So, you have a silverfish problem and you need to get rid of them. Quickly.
You’re probably noticing more and more of these nasty little buggers running around your home. And you want to get rid of them. Fast. and for good.
Throughout this guide, we’ll cover some basic questions regarding silverfish like:
- Why you have them
- What they’re eating
- If they’re dangerous to humans
- How you can get rid of them naturally
- How to use DIY traps, pesticides, and more
- How to prevent them from infesting your house in the future
Sound good? Let’s get rid of your silverfish problem.
Last updated: 8/29/19.
What are silverfish?
Silverfish are a common household pest in the United States and are easily identified by their looks.
They have a distinct silver or tan color with three bristles in the rear.
They move quickly throughout the home and slither between objects. Silverfish naturally prefer darker and humid environments, though they’ve been found in varying environments with varying humidity levels.
You’ll often notice them crawling around during the night or curled up in an edge between objects during the day.
Crevices, storage, and cardboard boxes are prime areas where they nest and breed, and are often ignored by humans often far too long until there’s a silverfish invasion throughout the home as they forage for food due to competition between other silverfish or species.
Getting rid of silverfish is a royal pain because since they’re so well hidden, it’s hard to gauge how many you have until you start laying out traps or actually seeing them crawl around.
Silverfish are about 12-20mm in length and are easily noticeable due to their distinct appearance. They look exactly the same from nymph to adult- just a tinier version of themselves.
To get rid of
Silverfish life cycle
Silverfish can become a nuisance rapidly within their colony because they reproduce quickly. The female lays up to 20 eggs per day.
Silverfish take about 3 months to reach full maturity from egg to adult. Eggs are laid by the female after mating and take 45 days on average to hatch depending on humidity and temperature.
Humidity helps eggs hatch faster, which is why you’ll find them in kitchens and bathrooms, although this isn’t required for them to breed.
After hatching, nymphs look exactly like the adults but miniature version. They molt until they reach adulthood, and will continue to molt up to 50 times. A silverfish will then do a mating dance with a member of the opposite sex:
The deemed female will touch antennae with the male, to which the female will then run away from the male.
After the male catches up, the female will mate with the male as he vibrates his tail and deposits sperm packets and the female take them up to her ovipositors. The eggs will then develop after this silverfish mating dance is complete.
The eggs are often laid in cracks, crevices, and other places where humans can’t get to. They’re tiny with only a length of 1mm and makes them nearly invisible to the naked eye.
They’re soft and will harden over time after a few hours depending on humidity.
Eggs that are ready to hatch are white/silver and after hatching, the silverfish are ready to go and wreak havoc upon your home.
Are they harmful to humans?
No, silverfish won’t harm humans as they’re not interested in biting us
They’re only interested in starchy products full of carbohydrates.
Although they can definitely be a nuisance when they show up unexpectedly, but they won’t harm humans and aren’t known to be a disease transmitted either.
What attracts them?
Silverfish eat mainly sugars and starchy materials, whether or not you consider them as food or not.
They’ll eat anything that has sugar compositions, and you can find those throughout your home with products such as:
- Papers and newspapers
- Body wash
- And even other pests!
You’ll also find them near a water source, such as kitchen sink, shower, or drain.
They need both water and food to survive, and you’ll often find them establishing their nest near a source of water and food quickly. After they establish a colony, they’ll start breeding.
This is why you need to act quickly. Most homeowners notice silverfish when it’s already a widespread infatuation of these pets and will need to take appropriate action to get rid of them in time.
Since water is often found in bathrooms, basements, attics, and the kitchen, they’re often found scouraering these areas at night, when they’re out to feed.
Other areas with higher humidity levels will attract silverfish, such as garages, sheds, and storage containers like totes, crates, and cardboard boxes.
As long as they have a dark, humid, and sheltered area with food and water, silverfish will likely become a pest.
Are they bad for your home?
Yes, silverfish will destroy your home. Maybe not so much your home, but rather the belonging within your home.
