Learning how to prevent silverfish goes slightly beyond setting out silverfish repellents and hoping that the leggy pests go away. But it doesn’t have to be complicated.
In fact, silverfish prevention is a fairly straightforward process. You can even put the structure in place over a weekend. It won’t be fun. But we promise it will be effective.
Let’s start with the most fundamental question to understand what repels silverfish…
What Do Silverfish Hate?
We know. You don’t give a single coconut about the personal preferences of silverfish. Yet, this question is very worth asking.
Once you know what silverfish hate, you can utilize it to make their life a living hell. So what do silverfish hate?
Silverfish are nocturnal creatures that prefer the dark and detest the light, which is why they squeeze their nocturnal bodies into the tightest little gaps imaginable. Sticking to dark places also help them evade detection and protects their compound eyes, which are sensitive to light.
So a very simple yet effective preventative measure is to simply let lots of light into rooms and spaces which are predominantly dark and dingy. Think: basements, attics, garages and bathrooms.
It could be anything as simple as drawing back the curtains in an unused room, to installing some new lighting. Anything that gets rid of any substantial shadows and silverfish dungeons.
Lack of hiding places
Silverfish like to stay hidden, which is why you often won’t even know you have a silverfish infestation until it’s too late.
So one of the most common sense tactics to prevent popular silverfish haunts is clearing up clutter. Silverfish and all manner of other leggy critters love nothing more than a cluttered, dirty and unkempt home to bed down in.
The more filth, the more pests you’re likely to invite in, especially if you’re prone to letting dirty plates and papers stack up – I’m looking at you, students. Get rid of any unnecessary clutter and you’ll dramatically cut down on your chances of harboring any unwanted beasties. Plus it’s nice to actually see your floor.
Silverfish are deaf and their compound eyes can only detect light and dark. But they do have a strong sense of smell, which allows them to locate food and safe shelter.
You can and should use this against them. The best way to do so is with a strong silverfish repellent spray that you can spritz in areas where these creepy crawlies lurk.
Here are some great ones:
Dr. Killigan’s Six Feet Under Non Toxic Insect Killer Spray – get it here. This all-natural spray uses natural ingredients like clove oil and soybean oil to create a potent silverfish repellent spray. The best part? It doesn’t just repel. If you spray it directly on a silverfish, it also kills.
Wondercide Indoor Pest Control Spray – get it here. Similarly, this popular spray uses non-toxic ingredients like cedarwood oil and peppermint oil to both repel and kill silverfish and other household pests.
And this is by no means a complete list. Silverfish don’t like a lot of scents. Let’s explore.
What Smell Do Silverfish Hate?
The good news is that there are several scents that silverfish find deeply unpleasant. The even better news? These smells are quite pleasant for us.
So feel free to spritz away. Here’s what to use.
Cedarwood oil for silverfish
One of the best natural silverfish repellents is cedarwood oil. And it’s not just silverfish that hate this scent.
For some reason an assortment of household pests just despise the smell that comes from the wood, which is why cedar oil, cedar shavings, essences and other scent-based repellents are marketed heavily as ideal tools in the war against bugs.
Simply spritz cedar spray in areas that are most likely to harbor silverfish or present a welcome location such as bathrooms, kitchens, and basements. Basically, anywhere dark and with regular moisture.
If you don’t want to maintain a regular spritzing schedule, you can also purchase cedar storage supplies and scatter them around in dark, hidden corners.
Citrus spray for silverfish
Another scent that silverfish hate is the smell of citrus. You can opt for a citrus-based essential oil and create your own DIY silverfish repellent spray. Or you can go with a ready-made spray like Orange Guard.
This is a very popular pest repellent product that bridges the gap between chemical insecticides/repellents and naturally occurring ingredients.
Orange Guard is a water-based non-toxic spray, which can be used around humans, pets and food without any worry and acts as both an insecticide and a repellent – the double whammy.
The product is, as you might’ve guessed, based off of the scent of oranges and the natural repelling properties therein.
Clove oil for silverfish
There’s no mistaking the smell of cloves or clove essential oil, but now you have another reason to stock up on them, aside from cooking or trying to soothe sore teeth. Seriously, next time you have tooth ache, slap some numbing clove oil on the offending gnasher – you’ll thank me.
Silverfish seem to actively hate the smell and essence of cloves, always circumventing where possible, which makes it a perfect, cheap and safe natural silverfish repellent to leave lying around the home.
Whole cloves can be used, but it’s usually much easier to try essences, scents and oils as they give you more flexibility when it comes to administering them.
