How To Get Rid Of Silverfish Naturally

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Find out how to get rid of silverfish and keep them away for good using natural repellants.

Silverfish crawling on pages of a book

What are silverfish?

Silverfish insects are about 1/2 inch long with a scaly appearance. They range from pale silver (baby silverfish) to dark silver-blue (old ones). They get their name because their bodies are shiny and wriggle, making them resemble fish.

Unlike fish, they have an exoskeleton and two antennae on their heads, and three prongs on a tail-like appendage. If you’re a Star Trek fan, you know that the bug Khan puts in Chekhov’s ear looks a lot like silverfish.

Signs of a Silverfish Infestation

Seeing an adult or baby silverfish is one clear sign you’ve got an infestation. Other signs include holes in the pages of your book or wallpaper. If silverfish chewed those holes, you’ll also find their droppings nearby.

Silverfish feces look like flakes of ground pepper. You may also find silvery husks with scales — these are molted silverfish skin.

How to Get Rid of Silverfish

There’s no need to fill your home with harsh pesticides to get rid of silverfish. That method will only affect the ones you see. What you need is a combination of methods to get rid of the silverfish you see as well as the ones you don’t.

  1. Instant Elimination

    The fastest way to eliminate silverfish is by squishing the ones you see. That won’t do anything about the ones hiding, but it’s pretty satisfying. Just be aware that squashing a silverfish can leave a gray smudge. Wash the mess away with soap and water or use a Magic Eraser.

  2. Make Silverfish Traps

    To make a silverfish trap, wrap a tall jar with masking tape, which gives bugs traction to climb inside. Add a few crumbs of bread to the jar to serve as bait.

    Silverfish will climb inside to eat the bread but they can’t climb the slick glass interior walls to get out. Dump the trap into the toilet any time you catch a silverfish and replace the bread crumbs to lure more. Or, you can try sticky insect traps. (This affordable set of 90 traps catches spiders, ants, and cockroaches, too.)

  3. Use Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

    This non-toxic powder consists of crumbled sedimentary rock that contains silica. The powder feels soft, but silica has microscopic edges that tear up insect bodies. This makes it lethal for insects but still safe for humans and pets. You can find DE at your local garden center. (Or get it online.)

    To get rid of silverfish and other bugs with diatomaceous earth, sprinkle it where insects hide. This includes near baseboards, behind appliances, and beneath sinks. It will shred their exoskeletons and intestinal tracts, so they can’t eat and will die.

  4. Use Boric Acid

    Boric acid is a natural way to eliminate silverfish, but it is important to know that it’s also harmful to children and pets if ingested. Apply it with a powder duster or a paper funnel in cracks and behind appliances. (Find it online with the duster included.)

    Or, make a DIY boric acid insecticidal spray that controls silverfish and other bugs. In a spray bottle, combine 1 tablespoon each of sugar and cornstarch, 2 tablespoons of boric acid, and 2 cups of water. Shake until dissolved and apply on baseboards and behind appliances. The sugar and cornstarch will attract silverfish and the boric acid will eliminate them. 

  5. Remove Their Food Sources

    Starving silverfish out works best in combination with one of the other methods to get rid of silverfish. When you remove their favorite foods, like paper and wet wood, silverfish will go for the food in the trap or eat one of the natural insecticides. 

  6. Clean Their Nesting Spots

    For their nests, silverfish look for cool and damp spots with easy access to food. Silverfish nest in attics, basements, crawl spaces, and beneath kitchen and bathroom sinks. Cleaning these areas discourages nesting and removes food sources. Increase the effectiveness with a homemade cleaner and include scents silverfish don’t like.

Natural Silverfish Repellents 

Silverfish don’t like the smell of bay leaves, citrus, cedar, cinnamon, cloves, and lavender. Use this to your advantage by making homemade prays or sachets that repel insects. 