They’ll eat anything starchy or created with carbs, so as mentioned earlier, this includes books, magazines, paper, laundry, rugs, fabrics, bedsheets, and more.
As they feed in the dark, people don’t really pay attention to them until they’re all over your house.
So you need to take care of them before they really start eating up your stuff, laying eggs, and breeding until you have them crawling around during the daytime because of increased competition between other silverfish and pests.
Why are they so fast?
They’re fast because of how their anatomy is built.
Because of their thin body structure, multiple legs, and slim form, they can move quickly and scurry around from danger.
If you’ve ever noticed a silverfish simply crawling around, it’s probably in search of shelter or migrating during the day since they don’t typically feed until night.
Or it’s been forced out of its habitat and now you see them looking for shelter during the day.
When threatened, they’ll either stay still or run quickly into a crack, crevice, or some nook and cranny where they’ll feel safe.
They’ve evolved this way just like any other species on the planet to ensure their survivability within their environment. So this is why they move so fast. And why you need to take care of them before they take over your property.
How do they get in?
Silverfish easily get into your home through many different ways.
The most common ways Silverfish infest your house are the following:
- Window sills
- Foundation cracks
- Door Frames
- Pet doors
- Clothing, rugs, and fabrics hung outside
- Storage crates, boxes, and books brought into the home
All these ways are easy to access for silverfish to sneak into your house without you even knowing.
Once inside, they’ll seek out shelter in an area of your home that’s humid so they can lay their eggs. If they find the ideal environment that provides a source of food and shelter, they’ll breed relatively quickly and the new generation of silverfish will take over your household, so that’s why it’s important to not ignore them and act quickly.
Are they nocturnal?
Yes, silverfish are natural pests and only feed during the night.
You’ll find them crawling around and bustling with activity during the nighttime hours, but you may also find them foraging during the daytime. This is usually when they’re interrupted during their sleep or they’re in need of new shelter, food, or water.
But typically, they’ll feed during the night time when human activity is low.
This is why you rarely see them. If you see them during the day, you know you have a silverfish problem because they’re supposed to be hidden during the daytime (or concealed in a crack or crevice somewhere), similar to roaches.
How do you find their nest?
Silverfish, as the name implies, live in humid environments with excess moisture.
They prefer dark, humid, areas both indoors and outdoors. They often get into your home through crevices, foundation cracks, windows, doors, and fireplaces.
They can also be transported into your home through clothes, shoes, mail, and even cardboard or books.
You’ll often find silverfish all over the trees, rock bark, or moldy places. Things like bird nests and rodent nests are often also home to silverfish and other pests like termites, ants, and cigarette beetles.
Silverfish will often use these areas and crawl spaces of structures to nest outdoors and lay eggs within areas that are well-protected. Since temperatures vary across the US, they often nest in temperature between 70-75F.
Colder weather or hotter weather will both draw them to seek shelter in your home, so temperatures swings often lead to silverfish invasions during the seasonal transitions.
After that, they’ll nest indoors and this is where they become a real nuisance.
Be honest- how often have you gone outdoors to inspect for silverfish other than after you realized you had too many of them crawling around your home? It’s often too late when homeowners realize they have silverfish, so they need to deal with getting rid of them typically with all-out approach that takes longer than if they acted sooner.
But since silverfish are sneaky, it’s difficult to determine that you have a pest problem.
They’ll look for damp areas with humidity levels in the upper 60%+ range. This is often areas of the home where water or steam is found, which isn’t that surprising given that they seek these areas.
Determine where you have humidity and act from there. Look for signs of silverfish such as damage, eggs, and molts from previous silverfish skin molts over time.
You’ll often find silverfish in the following locations within a house:
- Laundry room
- Water pipes
- Heating pipes
- Cardboard boxes
- Cracks and crevices
They’ll seek out the driest and wettest areas in the home with food and water.
Then they’ll be laying eggs, up to 20 a day. Eggs will be laid in areas that are hard to spot, so chances are you won’t see them unless you look carefully through all the hard to reach areas.
