How to Get Rid of Silverfish Once and For All

By the time you find yourself swearing you'll find out how to get rid of silverfish once and for all - if it's the last thing you do! - you're probably at the end of your ropes.

You're sick of walking around your home with your eyes half shut in case you catch something you really, really don’t want to see on a night-time trip to the toilet. And you've had it with finding droppings in your cereal and holes in your clothes and wallpaper.

Hell hath no fury like a human scorned in their very own home and you're ready to wreak havoc on these damn silverfish.

Well, you're in the right place: you've cut straight through the silverfish chaff and headed straight to the Big One: the article that tells you how to kill and repel the pests to the point of never having to deal with them again.

But before we begin, have you done what you can to prevent silverfish before we begin the genocide?

Yup, the first step to getting rid of silverfish permanently is to make sure that your home is as inhospitable to silverfish as it can be will pay off massively in the long run, if not actually stop the problem in its tracks. So let's start there...

Clean, clean, clean

how to get rid of silverfish

I know, I know, I sound like your mother but believe it or not, she was 100% correct: keeping a clean home is incredibly important if you want to have a pest-free domestic life.

Silverfish and other bugs of their ilk love clutter and mess; it provides lots of dark, quiet spaces for them to bed down – especially if you’re leaving stuff to accumulate dust (and hair, dead skin cells and crumbs - all of which silverfish love to eat) for months at a time.

Keep everything as clean as you possibly can. And also, wash behind your ears.

Vacuum the sweet spots

Silverfish, like scorpions and arachnids in general, tend to get into the home through the most unbelievable gaps and crevices in your home’s structure. Any tiny little space in your window and door sills, around your pipes, in your skirting boards and so on is basically a silverfish revolving door.

So, equip your finest hose nozzle and fire up the vacuum to clear these gaps right out: a thorough, regular hoover will keep silverfish, their eggs and other nasty things away.

To ensure your protection why not…

Turn your home into Fort Knox

…Seal up these gaps and entry points completely, once you’ve cleaned them out. What’s the point in identifying gaps and holes around your home and then doing nothing to prevent them becoming infested again in the future?

Some simple waterproof sealant or caulk is good enough to close out silverfish walkways and send them packing before they get a foothold in your home.

This goes double for bathrooms, kitchens, basements and attics – spaces where moisture, darkness and multiple entry points are abundant. Nothing worse than spotting a creepy crawly while seated on the porcelain throne.

Get rid of moisture where you can!

And while we’re talking about domestic moisture…put an end to it! I mean aside from anything else, who wants their home to have unwanted moisture deposits? It can cause all manner of more serious issues.

A simple, yet effective, method for drying out your home and making it less of a silverfish vacation hot spot (remember that humidity is a huge benefit to young silverfish) is to simply invest in a dehumidifier.

It’ll be a long process to completely eradicate a humid atmosphere where there is one, especially in bathrooms and kitchens where temperature fluctuates massively every day, but it’s well worth the investment.

Spread silverfish repellents

How do you repel silverfish? You use repellents. Boom. Solved.

The trouble is choosing which one to use and where. You can go down the more chemical and manufactured route with things like diatomaceous earth (slow acting, non-toxic or harmful to humans/pets, which kills the pest by dehydrating it - more on this below) or boric acid (fast acting, toxic but low-level, which is also a powdered chemical) or Orange Guard (popular type of repellent that’s water based and non-toxic but which actively repels and kills any silverfish that come in contact with it).

Most repellents are safe for indoor use and should be spread around troublesome areas or locations that are likely spots for a silverfish coup (think dark, moist or quite gaps); remember that repellents will naturally lose their potency over time and need to be replenished if you wish to keep them going.

Try the natural route

That said, not everybody is comfortable with laying chemically laced products around the house; so why not try some more naturally occurring repellents such as cedar wood shavings, lavender oils or cloves (whole or powdered, either works)?

The scents and essences of these ingredients are, for some reason, untenable for silverfish; so feel free to coat your home in them… Provided you can stomach the smell, that is.

Take food out of the equation

Silverfish have whacky diets, as we all know. Anything with sugar, starch or carbohydrates is a picturesque picnic for them… Unfortunately, this can mean anything from your simple cereals and baking flour to your light clothing and wallpaper.

The best bet is to simply take these things out of the equation: start with the actual foodstuffs. Don’t leave tempting food exposed around the home, and always immediately clear up any spillages or crumbs that you spot.

Similarly, make sure you’re storing your food appropriately in airtight containers and that you’re not leaving it to sit for weeks on end without any attention. It won’t take much of an opportunity for silverfish to take hold.

As for the more unorthodox meals: try not to let old books, papers or documents fester away in a damp, dark room. Keep them fresh by airing out and sorting through your papers and storing appropriately in sealed containers that won’t let silverfish in for a feeding frenzy.

