Silverfish are common household pests that appear in homes especially in the summer.
These insects are harmless. But silverfish can cause damages to your stored foods, books, and clothes.
And if you don’t get rid of silverfish soon enough, their population inside the house will explode!
In this guide, you’ll find out how to identify silverfish, their entry points to your house, and why they sneak inside your homes.
You’ll also learn the hacks from proven ways to eliminate and prevent silverfish in your house.
Let’s get into it.
What Are Silverfish?
Silverfish are of course not fish. They are scaly silver or grayish insects that sneak inside homes. Some of them can also be dark brown that appear as black.
Their body shape is like a tear-drop, broad at the head and tapers down at the end.
They’ve got six legs, two visible antennae at their head, and three appendages that look like tails at the rear end of the abdomen.
One of the appendages goes straight out from their abdomen. The other two are wide apart at 90 degrees angles.
Silverfish got their names because when they crawl, they appear to swerve like a fish, and because of the scales on their bodies.
These bugs are fast crawlers and their sizes vary between 0.5” and 1”.
Why Silverfish Enter Homes?
Silverfish are moisture bugs that live at the damp areas. So, silverfish enter homes looking for moisture sources.
That’s why most silverfish infestations in homes and apartments occur during the summer when the weather outdoors becomes too hot or dry.
Silverfish can sneak through any thin gaps and holes on the walls, windows, crawlspaces, and doors.
Your home has plenty of food sources that silverfish can thrive on.
Silverfish survive on starches or polysaccharides.
So, natural fibers, carpets, rugs, clothes, sugary substances, cardboard boxes, books, cereals, and stored foods like pet foods are their food sources inside your house.
Outdoors, silverfish feed on dead insects, molds, and decaying organic matter. If these are in your home, then they’ll surely attract silverfish.
Molds can form on furniture and surfaces.
So, you can find silverfish crawling on these places feeding on the molds that forms on them.
Any damp area of your house is a prime real estate for the silverfish to hide.
Kitchen, bathroom, basements, attic, and laundry rooms are the most common places where silverfish take shelter.
If you don’t get rid of silverfish from these places, then these areas turn out to be the source of silverfish infestation in the house.
Silverfish will hide in the thin gaps and cracks on the damp areas of your house.
They’ll also behind furniture, underneath bathroom fixtures like bathtubs and sinks, bookshelves, and inside kitchen storage.
Silverfish are nocturnal bugs. So, they’ll remain hidden in their hiding places during the day.
Silverfish will come out of hiding during the night to feed.
And that’s the time when you can notice silverfish activity inside the house.
Silverfish can live long for eight years inside your house if they don’t have predators.
During their lifetime inside your home, they’ll hundreds of eggs, which will cause a massive infestation.
Silverfish infestation, like all bug infestations inside the house, have signs.
So, what are those signs? Let’s find them out.
7 Signs Of Silverfish Infestation
There’s no telltale sign of silverfish in homes than their physical sightings.
You’ll notice them, at night, in damp and moist areas of your home.
They’ll scavenge for food in places like kitchen, bathroom, and basement, feeding on food stains, broken hair, dead insects, or any other organic wastes.
Silverfish in places like your bed, closet, bookshelves, carpet, and dresser drawers is a clear sign that their numbers have increased.
Silverfish droppings look like tiny black oval-shaped particles. They leave their fecal deposits at the hiding places.
These droppings are very hard to detect because you can dismiss them as specks of dust.
Like most bugs, silverfish also molt till they reach their adulthood.
So, sightings of silverfish cast skin in the infested areas is also common.
If you’re noticing translucent grayish shed skin in the shape of a silverfish in the infested areas, then there’s certainly a silverfish infestation.
Another sign of silverfish presence in the house is the yellow stains they leave behind on surfaces they molt.
The fluids that silverfish release while molting cause those stains.
However, silverfish can leave behind yellow stains when they’re feeding on books and fabrics.
Damages On Books And Fabric
Silverfish feed on cardboard boxes, old books (especially on the book binding glue), and cotton fabrics.
Fabrics stained with food oils, dirt, grease, and sweat also draw silverfish.
While feeding, they’ll leave tiny holes and yellow stains.
On the fabric and books, silverfish will leave behind little holes that show they fed on them.
Silverfish eggs are small, pearly-white or yellowish, and elliptically shaped. The eggs are of 1 mm in size.
