How to Control Silverfish in Your Home

By: Julie Day


Boxes, paper, insulation, and damp spaces are likely to attract silverfish.

My downstairs neighbors have been remodeling their condo, and my place has been overrun with silverfish. I’m desperate to get rid of them, but I don’t want to use toxic chemicals. Help! -Tina

Silverfish (Lespisma sacchrina) are nocturnal members of the insect order Thysanura that thrive in high humidity and warm temperatures. They can move very fast, making them hard to see, and live on a diet that includes starchy foods, paper, and fabric.

While they don’t bite, silverfish are a creepy nuisance that can be destructive to your belongings. The best way to get rid of silverfish is to attack them at the source; however, in your case it sounds like the source is going to be impossible to find! The good news is, you don’t have to reach for the highly toxic sprays; in fact, some of the less-toxic options are the most effective! Here are some things to try:

  • Boric Acid: This is the most popular product for silverfish control, and compared to other products, boric acid is quite low on the toxicity scale. In fact, it has historically been used as a cleaning product. You can purchase boric acid powder to sprinkle in areas where silverfish are active. You can also find boric acid in ready-to-use products such as baits, wafers, and traps. Roach Ridd and Dekko Silverfish Paks are examples of products made with boric acid.
  • Diatomaceous Earth: The tiny silicate shells of microscopic sea diatoms are lethal to many insects, penetrating their exoskeletons and dehydrating them. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth in crevices, but make sure pets and children cannot get close enough to breathe it.
  • Pyrethrin: This is a chemical pesticide, but because it’s made from the seeds of the pyrethrum plant, it’s biodegradable and considered less toxic than others. It’s the active ingredient in many flea and tick pet collars. While no pesticide is completely safe, this might be a more attractive option than a harsher chemical. You can find pyrethrin sprays and powders at most garden centers, and you would apply it only in crevices and areas where the silverfish are active.
  • Jar Traps: Make your own silverfish trap by covering the outside of a glass jar with masking tape (to help the critters crawl in), then put crackers or something starchy in the bottom of the jar as bait. The silverfish crawl in, but they can’t get out.

DIY silverfish control:

  • Sticky traps: Make a paste of flour, water, and boric acid. Coat index cards with the paste, allow it to dry, and use as sticky traps.
  • Baits: Sprinkle boric acid on and around a cracker, and place it as poison bait. Be sure to put it out of reach of children or pets! You can also do this with diatomaceous earth.
  • Crevice sprays: Make a 5% solution of boric acid in water. Use a spray bottle or turkey baster to inject the spray into cracks and crevices. You can also spray the powder directly. This puts the treatment where you need it and reduces your exposure to the chemical.

Be sure to target:

  • Boxes and file cabinets
  • Insulation
  • Baseboards
  • Behind appliances
  • Cabinet tops
  • Light fixtures
  • Behind electrical outlets
  • Behind siding and within walls
  • Holes where water pipes enter walls

To make your home less inviting to silverfish:

  • Fix Damp Spots: Leaky pipes, water condensation, damp basements, and humidity provide an attractive environment for silverfish.
  • Eliminate Food Sources : Silverfish eat starches and sugars found in paper, glue, book bindings, insulation, and cardboard boxes, and they usually hang out pretty close to their food source. Use airtight plastic storage bins for paper, and get rid of anything that you find full of silverfish.
  • Vacuum Crevices: Silverfish hide and lay their eggs in cracks and crevices. Dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag in the trash outside so they can’t crawl out again.

Further Information

Julie

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13 Comments on “How to Control Silverfish in Your Home”

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  • RJ Says:
    July 11th, 2016 at 8:54 am

    We just moved into a friend’s house to rent months ago, and a month in I noticed little babies on the bed sheets, in the ceiling fan fixture in the kitchen, and randomly around the house. The attic. They’re in the attic! I’m about to buy the Dekko packs in bulk and set them up everywhere, including the attic.



  • Craig Says:
    March 27th, 2016 at 4:05 am

    Everywhere seems to suggest Boric Acid or those traps. I’ll probably pick up both off Amazon because these buggers have become quite annoying.



