How to Get Rid of Silverfish Bugs: 5 Tips & Tricks

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In divisive times, we can all still agree on one thing: We don't want bugs in our home. Alas, silverfish don't care what we think – they only care that our homes have so many welcoming places in which they can hide. These silvery wingless insects can thrive in most climates, so they're a common household pest. They won't cause structural damage or harm you, but they can destroy paper and other personal items. Plus, they're kind of creepy. Here's what you need to know to keep your home free of silverfish.

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From Where Do Silverfish Come?

Silverfish love humidity and tend to hide in dark spaces. You may see them in bathrooms, kitchens, basements, attics and garages, especially lurking near bathtubs and appliances, like the washing machine and dishwasher. You may also see them outside your home in places that stay damp, like piles of mulch or wet leaves.

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Indoors, silverfish are especially attracted to paper, glue and fabric, and they may also get into food containers. Their love of paper is why it's common to see silverfish scutter away when you move cardboard boxes that have been in storage for a while.

Female silverfish find hidden areas to lay their eggs, like in crevices in walls and floors or inside dark cabinets. They can lay eggs several times a day, so it doesn't take long for a few of these pesky insects to become an infestation.

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5 Ways to Get Rid of Silverfish

Ending a silverfish infestation generally requires a multipronged attack. You'll probably want to try a combination of strategies to make a real difference in how many silverfish you're seeing.

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  1. Deploy dehumidifiers.​ Dropping the humidity in a particular area of your home should make it much less appealing for silverfish. Set up dehumidifiers wherever you see insect activity. You can get a small but effective unit for under $50 or a more powerful one for under $200.

  2. Clean up clutter.​ A little clutter gives your home character – at least that's what you tell yourself when you don't want to clean. However, if you're seeing silverfish around your home, dealing with your clutter could disrupt their life cycle. Things like piles of clothing, stacks of old magazines and broken-down cardboard boxes make perfect hiding and mating places for silverfish. As you're cleaning, be on the lookout for old envelopes, mailing boxes with adhesive strips and other sticky surfaces since silverfish love these.

  3. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth in areas where you've seen silverfish.​ It's a kind of fine powder made from the fossilized remains of a kind of algae, and it's nontoxic for people and pets. Silverfish become dehydrated and die when they walk through the powder.

  4. Fills gaps with caulk.​ If you see a lot of silverfish activity in one area, look for cracks in the wall or floor. Filling those gaps won't eliminate the silverfish that are already in your home, but it will make it harder for them to get into your rooms.

  5. Try natural cedar remedies.​ The strong odor of cedar is said to repel silverfish. Sprinkle cedar shavings around the area or dilute a few drops of cedar oil in a small spray bottle of water and spritz the mixture at the insects. (Cedar should be nontoxic for pets and people, but you may not want to lay down cedar shavings if you have animals or kids who like to put things in their mouths.)

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Ultimately, it may not be possible to end a silverfish infestation on your own because it's hard to target the hidden eggs with any products that are available to the general public. Consult a professional pest control service if you don't see any improvement after a few days.

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How to Prevent Silverfish

The best way to prevent silverfish is to make your home as inhospitable to them as possible. Get in the habit of using dehumidifiers to keep the humidity below 60 percent, targeting bathrooms, basements and other especially damp areas. Store all dry foods, like flour and pasta, in tightly sealed containers. Don't leave damp clothes sitting around and keep out-of-season clothing in lidded storage boxes to keep out silverfish.

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Be mindful about how and where you keep books and other paper products. Don't store books in a garage or basement where they might attract silverfish. Store cardboard boxes off the ground if possible, and if boxes get wet, throw out the damp cardboard right away.

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