How to Get Rid of Silverfish

Find and eliminate sneaky little silverfish in your home, basement or office.

August 27, 2021
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Silverfish are stealth little critters that thrive off an unimaginable array of food sources, eating everything from mold to adhesives to books and clothing. They’re drawn to dark, humid corners and make it a point to keep their activities private, so don't expect to hear them munching or see them slithering across the floors if undisturbed. In fact, you probably won’t realize that you have them until you disrupt their environment.

Mature silverfish in the home.

How to Eliminate a Silverfish Infestation

Silverfish around the home and library.

While they can cause damage to items in your home such as books, pantry food and clothes, it’s important to note that silverfish don’t carry disease or harm humans or pets.

If you suspect that you have silverfish in your home, you’ll need to identify their hiding spot. Be quiet and observant. If you move a box in the basement or shine a light behind some books on a dark shelf, you might be lucky enough to see one scurry away. Check the corners of your basement, laundry room, under your kitchen cabinets, in bathrooms and in the garage. If there are signs of leaky pipes anywhere in your home, you might also find them hiding out in that area as well.

Silverfish can be difficult to find and eliminate, but with a combination of treatments and ongoing deterrents, the infestation can be managed with a few simple steps.

Silverfish eating old book pages.

How to Eliminate a Silverfish Infestation

Silverfish around the home and library.

Natural Repellents

The easiest way to prevent an infestation is to create an uninhabitable environment. Manage how your items are stored to prevent accidentally making a habitat that would lure silverfish:

  • Avoid leaving piles of paper and mail laying around your home.
  • Store your out-of-season wardrobe in sealed bins and in a dry area.
  • Store pantry items in air-tight containers (this also helps prevent infestations of pantry moths).
  • Monitor for leaky pipes.
  • Combat humidity in the home with a dehumidifier or AC unit.
  • Frequently vacuum and dust corners and shelves to eradicate eggs and larvae that may not visibly scurry about the home.

As you work to create this uninhabitable environment, consider adding repellents proactively to help deter pests. There are several natural scents and oils that naturally repel silverfish including cedar and herbs:

  • Place cedar blocks behind books on your shelves.
  • Store cedar wood shavings around your basement in discrete places (such as under dark stairs, at the base of shelves or around areas that may be prone to moisture).
  • Use herbal sachets containing bay leaves and cloves inside cupboards and closets.
Hanging Sachet on Hanger

Hanging Sachet on Hanger

Hang the sachets from hangers to keep clothes smelling fresh.

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

Organic Pesticides

If you know you have silverfish, start by treating the infestation with organic pesticides:

Boric acid can be sprinkled in the path of silverfish, or diluted in water and sprayed into hard-to-reach areas. Avoid using it in an area where pets or children might play.

Diatomaceous earth is crushed sedimentary rock that’s commonly used for pest control with plants. Even though silverfish are not prone to infesting potted plants and gardens, they will not be able to survive coming across it if you sprinkle it into dry corners or behind books on your shelf.

Once you use organic pesticides, implement deterrents to double down and prevent any infestation from returning to your home.

Silverfish on books.

How to Eliminate a Silverfish Infestation

Silverfish around the home and library.

Chemical Treatments

If your infestation is severe and hasn’t been eliminated by any of the aforementioned solutions, consider commercial pesticides. Though a greater risk to humans and pets, these chemical options can help eradicate a severe infestation so you can quickly get a resolution and prevent further damage.

Propoxur (Baygan) such as D-Force is a common broad-spectrum insecticide used for ants, LDD moths, mosquitos and more. In all use scenarios, the formula should not come into contact with skin and you should be careful not to inhale if using it in the home.

Pyrethrin, the active ingredient in the flea and tick collars you may use on your pets, is a somewhat safer alternative if you’re considering chemicals, but it should also be used with caution.

When to Seek an Exterminator

If all efforts to resolve an infestation have been unsuccessful, don't hesitate to contact an exterminator who can offer services to get rid of silverfish and install deterrents to prevent them from returning.

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