Figuring out how to get rid of silverfish can be frustrating because they prefer scurrying around in the dark and are quick to hide when you turn on the lights.
This guide explains ways to get rid of a silverfish infestation. You’ll learn what’s attracting them to your home, plus which essential oils and natural ingredients will get rid of them, and how to make traps to kill the ones you don’t see.
How to Get Rid of Silverfish
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 a 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. Unlike fish, however, they have an exoskeleton along with two antennae on their heads and three prongs on their tails.
If You’ve Seen One, You’ve Got More
Silverfish are rapid breeders. Females can lay between 2 and 20 eggs each day throughout the year, and their larvae reach the adult (breeding) stage in three to four months.
In other words, thanks to their rapid life cycle, one male and one female silverfish can create a nasty infestation in a couple of weeks.
Where do Silverfish Live?
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.
They love the taste of paper and wet wood. You’ll typically find them around books, magazines, cereal boxes, storage boxes, and behind wallpaper, along with damp or rotting window sills or cupboards.
The best places to look for them are:
- Under sinks
- Laundry room
Steps to Get Rid of Silverfish
1. Toss the trash. 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. Set a trap. 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. Set this trap beneath kitchen or bathroom sinks, in your laundry room, or anywhere else you’ve seen them. 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.
3. Try 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 is effective against silverfish as well as many other household pests. Most importantly, it’s non-hazardous for humans or pets when used correctly.
Sprinkle it lightly around baseboards, behind appliances, and beneath sinks where it will kill the bugs after they walk through the powder. (Find Diatomaceous earth here or at your local garden center.)
3. 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. (Find out how to clean your vacuum afterward to get rid of any insect eggs you’ve picked up.)
How to Keep Silverfish Away
1. Wipe and spray. Silverfish do not enjoy the smell of citrus, cinnamon, or lavender. Put this to your advantage by using essential oils. Here is a homemade all-purpose cleaner to which you can add one or more to repel silverfish. Use it to clean kitchen cupboards inside and out, along with appliances, cabinets under sinks, and baseboards.
2. Caulk and seal. In warm areas, silverfish live outdoors but enter homes when the temperatures rise and the soil dries out. Look around your windows and beneath your doors for gaps that silverfish can crawl through, and seal them with caulk or weatherstripping.
3. Dehumidify. Since silverfish like moist environments, you can reduce your home’s appeal by using a whole-house dehumidifier in the summer. For spot treatment under sinks, in cupboards, or in closets, try leaving a box of chalk open to absorb moisture and replace it monthly.
4. Spice it up. Cedar doesn’t just repel moths, it keeps silverfish away, too. So do cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaves. Pick up sachet bags and stuff them with one or more of these spices. Put them in closets and cupboards, and tuck them on shelves behind books to keep the areas pest-free.
Following these tips diligently should rid your home of silverfish within two weeks.