Cinnamon and lavender
The pungent smells of lavender and cinnamon are well known for their repellent powers when it comes to silverfish. The pattern basically seems to be any smells that we find pleasant and nice are like a gas leak for silverfish.
Whole sticks of cinnamon will work just as much as the oil and ground powder. The same goes for lavender: whole plants can be just as useful as leaves, tinctures and oils. But again, for convenience and flexibility, powdered and ground up compounds in sachets or distilled into essential oils is probably the easiest route to go.
Are Essential Oils for Silverfish Enough?
We’re going to be very honest with you. Using essential oils for silverfish and other scents that silverfish hate is enough to make life unpleasant for a silverfish. But it is not a complete solution.
If a silverfish has dark, damp places to hide, a humid environment, and ample access to food, a distasteful smell is probably not going to be enough to convince it to leave.
As such, scents that silverfish hate are best used alongside other silverfish repellent strategies. Think of them like sprinkles on a cake – they make the cake better, but they are no substitute for the cake itself.
So what works? What is the best silverfish repellent? Let’s dive in.
What is the Best Silverfish Repellent?
There are a lot of options out there when it comes to silverfish repellents. But in our humble opinion, the best silverfish repellent is something that works across the board.
By that, we mean that it is guaranteed to work, no matter what the silverfish likes or doesn’t like. It works the same for every silverfish. Every time.
Here are the best ones.
Ortho Home Defense Insect Killer
If you’re serious about keeping silverfish away, you can treat the perimeter of your home with a silverfish pesticide like Ortho Home Defense Insect Killer.
You can use this outdoors to treat the foundation of your house, windows, and other entryways. You can also use this indoors to treat baseboards and small cracks and crevices.
Once it dries, it becomes a long-lasting barrier that will kill any silverfish that come into contact with it for up to 12 months.
Looking for a natural silverfish repellent that not only repels these little buggers but actually destroys them as well?
One of the most popular repellents for creepy crawlies and silverfish is diatomaceous earth, which you’ve probably heard of already if you’re reading up on pest repellents. This simple, non-toxic, powder attaches itself to the creature and slowly dehydrates it until it dies.
The best places to scatter this natural, non-toxic powder is along the baseboards, inside cracks and crevices, and dark, hidden corners.
It takes awhile to eliminate silverfish since they first have to make contact with it, but it does work. After all, if somebody laid out a slow-acting, dehydrating killing powder in my neighborhood I’d be looking at red-eye flights out of the country. Wouldn’t you?
The other side of the powdered silverfish repellent coin: boric acid. This powder takes a much more direct route when dealing with silverfish and kills them off much quicker than diatomaceous earth. That’s because it can work in two ways: by damaging the silverfish exoskeleton or by poisoning the silverfish to death.
Again, the repellent aspect is obvious: would you like to live in an environment carpeted in the bodies of your friends?
It’s worth noting that boric acid is harmful and poisonous. Although the potency is very, very low and isn’t harmful to humans, it may pose a minor threat to some household pets.
This is why we recommend using boric acid in the form of ready-made silverfish bait, like Dekko Silverfish Paks. You simply place the packets in areas where silverfish live. Once they consumer the packets, the boric acid will kill them.
Last but not least, this natural silverfish repellent keep these pesky critters away by trapping them before they can become a nuisance.
Silverfish glue traps will also give you an idea on which areas of the house has the highest silverfish infestation as well as allow you to monitor how well your silverfish prevention methods are going.
Set them up in areas where silverfish like to lurk, check and replace regularly.
How to Prevent Silverfish in 5 Easy Steps
There’s an age old saying: “Why spend all your time trying to solve a problem that you could like, just avoid having in the first place? Know what I mean?” Its age is ten minutes old, because I just came up with it. But I think the principle is still relevant in our modern times.
Why spend all of your energy fighting against a silverfish infestation if you could just avoid the slippery little pests ever gaining a foothold in your home in the first place?
That’s right – there’s no good answer. You shouldn’t waste that time, which is why I’m going to take you through some of the most effective methods to prevent silverfish.
Here’s how to keep silverfish away, step-by-step…
Lower the humidity
A key component of the ideal silverfish environment is a constant atmosphere of humidity and moisture. Silverfish absolutely thrive in these conditions. In fact, they require it.
Silverfish love humidity levels between 75% and 95% but anything over 50% is ideal for them. This is why they enjoy attic spaces in warmer climates, but tend to migrate to different areas of the home when the winter months come in.
So simply investing in a dehumidifier or turning the temperature down in some areas of the home can work wonders for casting out silverfish. Even a very budget-friendly dehumidifier can cover a large square footage and using a dehumidifier in a closed environment can go a long way to reducing the population of silverfish and other pests like dust mites that silverfish feed off.