They’ll often be found in crevices, cracks, and other nooks and crannies well-protected from humans.
Can you get rid of silverfish?
With persistence and a well-drawn treatment plan, yes, you can drastically reduce their population.
To exterminate them completely, you may have to fumigate your home or get the help of a professional exterminator.
But that’s not why you’re here, you want to learn how to get rid of silverfish by yourself, DIY style, and probably with a natural approach to avoid lingering residues and poisons.
Now that you’ve read a bit about their history, what they’re attracted to, and how they’re getting into your home, you can now start to utilize some techniques that are proven to help reduce or drastically eliminate silverfish from your house- and get rid of them for good.
At the end of this guide, you’ll discover ways to get rid of them permanently.
Depending on the pest level, you may or may not be able to get rid of them 100%. Since they lay eggs so often, it’s hard to eliminate one colony if they’re reproducing anther.
So this is why it takes time. Keep at it with patience and persistence and eventually, you’ll see the population drop in numbers. Use traps to monitor your progress.
Silverfish in the bathroom
You’ll often find these pests in the bathroom because that’s where they live- in humid environments.
Although This isn’t isolated to just the bathroom, they prefer this area because there’s a consistent source of humidity from the sink, toilet, and shower.
This helps them breed, feed, and also helps their eggs hatch even faster. The bathroom is also often dark at night time with plenty of food to eat from constant food from clothing, laundry, and even your feet tracking microscopic pieces of debris into the bathroom daily.
Thus, it’s no surprise that silverfish are found in the bathroom. Take a natural approach using the methods later in this guide as you don’t want to spray poison in the bathroom since it’s an area you often visit and you don’t want exposure to those residues.
Books are an excellent source of carbs and starch for silverfish, which is a major source of food for them. You’ll often find them in books that have been stowed for extended periods of time.
They’ll often crawl out when you crack the book and you’ll get startled.
If you have valuable books, you’ll want to store them in airtight containers as silverfish will seek them out and eat them over time and cause major page damage to the book.
Otherwise, if you’re just dealing with silverfish and you’re finding them in your books, either throw them away, burn them, or go through each one and make sure there’s no silverfish.
After that, store them in a container so they can’t get into them during the time you’re cleaning your house.
After all, they’ll likely migrate all over your house as you do a deep clean and disrupt their environment. So keep them out of your books to avoid them infesting another area.
Silverfish home remedies
You can make your own silverfish spray at home.
All you’ll need is
Then spray this anywhere you see silverfish activity.
Spray this between cracks and crevices throughout your home. Use it
Pyrethrin is a chemical pesticide made from the plant pyrethrum.
This is a biodegradable poison and not as toxic as commercial sprays like Seven, Ortho Home Defense, Spectracide Bug Stop, Dekko Silverfish Packs, Bayer, SLA, or BASF, Harris, Control Solutions, or HotShot. While it’s not exactly 100% safe, it’s a better option than using a commercial bug killer and you can find this at any garden center. Apply as directed.
Silverfish hate spice in general, so placing spice in small sachets around the house will keep them away. This is a nice, natural approach to any room that needs some treatment of terrible silverfish infestation.
You can buy spices at any grocery store and create sachets with them. Sachets can be made with tea bags, coffee filters, or pretty anything that holds specs.
Any of the following spices will repel silverfish:
- Cayenne pepper
Anything strong will repel them. You can get creative at this step and experiment. Create your own combinations and see what works.
Bleach will kill silverfish nearly instantly. They’ll also tend to avoid surfaces previously cleaned with bleach, as it’s a potent cleanser.
To use bleach and kill silverfish, here’s the recipe:
- Mix 1 part water to 1 part bleach.
- Put the mixture into a spray container.
- Wear gloves and proper protection.
- Spray where you see silverfish activity and wipe.
- Spray directly on silverfish as needed.
Clean all surfaces where you’ve seen or suspect that silverfish are present.
The bleach is an easy solution to prevent silverfish from infesting a specific area (and other pests like chinch bugs also). Not to mention you can get bleach anywhere and it’s super cheap.
