How To Get Rid Of Silverfish (13 Steps To Banish Them FOR GOOD!)

How To Get Rid Of Silverfish (13 Steps To Banish Them FOR GOOD!)

 

Do you want to know how to get rid of silverfish in your home? These prehistoric creatures won't do us any harm, but that doesn't mean you want them hanging about. They'll make light work of destroying your books, clothes and any other starchy food sources. 

We've dealt with an annoying infestation ourselves, and we found that it can be tricky to keep your home pest free. We got rid of our infestation, so today we're going to share the best tips that we picked up along the way.

We've even included a few suggestions for getting rid of silverfish naturally, so you can feel good about doing it too!

Read on and prepare to send them packing...

What are silverfish?

what are silverfish?
They look something like this!

If you've seen one or more small, silvery grey, wingless insects in your home, chances are you've got an infestation of silverfish bugs. They vary in size, but they're normally about 13mm-25mm in length.

Silverfish are characterised by their tapered bodies and long antennae. They move in a quick, zig-zag motion, very similar to the way a fish darts about in a pond. They're nocturnal, so will normally come out to explore in the dark - be sure to keep your eyes peeled if you go to the toilet at night! 

They really do make our skin crawl, so we don't blame you if you're in a hurry to find out how to get rid of them. 

How to prevent a silverfish infestation

You might be wondering what causes silverfish - prevention is better than cure, after all. By getting to the root of the problem, you'll be able to partially treat the infestation and stop them from coming back in the future. 

1. Dehumidify your home

window
Let out all that steam!

Silverfish are attracted to damp conditions, so the first step to preventing and treating an infestation is to dehumidify your home.

You can do this by purchasing a dehumidifier to draw moisture out of the air. If you're looking for a cheap solution, you can buy cheap moisture absorbers, but a more long-term fix would be to invest in an electronic dehumidifier. 

Other ways to reduce the amount of moisture in your home include:

  • Drying clothing outdoors
  • Setting the heating to a constant temperature of 26 degrees
  • Keeping windows open
  • Ensuring that your bathroom fan is switched on for longer periods during and after showers.
  • Mopping up any standing water from the floor.  

2. Fill the cracks

It can be hard to tell where the silverfish are hiding when they only come out to play at night. The best way to secure your home against these annoying pests is to fill in and seal any cracks and crevices. You can do this using caulk. 

You also want to pay attention to any wallpapered parts of your home. As we said, paper is a favourite food source for silverfish bugs, so you'll want to make sure that your wallpaper is maintained. Peeling paper could well be keeping them around. 

3. Clear away paper 

Silverfish love paper. It is high in starch and makes the perfect source of food. Be sure to keep your beloved books, newspapers and important documents safe. The best way to do this is to move it to a secure box or a room that is not affected by the infestation. 

Not only is having these starchy food sources lying around likely to encourage an infestation of silverfish to stick around, but you will also end up having to throw away anything that they've got into. You'd be surprised by how quickly they can work through your clutter!

4. Store food securely

pasta
Save your pasta!

Silverfish will eat their way through anything with high starch content, so it's important to keep any potential food sources out of reach. 

If you currently store pasta in its plastic packaging, this might not be adequate protection. You can keep your food safe from silverfish by ensuring foods like pasta, cereal and sugar are all kept in air-tight containers. 

How to get rid of silverfish

Is it too late to prevent a silverfish infestation? You might be wondering how to kill silverfish.

No matter whether you're looking for a humane solution, a natural method or a quick and effective chemical-based eradication, we're covering lots of different options when it comes to how to get rid of silverfish. We'd suggest using a few of these methods at the same time for best results. 

5. Use a newspaper 

newspaper rolled up
It's not just for hitting them with!

Looking for a cheap, humane and non-toxic method? Why not give newspaper a try? As paper is one of the silverfish's go-to food sources, newspaper makes great bait, especially when moist. Before you go to bed, set a few newspaper traps. Follow these steps to make your own:

  1. Take an old newspaper and roll it up lengthways.
  2. Secure it with some elastic bands.
  3. Carefully soak it with water until the sheets are a little bit damp, but not mushy. 
  4. Leave a few of the traps around your home in places where you have seen silverfish. 

