How to Get Rid of Silverfish

Silverfish are harmless, but nobody wants these silvery creatures lurking around the house. The problem is that our homes are just too appealing for these creepy crawlies, full of breadcrumbs to eat and dark and damp crevices to hide.

If you find yourself in the midst of a silverfish infestation, you will want them gone quickly. There are several different options to try—from trapping them to making your home less welcoming—and it may take a few attempts to see what works. The good news is that most options involve items readily available around the house or inexpensive products from your local shop.

1. Identify the Scale of the Invasion

If you think you’ve spotted one or two hiding under the kitchen sink, the first step is to identify how serious is the infestation. Silverfish are nocturnal, so you won’t see them during the day but you can spot what they leave behind. Focus your search on dark and damp areas and look for small spots of excrements similar to black pepper. If you find these, try moving furniture away from the wall or looking in the skirting boards for hidden insects. Small holes on clothes or cardboard boxes are also a sign they may be around.

Even when you find the main focus of the infestation, don’t forget to keep an eye on the rest of the house. These small insects have a flat body and can squeeze through tight spaces to spread quickly.

2. Remove Access to Food

Silverfish love our leftovers and every breadcrumb found behind the fridge can be turned into a meal. Anything you can do to block their access to food brings you one step closer to eliminating this nuisance pest from your house.

Cleaning is key to achieve this. This involves vacuuming and dusting on a regular basis, even behind furniture and household appliances. Once you finish, throw away the vacuum bag to prevent any live insects climbing their way out. Cleaning alone is not going to solve the problem, but it’s an important practice to follow.

It is also crucial to store all dried food in air-tight containers, to ensure that silverfish do not have a regular supply of food. Don’t forget to store pet food the same way, as these insects are not fussy and will eat whatever they can find.

3. Reduce Access to Potential Hiding Places

Silverfish live in dark and moist environments. The best way to kick them out of your home is by creating the most unwelcoming and hostile conditions. This includes, for example, using a dehumidifier in damp areas, such as basements; sealing up any cracks and crevices in the wall or floor; and keeping bathrooms and kitchens well ventilated.

It may also be time for a de-clutter operation. Silverfish love hiding (and eating) in old books and magazines, so a messy desk covered in paper is a perfect place for these insects to proliferate. Throw away unwanted items, and store in air-tight containers what you want to keep. This is particularly important if you’re storing in a basement or attic.

4. Use Sticky Traps

Now, it’s time to start catching these insects. One of the most effective ways is to use sticky traps. These traps are basically a strip of sticky material usually with bait to attract silverfish. Some also have a poison like boric acid to trap and kill these insects. In this case, be careful not to inhale or even touch boric acid, as it can cause throat irritation and skin rash. For best results, place traps in strategic areas – Behind furniture, under the sink in the kitchen, or in the basement and attic.

If you don’t want to buy these traps, they’re easy to make at home. Wrap a glass jar with masking tape and add a small breadcrumb at the bottom of the glass. That’s it. The silverfish can climb into the glass, but won’t be able to get back out as the glass is too slippery.

If you want an even simpler trap, roll up a newspaper and get it moist. This is a perfect environment for silverfish and after a few hours, the newspaper will be teeming with insects. Without unrolling the newspaper, simply put in the bin or burn. Repeat the same procedure over a few nights.

5. Use toxic baits

If the traps are not enough, the next option involves toxic baits. Several products, such as insecticide, are commercially available and promise good results. The idea is to apply small droplets of the bait (which comes in a paste) around the areas affected to increase the chances that silverfish will find it. As these products can be toxic if ingested, it’s important to keep away from children and pets.

6. Use Pesticides

In addition to toxic baits, there are also some pesticides that can be used. The most common ones use either permethrin or pyrethrin as their active ingredient.

It’s important to note that applying these products indoors comes with some risk of exposure and should only be considered where other options have failed. Ideally, you should limit application to areas where you know silverfish are congregating. If you spread it too much, you run the risk that the insects will just move to a new location.

7. Use Natural Products

If you prefer a more natural approach, one of the most common products used to control silverfish is diatomaceous earth. Also known as dinosaur dust, miracle mineral, fossil shell, and ancient treasure, this is a naturally occurring product composed of the fossilized remains of aquatic microorganisms.

When in contact with silverfish, this product sticks to the insect’s body and breaks the protective waxy layer. Small particles are then able to enter the body and, as the insect continues to move, they eventually start damaging internal organs.

In a similar manner to the traps, choosing the right areas to target is vital to success. Apply in the evening and vacuum up the powder in the morning, along with all the silverfish caught. As with any chemical product, please take care when applying. Diatomaceous earth can irritate nose and lungs; as well as cause skin irritation and dryness.

An alternative to this method involves cedar shavings. It turns out silverfish don’t like the smell of cedar. Spreading shavings around the house can be messy, so this method is better suited for outdoor areas (if you know where silverfish are coming in the house) or in basements and attics. Clean and replace shavings every week.

8. Don’t Stop Treatments Too Soon

You must continue treatment for a while, even after you stop seeing signs of adult insects. Silverfish eggs develop very slowly and can still hatch up to 2 months after the last female disappears. If you stop treatment too soon, these new individuals will re-infest your house.

9. Don’t Bring Them Back From Your Holiday

If you spotted silverfish while you were away on holiday, make sure you check and clean all your belongings when you get back. Large bags and suitcases provide ideal hiding places for silverfish hoping to catch a lift.