Silverfish will lay their eggs in their hiding places.
So, you’re most likely to find them in the crevices on the walls and floor of your bathroom, kitchen, and bathroom.
Like the spiders, silverfish also pack their eggs in sac.
And a single silverfish egg sac can contain 50-200 eggs.
As the eggs are tiny, so it’ll be hard to detect silverfish eggs with the naked eye.
Like, the silverfish eggs and feces, the silverfish larvae, or baby silverfish, are the silverfish infestation signs that you can easily miss.
Silverfish larvae are white. They’ve developed legs and antennae when they hatch out of the eggs.
The silverfish larvae have no scales on their bodies and when they hatch, they’re 1/16th of an inch in size.
The larvae get their scales after they undergo molting as they proceed in the lifecycle stages.
Five Steps To Get Rid Of Silverfish
Fortunately, getting rid of silverfish is easy.
Use any one of the following steps, or combination of any of the following, in the places where you’ve noticed silverfish, to eliminate them.
DIY Silverfish Trap
Take a glass jar. Wrap a paper or a piece of cloth around the jar.
Put some sugar or pet food inside the jar and keep the lid open.
Keep the jar in the places where you saw silverfish at night.
The food inside the jar will draw the silverfish.
The paper or cloth wrap outside the jar will give silverfish the grip to crawl on the jar and access the food.
When the silverfish is inside the jar, they won’t be able to crawl out.
It’s because silverfish can’t crawl on smooth surfaces.
That’s why silverfish can’t crawl out of bathtubs or sinks.
Take the glass jar the following morning and kill the silverfish in them. Dispose of the dead silverfish outside of your property.
Keep Wet Paper Boxes
Take a small paper box and wet it a bit. And keep it inside your bathroom, kitchen, or basement for a couple of days.
The silverfish in these places will crawl inside the box to hide.
Take the box out of your home after a couple of days, and burn it to kill any silverfish in them.
You can also a rolled newspaper instead of boxes to do the same.
Use An Insecticide Spray
The easiest and most straightforward way to get rid of silverfish in your house is to use an insecticide spray like Raid.
Use the spray on the silverfish and in their hiding places.
It’ll kill them on contact.
However, if you’ve got pets and kids in your home then it’ll be best not to use insecticide sprays.
Also, read the safety instructions on the spray, and follow them, before using it.
Do not use any insecticide spray in the closet and dresser drawers despite finding silverfish in these places.
It’ll be best to wash the clothes kept in these places in hot water and dry them in the highest heat possible which is safe for the fabric.
Vacuum clean the storages and use a cedar oil spray after cleaning.
It’ll remove the silverfish in the storages and the oil’s smell will prevent them from coming back.
Washing the clothes in hot water will kill any silverfish and their eggs and larvae that are present in them.
Use Desiccants Like Borax Or Diatomaceous Earth
Sprinkle either Borax or Diatomaceous earth in places where you’ve noticed silverfish activity.
Either of them is a natural insect killer that kill the insect by dehydrating it.
Ensure that the desiccant get inside the cracks so that it reaches the hiding silverfish.
Vacuum the desiccant and the dead silverfish and dispose of them.
Keep sticky bug traps where you’ve noticed silverfish. Keep the traps at night and let them be there overnight.
The silverfish will crawl on these traps. And the glue on the traps will entrap the silverfish.
Silverfish Prevention Techniques
You don’t want to get rid of silverfish every other month.
So, preventing them from sneaking inside the house, and hiding there, is the long-term solution to the silverfish infestation.
Here’s how you can prevent silverfish in your home or apartment.
Control Moisture Both Indoors And Outdoors
Silverfish are moisture bugs. And the more dampness you have on your property, the more silverfish your home will attract.
To control the moisture indoors, fix leaking pipes and faucets in your bathroom, basement, kitchen, and laundry room.
Check the plumbing area underneath sinks and fixtures.
If there’s a plumbing issue that are causing the leakages, then fix them.
Do not overwater your yard or garden.
Excessive watering keeps the soil beds wet. That attracts bugs like silverfish, roaches, and ants among many other pests.
Remove standing water. And get rid of any useless containers that hold water.
If you live in a humid state, then it’ll be best to also install a dehumidifier in your bathrooms, kitchen, and other places where silverfish can hide.
Remove Organic Debris From Your Yard
Decaying organic debris are food sources of silverfish at the outdoors.