This is a nice alternative to bug killer sprays and will be just as powerful as poisons and keeps them away from your home.
Just be careful about where you apply this. Don’t spray it where you eat or where residents or dogs/cats/pets will come into contact with it and track it around the home.
You can build a silverfish trap at home to trap them passively without needing to spend much. Once you set up the traps, you can just leave them and they’ll trap silverfish without you having to do any additional work.
Here are a few traps you can build at home for next to nothing:
Mason jar silverfish trap
This is a trap that can last you a long time without needing to be replaced. You can use this trap anywhere for extended periods. Just be careful about mold on the bait (bread) as it’ll need to be replaced.
What you’ll need:
- Mason jar
- Duck tape
- Piece of bread
Step 1. Take the tape and wrap it around the mason jar to fully cover it up
Step 2. Place the bread as bait and place it at the bottom of the jar
Step 3. Place the jar in an area that’s dark and leave it alone
Step 4. Let it collect and trap them over time
Step 5. Kill the silverfish that get trapped, remove the brad and replace it, then repeat.
Silverfish will climb on the tape to get in, but once they fall into the trap, they can’t get back out.
This will let you see how many silverfish may be in a certain area so you’ll know where to look for them when you clean out your home and apply the other methods here.
Use this trap as a gauging device to see where your silverfish problem lies.
Feel free to make multiple traps or try different locations around your home.
Here’s a video demonstrating the trap:
Newspaper silverfish trap
This is a natural and cheap trap you can make at home to catch silverfish DIY style- all natural and costs nearly nothing.
What you’ll need:
- Roll of newspaper
- 3 rubber bands
- Piece of bread
Step 1. Roll up the newspaper.
Step 2. Lock it into place with the rubber band to keep it rolled up
Step 3. Stuff some bread into the newspaper
Step 4. Place where you think there may be silverish
The silverfish will eat the newspaper and bread as it provides plenty of food for them.
Overnight, they should have eaten their way into the paper since it provides them everything they need- food, a dark environment, and a place to bread. Leave it there for a few days. When you notice silverfish activity, you can remove it and throw it away on trash day or burn it safely.
You can take a roll of newspaper and split it up into many smaller rolls and place the traps around your home wherever you suspect silverfish activity.
Commercial store traps
If you don’t want to make traps, you can simply buy them from any hardware or department store. Just go for natural traps if possible.
Some popular choices include:
- Roach motels
- Silverfish traps
- Sticky traps
- Sticky tape
Read the directions on each one as you compare them and choose the one that works best for you.
Traps that don’t have positions work best as some silverfish will avoid these traps- not to mention they’re better for you overall if you have kids or pets (and yourself).
Definitely get the natural solution when possible.
So that’s what we have for trapping silverfish. Yoo Hae a choice of natural or store-bought traps. Both work just fine. Choose whatever works for you or do a combo of both types of traps.
Natural ways to get rid of silverfish
You can get rid of these pests naturally and this is preferred so you can avoid nasty poisons and residues leftover from silverfish killer and sprays.
Go for the natural pesticide and sprays when possible if you plan to buy them from the store. But you should definitely go for the following DIY home remedies for silverfish first.
These are cheap, effective, and way safer than using sprays and leaving some nasty pollutants all over your house- where you live.
How to get rid of silverfish with essential oils
Silverfish are repulsed by some essential oils, although not much.
Pretty much any oil with a strong scent will push them back and they will avoid these oils. These oils won’t kill them, but it’ll drive them out and you can use the oils as a defense line against them.
You can use the oils as a container trap or simply smear the oil around areas where you see lots of silverfish activity. There’s no wrong way to do this.
Essentials oils are natural and often a safer approach to using pesticides.
Silverfish and salt
Silverfish will eat salt and this will dehydrate them over time.
You can lay salt around the home, but don’t place the salt where salt damages furniture. For example, if you have wooden floors or leather couches, you don’t want to place salt there as it’ll stain it over time.