The silverfish will be attracted to the traps and should take refuge in them overnight. In the morning, carefully discard of the newspapers. You can repeat this for a few nights in a row, or until you stop seeing silverfish in your home. 

6. Diatomaceous earth 

Another popular way to kill insects, including bed bugs, is to use diatomaceous earth. The particles of the powder are razor sharp, meaning that any bugs that crawl over it will have their bodies ripped apart - lovely!

This is another slightly messy method, but it works well as a last resort.  

7. Purchase a commercial silverfish product 

If you're looking for a slightly more potent way to get rid of silverfish, you could try out commercial products. There are a few different options out there, including different sprays and bait traps

Sprays might be toxic to children and pets, so be sure to read the instructions on the packaging.

8. DIY jar trap

jar trap
Cheap and effective.

Looking for a more humane DIY trap? Why not try using an old jar?

Take an old, clean jar and wrap the outside with tape from top to bottom. Masking tape works best for this, but any tape will do. The ridges of the tape will help the insects to climb their way inside of the jar, but they won't be able to climb back out. 

Place some torn up pieces of bread in the bottom of the jar to lure them in. As with all the other traps, be sure to empty and reset it in the morning. 

9. Scatter wood shavings

A slightly messier way to banish silverfish from your home involves scattering cedar wood shavings around the perimeter of the room you wish to treat. The smell of the shavings will ward off the pests, without having to capture them. 

Long term, this method isn't the most effective, because there is a lot of clean up involved and no one wants to feel like they're living in a hamster cage 24/7! This could also push the silverfish towards other parts of your home. 

10. DIY sticky bait traps

If you want to make your own sticky traps, why not use duck tape? It's a cheap solution and will catch dozens of silverfish in their tracks. Place it sticky side up around the perimeter of the room that you wish to treat. Each morning, discard and replace any tape that has insects stuck to it.

This treatment keeps a room usable and is non-toxic. It's not the most humane, as the silverfish are likely to die. 

11. How to get rid of silverfish with essential oils

Wondering how to get rid of silverfish naturally? Lavender and lemon essential oils will ward off not just silverfish, but a whole host of other creepy crawlies. Dilute a few drops of the oil into a trigger spray bottle of water and spray liberally around your home. You can also peel the skin off of a lemon or any citrus fruit to achieve the same results.

12. Spices

spices
The smell will ward them away.

Can you use spices to repel silverfish bugs? Yes, you can! Place a small bowl of any particularly odorous spice into your cupboards, or around the edge of the room. Don't scatter spices directly onto any surface, as a lot of them will stain.

13. Call in the professionals 

Just can't get rid of them? If your silverfish problem persists after trying all of these methods, you might have a high-level infestation on your hands. This shouldn't be the case, but you might want to call in the professionals to fumigate your home. This can be costly, so we'd only recommend it as a last resort. 

 
Q&A 

What is the difference between a silverfish and a firebrat? 

Silverfish and firebrats are often confused because they look so alike. They are the same size and have the same body shape. The key difference is their colouring. One, as the name suggests, is much more silver. The other is an orangey-brown colour. 

Firebrats prefer warm temperatures, while silverfish prefer cooler, humid spaces. 

What do silverfish eat? 

Silverfish are attracted to starch-based food sources, including pasta, cereal, and even paper. 

Where do silverfish come from?

Silverfish can either come in from outside, inside of the foundations of the home, or they might be brought in accidentally through a delivery package or when moving. 

What do silverfish do?

Silverfish are completely harmless but they will make holes when eating paper-based items in your home. They can also leave behind a yellow stain.

 

Have you experienced a silverfish infestation? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

 Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to the reader, we earn a commission if you click through to one of our recommended products and make a purchase. 

Author

Joanne A

Editor

Expert in finding beautiful solutions for small and rented spaces. Would happily spend the rest of my life shopping for homewares and watching Disney movies - I only wish I had Cinderella's army of mice to help me clean!

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  1. Author April on April 26, 2019 at 9:26 am

    I think you should remove suggestion Numer 10. DIY sticky bait traps - they are incredibly cruel!

