How Do You Prevent Silverfish? Natural & Clever Ideas

A silverfish crawling among bits of rotting wood.

You may have seen a little silverfish scurry to the corner of the room, or maybe you saw a picture of one and have your fingers crossed that they don’t get inside.

They don’t look cute to most people, and they’ll eat up your belongings.

How do you prevent silverfish? Prevent silverfish by checking boxes carefully before bringing them inside, keeping home moisture levels low, vacuuming often, removing clutter, and storing unused clothes, books, and papers in plastic containers. Basil, cedar, cloves, and lavender are deterrents.

If you do what you can to keep them away, you won’t have to worry about pest control later. Let’s take a look at ways you can keep them out of your home.

Understand the Silverfish

Before you can prevent silverfish in your home, you need to know how they get inside in the first place and what makes them want to make your house their home.

How Do They Get Inside?

Silverfish are usually brought inside by a human instead of crawling their way in from the outside.

They can and will find their own way, but it’s quite possible that you’re the source of the problem.

How can this be? They’re usually found inside cardboard boxes. Silverfish eat cardboard and most of the things you put inside boxes, like papers and clothing.

If you brought in boxes to store somewhere in your home, there might have been some inside that escaped and found a comfortable place to stay.

If you receive a daily newspaper, they could have come in with that, too. A rolled-up newspaper is ideal because it offers darkness and something to eat.

If it’s damp, that’s all the more reason for them to live inside it.

For a more detailed look at why you are having trouble with silverfish, read our article “Why Do I Have Silverfish?

What Kind of Environment Do They Like?

Silverfish love moisture. An ideal location will have a water source and high humidity.

If the boiler, bathroom, or kitchen sink comes to mind, you’re spot on. These are areas where they’re frequently found.

They also like carbs and starches. That doesn’t mean just pasta and pastries – glue, paper, plaster, fabric, coffee, and even hair are all things they will eat.

(You’ll likely be shocked at what a silverfish is willing to eat. You can learn more about their food tastes in this article.)

This means that you’ll find them in closets, bookshelves, pantries, and carpeted rooms. 

The final element in creating the perfect silverfish environment is darkness. They’re nocturnal creatures and hate the light, so they’ll frequent the places that stay dark.

Storage rooms, dark corners of the closet, and underneath cabinets are likely to have silverfish.

If you have already noted a silverfish problem developing in or around your home, be sure to visit our complete guide to getting rid of silverfish to learn how to eliminate these common pests.

Keep Your Home Dry

A leaky faucet or burst pipe is a sure way to draw silverfish into your home. Silverfish will stay in the dark and wet area and eat available starchy materials.

Leaks can take a while to find since the pipes are hidden underneath cabinets. Check your pipes and sinks frequently for leaks.

If you spot one, clean up the standing water and place a container and towels underneath to catch the water. Fix the leak or hire a plumber as soon as possible.

If the presence of a silverfish alerts you to a broken or leaky pipe, you may realize that spotting a silverfish indoors isn’t so bad after all.

Bathrooms are also a prominent place for water to accumulate.

After showering or taking a bath, drops of water can pool up and stay on the floor.

The humidity caused by hot steam will make the environment even more attractive for silverfish.

Make sure all water is dried up and ventilate the room the best you can after bathing.

Open a window or leave the door open to allow the steam to escape. Use a dehumidifier if necessary.

Remove Ideal Hiding Spots

Silverfish like to hide in the dark since they’re nocturnal, which means that you’ll find them hiding in different areas of your home.

Removing the places they like to go is a great way to keep them away.

Outdoors

Silverfish are typically brought into the home in bags and boxes, but they do live outdoors in humid areas.

Houses are ideal because they have spots that are always dark, but there are places in your yard they’ll live in until they find their way inside.

  • Debris piles: Piles of grass and leaves are perfect for silverfish because they’re dark, moist, and a plentiful source of carbs. Get rid of these piles so silverfish won’t have a place to live.
  • Stones: Decorative stones and tiles in your yard often house silverfish. These critters can tunnel their way underneath and stay there since it’s dark and moist.
  • Cracks: Cracks in your home are how silverfish make their way inside. Use caulk to seal up entry points.

Indoors

Your home has endless opportunities for nesting. Keeping your home clean (using bleach can help) and clutter-free is the best defense.

Clothing 

Most of us have a pile of laundry we plan on washing soon or a pile at the foot of the bed that should have been hung up last week.

That’s okay, except that silverfish will eat clothing.

If your room is humid enough, they might burrow their way inside and begin feasting if the piles aren’t put away soon enough.

Paper 

Your home office might be the most susceptible to silverfish in search of paper.

Stacks of books, magazines, or papers ready for the shredder are sure to attract silverfish. They might even crawl up your bookshelf to chew on books.

Frequent dusting and picking up piles will disturb any silverfish around and will encourage them to move on.

Carpets

Vacuum your carpets and rugs frequently to make the area unattractive to silverfish. They like to eat the food that gets trapped inside, but they’ll also eat the carpet itself.

Seal Up Your Stuff

You should always seal up all your belongings that you don’t use frequently.

If you have clothing you’re not wearing, books you’re not reading, or food stored in a pantry that attracts silverfish, they need to be sealed in airtight containers.

Plastic containers with locking lids (like these on Amazon) are the best kind to use. Silverfish can’t crawl in or chew through them, so your stuff will be safe.

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Silverfish will eat cardboard and many fabrics, so storage methods other than plastic boxes can get chewed through easily.

Basements and attics are common places for silverfish to congregate, so take extra caution when storing items in these spaces.

Make sure water can’t get into the containers, and check the areas frequently for leaks and water damage.

Deter Silverfish with Scents

Using plants’ natural scents is a great way to keep silverfish out of your home.

Many of these scents are either low odor or pleasant, so they won’t be a nuisance in your home.

You can make a DIY essential oil spray (learn how here) using scents that naturally repel silverfish, or you can follow the tips below.

Basil

The oils in basil repel silverfish, so you can sprinkle dried basil around your home or in the areas where you see them the most.

Cedar

Cedar has strong properties that repel silverfish and many other bugs. Cedar doesn’t have a strong scent to humans, however.

You can spray a mix of cedar oil and water throughout your home or use cedar products like blocks, rings, or balls.

Cedar rings (you can find them here) work great in closets because they can go right on the hanger of your clothing.

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Cloves

Whole cloves are more efficient than powdered cloves.

You can place the cloves in the areas where you see silverfish the most, and they probably won’t be back any time soon.

Cloves are pungent and many people don’t like the smell of them, so before you use it, make sure it won’t make you leave the room too.

Lavender

Lavender is a pleasant smell loved by many that silverfish can’t stand.

In fact, many silverfish actually identify the plant as poisonous because they think the smell is so bad.

Lavender essential oil is the strongest version of this plant, so you can mix it with water and spray it throughout your home.

It’ll be a lovely air freshener and will keep the home free of silverfish.

Conclusion

Prevention is key when it comes to silverfish.

You can use traps (we have a list of the best here in this article) once you have them in your home, but traps don’t catch the eggs, which are the source of the problem.

When you use prevention methods, you’re stopping the silverfish from coming in and laying eggs and putting a stop to the life cycle that will surely carry on within your home.

If you’d like more information about preventing and eliminating silverfish, don’t miss out on the other helpful silverfish articles. Click here to learn more.

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