Another thing to consider is that silverfish may “drag” the salt with them around your home, so only place it near areas where the salt will stay in that general area. You’ll need to do some thinking regarding this step, so put your thinking cap on and map out an approach if you plan to use salt for silverfish.
You can use lavender oil as a repellent to silverfish. Just spray this stuff anywhere see you see silverfish activity. This is a nie approach as it’s a natural repellent and safe for humans.
Borax is a common way to deal with many different pests around the home, such as dust mites. And silverfish are no exception.
Borax is natural and will kill silverfish slowly by desiccating them and burning out their outer shell. You can get borax at any hardware store, but opt for better quality brands if you can.
You can use borax for silverfish by taking the powder and spreading it around your home where you suspect or know there’s silverish activity.
Sprinkle it in the perimeter around rooms where you’re trying to clear from pests. Be sure to keep this stuff out of the way. Even though it’s natural, you still don’t want to be tracking this stuff all over your home. So keep it out around the edges of the room only.
Over time, you can vacuum up the borax when you’re done with the treatment of silverfish.
Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
Diatomaceous Earth is another natural element from the earth.
You can pick up a bag of DE at any hardware store. Just make sure it’s food-grade. This powder works similar to borax where you sprinkle it around the perimeter of any room you suspect silverfish activity. The powder will dehydrate silverfish that walk through it.
DE will kill them quickly as it’ll suffocate them. Sprinkle this stuff in cabinets, kitchens, drawers, and other dark areas. You can get food-=grade diatomaceous earth which is made from fossilized materials and the sharpness of each edge will cut through silverfish. DE is harmless to humans upon contact, but that doesn’t mean you should ingest it. Still take precautions.
You can apply this stuff to kill silverfish naturally in the following areas:
- Kitchen areas
Be sure to clean it up after you’re done with the silverfish infestation. You don’t want to keep this hanging around as it can be dangerous later on for wandering pets.
Obviously, you can only apply DE to the floor, so you can use it as fending around rooms to keep silverfish in there while you set up traps, sprays, and other poisons so they can’t escape. You can also use it as a barrier to other rooms to prevent them from entering them for escapees. So apply the BE around each room as a barrier to prevent migration in and escape out.
Of course, should the silverfish run along the walls or ceiling, the DE approach won’t work. But this will cover a single dimension of your room at least and it’s also a relatively cheap approach.
Diatomaceous earth can be bought at any hardware store for cheap in bulk. This is a safe and natural way to get rid of silverfish.
Just vacuum it up when you’re done. And avoid stepping contact when possible as you don’t want to track it around your home to avoid stains around your floors and property.
A dehumidifier is a simple approach because it’ll get rid of the excess moisture in the room, which will naturally drive silverfish out.
They need humid environments to breed and feed, so they’ll naturally wander out of rooms that are arid and dry. A dehumidifier is perfect for humid areas of the home, such as kitchens and bathrooms.
You can also use fans to blow out the air and water particles in the air to lower the humidity of the room should you knot have access to a dehumidifier or you just don’t want to buy one.
Cedar blocks can be placed as a passive technique to drive away pests from specific strategic locations within your house.
Silverfish are naturally repelled against cedar in general, so a block of it would keep them out.
Place them where you want them to stay out of, and use them as a way to keep them in check from migration.
For example, when you treat the bathroom, place cedar blocks in your own room so they don’t migrate to your room when they try to run away from whatever you’re doing in the bathroom. If you’re using another method to get rid of them from the bathroom, place the blocks in nearby rooms to keep them out from migrating directly into the new location.
You can use cedar “blocks” to “block” them out.
Silverfish hate cucumbers and they make a very good natural way to get rid of them. Take any cucumber and slice it into thick slices.
Place them flat where you see pest activity and replace as they dry up. These will automatically repel the pests as they hate cucumber.
You can use these are a natural approach to get rid of silverfish. Very useful if you have pets or children in the house- but you should still keep them from touching
Silverfish hate cedar, so whether you use cedar blocks or shavings- they’ll both repel them. You can place shavings in crevices and cracks where normally can’t place blocks so they’re easier to reach. Cedar will also repel other pests like carpet beetles.
