How to Get Rid of Silverfish—and Prevent Future Infestation

Don't let these creepy crawlers hang out in your home.

<p>TorriPhoto/Getty Images</p>

TorriPhoto/Getty Images

Flipping on a light and finding an invasion of silverfish in your bathroom or kitchen can be startling. With their silvery-metallic scales and fishlike movements scurrying along the walls and floor, silverfish can be scary—even though they don't bite. The insects are nearly one-half inch long, nocturnal, wingless, and six-legged, with three, tail-like appendages that protrude from their body, and antennae as long as their body. Learn how to get rid of silverfish easily in your home with pesticides or natural methods—and some lifestyle changes.

To help you make your home a silverfish-free zone, we gathered advice from Steve Jacobs, urban entomologist, and Dr. Michael Rust, distinguished professor of entomology at University of California Riverside.

Related: How to Keep Spiders Out of Your House

Are Silverfish Harmful?

Silverfish don't sting or bite but are a nuisance pest because they feed on starchy items like paper, cotton and linen fabrics, cereals, and grains. If mysterious irregularly-shaped holes have appeared in wallpaper, clothes, or you see yellow stains or tiny black specks (feces) in food or on surfaces, you may have a silverfish infestation. Since silverfish are nocturnal, you typically won't see them during the day.

7 Ways to Get Rid of Silverfish

Use Non-Toxic Sticky Traps

Commercial cockroach sticky traps can be placed where you suspect silverfish activity. Or, Dr. Rust recommends covering small, glass jars on the outside with masking tape. The insects are attracted to the tape and climb up, fall into the jars, and can’t climb back up the slick sides. Place either type of trap in corners and near potential food and water sources. The traps aren't effective if the infestation is large but they will give you a sense of the scope of the problem.

Sprinkle Desiccant Powder

Diatomaceous earth or silica aerogel can be sprinkled along floorboards and cabinet edges to control silverfish. The insects pick up the desiccant as they move and it causes them to lose moisture and die. These powders work quite well if kept dry and can be effective for several weeks. Reapply if the desiccant becomes damp, as it will harden and be ineffective.

Remove Food Sources

You can't get rid of everything silverfish love to nibble on but you can reduce their access to starchy foods. Keep cereals, grains, pasta, and dry pet food in sealed containers.

Reduce Humidity

Silverfish love moisture and high humidity, especially in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements. To help solve the problem, use a dehumidifier, fix any leaks, and be sure outdoor entrance areas and window sills are kept as dry as possible.

Seal Cracks and Crevices

Silverfish can slip through tiny openings so take the time to inspect windows, doors, and foundations for cracks and gaps. Use caulking sealants or weather stripping to keep insects out of your home.

Reduce Clutter and Clean Thoroughly

Stacks of papers and cardboard boxes are the perfect meal and hiding spot for silverfish. Get rid of clutter and store items in sealable plastic containers. Take the time to vacuum well in closets, bookcases, cabinets, pantries, and under furniture cushions where silverfish can hide and lay eggs. Silverfish can live for three years, or more, and produce more than 50 offspring.

Call an Exterminator

In most cases, removing the sources of food and moisture will get rid of silverfish unless the infestation is quite large. Professional exterminators can use sprays and powders to kill the silverfish but may use products that are toxic to pets and humans.

Tips to Prevent a Silverfish Infestation

  • Keep basements, kitchens, laundry rooms, and bathrooms—especially shower stalls—clean and dry.

  • Clean regularly to remove clutter, dust, and spilled foods that provide hiding spots and nutrients.

  • Be sure clothes, especially cotton, linen, and silk fabrics, are free of food stains before returning them to a closet.

  • Seal holes or cracks around windows, doors, and pipes.

  • Repair rook and plumbing leaks.

  • Add an attic ventilation fan and use bathroom and kitchen vent fans to reduce humidity.

  • Keep foods in sealed containers.

  • Use Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) essential oil in sachets or as a spray in closets and pantries to act as a repellent and preventative control method.

For more Real Simple news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on Real Simple.