slowly build up the Mylar tent. I would guess that making it in the shape of a Quonset hut would be probably easiest? That way you’re only making two rectangles. Your heating element could really be anything, but electric would be safer than anything with flame. You could easily use a BBQ thermometer to monitor the temerpsture in the center of the tent.

But again, this seems wildly outside the DIY zone.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:16 PM on January 3, 2019 [7 favorites]

Ohhh! If you can roll it you should just get a rental shipping container that fits the car and place a heater inside. To reiterate, not a pro move. You might need pro moves.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:19 PM on January 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

It’s an early 80s car and the two rudimentary ECUs would be removed before any heat treatment. Not looking to destroy the car.
posted by hwyengr at 12:22 PM on January 3, 2019

I can't think of anything on a car that would be damaged by 160F.
I would remove the battery, which would power down any electronics.

For common commercial grades of medium- and high-density polyethylene the melting point is typically in the range 120 to 180 °C (248 to 356 °F). The melting point for average, commercial, low-density polyethylene is typically 105 to 115 °C (221 to 239 °F). These temperatures vary strongly with the type of polyethylene.

It might take quite a while, but a couple 1500 watt electric heaters should be able to get to 160F.

That takes care of the car. What about the garage?
posted by H21 at 12:51 PM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

160F is probably okay for the car. Lots of parts of the car get hotter than that either when operation, or when parked in the mid-day sun in Phoenix in August, which is something (most) car designers factor in.

I agree with others that Tyvek doesn't have enough insulation to do the job here. You might want to get some cheap lumber and thin plywood and basically build a rudimentary shed, with fiberglass batting insulation. (Maybe you can donate it to Habitat or something when you're done, if it's not contaminated in any way.)

Also, I would use electric heaters rather than propane. Running propane (or any other unvented-combustion) heaters in a sealed space is no bueno—as the heaters start to consume the available oxygen, they will start producing CO instead of CO2. Less efficient and also dangerous.

TBH, if you can roll the car, maybe you can just take it to a place with a paint booth and bake it there? I think most paint booths for automotive paint can get up above 160F. You might need to ask around because I think there are low-temperature-curing paints that are increasingly popular, but a place that's been around for a while ought to have a booth with one of the older high-temperature systems.

But on further thought... Have you considered a steam gun instead of heating the entire car? Sunbelt and other similar industrial rental places will rent you a steam cleaner—this is a thing that looks more like a power washer than a clothing steamer—and you could blast away. Depending on the ambient temperature and humidity, the surfaces might not even be left all that wet. I think this is a much easier route than trying to bake an entire car. You can also use it in the garage where the car was stored.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:54 PM on January 3, 2019 [8 favorites]

You want to bake this car and garage to get rid of roundworms. I read the CDC site, including the .pdf. I would have someone wear protective gear and clean as recommended, then use boiling water. I'd want to get the garage very clean, flushing the floor with soapy water, then vinegar, probably also some enzyme cleaner to reduce the likelihood that they be drawn back by the smell.

If you are still concerned, tent the affected area with large tarps, and put several fans and radiators in the space, plus a thermometer, and a smoke alarm. I have a thermometer sensor outdoors that gives a reading indoors, these are not hard to find. You could possibly use a propane heater. You would have to monitor very closely to avoid fire, and I would have a hose and fire extinguisher handy, along with a phone for 911.

Steam cleaner is an excellent idea.
posted by theora55 at 12:57 PM on January 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

Tow it to Arizona and then get a blowdrier or plug-in heater for the last few degrees.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:20 PM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I had thought of steam cleaner but I've had the hood off for extended periods and am nearly certain that droppings have gotten into or near the HVAC air intake. I want the deepest bowels of this car at 160 before I tear everything out and scrub.
posted by hwyengr at 1:21 PM on January 3, 2019

This is something museums sometimes do to new acquisitions to disinfest them before bringing them into a warehouse, there's a paper with instructions on how to build a 'solar tent' for this purpose on
posted by Jairus at 1:29 PM on January 3, 2019 [11 favorites]

Here are the required materials, just to give you a sense of the build:

