How to Safely Kill Silverfish in Your Home

silverfish on white background
  • 1-3 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-50

Silverfish are small, wingless bugs that congregate around starch and sugar food sources. They tend to gather in dark places like corners, and may be found near books, papers, recycling, fabrics, the bread drawer, etc. These pests are not harmful to your health, and they don't bite or sting, but they can cause damage to anything made of paper and certain types of wood. Removing silverfish can be a difficult process, however, because many people are understandably hesitant to apply insecticides or other extermination methods inside of their homes. Rather than put your family and pets at risk of poisoning with a powerful insecticide, consider the following safe procedures for eliminating a silverfish infestation.

1. Understand Your Opponent

While you may have never heard the name silverfish, you’ve likely seen them and may have confused them with the more commonly referred-to earwig. Earwigs and silverfish are actually different bugs. Although they share the same class of insects (Insecta), they come from different orders.

Silverfish also have different physical characteristics with three straight appendages coming out of the abdomen compared to two for the earwig. Also earwigs are equipped with a hard shell where silverfish have more of a scaly texture.

2. Apply a Non-Toxic Chemical Treatment

Certain chemicals are damaging to silverfish and can help to eliminate a pest problem without serious risk to humans and pets inside the home. Boric acid is a mild insecticide that serves this purpose. It comes available as a powder and may be dusted lightly in areas where silverfish congregate.

Because boric acid may be poisonous if ingested in relatively large quantities, it is important to not allow your pets or children to access the chemical. For this reason, a boric acid treatment is best used in parts of the home that are not easily accessed by pets and small children. Reapply boric acid every two weeks or so in order to prevent the recurrence of silverfish in that area.

3. Diatomaceous Earth

diatomaceous powder in bowl and spoon

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a food-grade product that kills pretty much every kind of insect. Sourced from finely ground fossils, DE particles contain jagged, sharp edges that kill the insects when they move through it. Sprinkle DE anywhere you’ve seen silverfish in your home. Remember to target dark, damp spaces such as under sinks, in cupboards, and along baseboards. Leave the powder in a place for a day and then vacuum it up.

4. Remove Wallpaper

removing wallpaper

Silverfish may feed off of wallpaper and wallpaper glue. Removing or resealing damaged wallpaper can eliminate a primary food source for silverfish, discouraging them from entering your home.

5. Purchase a Dehumidifier

woman setting up dehumidifier

Work to reduce the humidity in your home, especially in damp areas like the basement and bathrooms. This may effectively dry out the silverfish, either killing them or preventing them from living while inside of your home. A powerful dehumidifier is an excellent acquisition, but you can also take additional steps toward reducing humidity. Keep shower curtains and bathroom doors closed, and check water pipes to ensure no moisture is escaping into the atmosphere. Also apply plastic sheeting beneath the home and treat basements with waterproofing materials to keep moisture from seeping in.

6. Create a Trap

mason jars

In areas where pets and children may have access, such as floors and kitchens, a non-toxic homemade trap is a good way of removing silverfish. Bear traps have been used in the hunting world for hundreds of years because the concept is simple - the bear falls in and can’t get back out. Similarly, a tall glass jar might be the only tool you need to trap silverfish in your home.

Since silverfish do not have wings, they can’t fly, which means they must crawl everywhere they go. That’s good news for you, Mighty Silverfish Hunter. Wrap jars with masking tape or other material that gives the bugs traction as they climb. Place a small amount of bread inside the jar. Then place the jar in an infested area. They will climb in hoping for an easy meal, but will be unable to climb back out.

There is also a store-bought option to consider. Roach motels basically entice insects in and then trap them with a sticky paper inside a box. Draw silverfish in with a yummy carbohydrate-rich treat and they won’t check back out of the hotel after dinner.

7. Clean Regularly

cleaning stovetop with gloves and rag

Keeping a clean house is another way to reduce silverfish presence. Ensure all potential food sources are eliminated as quickly as possible, and work to reduce the number of dark corners and crevices where silverfish may gather. You can help make your space less inviting for the little buggers by storing all foods in airtight containers rather than boxes or bags.

8. Check for Gaps

Because silverfish are so small, they can make their way into your home with any opening. Check all of your windows and doors for a solid line of caulking. Also close gaps in ceilings, walls, and baseboards.

With this combination of safe extermination methods, you may find you are able to completely eliminate silverfish in your home. If not, consult with an extermination service for further advice about how to safely remove these pests.