Silverfish: How to Identify, Control, and Get Rid of Them

Silverfish are small, wingless insects that get their name from their silvery, metallic appearance and fish-like movements. While they don’t bite or sting, silverfish can be a nuisance in homes where they feed on paper, photos, wallpaper, carpet, clothing, and other household items containing starch or cellulose. Knowing how to identify, control, and get rid of silverfish is important for preventing damage and infestation.

Identifying Silverfish

Silverfish are usually between 1/2 to 1 inch long when fully grown. They have elongated, flattened bodies and move very quickly in short, darting movements. Some key identifying features include:

  • Grayish-silver color with metallic shine
  • Two long antennae on the head
  • Three tail-like appendages on the rear end
  • No wings present

Silverfish typically hide during the day and come out at night to search for food. You may see them in bathrooms, kitchens, basements, attics, or other damp areas of a home. Signs of a silverfish infestation include seeing the insects at night, finding their shed skins or excrement, and noticing damage to household items.

Controlling and Preventing Silverfish

There are several methods you can use to control silverfish and deter them from your home:

Remove Food Sources

Silverfish thrive on starchy and cellulose-rich materials. Make sure to:

  • Store books, papers, photos, and fabrics in sealed containers.
  • Keep food in tightly sealed containers.
  • Reduce humidity which promotes mold growth.
  • Vacuum and clean areas regularly to remove food debris.

Use Desiccant Dusts

Apply a fine layer of desiccant dust made from diatomaceous earth in infested areas. The sharp edges cut and damage the exoskeleton of silverfish. Reapply after vacuuming or if it gets wet.

Employ Pesticide Sprays

Insecticide sprays containing chemicals like pyrethrins, pyrethroids, or insect growth regulators can be effective. Follow label directions carefully.

Install Dehumidifiers

Dehumidifiers help reduce humidity under 50% which helps deter silverfish. Use them in damp basements, crawlspaces, and other problem areas.

Seal Cracks and Crevices

Seal any cracks, crevices, holes, or gaps where silverfish may enter from outdoors. Pay close attention around windows, doors, pipes, vents etc.

Trap Them

Glue boards, pheromone traps, or homemade traps can capture silverfish. Place traps along baseboards, behind appliances, and anywhere else you see activity.

Getting Rid of an Existing Silverfish Infestation

If silverfish are already present in your home, taking immediate steps to get rid of them is advised:

  • Inspect all rooms thoroughly and discard heavily damaged or infested items.
  • Vacuum vigourously to remove silverfish, eggs, and debris. Dispose of the vacuum bag promptly.
  • Employ pesticide sprays, dusts, or traps as outlined above. Focus on entry points, hiding places, and areas of known activity.
  • Continue trapping and monitoring. It may take weeks or months to fully clear an infestation.
  • Consider professional pest control if the infestation is severe. Fumigation may be required in some cases.
  • Make household repairs and modifications to remove food sources, humidity, and access points.

Preventing Future Silverfish Problems

Once you get rid of silverfish, you can take proactive steps to help prevent future occurrences:

  • Keep humidity below 50% throughout the home.
  • Store paper products and fabrics in sealed plastic bins or bags.
  • Inspect for signs of silverfish when bringing used items into the home.
  • Caulk and seal any openings where silverfish could enter.
  • Install door sweeps or screens on doors and windows.
  • Follow a diligent cleaning routine including regular vacuuming and sanitizing.
  • Deploy monitoring traps and note any sightings.
  • Act quickly at the first signs of silverfish before they multiply and spread.

By identifying and understanding silverfish behaviors, implementing targeted control methods, and being vigilant in preventing future infestations, you can successfully eliminate silverfish from your home and prevent costly damage. Consistent monitoring and integrated pest management techniques offer the best long-term protection.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are silverfish dangerous?

Silverfish don’t pose any direct danger to people as they don’t bite, sting, or transmit diseases. However, they can damage valuables in the home through feeding behaviors.

How fast can silverfish multiply?

Female silverfish can lay up to 60 eggs over a two to three month period. Silverfish reach adulthood in about three months. When conditions are optimal, populations can grow rapidly.

Do silverfish eat clothes?

Silverfish will feed on fabrics, especially those containing cotton, linen, silk or rayon. They like to eat away at starches in the fibers, leading to damage. Always store clothing in sealed bins or bags.

Can silverfish live in your bed?

It’s possible to find silverfish in beds, especially in the box spring where it is dark and humid. Check the bed thoroughly and use treatments if they are present. Seal up any openings they could use to access the bed.

What attracts silverfish?

Silverfish are attracted to humidity and food sources like starchy wallpaper, cardboard, books, photos, dry goods, and fabrics. Clutter gives them more places to hide and thrive as well.

Will bleach kill silverfish?

Bleach is not effective against silverfish. It does not have lasting residual effects and dries too quickly. Use targeted insecticide sprays, dusts, or traps instead.

Should I worry about seeing one silverfish?

A single silverfish sighting could mean there are more hidden nearby. Inspect carefully and implement control measures before the population grows. Even one silverfish can lay many eggs.


Silverfish can be frustrating pests, but don’t have to take over your home. By inspecting carefully, removing food and humidity, and using integrated pest management, you can eliminate existing infestations and prevent future problems. Stop silverfish damage in its tracks with consistent monitoring and control measures tailored to silverfish behaviors and vulnerabilities. With vigilance, you can protect your home from these pesky invaders.