How to Get Rid of Silverfish, Once and For All

how to get rid of silverfish cat

Nobody wants to discover an insect while pulling a cashmere sweater from the closet or while pouring a bowl of cereal for breakfast and yet, it happens. For example, silverfish enjoy munching on both things (and more) very much—namely because they love starch. So how do you stop these creepy pests from wreaking havoc in your home? Easy—just follow our expert-approved guide for how to get rid of silverfish and you’ll be able to banish these bugs from your crib once and for all.

Why Do I Have Silverfish?

Silverfish, the silvery or gray insects that have carrot-shaped bodies and antennae in the front and back, are first and foremost attracted to moisture. In fact, they can’t survive without a good deal of it. That said, you don’t need to be living in a steam room to have these pests invade your place: According to the Mayo Clinic, a healthy and comfortable indoor humidity level falls somewhere between 30 and 50 percent. However, if your pad is registering somewhere near the high end of that range, you might have unwittingly lured in some of these unsightly squatters. In other words, a room that’s consistently reading at or above 50 percent humidity is basically Club Med for silverfish—and once they come it will be particularly difficult to show them the door unless you take steps to make your abode a bit less balmy.

One common cause of excess indoor humidity is a poorly ventilated bathroom (say, if the smallish bathroom in your pre-war apartment doesn’t boast a ceiling fan and is equipped with only one not-so-generous window). Should you start taking lukewarm showers? Absolutely not. But the humidity your steamy scrub down generates might be part of the problem. Bathrooms that aren’t well ventilated accumulate a lot of moisture, which in turn takes even longer to evaporate. The takeaway? Even if your mirror has defogged, it doesn’t mean that you’re all good in the humidity department.

Another reason why your home might be particularly humid is leaky plumbing. If your kitchen sink, washing machine or bathroom faucet has sprung a leak—even a minor one—don’t let the problem go unchecked: Contact a plumber immediately or you might end up with silverfish, and bigger problems to boot. It’s worth noting, though, that leaks are not always visible and may be hidden behind the walls. (So, if you live in an apartment building, the source of the problem might not even originate in your unit.) Bottom line: Regardless of whether or not you can detect an active leak in your home, the presence of silverfish suggests excess moisture—a problem also associated with harmful mold. Do some sleuth work before proceeding to the next step and picking your poison.

5 Ways to Get Rid of Silverfish

All the above information will help you better understand why silverfish showed up in the first place, which is an essential piece of the puzzle...but only when paired with the appropriate pest control strategy. Needless to say, if you have identified a leak in your home, it should be fixed by a professional. Similarly, if your bathroom has the bad habit of getting too steamy and staying that way, you might want to consider installing a ceiling fan or cracking a window post shower. However, once an infestation has started, some extra measures will likely be required to shut it down. Here’s some sage advice from those in the know at Solutions Pest & Lawn.

1. Eliminate moisture from the environment

It bears repeating: The single most effective step you can take to eliminate silverfish is to make your home less moist. (And yes, we hate that word too.) If you haven’t identified any obvious plumbing problems, you can still take action. First, you might consider investing in a dehumidifier. This appliance does precisely what its name suggests, and it’s the first line of defense against silverfish. Note: An air conditioner will accomplish the same goal, but it will make you freeze on colder days and run up your electric bill. The price tag on quality dehumidifiers can be a little steep, depending on your budget for this battle—but we suggest you take a good long look at your cozy sweater collection (i.e., silverfish food) and reevaluate. Note: If you buy an indoor humidity monitor—a cheap and effective device known as a hygrometer—you can easily track progress in your war on these pests.

2. Dry out the bugs themselves with traps

Generally, the best bug advice is to address the root of the problem—because if you don’t, additional efforts are likely to fail. However, when you have a full-blown silverfish infestation, dehumidifying the air in your home will only get you so far. After all, you don’t want these slippery suckers to take their time packing bags for greener pastures—you just want them out stat. One option recommended by the pest control pros is to hit up your local hardware store for traps that are designed to lure them in and then desiccate them with boric acid. We know, it sounds cruel...but as Kurt Cobain once said, (silver)fish don’t have any feelings and he’s probably right.

3. Remove potential food sources

Silverfish are attracted to moisture, of course—but nothing stirs their appetite quite like starch. (Um, same.) These buggers will go to town on your linen, cashmere and cotton, but it’s not unusual for them to stray from the closet to the pantry. Make sure silverfish in your home don’t have the opportunity to feast on your rice and grains by sealing up opened packages of food in airtight containers. Also, silverfish are equal-opportunity nibblers: They will devour both your super expensive farro and your broken-down Amazon delivery box in a heartbeat—so make sure to clear your cardboard recycling on the regular.

4. Declutter (and clean)

They don’t call them fish for nothing—slim and fast-moving, these insects are downright slippery. One goal of silverfish extermination is simply to make it harder for them to hide. In other words, if you’ve been holding on to ten years’ worth of your favorite printed publication, it might be time to snap a few shots of your collection and kiss it goodbye. Not only will silverfish feast on stacks of magazines and newspapers for days—the clutter is essentially a silverfish safe haven that threatens to thwart your pest control efforts.

5. Caulk, seal and clean

On that note, once you’ve done your spring cleaning and Marie Kondo-ed your pad, it would be wise to start vacuuming with the tapered tip attachment—paying special attention to the floorboards and other areas in which you’ve noticed extra action. (Think, cupboards, closets, laundry room baseboard.) Once you’ve hung up the hoover, caulk and seal any potentially problematic cracks and crevices around your home, lest any sneaky silverfish have slipped through your fingers. 

Congratulations—if you made it through the five steps, the universe should reward you with a bug-free home.

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...