Bonus: The colder and less hospitable the conditions are, the less likely silverfish eggs are to hatch or mature into the full adult stage of their lifecycle.
Plus, getting rid of unwanted moisture around the home can only be a good thing from a structural standpoint, unless you’re some kind of swamp creature. I wonder if Shrek had a silverfish problem.
While you’re at it, take your vacuum cleaner for a walk around the home. Never underestimate the importance and effectiveness of a good, regular, vacuum schedle for keeping unwanted pests out of the house.
For silverfish specifically, you want to be targeting hard to reach places where either food crumbs can accumulate like under the fridge, behind the oven, in cracks around the kitchen. Equally important are small gaps and crevices where silverfish love to lay their eggs and eke out their existence.
Not only will all of this help to eradicate food sources that might attract them into your home in the first place, but if you already have some hitherto undiscovered silverfish hiding away in your house (or their eggs), you’ll hopefully suck them out and put an end to the epidemic before it begins.
Seal entry points
Why stop with the vacuum? You’ve painstakingly targeted all those small gaps and crevices in your home and cleaned them right out. Now it’s time to go one step further and ensure that they never fall victim to silverfish again: seal them up.
One of the ways silverfish get into homes is directly from the outside, usually around the foundation of your home. The more cracks and crevices there are, the easier it is for silverfish to get inside in search of food and water.
Sealing doesn’t have to be an involved or complicated practice – some simple waterproof caulking or sealant will do the job. Target spaces in bathrooms, your kitchen, the basement and attic and any other cold, dark, tight squeezes that you locate.
You also want to take care to make sure none of your plumbing or pipework is exposed to the outside or leaking moisture too. Areas like this are basically silverfish passport control.
Remove food sources
The next stage, whilst you’re in a mood for sealing things up, is to make sure any non-perishable foodstuffs are sealed up good and proper.
The thing is, though, silverfish consider a lot of things to be food. So there are a couple areas you need to focus on.
Sealing things up is fairly easy for the more traditional foods like flour, cereal, oats, sugary stuff, carbohydrate and starch rich ingredients that attract silverfish. Your first step is to simply store these foods in airtight containers.
Where things get a little trickier is with their tendency to chow down on adhesives, paper, cardboard, books, photographs, fine clothing and even – in extreme cases – leather.
For these items that you don’t use regularly, the worst thing you can store them in is cardboard boxes.
Cardboard is both food and shelter for silverfish so get rid of them and invest in sturdy plastic containers with tight-fitting lids.
Set up a silverfish barrier
The most effective way to prevent silverfish in the house is to make sure they cannot get in without risking their lives.
To make this happen, you can use the best silverfish repellents to create a barrier around your home. So what should you use?
- Ortho Home Defense Insect Killer. Spray the product around the perimeter of your house, concentrating on the foundations.
- Diatomaceous earth. If you’re wary about using chemical pesticides inside the home, you can accomplish a similar level of lethality using a natural silverfish killer like diatomaceous earth. Scatter it along floor edges and in dark corners.
Once a silverfish makes contact with either of the above, its days are numbered.
Silverfish Repellents that DON’T Work
You may notice a few regular names not appearing in the above list, and that’s because they’re actually not useful in repelling silverfish and find themselves mixed up with other pest repellents by accident. Here are silverfish repellents that just don’t work…
For example, cucumber is often slated as being a fantastic natural repellent for silverfish but in actuality it doesn’t really do anything at all. In fact, cucumber is a fantastic source of moisture for insects and bugs.
Salt, too, is often mentioned in conjunction with repelling silverfish, but again this is not true. In actual fact, the opposite is true: the salt attracts silverfish and provides a tempting source of food for them.
The bonus is that, obviously, the salt dehydrates them and can often lead to death, which can make it handy bait for traps and the like, but not a good repellent.
Bizarrely, parsley is also commonly mistaken as a repellent recommended for silverfish. There’s very little evidence or argument to back this up; it’s much more likely that folk are mixing up parsley’s effectiveness in repelling red ants with its complete impotency surrounding silverfish.
Makes a decent garnish, though.
What About Moth Balls for Silverfish?
As mentioned above, silverfish have been known to resort to finer and lighter clothing when the hunger takes them and there’s nothing else around. So do moth balls repel silverfish from clothes and other belongings?
Yes. Moth balls and the chemicals within them are just as useful against silverfish as they are other pests and clothing-nibblers.
