How To Get Rid Of Silverfish

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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

Silverfish on white background

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.

Why Are There Silverfish 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.

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:

  • Bathrooms
  • Under sinks
  • Laundry room
  • Basement
  • Closets
  • Attics

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. (Related: How to Clean Your Vacuum afterward to get rid of any insect eggs you’ve picked up.)

How to Keep Silverfish Out of Your Home

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

1. Spray with scents that repel silverfish. Silverfish do not enjoy the smell of citrus, cinnamon, or lavender. Using essential oils to clean or as a home fragrance 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.

2. Use spicy sachets. Other scents silverfish avoid include cedar, 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.

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. Seal any you find with caulk or weatherstripping. (Related: How to Get Rid of Mice Naturally.)

4. Use a dehumidifier. Silverfish like moist environments. Reduce your home’s appeal by using a whole-house dehumidifier in the summer. Tuck an open box of chalk in damp areas like under sinks or in your laundry room. Chalk is great at absorbing moisture and inexpensive.

44 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. Do I mix the essential oil with water in the spray bottle? If so how much of each?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I suggest using orange essential oil in a homemade cleaner. If you want to try it in just water, I am strictly guessing that 10-20 drops in 2 cups of water should do it.

  3. 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. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Mary,
      Hard black specks on your bottom sheet aren’t likely to be silverfish. If they look like watermelon seeds, you might be dealing with bed bugs. I’ve written about how to deal with bed bugs here. Hope that helps!

  4. 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.

  5. Sarah brotherton says:

    Will lemon wipes work for my bathroom

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Sarah,
      They’re certainly worth trying! If you continue to see silverfish after a few days, it might be time to switch, though.

  6. Tammy Henderson says:

    Will apple cinnamon solid air fresher help if I put in closet to keep them out of my clothing

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Tammy,
      There’s nothing in particular about apple or cinnamon that would repel them, no.

  7. 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!

  8. Hi,

    If I made reed diffusers for either a citrus or lavender scent would this still have the same effect?
    I am going to use a spray around the edges and behind sinks, toilets and under bath as well as thresholds to rooms. I also will be silicone/caulking any gaps. But obviously I am looking for something to repel them also. I am thinking of taking the panel off the bath and covering the whole floor under there with Boric acid or DE is this too much. We only see a couple every few days but that wind me up and I want them gone.

    Thanks.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Carl,
      No, a reed diffuser isn’t a good substitute, though it might smell nice. Once you’ve sprayed and caulked, you should stop seeing so many. Keep the bathroom well-ventilated and dry, too, by running your exhaust fan for at least 15 minutes after every single shower or bath — they’re drawn to moist, dark places, so drying the room out will help immensely.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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 ?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Faye,
      Silverfish can be frustrating. I really don’t have any other suggestions besides the ones that I’ve shared here.

  12. 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?

  13. 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!

    2. I once had an infestation of rat mytes. They’re microscopic but cause rashes. I ended up getting the landlord to hire exterminators that just sprayed the apartment with cedar oil. This does not hurt the environment, you and I think it’s safe for pets (but check that out to be safe I don’t have any so that was snit a problem for me). Insects can not tolerate this but humans have no problems with it and it smell pretty good although it’s pretty strong for a few days.

      You can get a sprayer and possibly the cedar oil itself at home depot snd do it yourself. If you can’t get the cedar oil at home depot, you could order it online. I’m not certain it would work for bed bugs but I bet it would.

      This is the reason people used to have cedar chest. They would put sweaters and blankets on it that didn’t want any insects like moths in their wool sweaters to get into.

      Hope that helps.

  14. Ok so if I use essential oils which oils do I use and how do I use them. what do I mix it with in spray . Do I spray it everywhere

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Deb,
      There’s a lot of information to digest in this article, but I answered this in the section on “How to Keep Silverfish Away.” There’s even a list of specific essential oils that work and a recipe for a spray.

  15. 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

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Megan,
      Silverfish aren’t a sign that you’re not cleaning well, so don’t worry about that! They’re attracted to moisture, though, so you might consider a dehumidifier for your bedroom, or even running a fan at night. Also, don’t store anything under your bed unless it’s in plastic containers with air-tight lids. Good luck!

  16. 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.

  17. Thank you for this article! I’ve been trying to get rid of the silverfish in my partner’s basement for months now. He doesn’t think it can be done and has accepted that they will always be there which I cannot live with!

    I vacuum daily because we have a dog and I’ve used those cedar packets in the storage room, under the bathroom sink, and I’ve also placed them in a couple of low traffic areas. There is also carpeting in the basement which makes the vacuuming a lot easier. I’ve also “refreshed” the packets with cedar oil every couple of months.. My partner thinks I’m fighting a losing battle because while I have definitely seen an improvement in how often I see them they are still around.

    My next steps are to redo the caulking in the bathroom and to start applying DE. My questions are – how do I know I’ve successfully killed all of them? Do I have to keep applying DE forever? (I am just worried about inhaling the powder because I’ve read that it can be bad for your lungs)

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Carol,
      The lifecycle of silverfish is about 4 months. I understand your concerns about inhaling DE and don’t know that I’d leave it on high-traffic or high-touch surfaces that long. But if it’s an unfinished basement that you and your partner don’t use much, I wouldn’t worry.

  18. Liked your article! I discovered silverfish were what was eating little holes in my thin t-shirts. When I cook sometimes food or oil splatters in the front of my shirt. If I don’t pick up my shirts off the floor when I take them off, they’re good eats for them. I accidently found out a good remedy is to keep a cellar spider or daddy long legs in each bathroom. Sounds weird but I usually throw any spiders I find outside but I realized they like the bathroom because of the silverfish. I came to this site as the spider disappeared in one bathroom. Probably got old and died. This only helps if you are not scared of spiders.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Ooh, a household use for spiders. Who knew? 😂

  19. 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.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      It’s a veritable buffet! Have you tried boxes of chalk for the moisture?

  20. 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.

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