How to Get Rid of Silverfish: 8 Pesticide-Free Ways


Have you ever noticed holes in your favorite cashmere sweater or the silk blouse that you had carefully stored away in your wardrobe? Have you ever felt the sting of opening a classic edition of your favorite book, only to find it riddled with holes?

All these are signs of a silverfish infestation.

Silverfish or fish moths are tiny insects with carrot-shaped bodies, which are often white, brown-grey or bluish-silver in color. They are nocturnal creatures and come out at night only to search for food. Therefore, just like termites, they can go undetected for long period, all the while wreaking havoc on your belongings.

These silvery insects feed on starch and animal protein; consequently, they are particularly attracted to damp clothing and paper. Once they have gained a foothold in your house, they get to work, silently destroying clothes, papers, books, leather items, and even wallpaper.

Silverfish are most commonly found in laundry rooms, kitchens, damp cabinets or cupboards, basements, and attics as they prefer cold, dark, and damp places.

How to get rid of silverfish
Get rid of silverfish at home

A common sign of silverfish infestation is a yellowish stain or residue that they leave behind after feeding. If you find any silverfish in your bathroom cabinets or any unexplained holes in your clothing, then you should definitely check out the eight remedies mentioned below to get rid of silverfish.

Method 1: Boric Acid

Boric acid is a crystalline powder that acts a desiccant, which cracks or destroys silverfish exoskeletons, eventually causing their death by dehydration.

The best way to use this natural compound containing boron, hydrogen, and oxygen is to sprinkle it into any cracks or crevices in the walls, baseboards, or foundations of your home to get rid of silverfish.

As silverfish feed on starch, a mixture of boric acid with oatmeal flour and white sugar prepares a clever bait to tempt these insects toward their doom. The addition of salt further messes with the electrolyte content of the body of these insects, adversely affecting their metabolism and ultimately causing death.

Alternatively, you can also use boric acid to get rid of termites.

Note: Boric acid is toxic; therefore, it must be kept out of the reach of children and pets. Be cautious during application, as it can be toxic if inhaled.

Things you’ll need:

Use boric acid to get rid of silverfish

  • Boric acid powder – 1 tablespoon
  • Oatmeal flour – 1 cup
  • White sugar – ½ teaspoon
  • Salt – ¼ teaspoon

Step 1. Combine all the elements together

Combine oatmeal flour, boric acid powder, white sugar, and salt in a bowl
Combine oatmeal flour, boric acid powder, white sugar, and salt in a bowl
  • Take 1 cup of ground oatmeal flour in a bowl (simply grind regular oatmeal in a blender).
  • Add 1 tablespoon of powdered boric acid.
  • Add ½ teaspoon of white sugar.
  • Add ¼ teaspoon of salt as well.

Step 2. Mix and sprinkle near infested or vulnerable sites

Mix thoroughly and sprinkle near vulnerable sites to kill off the invading silverfish
Mix thoroughly and sprinkle near vulnerable sites to kill off the invading silverfish
  • Mix thoroughly to ensure uniformity of the mixture.
  • Sprinkle near crevices or wardrobes to attract and kill off the invading silverfish.

Sprinkle this mix daily for at least 1 week to completely eradicate silverfish infestation.

Method 2: Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth (DE) refers to a finely crushed powder consisting of the fossilized remains of diatoms, which are tiny marine phytoplankton with skeletons made of silica.

DE consists of microscopic silica shards that get lodged in and destroy the silverfish exoskeletons. Once exoskeletons have been severely damaged, it eventually causes the insects’ death via dehydration.

Food-grade diatomaceous earth can also be used most effectively to get rid of termites and bed bugs. Additionally, if you have a pet dog or dogs at home, you can also use this powder to remove ticks from dogs.

Note: Wear a mask while spreading diatomaceous earth to prevent inhalation.

Single-Step Method: Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth

Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth to get rid of silverfish
Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth to get rid of silverfish
  • Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth around your baseboards and any other place where you may have seen signs of a silverfish infestation.
  • As silverfish are nocturnal creatures, do this in the evening or at night.
  • As the insects crawl through diatomaceous earth, their exoskeletons will get ripped by the sharp shards of silica, causing them to dry out and die.

