The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Unwelcome Life Forms

mse1152's picture

Unwelcome Life Forms

Good day all,

To my dismay, I pulled two bannetons down from a cabinet today and discovered evidence of critters:  one dead bug, several small holes in the flour still in the basket, and some webby stuff (clearly, I hadn't used these in several months).  I dry scrubbed them with a stiff nylon brush, and am contemplating my next steps.  I think I can use only plain water to salvage them, since I assume bleach or detergent would remain in the canes and then seep into the next batch of dough.  Has anyone had to mess with this before?  I'm thinking boiling water and more scrubbing might do it.  ???



thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

Hi Sue,

Put them in the dishwasher; hi-temp wash; no detergent; no heated dry.

Take them out as soon as they're done and put them in front of a fan (or other forced air source).

Microbeasties love moisture, so dry them thoroughly. Let me repeat that: dry them thoroughly. Let me repeat that one more time: dry them thoroughly. OK, we're good.

I thought water could/would ruin them, but not so in my experience. I've given my own bannetons and brotforms the same treatment, and they're as happy as ever. And I have a lot of them.


mse1152's picture


That's a great suggestion, but it means we'd have to buy a dishwasher!  If I can't find a willing neighbor to do this for me, I think I may use repeated dousings with boiling water and more scrubbing, then thorough air-drying, as you have described.  I believe this happened because I didn't let the bannetons dry out after using them...I just stuck them back into a plastic shopping bag and into the cabinet.  (Is everyone pulling out their bannetons and checking them right now???)


thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

One a can't help you with, sadly.

Maybe hot water dousing and scrubbing would do it.

Careful with those plastic bags if the banneton isn't thoroughly dry. They'll just hold the moisture in and encourage the beasties (and they're always there).

I once washed all of my pastry brushes and put them in a sealed ziploc. Two weeks later, I had a bag of mold so astonishing that I was tempted to call the Centers for Disease Control. ;)

Moisture is the enemy.

Clean them and then keep them very dry and you should be fine.

indiesicle's picture

at work with cold water and a stiff nylon brush. Then I put them on top of the pizza oven for an hour or so to dry. I realize you probably don't have a pizza oven handy but any dry warm air will do. This has worked well for me. I used to put them in a 250F oven for a while at home and that worked as well. You can also put them in the sun for a while too. Nasty bugs don't seem to enjoy the sun :D


ssorllih's picture

I keep flour and other baking supplies on my sail boat for months at a time. Just placing them in a closed plastic container with a small piece of dry ice will fumigate them. Just an ounce or two will fill a gallon container and kill every oxygen breathing critter in there.

clazar123's picture

The colder the better, if you have a deep freeze. Wash,thoroughly dry, freeze for a week or so. Should work.

I like the dry ice idea, if it is available. I'll have to remember that. That is a suggestion for long term storage of grain in bucket. Make sure you have a bucket lid that can hold an airtight seal then throw a piece of dry ice in the bottom and seal it up. It fills up with carbon dioxide and kills the oxygen breathers, as ssorllih says.

mse1152's picture

Thanks everyone!  I think I'll try boiling water, scrub, dry in a low oven, and freeze (we have an upright freezer that hovers around zero degrees).  The last place I bought dry ice from had a ten pound minimum, and that's more than I'd need for this, though I didn't know that would work too.  Now I've learned my new thing for the day.


Yerffej's picture

More important that basket maintenance is making certain that these little friends of yours do not infest your kitchen.


ssorllih's picture

Most of these beasties come in to your house in the form of eggs in the flour. That was one of the reasons early on for bleaching.

LindyD's picture

First, welcome to TFL, ssorllih.

Just wanted to correct some misinformation you posted:  bleaching flour has nothing to do with killing bugs.  The sole reason flour is bleached is to speed up the aging/oxidizing  process.  Natural aging takes three or four weeks.  Chemically bleached flour "ages" within a day or two.  

Unbleached and bleached flours are equally attractive to flour weevils.

gerhard's picture

Put them in the oven after baking, let it cool for half hour and then put them in for a few hours.  Scrape and brush them before and after they go in the oven.  I have never had the bugs but clean the baskets after every use and do the heat treatment a couple of times a year.  I don't know that washing them is a great idea.  



Doc.Dough's picture

Gerhard has the answer.  A couple of hours at 200°F in your oven will solve the problem of any residual life.  A good brushing with  brass, or stainless steel (check in the paint department at your local hardware store for toothbrush size scrubbers) will remove any surface residue (before and after heating).

I would guess that you probably have weevils in the house and will need to do some real work to get rid of them (irrespective of how they came in).