The same goes for your old/light clothing. Don’t give them an inch. Regularly dust off and air out your closet and perhaps load up old clothes with mothballs, which serve as a natural and potent deterrent for silverfish.

Really, that’s all it takes to prevent and repel silverfish before they become a serious issue… But what do you do if some still manage to sneak past the barriers or if you already have a silverfish problem?

Well, it's time to get some silverfish blood on your hands.

I’m afraid there’s nothing else for it. You’re going to have to get your hands dirty and do some killing if you want to get those silvery sods out of your house. Here's what to stock up on..

Diatomaceous earth and boric acid

A quick, honorable mention for diatomaceous earth and boric acid: both solid repellents, but also very handy if you want to actually curb the problem once it has set in, without resorting to anything too toxic or poisonous.

Lay silverfish traps

Get 'em for $13.40

The simplest solution is often the best and so long as you don’t mind clearing up an icky, corpse infested trap every once in a while, silverfish glue traps are the best way to go. It’s as simple as it sounds (basically roach motels, if you’re familiar)… the traps are small, cardboard structures – sometimes even just a single strip that you lay flat on the ground – which are coated in a sticky agent.

Some come with bait, others don’t (you can always lay your own bait with some food or sugar), but they all work by laying them in a silverfish rich area, or a spot which is likely to see a lot of traffic.

Once the wanderer passes through, it’ll find itself unable to move from the spot until you clear the trap out. Depending on where you purchase your trap from, the longevity of it will differ. Some last months, without losing their stickiness, or others last just a few days – so keep an eye out!

Bonus tip: you can actually create your own rudimentary, but effective, traps at home. All you need is some water, flour/sugar and cardboard. Diatomaceous earth or boric acid is a huge plus if you want to speed things along.

Simply combine the water and flour to form a sticky paste – add the repellent if you have any, and coat the cardboard. Voila!

Silverfish insecticides

Obviously, as you might’ve guessed, one of the most effective killers is going to be insecticides of various degrees, brands and potencies. If you’re truly inundated with silverfish or you just want to give them both barrels before the problem turns worse, then you’ll be wanting to look at strong pesticides with a ‘knock down effect’ – i.e., instant killers.

Naturally, most of these very powerful poisons are not recommended for indoor/domestic use and certainly not without the appropriate safety gear and ventilation. Usually, you’ll be using these outside around the perimeter of your home to stop any pests even approaching the place to begin with.

Lower grade, but no less effective, pesticides – usually sold in aerosol cans – are recommended for indoor use. These let you be a little more specific with your targeting and allow you to get right into those tight little gaps and corners around the home that might be harbouring some of the creepy-crawleys.

Nonetheless, you still want to be wary of inhaling the fumes and chemicals!

Vacuum with extreme prejudice

Because they essentially run at the speed of light, it’s very difficult to hunt down silverfish once they’ve been exposed or caught in the act. This makes eradicating them a real pain – at least with spiders or mice, you’ll usually be killing the pest after it’s been spotted.

As stated above, the vacuum can be fantastic as a prevention tool but it’s also your best friend for a simple, regular silverfish killing regime. Once you’ve located where they’re coming from, or which spots around the house they like to set up their nests, you can continuously kill them off with the vacuum whilst using some of the more extreme measures we’ve discussed at the same time.

Just be sure to dispose of your vacuum’s contents appropriately… You don’t want them finding their way back in to tell the rest about the evil hoover.

Go full Predator

When Arnie was stuck in a jungle with a nefarious pest (in this case, a homicidal alien from another world), did he look up the best pesticides he could find on Amazon and then patiently wait the problem out until his package was delivered? No. He got creative, and so can you.

There are a few popular DIY tricks for silverfish hunting that cost nothing. For example, the sticky jar trick. Simply find an empty glass jar – it has to be glass – and wrap the exterior in sticky tape, or something with grip to allow the silverfish to walk up the outside.

Then, on the interior, lay some bait: food, paper, glue etc. The hungry creatures will walk up the outside, chows down on their bait and then suddenly find that the interior walls are slippery glass… Trapped!

Or, perhaps try the paper bundle trap. Beyond easy: all you need to do is find a newspaper, roll it up and soak it in water for the added moisture lure. Set the trap up in a silverfish heavy area and leave it overnight.

The next day, pick up the bundle without unravelling it and dispose of the now silverfish infested paper. To make doubly sure that the problem won’t return, some folk like to set the bundle on fire… A bit barbaric, but it’s war time after all.

Hire outside help

The main one, which I always save to last because it’s much more fun describing ways to tackle the problem yourself: hire a professional exterminator. If you want a guarantee that the job is going to be done well, thoroughly and permanently, hire appropriate, qualified outside help.

It might be costly, and it’s less hands-on than the other methods – but at least it comes with the assurance that your home is being dealt with, top to bottom.

I wish you more than luck in your crusade against the silvery invaders. Take this information on board and chuck the leggy squatters out from your home, before it’s too late!

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