Blocks are useful for larger infestations while shavings are good for smaller ones. You could try using a combination of both and you can sprinkle cedar around areas where you want to drive them out.
Just be careful because driving them out means silverfish will go to another area of your home.
Cedar shavings are best to use outdoors or around the perimeter of your house. This approach won’t kill them but will keep them away from your house.
Silverfish like a lot of foods that are starchy, but citrus is one thing they can’t stand.
Get citrus spray or make your own by using citrus extra and mix it with 1:1 water. Spray this stuff anywhere you suspect silverfish to be found. This will easily repel them and keep them away from the
But don’t forget to wipe it up later on and reapply. Citrus spray works okay against silverfish, but you want to up the concentration over time if it doesn’t work.
Also, be sure to apply when ended because citrus doesn’t last that long and needs constant reapplying.
But once you find the right citrus and the right concentration, you’ll have a very potent silverfish natural repellent you can use at home and make for cheap.
Get rid of silverfish once and for all by p
rotecting your home
Use a caulk gun and seal up your foundation around your home. This means any cracks where pests can get into your house. This will prevent silverfish and other pests like cluster flies.
Get rid of any leftover food that the silverfish may eat. As mentioned many times throughout this guide already, they eat anything that contains sugar or carbs.
Remove all items that include this, not to mention books, storage crates, cardboard, paper, and all other related items talked about prior.
Some of the stuff that you may have to remove aren’t easily moved, so be careful about these objects. You can use some homemade traps to stop them from migrating to these objects.
For example, if you have a ton of books on a bookshelf, to prevent them from migrating to your books and since you can’t move the books, lay some mason jar traps, apply some borax, or use some spices or something to repel them.
Use any combination of the techniques mentioned throughout this guide to prevent them from eating up your stuff.
You’ll have to do some critical thinking at this point, but since this varies widely depending on your house, there’s no way I can give some advice that covers everyone’s specific situation. Customize your treatment plan to your specific silverfish problem.
Here are some common food sources silverfish will eat:
Get rid of excess cardboard as they’ll easily start colonies and breed in boxes. They’ll eat up the cardboard and anything stored in it over time without you even knowing.
Seal up any cracks or crevices on wallpaper you have that may be peeling or offers a way for silverfish to seep in between wallpaper applications. Once they get in, it’s very difficult to get them out. So be sure to check for cracks around the edges of each sheet of wallpaper around the home.
Get rid of your old or out of season clothing by storing it, donating it, or throwing it out. Old clothes are a silverfish favorite that’ll feed them for years.
So make sure you’re not just leaving clothes around as they’ll slowly munch on them and keep reproducing new silverfish over and over and you’ll be wondering where they’re coming from.
So pack up your clothing or get rid of them. Also very important to do this when you’re treating with other techniques because they’ll run for the hills into your clothes.
You can do some basic maintenance around the house to keep silverfish and other pests out.
Some of the things you can do mainly are basic maintenance, such as:
- Keeping gutters clean
- Dispose of leaf litter
- Sealing up window screens
- Fixing foundation cracks
- Using traps to gauge for pests
- Applying pesticides as needed
- Get rid of any old clothing, books, and cardboard
- Keep all foods stored properly
All of these basic practices definitely keep pets out of your home and keeps them out. This is the best way to keep your home “silverfish-proof.”
Did you get rid of your silverfish problem?
That’s about it. If you actually take this seriously and follow all the techniques outlined in this guide, your home’s population of silverfish should be drastically lower than before for sure.
If you’ve dealt with silverfish before and you have some advice to give, leave them in the comments! Or if you have a specific question, let me know also! Just post a comment.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you get rid of silverfish quickly around your home and provided you with some nice, actionable advice for doing so!
Doing these techniques will eliminate silverfish and a lot of other pests while you’re at it. Definitely a guarantee.
Should you have any other questions, again, just leave a comment!
Thanks for reading!
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.