The Most Effective Natural Ways to Get Rid of Silverfish

These insects are harmless, but few would want them as housemates

Photo of author

By Alex

how to get rid of silverfish

Silverfish, or those not-so-pleasant-looking insects, tend to infiltrate everywhere. They often appear in pantries, wood cracks, or between the pages of an old book. But what are they, how do they form, and most importantly, how can their annoying presence be eliminated from our homes? Here is the complete guide to achieving that.

What are Silverfish?

The scientific name of these insects is a bit less charming than what we’re used to calling them. Lepisma saccharina – better known as the silverfish – is a harmless insect for humans but not exactly pleasant to look at. ‘Saccharina’ because it’s a kind of larva that mainly feeds on sugars, specifically starches.

These substances are found everywhere: in wallpaper, wood, glue, book pages, and even in some fabrics like cotton. All things silverfish are quite fond of.

Disliking light, they almost always hide in door gaps, the bottom of a drawer, in cabinets, and in all those household items that haven’t been used for a while.

How Silverfish Form

Silverfish generally live in very humid, poorly lit, and unventilated environments. Therefore, they often nest in bathrooms, basements, or behind old wallpaper.

As mentioned, they are absolutely harmless to humans, but their presence in homes can be repulsive.

Why Silverfish Form in Homes

They feed on foods rich in sugar and starch, substances present in many foods found in every home. Perhaps not everyone knows, but these substances are also found in paper, wood, glue, and many fabrics, such as linen, silk, cotton, and various synthetic fibers.

For this reason, silverfish often hide behind a painting, between book bindings, under appliances, or in cracks. In case they don’t find sugary substances to eat, they can survive for a long time without food. In the worst cases, they eventually nibble on synthetic fabric items, linen, cotton, silk, or leather.

Where Silverfish Nest

They prefer all those environments where they can find the food they consume. They are often found in the basement because it is a dark and humid environment. They can sneak into small cracks and various types of crevices, such as behind baseboards.

Inside the house, they generally hide under furniture and appliances, near sinks, and behind bookshelves, paintings, and shelves.

What Silverfish are Like

Quite different from fish, these insects resemble small larvae with legs and long antennae. Perhaps they got the name due to their continuous ‘darting’ in corners of the house and some objects. The body is flat, covered with scales similar, indeed, to fish scales. Near the tail, three long appendages branch out. The color can be dark blue, gray, or blue with silvery hues.

Unfortunately for us, they are very long-lived creatures, capable of extraordinary adaptability even to the most hostile conditions. They can live for more than 3 years and be very prolific.

How Long Silverfish Live

They are one of the longest-lived insects; they can live up to 8 years of age. Unbelievable, isn’t it?

What Silverfish Eggs Look Like

Yellowish in color, their eggs do not exceed one millimeter in size. A female can lay up to 20 eggs a day, usually in protected nooks, such as cracks, crevices, and gaps in walls and furniture. In practice, they lay their small eggs exactly where they themselves live and hide.

Why Silverfish are Not Dangerous

Fortunately, these insects do not harm humans in any way: they do not bite, do not irritate the skin, and are not poisonous. However, they are quite unpleasant, and the idea of them wandering around the house can be disturbing and even disgusting to some. Not to mention that they can reproduce, giving rise to real colonies.

how to get rid of silverfish
These tiny insects are completely harmless for humans

How to Identify Silverfish

First of all, it is not uncommon to see them running fast on walls or the floor, especially along the edges of baseboards. In any case, suspicion should arise if small irregular cuts and/or incisions are noticed in books and newspapers, as well as small yellow stains that are very difficult to remove on sheets and linens in general.

Finding the Nest of Silverfish

Observe every corner, especially in the bathroom and kitchen. Also, pay attention to drains. Keep an eye on other areas such as the basement, attic, and crawl space.

How to Eliminate Silverfish

Since their ideal habitat is created in conditions of poor lighting and a high level of humidity, the first rule to eradicate silverfish is to avoid these conditions.

It is necessary to adequately dehumidify critical environments, maintain optimal hygiene, and promote air circulation. If you want to delve into the topic, you can always read our guide on removing humidity naturally.

If dealing with a silverfish infestation, there are various insecticides and chemical repellents on the market based on liquid pyrethrin that can eliminate them. If you do not want to use this type of method, you can try various equally effective natural remedies.

Natural Remedies for Silverfish

Here are some of the most effective natural remedies to permanently keep silverfish away from home.

What Silverfish Hate:

  1. Potatoes: A foolproof bait because it is rich in starch, which they love. The trick is to add a mixture of sugar and borax (or boric acid) to our trap and place it in strategic locations. This strategy will attract the insects and eliminate them within a few days.
  2. Dehumidifier: Simple, safe, and effective. Dehumidifying the air in environments where these small creatures live means creating an environment that is anything but favorable to their presence. It is advisable to use one, especially in winter. This will also prevent the formation of mold and other parasites.
  3. Essential Oils: Extracts of bay, peppermint, citronella, lavender, and ginkgo biloba are among the best natural repellents against silverfish. Simply dilute 20 drops of essential oil in a spray diffuser and spray the surfaces where they nest.
  4. Cedar Peel: They hate the smell of cedar. If their presence is concentrated in the basement, under the stairs, or in the basement of the house, sprinkling some cedar peels will force the insects to move away quickly. Remember to sweep away the dust and change the peels weekly until you are sure you have permanently solved the problem.
  5. Vinegar: Just pour it into a spray bottle and spray it in suspected hiding places. If you don’t like the sharp and pungent smell of vinegar, you can add a few drops of essential oil, choosing from those mentioned above.

How to Permanently Eliminate Silverfish

In addition to natural remedies, of course, other methods can be used, such as insecticide sprays, baits, and ultrasonic repellents. The latter constitute a 100% effective but also the most expensive system compared to others.

Which insecticide should you use? Boric acid is very effective, toxic to both adult insects and their eggs. In the evening, it should be distributed in places where these insects are suspected to take refuge. The next morning, the powder should be removed with a broom or vacuum cleaner, and the treatment should be repeated for several days.

In more severe cases, and if natural remedies are not sufficient, you can contact a professional pest control company for a proper extermination. On average, for the treatment of adult insects – without eggs, the price ranges from 100 to 200 dollars depending on the size of your house.

More on this topic

You might also be interested in these other housekeeping guides: