The best ways to naturally get rid of silverfish in your home and keep them away for good.
What are Silverfish?
Otherwise known as “fishmoths,” silverfish are about 1/2 inch long with a scaly appearance and range from pale silver (young ones) to dark silver-blue (old ones). Although they don’t live in aquariums, their bodies are shiny and wriggle, making them resemble fish quite a lot.
But, unlike fish, they have an exoskeleton and two antennae on their heads and three prongs on their tails. If you’re a Star Trek fan, you know that the bug Khan puts in Chekhov’s ear looks a lot like silverfish.
If You’ve Seen One, You’ve Got More
Silverfish are rapid breeders. Females can lay between 2 and 20 eggs each day, and their larvae reach the adult breeding stage in a month. In other words, one male and one female silverfish can turn into thousands in a season.
Why Are There Silverfish in Your Home?
Silverfish are chewing insects that are considered nuisance pests. So, they aren’t dangerous to humans or pets, but they can cause damage. They do this by chewing on papers, contaminating food, and staining clothing or other fabrics with their feces.
Where do Silverfish Live in Your Home?
Silverfish prefer dark, damp, moist areas — as do a variety of other household pests. Fortunately, this means that your efforts to get rid of them will also kill off many other bugs in your home too. The best places to look for them are dark, damp areas like beneath sinks, especially in bathrooms, laundry rooms, basements, closets, and attics.
What do Silverfish Eat?
Silverfish love the taste of paper and wet wood. Starchy foods are another favorite, including the glues used in book bindings and wallpaper adhesive. That’s why you’ll often find them around books, magazines, cardboard boxes, and damp or rotting window sills.
Steps to Get Rid of Silverfish
As with any form of natural pest control, you need to be diligent to get rid of silverfish in your home. A thorough cleanup may help reduce their numbers, but some will find hiding spots in your home. With consistent effort over several weeks, you’ll eliminate those silverfish naturally, too.
1. Toss the trash. The less clutter you have, the fewer places there are for silverfish to hide. Toss old newspapers and magazines, transfer dry foods from cardboard boxes to canisters and get rid of paper bags or empty boxes you’ve let pile up.
2. Vacuum thoroughly. Vacuuming gets rid of food crumbs and other things that attract silverfish. It will also remove their eggs, which can be difficult to see. Use your crevice attachment around baseboards, follow by vacuuming soft furnishings, and then clean the remainder of the floor. (Thoroughly clean your vacuum afterward to get rid of any insect eggs you’ve picked up.)
3. Set traps. Wrap a tall glass jar with masking tape, which gives the bugs traction to climb, and put a piece of bread in the bottom of the glass. The silverfish will climb in to eat the starchy bread, but the jar’s slick interior will keep them from crawling out. You can also purchase sticky traps* to capture them. Replace the traps every 3-4 days for two weeks.
4. Apply Diatomaceous Earth (DE). This non-toxic powder is made from crumbled sedimentary rock containing silica derived from the fossilized remains of organisms called diatoms. It’s effective against silverfish and many other pests. Most importantly, it’s non-hazardous for humans or pets when used correctly.
To use diatomaceous earth for natural household pest control, sprinkle it lightly around your baseboards, behind appliances, and beneath sinks. DE works by shredding insects’ exoskeletons and intestinal tracts when they walk through it, so they can’t eat and quickly dehydrate. (Find Diatomaceous earth here or at your local garden center.)
Ways to Keep Silverfish Out of Your Home
Following these tips diligently should rid your home of silverfish within two weeks.
1. Spray with smells silverfish don’t like. Silverfish do not enjoy the smell of oranges and other citrus, cinnamon, or lavender. Using essential oils in these scents is an excellent way to keep silverfish away. Try adding them to this homemade all-purpose cleaner. Spray it in kitchen and bathroom cupboards, under sinks, and around baseboards. Avoid using cinnamon and citrus around pets.
2. Use homemade pest control sachets. Additional scents silverfish avoid include cedar, cloves, and bay leaves. Pick up sachet bags* and stuff them with cedar shavings or these spices. Put the sachets in closets and cupboards, and tuck them on shelves behind books to keep the areas pest-free. You may have read that leaving cucumber peels lying around your home will repel silverfish, but you should know that solution may bring other pests like mice.
3. Caulk and seal. In warm weather, silverfish will enter your home looking for a cool, damp spot. To keep them out, look for gaps around your windows and beneath doors. Look around spots where pipes and utilities like cable or landline phone wires enter, too. Seal any gaps you find with caulk or weatherstripping.
4. Control the humidity. Like many household pests, silverfish like moist environments. They require humidity between 75-90% to survive, which is why you’ll often find them in damp basements or utility closets. To repel silverfish, use a dehumidifier to keep your home’s humidity levels between 30 and 50%. You can also tuck open boxes of chalk in damp areas like under sinks or your laundry room to absorb excess moisture. Replace them monthly.
5. Control the temperature. Silverfish thrive in temperatures between 71 and 90°F (22-33° C). Lower temperatures make them sluggish, and freezing temperatures kill them. Of course, you don’t want your home’s temperatures to reach freezing levels since that could lead to burst pipes, but combining the other steps to eliminate silverfish with a lowered thermostat setting can help you quickly get rid of an infestation.
6. Clean regularly. Once you’ve properly stored foods and sealed entrances, silverfish can still survive in your home for up to 8 years. Though they prefer starchy foods, they’ll also eat paper, dead skin cells, and other debris. To starve them out, follow a weekly cleaning routine that includes washing bed linens, dusting, and vacuuming thoroughly. If you have a home library, be sure to clean your books and bookshelves regularly, too.
More Tips to Repel Silverfish
- Store out-of-season clothing in sealed containers. Proper clothing storage deprives pests of food sources and nesting spots.
- Try boric acid. Sprinkle it in the same places you’d put diatomaceous earth, but be aware that it is harmful to human and pet health if inhaled or ingested.
- Ventilate storage areas often. Since silverfish and other pests are drawn to damp, undisturbed areas. Air out basements, storage closets, and other similar spots to discourage infestations.
- Keep brush and debris away from your foundation. Triming shrubs and raking leaves around the foundation of your home is a great way to repel insects and rodents.