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Homekeeping · Gardening & Outdoors · Got Silverfish? Here’s How To Get Rid Of Them For Good
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Got Silverfish? Here’s How To Get Rid Of Them For Good

Have silverfish taken up residence in your house? Find out how to give them the boot!

I’ve been blogging about household problems and solutions for a decade at this point, so I know plenty of things about navigating the ins and outs of home life! But if there’s one area that I often feel less informed about, it’s household pests.

The main reason for may lack of knowledge in this arena is that many common pests live in humid environments. Up in the mountain valley we call home here in Utah, we’re about as far from humid as you can get, which limits the variety of pests we contend with here.

A prime example is silverfish, which I had never even heard about before I wrote this post! But I’ve made it my mission to solve household problems beyond the ones I personally experience, so I did some research, learned a whole lot, and put together a handy guide that will teach you everything you need to know about getting rid of silverfish! 🙂

What Are Silverfish?

Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) are obviously not fish at all, but rather are insects and a common household pest. They get their fishy nickname from their silver coloring and the way they move their bodies, which resembles the way a fish swims.

Silverfish are nocturnal, and are sometimes called “bristletails” because of the three appendages that stick out of their back end like tails. They are covered in silvery scales, have antennae as long as their whole body, and they are typically around 1/2” in length when fully grown.

But the features that make silverfish such a formidable opponent as a pest are their speed and shape. They’re surprisingly fast, and their flat bodies enable them to squeeze into even the most narrow cracks and crevices.

Are Silverfish Bad Or Harmful?

The good news is that no, silverfish are not harmful to humans. They don’t bite or sting, and aren’t known to carry diseases like ticks, rats, and other pests can.

But that’s where the good news ends, because while they won’t harm you, they can really do a number on your stuff! Silverfish feces can destroy papers, books, wallpaper, cardboard boxes, carpeting, and clothes, and silverfish themselves love to make homes in your starchy foods like pasta, cereal, and rice.

Humidity and food sources are two big draws for silverfish, which is why they are often found in basements, bathrooms, and kitchens.

How Can I Tell If I Have Silverfish?

Put on your deerstalker and grab your magnifying glass, because it’s time for a silverfish investigation! You can find telltale signs of a silverfish infestation in a few different places, so its worth checking them all out just to be safe.

On surfaces around the house, you might find cast-off skins and tiny flecks of feces (think ground pepper). Check wallpaper, stacks of newspaper, boxes of old documents, and book bindings for ragged edges or scrape marks.

And finally, be sure to check the dry goods in your pantry (pasta, cereal, flour, rice) to make sure there aren’t any silverfish burrowing inside them.

Why Do I Have Silverfish?

If you have confirmed that you do indeed have silverfish inside your home, your first question might be, “Why?!” It may comfort you to know that it doesn’t necessarily mean your home is dirty.

Silverfish are primarily drawn to humid environments and dark damp places, so if you see them in your house, there is likely a source of moisture that drew them there. It could be related to water damage, like a small leak, or it could just be a byproduct of living in a humid climate.

How To Get Rid Of Silverfish

So you know you have silverfish in your house, but now what? In this section, we’ll explore several different ways to get rid of silverfish.

I’ve sorted these methods into three categories: natural methods, homemade and store-bought traps, and chemical repellants. So whether you want to get rid of silverfish naturally, want to try a few different solutions, or just want them gone by any means, you’re sure to find a method that works for you below.

Natural Methods

  • Diatomaceous Earth. Diatomaceous earth (DE) looks a bit like flour, but it’s actually finely ground sedimentary rock. Dust it over areas where you’ve spotted silverfish activity, and when the silverfish come into contact with it, it will cause them to dry out and die. (And although it is food-grade, DE should be kept away from pets and children.)
  • Salt. Silverfish are attracted to salt, but once they eat it, they dehydrate and die. As an added bonus, sprinkling salt around silverfish activity and along baseboards will help absorb excess moisture in the area too.
  • Cedar. Silverfish reportedly don’t like cedar in any form, from chips to oil. Take advantage of that by putting cedar chips or spraying cedar oil in crevices where silverfish may be hiding to keep them away and at bay.

Traps

  • DIY Jar Trap. Grab a jar that’s at least 3” tall and cover the outside of it with tape so that the sticky side is facing out. Place a piece of bread at the bottom of the jar and leave it in an area where you’ve seen silverfish. They’ll be able to crawl into the jar with the help of the tape, but they won’t be able to climb the smooth glass to get back out.
  • Sticky Trap. Set up a few simple sticky traps around your home where you’ve seen silverfish, and they’ll get stuck on the adhesive surface if they walk across it.

Chemical Methods

  • Pyrethrin. Pyrethrin, which is the active ingredient in many flea-and-tick pet collars, can also be used to kill silverfish. Pyrethrin is made from the seed cases of chrysanthemums and thus is biodegradable, but the synthetic equivalent (permethrin) is not. Permethrin is commonly used in insect repellent sprays meant for fabrics like clothing, tents, and other outdoor gear.
  • Boric Acid Packs. You can find silverfish packs online that are made of paper and contain boric acid. The silverfish eat through the paper, ingest the boric acid, and die shortly after. (Keep in mind that boric acid is also toxic when ingested by humans, so keep them away from any place where a child could get to them.)

How To Prevent Silverfish From Coming Back

Once these sneaky little pests are gone from your home, you’ll want to take a few steps to make sure they stay gone for good! The following steps should help keep your home silverfish-free!

  1. Address damp problems to eliminate the humidity that could draw silverfish back into your house, like leaky pipes and poor ventilation.
  2. Once the source of the moisture is fixed, run a dehumidifier in the area to dry out any lingering moisture.
  3. Clear the perimeter of your home, removing leaves, brush, dead plants, and any other damp debris.
  4. Silverfish love dust and debris, so be sure to vacuum your carpets regularly, clear away paper clutter, and dust regularly too.
  5. Store clothing that’s not currently being worn in sealed bins in a dry location.
  6. Transfer your dry foods, including pasta, cereals, and beans, to a set of airtight food storage containers.

If All Else Fails, Call A Professional

When dealing with silverfish or any other household pest, it’s important to remember that you won’t always be able to get rid of them permanently on your own. If you’ve tried to get rid of silverfish several times and they keep coming back, or if the infestation is already severe, you might be better off calling in an exterminator or other pest control specialist.

Have you ever dealt with silverfish in your home? Leave your best tips in a comment below!

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    Hi, I’m Jillee!

    I believe we should all love the place we call home and the life we live there. Since 2011, I’ve been dedicated to making One Good Thing by Jillee a reliable and trustworthy resource for modern homemakers navigating the everyday challenges of running a household. Join me as I share homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make life easier so you can enjoy it more!

    Every day I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

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