You’re going to find out how to get rid of silverfish once and for all if it’s the last thing you do. By the time you’ve uttered that war declaration, 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 holes in your cereal boxes and loosened wallpaper around the house.
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 get rid of silverfish for good so you never have to face one again.
Let’s start at the beginning.
What are Silverfish?
Silverfish. Even the name is confusing. Because while they may be silver, they are most definitely not fish.
In fact, silverfish are arthropods, a very ancient group of insects that used to crawl around and creep out dinosaurs. Now they creep us out instead.
Some things never change.
In the modern age, silverfish are an extremely common pest inside homes and other structures, especially in humid environments. But due to their secretive and nocturnal habits – not to mention their ugly looks – they are often a very misunderstood pest.
6 Important Silverfish Facts
Most people don’t know much about these creepy crawlies at all. So let’s take a closer look at the silvery, squirmy, ugly little silverfish. Here are the most important silverfish facts everyone should know.
- Silverfish aren’t harmful to humans. But they can cause a lot of damage to your belongings.
- These aren’t picky eaters. Silverfish love starchy foods like cereal, oats, grains, and the cellulose found in paper. But they will also eat coffee, sugar, house dust mites, human dander and hair, fabrics, and other dead insects. In short: everything is silverfish food.
- One thing that silverfish absolutely need is humidity. High humidity levels, ideally between 75% and 97%, is essential for silverfish to develop and reproduce.
- Silverfish have long lifespans – they can live up to 8 years under the right conditions.
- Once she hits adulthood, a female silverfish can lay eggs continuously, producing over 100 eggs during her lifetime.
- Because they are nocturnal and experts at hiding, they can go unnoticed for a long time. By the time you spot a silverfish, you may already be living with an infestation.
And if you have a silverfish infestation, it needs to be dealt with. As you can see, silverfish are champion breeders. You can’t easily starve them out since they can eat anything. It also takes too long to wait for them to die out. You need to take action.
Why Do I Have Silverfish?
Hmmm. Good question. Why do bad things happen to (generally) clean people? It’s probably the most commonly asked pest question of all time.
So why do you have these little buggers – what could you have possibly have done to attract silverfish?
In the wild, silverfish live in the leaf litter that covers the floor of forests. Close to the soil, they stay hidden in moist dark areas and consume fallen leaves, along with other dead insects. As long as they keep doing that, we barely even notice that they’re around.
The trouble comes when we start building house on their habitat. Human houses can provide many of the things silverfish need to thrive – food, water, shelter.
And if your house has a high level of humidity, it may be a good habitat for silverfish. It doesn’t matter if your house is clean or not – silverfish can find something to eat almost anywhere. And once they’re in your home, it can be very difficult to persuade them to leave.
Which is why you need to force them. Here’s the entire battle plan.
How to Get Rid of Silverfish in 7 Steps
To truly get rid of silverfish, we need to focus on two very important things:
- Make your home inhospitable for silverfish by getting rid of the things that attract these creepy crawlies
- Kill the silverfish who insist on living in your home
The below steps are a combination of the above. Let’s dive in.
Silverfish like to hide in dark and tight cracks and crevices. That means closets, corners, the pantry, under the sink, behind baseboards, and other nooks and crannies.
But they don’t just hide – they will also lay eggs in these dark, hidden places.
This is why the humble vacuum is a must have to get rid of silverfish. So, equip your finest hose nozzle and fire up the vacuum to clear these gaps right out. A thorough, regular hoover will suck up silverfish, their eggs, and other nasty things they like to eat.
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.
#2. Lower the humidity
One of the most underrated ways to get rid of silverfish is to simply make the environment inhospitable to them. Yup, we’re talking about humidity levels.
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.
There are dehumidifiers for every kind of space. You can find a mini one that covers small places like the closet or bathroom as well as dehumidifiers that can cover up to 4,500 square feet of humid space!
And of course, dehumidifiers aren’t your only option. For smaller spaces, a moisture absorber like these Vacplus Moisture Absorber Boxes can make a big difference.
Completely eradicating a humid atmosphere can be impossible, especially if you live in a perpetually humid region. But a dehumidifier placed in a close environment, especially in bathrooms and kitchens where temperature fluctuates massively every day, is well worth the investment.
#3. Lay silverfish traps
The simplest solution is often the best. As long as you don’t mind clearing up an icky, corpse infested trap every once in a while, silverfish glue traps are the great way to go.
It’s as simple as it sounds: 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. Hint: dark, damp, undisturbed places.
Once the wanderer passes through, it’ll find itself unable to move from the spot until you clear the trap out.
What are the best traps for silverfish?
Depending on where you purchase your trap from, the longevity of it will differ. Some last months, without losing their stickiness while others last just a few days. The ones that we recommend are the top of their class.
- Catchmaster Insect Trap and Monitor – get it here. It’s marketed for brown recluse spiders but does a great job of catching silverfish.
