How To Get Rid Of Silverfish Naturally

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There are many natural ways to get rid of silverfish effectively, starting with finding their nests and then treating them with common household ingredients.

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, resembling fish. Unlike fish, they have an exoskeleton, 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 like a silverfish.)

If You’ve Seen One, You’ve Got More.

Silverfish are rapid breeders. Females can lay between 2 and 20 eggs daily, 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 various household pests. 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 glue in book bindings and wallpaper adhesive. 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 naturally eliminate those silverfish.

Step 1. Toss the trash

The less clutter you have, the fewer places 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, and it will also remove their eggs, which can be difficult to see. Use your crevice attachment around baseboards, then vacuum soft furnishings, and then clean the remainder of the floor. (Thoroughly clean your vacuum afterward to eliminate any insect eggs you’ve picked up.)

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3. Make 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 starch 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.

Step 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. Use a puffer to get it into any cracks you find, too. 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 at your garden center, or this kit on Amazon comes with the powder duster to get it into cracks.)

Getting Rid of Silverfish in Apartments or Condos

Problems usually shift next door when one resident in a multi-family structure does pest control. If that neighbor deals with the pests, they’ll come back. So, if you live in an apartment, condo, or townhome, your best approach is to contact your landlord to schedule treatment in all units simultaneously. If that’s not possible, try to work with your neighbors.

Ways to Keep Silverfish Out of Your Home

Following these tips diligently should rid your home of silverfish within two weeks.

Spray with smells silverfish don’t like.

Silverfish do not enjoy the scent 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. If you have pets, use lavender since citrus and cinnamon are not safe essential oils around dogs or cats.

Use homemade pest control sachets.

Additional scents silverfish avoid are 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 around your home will repel silverfish, but you should know that solution may bring other pests like mice.

Caulk and seal cracks.

Silverfish will enter your home in warm weather, looking for a cool, damp spot. To keep them out, inspect for gaps around your windows and beneath doors. Also, check where pipes and utilities like cable or landline phone wires enter. Seal any holes you find with caulk or weatherstripping.

Control the humidity.

Like many household pests, silverfish like moist environments. They require humidity between 75-90% to survive, so 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. Ventilate your storage areas often—air out basements, storage closets, and other similar spots to discourage infestations.

Monitor 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.

Clean regularly.

Once you’ve correctly 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 thoroughly washing bed linens, dusting, and vacuuming. If you have a home library, clean your books and bookshelves once a month, too.

Store things safely

Store out-of-season clothing in sealed containers. Air-tight containers deprive pests of food sources like the proteins in sweat and dead skin cells, as well as nesting spots.

The good news is that most of these steps to get rid of silverfish and keep them out of your home will also eliminate and protect you from other household pests. It does take effort, but it’s worth it.


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11 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!

  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. 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.

  3. 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. 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.

  4. 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. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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. 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.

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