But we don’t recommend them. For starters, they are not the best scented silverfish repellent. It’s one thing to have your clothes smell like lavender but moth balls? No, thank you.
On a more serious note, the real reason we don’t recommend using moth balls for silverfish is because they are toxic. Moth balls are comprised of an active ingredient like naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene that slowly turn from solids to toxic vapor.
As they disintegrate, they are releasing the insecticide into the air to be breathed in by you and your family. Worse yet, these tiny balls are not safe for pets or children. If your furry friends or a small child accidentally ingests a moth ball, it can be poisonous.
So all in all, yes, moth balls do repel silverfish. But they are also toxic. They’re probably more dangerous than silverfish themselves. Skip them. There are far better, less toxic, and equally effective silverfish repellents you can use instead.
How to Keep Silverfish Away from Your Books
Now you have the full guide on how to prevent silverfish in your home, we want to cover some specific areas that can attract silverfish, like your books.
If you want to keep silverfish out of your old college materials or your home library, one general tip is to air the stuff out and make sure it’s not being left to moulder on its own.
Here are some more tips:
Pack it away. Store any books and reading materials that you aren’t reading in plastic containers with lids.
Vacuum. Your bookcase and anywhere else you’ll be storing books. Use the nozzle of your vacuum or a flat vacuum extender to get into the corners of bookshelves as well as the dark underside of the bookshelf itself.
Use cedarwood. Either keep your books on a cedar-made bookshelf or place cedarwood storage supplies around your bookshelf.
Make a book moat. Additionally, take advantage of silverfish glue traps and lay these around your books like a moat.
Silverfish poison. If you know that silverfish like to lurk around your books, you can place a Dekko Silverfish Pak amongst your books to entice silverfish away toward a more poisonous food source.
How to Keep Silverfish Away from Clothes
Silverfish are fairly shy and reserved creatures; they hate fuss and noise. This means they’re more likely to burrow into stuff that’s been left in storage or neglected for a long period of time.
So the first place to start is with clothing that has been stored away.
Store clothing properly. Again, thick plastic containers with tight-fitting lids are your friends. Store your clothes in these rather than cardboard boxes.
Vacuum. Again, make sure you are getting the nooks and crannies, i.e. dark corners, of your closet. This will suck up silverfish eggs as well as household dust mites and debris that can be a silverfish food source.
Spray or dust your closet. Use a natural silverfish spray like Cedarcide or a powder like diatomaceous earth to kill silverfish that are hiding in the closet. Focus on corners, cracks and crevices where silverfish may have laid their eggs.
Use cedar storage blocks. You can strategically place cedarwood blocks in closets, in drawers, and anywhere else you store clothes to discourage silverfish.
How to Keep Silverfish Away from Bed
Silverfish aren’t bed bugs. They typically prefer to hide in the dark, damp corners provided in places like the bathroom, the basement, and rarely frequented closets.
But the bed certainly isn’t off limits. This is especially true if your bedroom meets a couple ideal conditions for a silverfish to thrive, like high humidity and damp, soiled sheets from sweat, humidity, or food.
The typical human household provides plenty of things for silverfish to eat without having to resort to the bed linens. But if your silverfish infestation has gotten out of hand, they will happily feast on bedding that’s made of cotton, linen, rayon, and even silk .
So how do you keep them away from your bed? Here are your best action steps.
Lower the humidity in your bedroom. Silverfish thrive in high humidity so if your bedroom has issues with dampness, it becomes the ideal place for a silverfish to live. Luckily, using a dehumidifier in a closed environment can quickly reduce humidity levels. Get one.
Don’t starch your sheets. Crisp, starched sheets may look nice but they are also very attractive to silverfish, who love a little starch in their diets. Skip this.
Vacuum. If you have silverfish in the bed, you likely have more of them and their eggs lingering around your room. Vacuum your bedroom regularly and pay special attention to where the walls meet the floor as well as corners. These areas can be harboring silverfish eggs.
Use diatomaceous earth. To prevent silverfish from getting in your bed, you should make sure they cannot get into your room without risking their lives. You can do this by lining the baseboards of your bedroom with diatomaceous earth.
Spray essential oils for silverfish. You can mix an essential oil of your choice – clove oil, cinnamon, or lavender – with water. Aim for around 10 to 20 drops of essential oil per cup of water, mix in a spray bottle and shake well. You can use this DIY silverfish repellent spray on and around your bed as well as directly on your sheets.
That’s your lot: the ins and outs of repelling silverfish and keeping them away from your home.
All of the measures listed above can be as involved or as casual as you like, depending on your environment and susceptibility. But remember the simplest and most important piece of pest control advice: keep your home clean.