How to get rid of silverfish (for good): pest control experts share this simple 5-step method
From spraying lavender essential oils to using a dehumidifier, there are various ways get rid of these pests
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A silverfish is a most unwelcome visitor when we are reclining in a hot bath or simply visiting the bathroom, but the good news is they are relatively easy to get rid of.
Areas that have had particularly wet weather recently, such as San Francisco, have seen an increase in these common pests, which enjoy the dark and damp conditions of our basements, bathrooms and attics.
Whether taking extra care when cleaning the bathroom or purchasing silverfish deterrents, these are five steps to eradicate them, preventing damage to items like books and clothing.
How to get rid of silverfish quickly
Much like with getting rid of mice, if you see one, there are probably more of these little creatures knocking around, so it's a good idea to take measures to remove them as soon as you spot one. 'It is important to know that they don't like the light or being out in the open, so if you see one you can assume there is a much bigger problem hiding somewhere in the house,' says Matt Smith, a pest control professional.
Outside, these creatures tend to live under tree bark, preferring dark and damp areas. They are nocturnal and active throughout the year, and make their way into our homes through crevices and pipes.
Home organizing and cleaning will go a long way in preventing them, but here are a handful of options to try right away.
1. Use silverfish baits and sprays
'The fastest way, we have found, to get rid of silverfish is to use baits along with sprays,' shares pest control professional Matt Smith of Green Pest Management (opens in new tab). 'The bait we use contains Borax, along with a spray that the silverfish are known to frequent. Using this combination cuts down the population very quickly.'
So if you want to get rid of them as soon as possible, pick up baits, at Amazon (opens in new tab) and silverfish sprays at Walmart (opens in new tab) and use both. Sprinkling a small amount of Borax – or diatomaceous earth, at Walmart (opens in new tab) – in the affected area will also help.
Matt Smith has been working in the pest control industry for 14 years. He started Green Pest Management, Delaware-based pest control company, nine years ago. With his background and experience he is knowledgeable about a variety of pests, pest activity, and ways of dealing with infestations.
2. Deter with lavender
If you'd rather try a natural remedy first, add lavender essential oils, at Amazon (opens in new tab) into cleaning sprays, or dab onto cotton wool and place in the area you have seen silverfish coming from.
You could also use lavender sachets, but this may be less practical in moist areas. These pests also dislike citrus scents and cedar, so lemon juice and cedar oil are two other good, natural options with the added benefit of making your home smell nice.
3. Use a dehumidifier
The best dehumidifiers on the market are not only brilliant for reducing mold and mildew, but they will also deter silverfish. 'Another way to prevent these pests is to have a dehumidifier. Silverfish need moisture – they love damp dark areas, and they thrive in humid parts of the country,' says Matt Smith.
4. Keep the area clean
Silverfish are fairly common pests so there is no judgment here, but following everyday cleaning tips in your bathroom, basement or attic will prevent them from coming back. Paulo Filho, a cleaning professional and owner of Celestial Cleaning Service (opens in new tab) says that regular cleaning will significantly reduce the likelihood of a silverfish infestation in your home.
'If the problem persists or becomes severe, it's best to consult a professional pest control service for complete eradication,' he says.
5. Keep rooms well-ventilated
Another way to deter these bristletails is to keep the space well-ventilated, opening windows and letting natural light in. Leave the bathroom door or window open after using the shower or bath to encourage airflow, so you don't have to take measures to get rid of black mold build-up caused by damp conditions later down the line. Avoid leaving damp towels around in areas where they will not get dry.
Other preventative measures include fixing leaks and generally keeping rooms free of clutter.
Are silverfish harmful?
If you see a silverfish in your bathroom, you needn't worry about them hurting you – they don't bite or sting. But like any living being, they do poop, and if they're given free run in your home, inevitably they will end up in your kitchen, where they will contaminate food left out.
Why do I have silverfish in my house?
Like most pests, silverfish come into your house looking for food and shelter. While they will eat just about anything, common foods they are attracted too are fibrous (from pasta to books to fabrics), though they will also tuck into pet food, too. They like damp, dark, undisturbed corners, which is where they will lay their eggs.
How do silverfish get into your house?
Avenues of entry include a dark, humid basement, from which they might travel up through pipes seeking starch, and moisture, and dark, humid areas, says Jim McHale (opens in new tab), an entomologist and president and CEO of 50-year JP McHale Pest Management. Jim recommends very precise crack and crevice treatments, with a registered product, coupled with exterior barrier applications to foundations, window frames, and other potential entry points.
Will silverfish damage books or clothes?
Silverfish feed on starch, so they are attracted to books, paper, and cardboard, as well as glue and adhesives in wallpaper and book bindings.
Matt Smith recalls one customer having so many that they had eaten holes in nearly all of her clothing, she had to throw out most of her wardrobe which ended up costing a few thousand dollars.
What do silverfish eat?
'You can think of silverfish as little garbage disposals, they eat pretty much anything but they do prefer starches and fatty foods,' says pest control professional Matt Smith. 'Their tastes extend beyond food as they will eat holes in clothes, book binding, and even carpets.'
While silverfish are harmless to humans, they certainly aren't welcome in our bathrooms and other living spaces, given that they will chew through books and clothing. If you see one, it could be a sign of other issues like excess moisture, so it's well worth improving the ventilation and using a dehumidifier to prevent future problems further down the line.
Millie Hurst is Section Editor at Homes & Gardens, overseeing the Solved section, which provides readers with practical advice for their homes. She has been in the world of digital journalism for six years, having previously worked as Senior SEO Editor at News UK both in London and New York. She joined the Future team two years ago, working across a range of homes brands. Millie formerly worked as Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home, taking care of evergreen articles that help and inspire people to make the most of their homes and outdoor spaces. Millie has a degree in French and Italian and lives in North London.
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