Do this for 7 to 10 nights in a row to completely eliminate all silverfish from your home.

Method 3: Cloves

Cloves contain eugenol, a compound that is highly beneficial in preventing tooth decay in humans, and also acts as a highly effective natural insecticide.

Whole cloves have a particularly strong smell that effectively repulses silverfish. This property of cloves can be used to an advantage to prevent and eradicate silverfish infestations in your house.

And, if you are constantly plagued by flies both inside and outside your home, you can also use cloves to make a DIY fly repellent.

Single-Step Method: Place a bowl of cloves in the infested or vulnerable areas

Place a bowl of cloves in the infested or vulnerable areas to keep silverfish away
Place a bowl of cloves in the infested or vulnerable areas to keep silverfish away
  • Take a bowl of cloves and place it in areas that show signs of silverfish invasion.
  • You can also place small bowls containing cloves in your basement or attic, or any other damp and dark areas that are vulnerable to silverfish.
  • Alternatively, you can place small muslin pouches containing cloves in your wardrobe or bathroom cabinets to keep silverfish at bay.

Use cloves to repel silverfish on a regular basis; replace the spices every 7 to 8 days for ones to keep the clove smell strong and effective. You can also rub clove essential oil over cracks and crevices in your walls or foundation to keep silverfish away.

Method 4: Borax

You may have heard of borax as an effective stain remover; however, did you know that chemically borax is the salt of boric acid and is equally effective at eliminating silverfish?

While borax is highly toxic for silverfish, the issue is how to make them consume it? The solution is to mix borax with powdered white sugar, which silverfish will be unable to resist.

Things you’ll need: 

Use borax to get rid of silverfish

  • Borax – 2 tablespoons
  • Powdered white sugar – 2 tablespoons

Single-Step Method: Mix borax and powdered sugar to use as bait

Mix borax and powdered sugar to attract and kill silverfish
Mix borax and powdered sugar to attract and kill silverfish
  • Take 2 tablespoons each of borax and powdered sugar in a container.
  • Mix well to get a uniform mixture.
  • Sprinkle near infested areas in the evening or at night to attract and kill silverfish.

Do this for at least a week or until all signs of the silverfish invasion have been eradicated.

Method 5: Lavender Spray

Lavender essential oil represents the concentrated essence of lavender flowers and its strong smell successfully repels silverfish.

Regularly spraying lavender oil around your baseboards, skirting doors, or cupboard can be very useful in keeping these destructive pests away from your prized possessions.

Use the recipe given below to make a powerful silverfish repellent spray that will keep your home fragrant and fresh.

Things you’ll need:

Use lavender spray to get rid of silverfish

  • Lavender essential oil (insect-repelling properties) –4 to 5 drops
  • Tea tree essential oil (insect-repelling properties) – 4 to 5 drops
  • Vinegar (insect-repelling properties) –¼ cup
  • Boric acid ( insecticide) – 1 tablespoon
  • A spray bottle half-filled with water

Step 1. Combine boric acid and vinegar in a spray bottle

Add boric acid and vinegar in a spray bottle to get rid of silverfish
Add boric acid and vinegar in a spray bottle
  • Add 1 tablespoon of boric acid into a spray bottle half-filled with water.
  • Pour ¼ cup of vinegar into the bottle as well.

Step 2. Add the essential oils and spray

Add lavender and tea tree essential oil and spray the solution to get rid of silverfish.
Add lavender and tea tree essential oil; spray the solution to get rid of silverfish
  • Add 4 to 5 drops of tea tree essential oil.
  • Add 4 to 5 drops of lavender essential oil as well.
  • Spray this solution on your bathroom and kitchen cabinets to keep fish moths at bay.

Prepare and use this lavender spray at regular intervals to keep your home free from silverfish.

Method 6: DIY Trap

Another excellent and extremely cost-effective way to trap silverfish or fish moths is via DIY traps.

Given below are 2 simple traps for capturing and eradicating silverfish. Silverfish love to feed on starch, and these traps exploit this very weakness.

In the first trap, the oatmeal powder is used to attract the silverfish. The crudely wrapped tape offers a rough surface that these insects are able to climb; however, once inside they find themselves trapped as they are unable to climb up the smooth inner surface of the glass jar.