Sprays

To make a homemade spray that repels silverfish, combine 2 cups water and 2 drops of liquid dish soap in a spray bottle. Add 3-5 drops of citrus, cedar, cinnamon, or lavender essential oil. (Pet owners should stick with lavender since the other essential oils are not safe for pets.) Swirl to combine then mist around baseboards, entrances, and beneath sinks. Reapply weekly.

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Sachets

For areas where it’s not convenient to spray weekly, use sachets. You can make or buy sachet bags and stuff them with bay leaves, cedar shavings, citrus peels, cinnamon sticks, or cloves.

Put the sachets in closets and cupboards to repel both silverfish and moths. You can also tuck them behind books on your shelves to keep silverfish away. If you have pets, be sure to place the sachets out of their reach.

How to Keep Silverfish Out of Your Home

Don’t stop with just getting rid of the silverfish in your home — keep new ones from invading. The effort is worth it because the steps to keep silverfish out of your home will repel other insects and rodents, too.

Store food properly. Silverfish love to eat paper packaging, so the less you keep in your home the better. Transferring food to airtight containers also helps prevent pantry moths and gets rid of ants.

Eliminate paper clutter. Don’t let shipping boxes, newspapers, magazines, or other forms of paper pile up in your home. These all serve as food and nesting places for silverfish and also cockroaches and mice.

Clean routinely. Silverfish prefer easy carbohydrates like paper, flour or cereal, and glue. When they can’t get these, they’ll turn to proteins. Some less obvious food sources include other dead insects, skin cells, and fallen hair. Cleaning removes these from your home.

Store out-of-season clothes properly. Silverfish will eat linens and other fabrics and leave holes in your clothes, along with feces stains. Instead of storing unused clothing in boxes or piles on the floor, put it away in air-tight containers. Vacuum storage bags are even better since they take up less space and suffocate any hidden pests.

Seal cracks and crevices. In warm weather, silverfish will enter your home looking for a cool, damp spot. To keep them out, caulk gaps around your windows and beneath doors. Check where pipes and utilities like cable or landline phone wires enter, too. Use backer rod for large gaps before applying caulk. 

Control humidity. Silverfish prefer humidity between 75-90%, which is why you’ll find them in damp basements. Use a dehumidifier to keep your home’s humidity levels between 30 and 50%. You can also put open boxes of chalk in utility closets and your laundry room to absorb excess moisture. Replace them monthly.

Cool your home. Silverfish thrive in temperatures between 71 and 90°F (22-33° C). Lower temperatures make them sluggish, and freezing temperatures eliminate them. Open windows on cool days or set your thermostat to cool your home at night and you’ll see fewer silverfish.

Fix drips. Leaky plumbing leads to rotting wood, one of the favorite foods for silverfish. Check beneath sinks as part of your regular cleaning routine, and fix any leaks you find. For sweaty pipes, flexible pipe insulation solves the problem and prevents mold, too.

Frequently Asked Questions about Silverfish Control

The following are common questions people have about getting rid of silverfish naturally. If your question isn’t covered below, please leave it in the comments. The answer may get added to this list!

Are silverfish dangerous? 

No. Silverfish will eat papers and improperly stored food and can leave holes in your clothing, but they are not dangerous. They are nuisance pests that do not carry disease and they do not bite humans or pets. 

Can silverfish harm your home?

Silverfish won’t damage your home but can damage your belongings. They like to eat paper and starches like glue or other adhesives, and they’ll eat fabrics, too. So, although silverfish won’t chew on your home’s structure or wiring, they can destroy your books, wallpaper, and upholstery.

What Attracts Silverfish to your Home?

As with most pests, silverfish enter your home in search of a place to live and breed. They aren’t a sign of a dirty home, but they do signal that you may have problems with excess moisture or humidity, and poor air circulation. 

I live in an apartment. How can I get rid of silverfish or other pests?

When one apartment or condo does pest control, the problem usually shifts next door. If that neighbor deals with the pests, they’ll come back. This may be something your landlord, co-op board, or building association handles. If not, try to coordinate pest control with your neighbors so you all get rid of silverfish at the same time.

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