Get Rid of Silverfish

Close up view of a silverfish from the top

Silverfish are creepy, crawly creatures that like to surprise you when you lift a pile of papers during the day, or head into a dark space at night.

Are Silverfish Dangerous?

The short answer is, no, at least not to humans. The problem silverfish cause for homeowners is that they are menacing little buggers when it comes to chewing through anything from food boxes to clothing. Besides, they are unnerving to run across in your home, especially when they crawl on your arm, or skitter through your empty cereal bowl. Most homeowners are eager to get rid of them. Fortunately, there are ways to tackle this without dropping money on an exterminator.

Silverfish or Earwig?

While you may have never heard the phrase 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 (the creatively named Insecta class), they come from different orders (Dermaptera for earwigs, Zygentoma for silverfish).

Silverfish also have different physical characteristics from earwigs, who sport a hard shell where silverfish have more of a scaly texture. Crucially, they lack those creepy tail pincers. One point to silverfish for that.

A close up view of an earwig from the top

Step 1 - Better Understand Your Opponent

In order to succeed against your silvery, fish-like adversary, it’s important to understand more about them. First, they are fast. That makes them difficult to get the jump on. To make matters worse, they’re small and mostly nocturnal. They'll feed on anything starchy or sugary, so they are likely to get into your books, papers, recycling, materials, and bread drawer, among other places.

Step 2 - Get Airtight

Between their size, speed and chewing, silverfish can wriggle their way into most areas. You can help make your space less inviting for them by storing all foods in airtight containers rather than boxes or open bags. Remember to seal up the pet food too.

Step 3 - Keep it Dry

Silverfish love moist, damp areas like basements. Use dehumidifiers around the house to take the moisture out of the air. Also apply plastic sheeting beneath the home, and treat basements with waterproofing materials to keep moisture from seeping in.

Step 4 - Seal it Up

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

Step 5 - Diatomaceous Earth

If preventative measures don’t keep them at bay, it’s time to try treating the problem. 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 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.

A wooden bowl with powder to fight pests

Step 6 - Try Boric Acid

Boric acid is another natural product that can wipe out your silverfish problem. Sprinkle it in the same way as DE, but do not use in homes with pets, as boric acid is toxic to them too.

Step 7 - Make a Reservation at the Roach Motel

Store-bought 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.

Step 8 - Create a Bear Trap

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. A tall glass jar might be the only tool you need to trap silverfish in your home. Since silverfish can’t fly, they have to 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, and place a small amount of bread inside the jar. Then leave the jar in an infested area. They will climb in hoping for an easy meal, but will be unable to climb back out.