    1. Author Joanne A on April 26, 2019 at 9:38 am

      Hi April! We do agree that it's inhumane, and have mentioned that at the end of the point. We have covered all the options, as it might be the only fix for some people.

    2. Author Jacqueline Straw on April 27, 2019 at 9:12 am

      I think it should be removed also, in my opinion cruel methods should not be listed.

    Reply
  2. Author Rube on April 26, 2019 at 9:49 am

    I will try some /all whatever means possible to get rid of these horrid creatures, cruel or not - they make my skin crawl! Thanks for the tips.

    1. Author Joanne A on April 26, 2019 at 3:28 pm

      They make our skin crawl too! Thanks for the feedback, Rube.

    Reply
  3. Author Tracey scotchbrook on April 26, 2019 at 9:57 am

    Thank you for the tips to get rid of silverfish will be giving them all a go. Got a slight problem with them in the kitchen. Not overly over run with them , but did hear that they breed like wild fire . And i have also seen baby ones aswell. Have tried the commerical sprays and powders .Every thing ok for a little while, then they come back again. So eill definitely be trying all of your suggestions .thanks again. Tracey

    1. Author Joanne A on April 26, 2019 at 3:27 pm

      Hi Tracey! I had the exact same problem and, after following these steps, they've completely disappeared. I hope they work for you!

    Reply
  4. Author Dally on April 29, 2019 at 8:31 am

    Great tips. We always find carpet beetles around our home. Do you think these tips will work for those or can you suggest anything else? Are they common?

    1. Author Joanne A on April 29, 2019 at 11:41 am

      Hi Dally! Carpet Beetles require different treatments to Silverfish - but don't worry, they're very common! The best thing to do to combat them is to clean and vacuum regularly. We're in the process of writing an article on them, so stay tuned for more tips.

    Reply
  5. Author Timi on June 21, 2019 at 10:53 pm

    I don't know what is cruel about trapping silverfish! They feed on dead skin cells, and they're an invasive pest. There will never be a shortage of them. They can be as bad as termites. Goodness.

    1. Author Joanne A on July 1, 2019 at 10:44 am

      Hi, Timi! It's a personal preference - some people don't harm any insects, including spiders. We've included cruelty-free methods so that our audience can make an informed choice.

    Reply
  6. Author Marge on July 6, 2019 at 8:08 pm

    I literally woke up two weeks ago feeling something running around my FACE. Of course I did a full cardio workout while jumping out of bed and turning on the light. To my horror, there was a silverfish on my pillow. I have seen a couple of them here and there in our upstairs but ON MY FACE?????? I had read to put cinnamon sticks around and I did that. The whole perimeter of the room. Thank goodness for large cinnamon stick craft bags. Decided to sleep in the recliner for a few days even though I scrubbed that room from top to bottom and, of course, just cleaned the boxspring, mattress and linens because my husband wouldn't let me burn the house to the ground. About a week later I woke up in the recliner and felt something fall from my hair and, once again, brought my heart rate up so high that I should have burned all my calories for the day. Couldn't find anything. Sat on the bed and just waited and saw a spider crawl out of the blanket I was using on the recliner. I'm 65 yrs. old. I have NEVER had this happen before. And now, twice in as many weeks??? I always shower before bed and go to bed with wet hair. Could that have something to do with it?? Why hasn't it ever happened before??? I am currently going on my 4th night with maybe an hour of a sleep. I am completely traumatized and am at a loss for what to do.

    1. Author Joanne A on July 8, 2019 at 10:13 am

      Hi Marge! Wow, this sounds like a horrific experience - I just shuddered from reading your message! Hopefully, some of these tips will help you ward insects away. I don't think that sleeping with wet hair will have attracted the insects - you can read about the effects of sleeping with wet hair in our blog post here > https://experthometips.com/sleeping-with-wet-hair. That said, silverfish do love damp conditions, so there is a small chance! Running the shower late at night will also make your home damper (something they love!) at the time when they are most active. If your spider problem continues, do check out the tips in this article > https://experthometips.com/15-ways-to-keep-spiders-out-of-your-home. I don't blame you for wanting to burn the house down, but your husband might be right... Wishing you luck and I hope that you banish them from your home soon!

    Reply

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