How to Get Rid of Silverfish

Getting rid of silverfish in your home is often a matter of limiting their food sources and other conditions they need to thrive.
Written by Melanie Krieps Mergen
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Updated on Jul 05, 2022
To get rid of silverfish that have taken up residence in your home, limit their food sources and other conditions they need to thrive. There are also a variety of household ingredients, like boric acid or baking soda, you can use to keep them at bay and get their numbers under control. 
If you’ve discovered silverfish in your home, congratulations—you’re now laying witness to one of the planet’s most ancient insects! However, that discovery probably doesn’t feel very exciting if they’re laying waste to your house and your possessions inside.
There’s good news, though: silverfish can be more manageable than other types of pests. Courtesy of
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that helps you save on
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, here’s what to know about silverfish—and what you can do to get them out of your home once and for all.

How to tell if you have a silverfish problem

Fortunately, silverfish aren’t pests that pose many health risks to humans, but they can do a number on your personal belongings.
They’ll chow down on just about anything—especially starchy objects—whether they’re organic or synthetic: wallpaper, cereal, books, cardboard, and plenty more. If you’ve noticed damage to these types of objects in your home, it could point to a silverfish problem.
While the signs are often easily overlooked, silverfish will leave evidence behind in the areas of your home that they’ve been occupying, including droppings and flakes of their exoskeletons. Their droppings can often be mistaken for small, black specks of dirt or peppercorns. If that wasn’t charming enough, the silverfish molting process can also leave behind a yellow powder that can stain objects. 
Granted, these signs can also point to other common types of
pest infestations
, so sometimes the best confirmation of a silverfish problem is locating the insects themselves.
There’s some good news here, however: compared to other types of pests, silverfish don’t reproduce very quickly. So if you can reduce their numbers in your home, you should be able to get your silverfish problem under control without too much trouble.
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What do silverfish look like? 

Silverfish are nocturnal, wingless insects, which, as their name suggests, are silvery in color. They’re about half an inch to an inch long.
Unlike their name, though, they’re not fish, but they are said to display “fish-like movements” as they wiggle about. Their bodies taper off at the end, which also adds to their apparent fish-like appearance.

What attracts silverfish to your home

Like a lot of household pests, silverfish are fond of warm, moist spaces. You’ll often find them in attics, basements, or crawl spaces, as well as bathrooms
If silverfish can chew their way into the packaging of any of your pantry items or pet food bags, you might find them there, too. 

10 natural ways to get rid of silverfish

For general pest problems, experts will often recommend trying an integrated pest management (IPM) approach before taking more drastic measures—especially if you live in a home with kids, pets, or individuals with certain health issues. 
In a nutshell, an IPM approach looks at what kind of resources a pest needs to thrive, then limits those rather than using insecticides or other hazardous chemicals as a first resort. It also tends to be more environmentally friendly.
Whatever products you choose, you’ll want to follow their instructions carefully and know the risks, if any, that can come with using them—even “natural” ones.
If you’re looking for natural ways to get rid of silverfish in your home, here are 10 options to consider: 
  1. Boric acid: Distributing boric acid in areas where you’ve had silverfish can be extremely effective in getting rid of silverfish. It’s fatal for silverfish when ingested, and it can irritate and damage their exoskeletons if they get it on their bodies. Be sure to use caution with boric acid around kids and pets. 
  2. Diatomaceous earth: Diatomaceous earth works similarly to boric acid or borax. When silverfish are exposed to it, it can absorb the moisture from their bodies, essentially drying them out, which proves fatal.
  3. Cedar shavings: Cedar shavings release a chemical that can repel a variety of insects like silverfish. 
  4. Baking soda: Mixing baking soda with a bit of syrup or honey can be tempting for a silverfish to ingest, which proves fatal once they do.
  5. Cinnamon: Cinnamon won’t kill silverfish or their eggs, so this may not help with a severe infestation, but it can help to repel them from certain areas in your home. 
  6. Cloves: Cloves are another scent that silverfish hate. Distributing whole cloves or clove oil can help deter them from certain areas. 
  7. Sticky traps: Set up sticky traps in areas where you have silverfish and dispose of them as needed to help keep a silverfish problem from becoming an infestation.
  8. DIY silverfish trap: Make a silverfish trap of your own by placing tempting items for a silverfish in a jar, and wrapping the outside with tape. The tape should give them enough traction to climb into the jar, and since they’re wingless, they won’t be able to fly out—nor will they be able to crawl up the smooth glass surface on the inside.
  9. Salt: Distributing salt in areas where you have silverfish can effectively (and fatally) dehydrate them when they ingest it.
  10. Dried bay leaves: Dried bay leaves are yet another option that won’t kill silverfish, but the scent will help deter them from certain places.

How an exterminator gets rid of silverfish

If your silverfish problem is seriously out of control and natural methods haven’t done much to help, an exterminator could help you evaluate your problem and come up with a more effective plan of attack. 
This could often look like using poisons, traps, or a combination of the two. Check with the exterminator to see if chemicals used are particularly dangerous for kids and pets or could exacerbate certain health problems. If you have any kids, pets, or people with health problems in your house, you may want to try a different tactic. 

How to keep silverfish out of your house

Some of the most important steps you can take to keep silverfish out of your house include: 
  • Keep your home clean and free of clutter: Since they’ll eat just about anything, having a silverfish problem doesn’t necessarily mean you have a dirty home. That said, dust and dirt buildup in your home will only add food sources for silverfish.
  • Keep pantry and pet food items in sealed containers: The fewer food sources silverfish will have access to in your home, the better. 
  • Keep your home’s humidity levels in check: Silverfish need
    high-humidity environments
    to survive, which means using a dehumidifier can make your house less hospitable for them. The ideal level for humidity in a house is typically 30%-50%.
  • Keep your home cool: A Silverfish’s ideal temperature range is between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping your home on the cooler side can make it less tempting for silverfish.
  • Move items on shelves around: Occasionally reshuffling items on shelves or in storage can help reduce the odds that silverfish choose these spaces as their hiding places. Or, if they are, you’re likely to catch the signs more quickly.

Finding affordable home insurance

One of the last things you want to be dealing with as a homeowner is a silverfish infestation—or any kind of pest problem, for that matter. Something else that makes that list? Spending ages trying to find the right
home insurance
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