  • Margret Says:
    December 25th, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    We bought a house 2 years ago with Silverfish. I had never heard of them before. I have done pretty much everything to try to get rid of them: killing sprees in the hot spots every night, the dicotamous earth stuff, sticky traps (which work great, but doesn’t get them all) keeping the house spotless. I just don’t think I can do it by myself. I am officially looking at an exterminator, and based off my experience, I am convinced the only thing that will work is to tent the house. good luck to those, if anyone has ever gotten rid of their population please let me know how so!



  • SARA Says:
    November 10th, 2015 at 6:00 am

    THANK YOU VERY MUCH



  • vinnette Says:
    July 25th, 2015 at 3:53 am

    I have found the above articles very informative and similar to the experiences I’ve been having with these creepy looking insects that are a nuisance! Iam about my wits end with Silverfish in my newly renovated home. I’m so distraught about their continual showing up in my kitchen sink, on the floor, on the ceiling of my pantry, in my drawers in the kitchen and my bedroom closet drawers. The only comfort I have is that they don’t show up all the time and they are few in numbers but who cares whether there is 1 or 4. Thanks for your column. It gives me ideas and allow me to see that I’m not alone with this problem, but at the same time I’m really seeking out help with this annoying condition/experience.



  • Singh Says:
    July 21st, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    Remove all insulation from the loft and put boric powder in all the areas. All the crevices should be filled using building filler. Skirting board should not have opening and close them using fillers available at B&Q or wickes Try Rentokil powder products or call them as they put sprays which are very effective. Also try DIGRAIN which is very effective



  • Angela Overton Says:
    June 25th, 2015 at 8:41 am

    How do I get rid of bed bugs myself? Is there a ways to treat my home once they are gone to prevent getting them again?



  • Mary Says:
    May 25th, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    I’ve seen about 3 or 4 not sure where their coming from. But I have some questions.

    1.what can I do about my clothes as I don’t want them on my clothes or eating on them, so the question is if I put the silverfish traps on the floor in the closet will this draw them to that and kill them?

    2.if I set the silverfish traps in the kitchen cabinets will this draw them of do they have to be on the floor under the stove, sink, and dishwasher.

    3.if my cereal boxes are on top of the refrigerator is it possible they can get in the box?

    I’m so desperate!!!!!



  • sarah kelly Says:
    May 20th, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    I know i have silverfish in my bathroom and my dog chases them at night i have recently stripped the kitchen walls so they must have had a right feast i heard the paper russle so i have a big infestation please can anyone help me i have a dog so i have to be careful whatever i buy please can someone help



  • Resa Says:
    June 8th, 2014 at 9:21 am

    You can use roach bait traps too! I purchased some small pill like tablets and try them in the outlets and behind the furniture. I don’t see many so I don’t know where they are coming from but they are up high on the ceiling when I see them. I will check the attic too.



  • Ken Wright Says:
    October 9th, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    I dont know, BUT maybe a mix of 10% BORIC ACID & Water sprayed by a Garden Spray in the Ceiling, Skirting Boards or any Hole that leads into your house may do the Trick.
    I am going to try this & see what happens.
    Queensland has taken Pyrethrum Liquid OFF the market, that worked very well, but with the GREEN’S & the save AUSTRALIA we PAY,we PAY, & the CRITTERS Win.



  • Sarah Says:
    July 28th, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    I hav only seen a few silver fish in my house and dont know were they are cuming from. I was just wondering what the best way to get rid of them is? Iv been reading about the boric acid baits and traps and need to know witch way is best. Thankyou



  • Ms. Harrison Says:
    December 23rd, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    I believe that the blown-in cellulose insutalion in my attic came infested with silverfish! I’ve been in the same home for 36 years. Over the years books stored in the attic did show evidence of silverfish. But since I had the attic insulation (which had been fiberglass) changed to blown-in cellulose this past summer, I’ve been finding silverfish in the kitchen, bathroom, hall and bedrooms. I am convinced the insulation came with them. Please tell me what can possibly be done to kill them???


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