- S&T Insect Traps – get it here. Another one that’s marketed for spiders but is great for silverfish and any other creepy crawlies that come into contact with it.
- GreenWay Spider & Silverfish Trap – get it here. This one is marketed for spiders and silverfish. Works well for silverfish but it on the pricier side.
Can you make a DIY silverfish trap?
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!
#4. Use silverfish bait
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.
The easiest way to deal with this speedy, sneaky nature is to set out silverfish bait. That way, you don’t have to go hunting for these elusive pests in order to kill them.
So which silverfish bait should you use? The best ones are:
- Niban Granular Bait – get it here. These are granular baits made out of 5% Boric Acid as the active ingredient. You scatter it in areas where silverfish are present. They eat the bait and die.
- Dekko Silverfish Paks – get it here. These easy-to-use packets contain 20% Boric Acid as the active ingredient. The bait is placed inside a thin cardboard packet that makes it easy to place anywhere, even in a bookcase. Silverfish will crawl in to eat the bait and then their fate is sealed.
#5. Create a barrier with diatomaceous earth
Not a barrier lined with silverfish, that would be disgusting. We mean to create barriers in and around your house that silverfish cannot cross without risking their lives.
Here’s what to use:
To do this, we recommend using diatomaceous earth. This is an all-natural, non-toxic, but slow-acting powder that is harmless to humans and pets. It kills silverfish and other creepy crawlies with exoskeletons by dehydrating it to death.
As long as you get the food grade option, it is safe to use even around your kitchen and pantry.
Here’s how to use it:
- A popular silverfish hiding is in cracks and crevices in the baseboards. Scatter a line of diatomaceous earth along the baseboards throughout your entire house. Pay special attention to the corners.
- Bathrooms are a favorite silverfish haunt. Dust diatomaceous earth behind the toilets, under the sinks, and in bathroom cabinets.
- Silverfish love the starchy options that line your kitchen shelves. Dust the shelves of your pantry and kitchen cabinets with a thin layer of diatomaceous earth.
- Similarly, silverfish find the taste of books and book bindings particularly delicious. To protect your library, line diatomaceous earth alone the nooks and crannies of your bookshelves.
Note: If it’s what you have handy, you can also use boric acid in the same manner. This fine powder can both poison and dehydrate silverfish. It is also natural but has low-level toxicity so should be used with caution around children and pets.
Scatter the diatomaceous earth or boric acid anywhere silverfish hide as well as places where they will most likely walk across, like:
#6. Protect the perimeter with silverfish pesticides
This is similar to the above but now we’re dealing with the outside of your house. It’s particularly important because if you have a silverfish infestation indoors, it’s likely that you have an even bigger problem right outside your house.
They’re coming from somewhere, right? And you don’t want them getting in.
Obviously, as you might’ve guessed, one of the most effective ways to secure the perimeter is by using silverfish pesticides.
What is the best silverfish pesticide?
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 professional-grade pesticides that have both a quick ‘knock down effect’ – i.e. instant kill – and a residual effect that continues to kill silverfish for months.
There are a lot of silverfish insecticides of various degrees, brands and potencies. But the best ones are below:
- Ortho Home Defense Insect Killer – get it here. This easy-to-use silverfish pesticide contains bifenthrin and zeta cypermethrin as its active ingredients. Both are fast-acting neurotoxins that have a quick knock-down effect and continues to kill any silverfish that make contact for up to 12 months.
- Suspend SC – get it here. This professional-grade pesticide has deltamethrin as its active ingredient. It also provides a very quick knock-down effect and long residual killing action.
How do you use a silverfish pesticide?
To secure the perimeter of your home, you’ll need to spray:
- The base and foundations of your house
- Treat at least a 3-foot perimeter around the entire house
- Also treat 3 feet up all external walls
- Focus on entryways like ground-floor windows, window sashes and doors
Note: Please do not use silverfish pesticides without the appropriate safety gear and ventilation. They are deemed low in toxicity but you still want to be wary of inhaling the fumes and chemicals.
Both of the recommended silverfish pesticides are safe for indoor and outdoor use. But just treating the outside around the perimeter of your home should be enough to stop any pests even approaching the house to begin with.
#7. Kill silverfish on contact
Last but not least, let’s deal with any remaining stragglers and survivors. Yup, 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 completely remove those silvery sods from your house.
Here’s are the best silverfish sprays to use:
PT P.I. Aerosol Spray – get it here. This aerosol spray uses a lower-grade but no less effective active ingredient of 0.5% natural pyrethrins and it perfect for indoor use, specially in hard-to-reach cracks and crevices where silverfish love to hide.
Equipped with small straw applicators, 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 harboring nests of silverfish.
Wondercide Indoor Pest Control Spray – get it here. This spray uses cedarwood oil and peppermint oil as its main active ingredients. When sprayed directly on silverfish, it will kill on contact. It also serves as a useful silverfish repellent that you can spray in silverfish infested areas.
