How To Get Rid Of Silverfish Naturally

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The best ways to naturally get rid of silverfish in your home and keep them away for good.

A single silverfish is an indication there are more in your home

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.

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27 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for posting this advice. Not only is it really detailed and helpful, but it made me laugh too! (I watched that episode on Star Trek too!)
    Good luck!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      That episode still makes me shudder. LOL

  2. Hello.
    Thank you for this!
    I currently work in a bookstore and I stumbled on one of these two days ago.
    Didn’t know they eat paper.
    Now I’m panicking.?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Bookstores usually have excellent humidity and temperature control systems, so chances are you don’t need to worry about silverfish multiplying too much. They may have come in on a shipping carton.

    2. Like Jasmine, I think they are in our mattress. Haven’t seen one there but have hard black specks on the bottom sheet. I’ve put Deeck patches,cedar planks and lavender between the mattress and mattress pad and the box springs. I will gladly try whatever you suggest.
      I’m in my eighties so I am grateful for all your excellent information and wish I had it many years ago. I’ve introduced you to my daughters and granddaughters.

  3. Can I use the orange essential oil in my cupboard drawers containing kitchen gadgets, rubber spatulas etc.? What about the cutlery drawer?
    Does using the essential oil actually kill the silverfish or repel them?
    How often should I repeat the use of the orange essential oil?
    Thank you so much! ?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Francine,
      The orange essential oil doesn’t kill them, it just repels them so they stay away. You can use it in my homemade cleaning spray in place of other essential oils in your gadget and cutlery drawers as part of your regular cleaning process.

    2. I am certain I have an infestation in my home. First I was finding them in my babys room, now kitchen, bathrooms, even in the bed and couch! Help!! I am so clean that this is stressing this mama out.

  4. Sarah brotherton says:

    Will lemon wipes work for my bathroom

  5. Hi
    How’s the best way to get rid of the silverfish if you have it in the bathroom on carpet please.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Tania,
      I’m afraid this is one of the reasons why carpeting in the bathroom is not a good idea. If you can’t get rid of the carpet, you might want to steam clean it using vinegar and water, then run a floor fan continuously to make sure the carpet dries thoroughly. After that, make sure the bathroom carpet does not get damp, and that your bathroom is properly ventilated.
      Best of luck!

  6. I just found silver fish in a locked metal box where I keep important papers. Would it help to put in a couple of those little packets you get in pill bottles to help absorb moisture? This is in my closet and I already have something in there that absorbs moisture into a plastic container.
    Thanks.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Sue,
      Using a silica gel packet like you described can certainly help reduce moisture. I’d also recommend tucking the documents into resealable plastic bags.

  7. Sooo..i had some boxes and bags of clothes in my truck overnight and the next morning I was going through all the clothes and saw some silverfish (before I knew what they were). I shook each piece of clothing and then washed the clothes in warm water and dried them with it on high heat. Will that rid of them if there were still some in any of the clothes? Also, should I be worried about my washer and dryer? And what should i do about the inside of my truck? I’m really worried I just caused an infestation in my truck and home ?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Kathryn,
      I wouldn’t worry about your washer and dryer — any silverfish that made it into your appliances will have died during the laundry process. You can wipe out both appliances if you’re concerned. A quick vacuum of your truck should take care of any stragglers remaining in it.

  8. Hi I have a bad problem with sliver fish I have not long moved into my flat.
    I am only using a spray and I wake up with about 10-20 dead in my rooms every morning.
    I have now found one on my kitchen side.
    Will lemon grass essential oil in Spey work to repel?
    I’ve tired Diatomaceous earth but I didn’t feel it worked.
    I have a 5 month old baby so need something none toxic ?

  9. My daughter has a 7 week old baby and has found silverfish crawling up the wall next to his mosses basket, also in the living room wall and in her in suite bathroom and on the skirting boards, she is beside herself on how to get rid of them as she is a clean freak and feels dirty, she can’t sleep as she worried they will get in the baby misses basket, she is very clean and tidy, what advise would you give to help get rid of these pests?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Angela,
      Which of the steps mentioned has your daughter tried so far?

  10. Hi!

    Sorry for the late comment, but I’m wondering what to do. I moved into an infected apartment in September, the landlord did not disclose the silverfish (and carpet beetle, and bedbugs..) infestation this place had.

    I’ve tried all the steps above. I also just ordered more food-grade Diatomaceous earth, but I worry that when I have to move out in February, the bugs will follow me to my new place. I’m terrified and don’t want them to follow. Currently I’m washing all my clothing on 90* degrees Celsius in the washer, and although it’s bound to ruin my delicates, I put them in a plastic bag, vacuum the bag to somewhat be “airtight” and then tape the bags before throwing the bags in a plastic bin. However, I have some clothing I cannot wash and would have to be taken to a professional cleaner.

    After I started bagging my clothes, I’ve seen multiple huge and small silverfish crawl around my room even in broad daylight!

    What should I do? I’ve tried everything, but I’m getting desperate and I worry sooo much that my new place will have this pest too! Why are they crawling in daylight if they are nocturnal?

    Thank you in advance!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Jona,
      Don’t panic. Although silverfish are unsightly, they aren’t dangerous. It sounds like you’re doing everything right and being diligent about dealing with them. You’re seeing more of them is probably because they’re scurrying out of hiding places, even in daylight, while you’re getting things done.

      Just keep doing what you’ve been doing, and inspect stuff as you pack. Once you move, take things out of boxes and packages as quickly as possible, then get those out of your home.

      And enjoy your new place!

  11. Hi there,
    I keep finding silverfish in my bedroom. When i usually find them its at night running across my bed…?
    Its very frustrating expecially because i keep a well cleaned bedroom. I cant figure out where they are coming from but i diffuse cedarwood and lavender and have made a homemade spray with those 2 oils to spray around my room. Any tips? Thanks a bunch

  12. Hi, I’m a commission fanartist for a living, and I have a problem with silverfish in my apartment. I walked into my office where I have some of my art poster puttied to the walls, and I found a silverfish just chilling on one of the recent mixed media pictures I had done. I regularly burn incense in the room and was wondering if you know of any incense that would keep silverfish out of that room. The smoke tends to kill or cripple most bugs, but this must have been one silverfish that was determined to get a bit of mouth to mandible action with a painting of a cartoon skeleton!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Baillie,
      Sounds like that silverfish is after a hearty buffet from your mixed media. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any particular incense that would kill silverfish.

  13. Trade off spiders for silverfish? ..spiders bite … silverfish wins. I usually catch silverfish and throw them in the trash then later take out the trash. I see them on occasion but never thought about them multiplying and infestations. I get palm meadow bugs (big cockroaches) that will squeeze themselves in between the seal of my door and when I open it they pop out and get inside the house and what’s funny is they seem to know the hinged side of the door so they can sneak in when the door opens and are behind the door so you can’t see them sneaking in! …they only do this when it gets cold… so when I open the door I take a quick look see then scurry them back outside and sometimes they will get away but eventually they get hungry and I’ll catch them and stick them back outside. I’m glad I ran across this article and am now aware I need to put out jars with tiny bread pieces…I have out rock salt in containers to capture moisture so why not jars with bread to capture silver bugs. LOL! ? thank you.

  14. Cathy Fullerton says:

    I have lots of notebooks that I write notes in. I hate to throw them away. Would putting the notebooks in the freezer kill silverfish and their eggs? Thank you.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      It should, yes. I’d put them into resealable bags, press out all the air and seal them tight, then freeze them for at least 3 days.

  15. Lena Shah says:

    Hey did you ever get rid of them?

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