- Ground insulation (120 x 120 cm): polystyrene, old newspaper, fibre, rock wool
- Floorboard: matt black (125 x 125 cm) plywood, boards
- Corner block (brick, stone) wrapped in black plastic, raising the frame, circa 16 cm high (4x)
- Support block (brick, stone) wrapped in black plastic, circa 12 cm high (4x), with a metal grill, for example refrigerator shelves
- Timber post: matt black (70 x 7 x 3.5 cm)(4x)
- Timber cross support: matt black (100 x 4 x 2 cm)(8x)
- Bolt and nut (8 x 100 mm) with washers, to attach cross supports to posts (8x)
- Plate mending or hinges, to connect posts (2x)
- Cardboard inner roof (54 x 100 cm) painted matt black, with 3 vertical white stripesof 10 cm width (2x)
- Cardboard bottom flap (17 x 100 cm), painted matt black with 3 vertical whitestripes of 10 cm width (2x)
- Cardboard top flap (12 x 100 cm), painted matt black with 3 vertical white stripes of 10 cm width (2x)
- Clear outer roof: first layer polyethylene sheet, 0.10 mm thick (3 x 3 m)
- Clear outer roof: second layer polyethylene sheet, 0.10 mm thick (3 x 3 m)
- Cardboard triangle (110 x 55 cm), painted matt black with 3 vertical white stripes of 10 cm width
- Scotch tape
- Clips to attach outer tent to floorboard
posted by Jairus at 1:31 PM on January 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Why not contact a place that does bedbug heat treatments and see if they can do this? They would have a space that they can bring to temperature and keep there, and it would be safer and probably slightly cheaper than getting all this stuff together.
posted by Frowner at 1:51 PM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

You need to sanitise both car and garage, right? This includes benches, tools, walls/floors ... ?

Just treat the whole volume in one go - get a (or a couple of) industrial space heaters from your local equipment hire shop, set them up under the garage door so they are drawing air from outside (sealing the rest of the opening as best you can), set up your thermometer, and you are good to go. Take care to direct the heaters so the hottest air is not directed anywhere it will do damage. Monitor temperature, and reduce heat to maintain temperature at or just above the minimum necessary, and make sure you keep that temperature long enough to get everything heat soaked to that temperature. This might mean you will need to replace/refill the gas bottle(s), so watch your gas consumption. You also need to think carefully about where you place the thermometer probe to get best results.

After that, you can do a physical cleaning to remove any crud, which hopefully now is harmless.
posted by GeeEmm at 2:39 PM on January 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Call a disaster recovery company. They will have a lot of alternatives to heat. From a site that specializes in Raccoon issues:

...via a special electric-powered atomizing mist machine, which dispenses a special enzyme-based biohazard cleaner. This cleaner destroys organic matter specifically, without affecting the structure. It kills the pathogens and breaks down urine, grease, and animal feces, effectively "digesting" it with time. It renders the waste inert...

Whereas cooking a car would be a novel experience, I do not think you will like the end result.
posted by bkeene12 at 3:52 PM on January 3, 2019 [10 favorites]

Is there not a way you could hook a few electric space heaters up to a thermostat set to 165, and let them simmer for several hours? Use a non-contact thermometer and a respirator to verify that all surfaces are at 160 F.
posted by a halcyon day at 10:54 PM on January 3, 2019

hwyengr: "The kill temp for the eggs is 160F. I was thinking about building a PVC and Tyvek frame around the car and putting one of those propane space heaters in one end, but I don't know if that'll get the temp where I need it (or whether it will burn down my garage, which only solves 1 of my problems)."

As mentioned you want to go electric rather than a fuel burning heat.

If it was me I'd build a box out of rigid foam (which can just be duct taped together) large enough to fit the car. Use a remote temperature probe designed for cooking meat to monitor the temp. Use one or two fan forced space heaters (maybe set the heaters on a piece of ply wood for stability). Cranker 'er up and wait. Shouldn't take long and you can "regulate" the temperature around 160 degrees by plugging and unplugging the heater.

For maximum safety I'd do this in my driveway and not my garage.
posted by Mitheral at 10:38 PM on January 4, 2019

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