And there you have it – the guide to get rid of silverfish in 7 steps. By the time you arrive at this point in the article, you’ll be living a silverfish-free existence.
But how can you guarantee that you continue to live the dream? Well, you’ll have to know how to prevent silverfish infestations from ever happening again.
How to Prevent Silverfish
Obviously, the best way to deal with a silverfish infestation is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
And once you’ve gone through the hassle of eliminating silverfish from your home, the last thing you want to do is to deal with it again.
So how can we make sure that silverfish never infiltrate your home again? Here are the best silverfish prevention methods.
Clear up clutter
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 simply because it provides lots of dark, quiet spaces for them to bed down. This is especially true if you’re leaving stuff to accumulate dust, hair, dead skin cells and crumbs for months at a time. That’s all stuff that silverfish love to eat.
Keep everything as clean as you possibly can. And also, wash behind your ears.
As stated above, the vacuum can be fantastic for a quick silverfish killing regime. But it’s also your best friend for a simple, regular silverfish prevention tool.
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 while at the same time removing their spawn and foodstuff.
Seal silverfish entryways
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 seal up these gaps and entry points completely. 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. Any spaces where moisture, darkness and multiple entry points are abundant. Nothing worse than spotting a creepy crawly while seated on the porcelain throne.
Secure your food
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 clothing and wallpaper.
The best bet is to simply take these things out of the equation.
Start with the actual foodstuff by storing dry foods appropriately in airtight containers. This is both to deprive silverfish of a food source and to protect your food.
Silverfish can live and lay eggs in the cardboard and paper packaging that dried pantry items like oats and cereal come in. If you’re leaving these dries foods to sit in the pantry for weeks on end without any attention, it’s a prime opportunity for silverfish to take hold.
The last thing you need is to open a box of cereal to find a flurry of silverfish spilling out.
So don’t leave tempting food exposed around the home, and always immediately clear up any spillages or crumbs that you spot.
Protect your papers and books
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. Throw away any old journals and newspapers you don’t need. And especially get rid of any cardboard boxes that are housing these storage items.
Instead, opt for sealed containers that won’t let silverfish in for a feeding frenzy.
Tip: If you see silverfish or spot signs of silverfish damage in books or papers, assume that silverfish eggs may have been laid in them.
Place these potentially infested items in Ziploc bags and put them in the freezer. Silverfish in all life stages will die when exposed to a temperature of -10 °C for 24 hours. Most household freezers are set at 0°F (-18°C) so that should do the job.
Store clothes properly
This one isn’t so much a silverfish prevention tip as it is a tip for keeping your precious fabrics from the ravages of hungry silverfish.
Any clothes – especially light clothing made of cotton, linen, or silk – should be stored away in airtight storage containers. Don’t give the silverfish an inch. Regularly dust off and air out your closet and perhaps load up packed-away clothes with silverfish repellents like cedar wood blocks.
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?
Use silverfish repellents
How do you repel silverfish? You use repellents. Boom. Solved.
The trouble is choosing which one to use and where. Here is a quick list of suggestions:
- Orange Guard is a popular insect repellent that’s water based, non-toxic, and actively repels and kills any silverfish that come in contact with it.
- Cedarwood is hated by insects of all kinds, including silverfish. You can find it in the form of cedarwood oil, cedar oil spray, or even cedarwood storage products.
- Diatomaceous earth and boric acid are both solid repellents and also very handy if you want to actually curb the problem once it has set in, without resorting to anything too toxic or poisonous.
The scents and essences of these ingredients are, for some reason, untenable for silverfish but quite pleasant for us. So feel free to coat your home in them.
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 and quiet spaces.
Remember that repellents will naturally lose their potency over time and need to be replenished if you wish to keep them going.
Are There Home Remedies for Silverfish?
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.
And because no article on how to get rid of silverfish would be complete without home remedies, here are some DIY options you can use if you want to save some money.
Silverfish Sticky Jar Trap
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!
Paper DIY Silverfish Trap
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 Professional Silverfish Pest Control
As you can see, there are a lot of things you can do to get rid of silverfish yourself. Which is why we always save this one for last. It’s much more fun describing ways to tackle the problem yourself.
But this is always an option: hire a professional silverfish exterminator.
If you want a guarantee that the job is going to be done well, thoroughly and permanently, you can’t go wrong with hiring appropriate, qualified outside help.
Before you hire someone, though, always do your research: there’s a reason that extermination companies are so prevalent – yes, partly because pest control is an important business, but also because many homeowners get conned very easily. Phone up, ask for credentials, inquire about their process and, of course, compare prices!
Professionals are likely to go for the nuclear route more often than not, and use harmful chemical compounds and poisons – so it’s always best to give them the full scoop on your domestic life.
Do you have young children in the house? Are there any pets living there? Do you have any allergies or medical conditions that might be exacerbated by certain elements? Tell your professional all of this before you let him or her get to work.
It might be costly, and it’s less hands-on than the other methods. And 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!