And if the silverfish are at the outdoors, then it’s only a matter of time before they sneak inside.
So, remove the wastes like leaf litter and decaying wooden pieces.
Also, ensure that the gutters are clean.
Remove excessive vegetation touching the windows and stairs around the home’s perimeter.
Silverfish and bugs use them to crawl inside the house.
Don’t let trash accumulate inside the outdoor trash bins for days. The trash starts to decay and attract bugs.
Seal Gaps And Cracks On Your Home’s Walls And Windows
The thinnest of crevices and tinniest of holes on the home’s walls, window sills, doors, and crawlspaces become the entry points for silverfish bugs.
These can also lead many invading pests to sneak inside the house and inflict damages.
So, caulk these gaps with a silicone-based sealant. These sealants are tough, and bugs can’t chew through them.
It’s vital that you seal the gaps on the windows, vents, walls, and floor of your bathroom, basement, and kitchen.
Silverfish are most likely to invade the house from these places.
Keep Your Home Clean
It’s a myth that silverfish and bugs invade dirty homes. Silverfish look for moisture sources.
So, they can invade a clean home too.
But that must not stop your from keeping your clean.
Regularly cleaning your home, especially places like kitchen and bathroom, remove the food stains and crumbs that are food sources of the silverfish.
Use vinegar to clean the kitchen countertops and storages. The acidic vinegar smell keeps silverfish and many other bugs away.
Store Foods Properly
Keep foods, especially cereals, pet food, and grains, in robust airtight containers.
Silverfish and many other pantry pests such as beetles, moths, and weevils will sneak inside them if you don’t store food properly.
Ensure that the kitchen cupboards, shelves, and pantry are clean with out any food spills and stains.
Keep bay leaves or cinnamon sticks in the pantry shelves, bookshelves, and in the storages of your home to repel silverfish.
Do not use insecticide sprays in the food storage section to get rid of silverfish in these places.
It’d be best to use a vacuum cleaner to clean the food storage sections to remove the silverfish in them.
Use Essential Oils Like Peppermint Or Cedar Oil
Silverfish hate the smell of peppermint and cedar.
Use the essential oils of these compounds as a spray to keep silverfish away.
Prepare a spray by mixing 8-10 drops of either of these essential oil in a bottle of water.
And pour it in a spray bottle.
Spray the mixture in your kitchen, bathroom, basement, attic, and laundry room.
Do not forget to use the spray on the windows, underneath sinks, fixtures, and storage sections of these areas.
You can also use a ready-made peppermint spray straight out of the bottle to keep silverfish away.
Get Rid Of Old Books, Newspapers, Magazines, And Cardboard Boxes
Old books and other paper products contain cellulose, which is a food source for bugs like silverfish, roaches, and booklice.
Get rid of these things if you don’t need them because they attract silverfish.
Keep cedar balls inside the cardboard boxes and other storage boxes that hold necessary items.
The cedar balls keep silverfish away.
Keep Your Clothing Storage Clean
Clothing storage sections like closets, wardrobes, and drawers are easy hiding places for silverfish and many other closet bugs.
Clean them often. Ensure that the fabric storage sections are not moist.
Also, put valuable clothing made from leather, fur, wool, feathers, and silk in casings or covers.
And keep cedar balls and balls in these places to keep silverfish, clothes moths, and other damaging fabric pests away.
Are Silverfish Harmful?
Silverfish are harmless bugs. They don’t bite.
But they can cause damages to your fabric, books, and carpets if there are too many silverfish in your home.
Also, the molted skin and droppings silverfish can trigger allergic reactions in sensitive people.
The allergic reactions because of silverfish are similar to the ones that dust mites trigger.
Silverfish chase the moisture sources and damp areas which makes them sneak inside the house.
They get in through the crevices and holes on the walls, windows, and doors.
You can also bring in silverfish home through cardboard boxes and books with silverfish in them.
Eliminating silverfish is a straightforward process that any one can do.
You might have to repeat the process once or twice depending on the severity of the infestation.
But when it comes to silverfish, prevention is better than cure.
You can easily prevent silverfish from coming back by eliminating their food, moisture sources, and their entry points.
Thomas Orbert is a PhD in entomology with specialization in tiny and microscopic pests. Thomas is a regular contributor to our site and shares failproof methods to get rid of small pests.