The second trap also uses another favorite food source of silverfish, i.e., paper. In this trap, a wet newspaper is used to attract these insects; this trap is highly successful because it combines their preferred food with their ideal living condition, i.e., a damp environment.

# Jar Trap

Things you’ll need:

DIY trap to catch and eliminate silverfish

  • A mason jar
  • A roll of broad tape
  • Oatmeal powder – ¼ cup

Single-Step Method: Cover the jar in masking tape and add oatmeal powder

Cover the jar in masking tape and add oatmeal powder to get rid of silverfish
Cover the outside surface of the jar with masking tape and add oatmeal powder
  • Cover the outer surface of the jar with broad tape to create a rough surface that the insects can climb on.
  • Pour about ¼ cup of oatmeal powder into the jar.
  • Set the trap (at night only) near your bookshelf, wardrobe, a newspaper, or cardboard stack or any other possible site of silverfish influx.
  • Check in the morning; throw out all the trapped silverfish as you empty the jar.
  • Refill and re-set as required.

You can also regularly set up these traps in your basement or attic to control and minimize the damage caused by silverfish.

# Wet Newspaper Trap

Single-Step Method: Set a wet newspaper trap to attract silverfish

Set a wet newspaper trap to get rid of silverfish
Set a wet newspaper trap to tempt and draw out silverfish
  • Spray water on a rolled-up newspaper to create a damp and attractive environment for the silverfish.
  • Leave it near the site of infestation overnight.
  • Check it in the morning; you will find it crawling with silverfish.
  • Throw it out or even burn it to eliminate silverfish from your home.

You can set this trap at various spots to check for and eradicate silverfish infestations.

Method 7: Camphor or Mothballs

Camphor has long been used in ancient cultures, like in India, to purify the air in temples and at home during the performance of holy rituals.

It is extracted from the camphor tree and is highly effective as an insecticide.

Mothballs, on the other hand, contain a strong and pungent chemical, naphthalene, that kills silverfish, along with the eggs and larvae.

Single-Step Method: Place moth balls or camphor at high-risk spots

Place moth balls or camphor to get rid of silverfish
Place moth balls or camphor to kill-off silverfish
  • One place where silverfish can really cause mayhem is your wardrobe or cupboard as silverfish have a special taste for garments, especially your linens and silks.
  • Simply place some mothballs or camphor balls at regular intervals between layers of clothes to prevent damage by silverfish. Naphthalene and camphor both vaporize at room temperature, their fumes eradicating any silverfish present.
  • Replace camphor or mothballs at regular intervals.
  • You can also place camphor or mothballs in your bathroom cabinets, basement, and attic to keep silverfish away.

Method 8: Cinnamon

Just like cloves, cinnamon too has a powerful scent that strongly repels silverfish and can be used most effectively to control or prevent silverfish infestation.

An added advantage of this method is that the wonderful fragrance of cinnamon will permeate every corner of your home, lending it a pleasant aspect.

Note: This method will only help keep silverfish at bay; it cannot be used to kill these insects or destroy their eggs.

Single-Step Method: Place whole or ground cinnamon spice at strategic spots

Place ground cinnamon at vulnerable or infested sites to get rid of silverfish
Place the ground spice at vulnerable or infested sites
  • Place a small bowl containing ground cinnamon spice at certain spots where you suspect the presence of fish moths, such as crevices in the walls.
  • You can also place cinnamon sticks in your wardrobe, cabinet drawers, kitchen, bathroom, and study room.

Cinnamon offers a natural way to repel fish moths without the use of pesticides or insecticides; this method is especially recommended for people with pets or infants.

Tips

  • Clear out any damp bundles of newspapers or cardboard boxes, especially from your basement and attic.
  • Remove any damp, rotting vegetation from the perimeter of your house.
  • Use a dehumidifier in your house, especially in any damp areas.
  • Regularly air out your bathroom cabinets and wardrobe, particularly during summer..
  • Keep your bathrooms dry; if required get a high-power exhaust fan for the shower area.
  • Regularly clean, duct, and vacuum your house to get rid of silverfish and their eggs.
  • You can also use cedarwood chips or shavings to repel fish moths as they are repelled by the strong scent.

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