Why Do I Have Silverfish? Easy Ways To Remove & Prevent Them

A silverfish munching on a brown leaf.

You may have spotted a silverfish scurrying into a hiding spot when you turned on the light.

They’re nocturnal insects that hate to be in the light, so you might have had them in your home for quite some time without even realizing it.

Since they like to stay hidden, it can be difficult to determine what’s attracting them.

Why do I have silverfish? Silverfish are attracted to moist, dark areas and starches such as paper, flour, and clothing. They enter your home through holes and cracks and like to stay in attics, basements, and closets. Keep your home dry and clutter free to prevent an infestation.

While silverfish aren’t dangerous to your health, they can be quite destructive to your property.

Knowing why these critters are coming into your home is the first step in eliminating the problem.

How Silverfish Get Into Your Home

Silverfish are small, gray insects that measure no more than just 1 inch long (2.5 centimeters).

Since they’re so small, they can easily get into your home through places you might not be able to see too well.

Is it bad to have silverfish?

We answer that question in detail in this article, but for now know that if you spot silverfish indoors, it’s probably a sign that you have water damage in your home.

Rain can cause damage by getting into crevices, forming mold, and inviting pests to come eat away at the softened wood.

Water damage might not be the only way they’re getting into your home, however.

Cracks and holes around windows, doors, or between bricks can also be points of access for silverfish.

Are Silverfish Harmful?

There’s not any evidence that silverfish are harmful to humans. They’re not known to transmit diseases or bite.

While they might be creepy to look at, you don’t have to fear them because they can’t hurt you.

Some people might have an allergic reaction to silverfish because they molt several times throughout their life. The debris they leave behind can cause allergic reactions.

Vacuum frequently if you tend to have allergies around dust so you can pick up what they leave behind.

They can damage your stuff, however. They like to eat clothing, flour and other carbs, and paper. 

How to Keep Silverfish Out of Your Home

Preventative measures are the best way to keep silverfish out of your home. Keep your home dry and sealed up to make sure they don’t get inside.

Follow the following tips to keep your home sealed.

Use Silicone Caulk to Seal Up Cracks

Silicone caulk, like Gorilla Clear Silicone Sealant Caulk, can be used to seal cracks around doors, windows, gutters, bricks, wood, and other surfaces outside of your home.

Use Weatherstripping to Seal Doors and Windows

Crevices around doors and windows are ideal entry points for silverfish.

Use weatherstripping, like Neoprene Foam Seal Tape, to block the entry points.

Routinely Check Your Home for Water Damage 

Water slowly damages buildings over time, so you should periodically check for cracks or damaged wood around your home.

Check more frequently during rainy seasons.

The Environment That Attracts Silverfish

Silverfish are pretty picky about the environment in which they live.

They prefer dark, humid areas and likely won’t hang around if the environment becomes too dry or too bright.

If you’ve spotted them in your home, you probably saw them in an attic, closet, basement, or a particularly dark corner of the room.

Bathrooms, boiler rooms, and kitchens are also common places that silverfish like to congregate because they hide underneath sinks and boilers where it’s dark and moist.

If you have a leak in your basement or attic, they’re more likely to stay in those areas since they’re typically dark.

Areas with lots of starches, like cereal, dog food, clothing, or books, will also attract silverfish because they like to eat starches.

If you have areas that are prone to leaking, try to keep starches away from the area to make it less appealing to silverfish.

How to Prevent a Silverfish Infestation

Silverfish infestations aren’t too common, but they can still happen as a result of silverfish thriving in the proper environment.

Making your own essential oil deterrent and herbal satchels (learn how here) can be quite effective to encourage silverfish to go elsewhere.

Spraying walls and small, dark spaces with a bleach solution can help kill existing silverfish and drive others away.

Keep your home dry and clean with the following tips to prevent the silverfish population from expanding.

Prevent and Repair Leaks 

Regularly check sinks, toilets, showers, and boilers for leaks. Once the water puddles up, silverfish will start to make themselves at home.

Leaks should be fixed as soon as possible because they can also cause water damage in addition to attracting silverfish.

Don’t Leave Water Around

Immediately clean up wet spots you find in your home. If you spot a leak, keep a towel or bucket underneath it until you’re able to repair it.

Don’t Let Clutter Accumulate

Piles of books and clothing or open boxes of cereal, flour, or baked goods will attract silverfish because these things are their food source.

Tidy your home frequently so the constant movement will prevent silverfish from settling in.

Clean up piles of leaves outside of your home because these are appealing places for them as well.

Vacuum Regularly 

Food crumbs are attractive to silverfish, so be sure to vacuum areas where you frequently handle food and eat meals or snacks.

Click here for even more tips and methods for preventing silverfish.

What Silverfish Like to Eat

Silverfish love carbs and starches. They don’t just want pasta and cookies, however.

They’ll accept your clothing, books, dog food, cereal, piles of leaves, flour, and even your carpet as a snack.

When these items are accessible from the floor, that makes them a prime target for silverfish to explore.

The critters are capable of climbing, but items on the floor are usually more prone to being munched on.

Damp starches are even better. Wet leaf piles and soggy carpets are great ways to bring silverfish into your home.

If you still get a newspaper delivered to your door, don’t leave it out while it rains because silverfish will huddle inside and start chomping.

If your newspaper does get wet, don’t bring it inside. Throw it out or recycle it in an outdoor container.

Read this to find out what else silverfish consider good eating. You might be quite surprised.

How to Keep Silverfish Out of Your Stuff

Airtight containers are the best way to keep these bugs out of your things.

Sterilite 16448012 16 Quart/15 Liter Storage Box, White Lid with Clear Base, 12-Pack

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When items are sealed up tightly, silverfish won’t be able to detect them. Even if they are able to locate their favorite foods, they won’t be able to access them.

Also, as a preventative measure, consider placing a few traps strategically around areas that silverfish are known to frequent.

Read “Best Traps for Silverfish” to view our top recommendations.

Here are a few ideas for storing your items out of the silverfish’s reach.

Don’t Leave Dry Pet Food Out 

Some pet owners like to keep a bowl of dog or cat food out so their pet can eat whenever they’re hungry.

If you’re dealing with a silverfish problem, this isn’t the best idea.

If you want to leave it out, only do so during the day so as not to provide a nighttime feast for these creepy-crawlies.

It’s best to only feed your pet two or three times a day while you have a silverfish problem.

Store Food Boxes in Containers

Convenient packaged foods and breakfast cereals are typically kept in cardboard boxes, which are starches.

If the silverfish aren’t attracted to the food inside the box, they’ll at least go for the box itself.

Keep these boxes in airtight containers, or remove the contents to a container (these by the Wildone Store are perfect) and dispose of the box.

Airtight Food Storage Containers - Wildone Cereal & Dry Food Storage Container Set of 16 [1.6L /1.5qt] for Sugar, Flour and Baking Supplies, Leak-proof & BPA Free, with 20 Labels & 1 Marker

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Seal Up Your Seasonal Clothing

Whether you keep your winter sweaters hanging in the back of your closet or in a pile on the floor, they’re susceptible to being chewed by silverfish.

Keep the clothing you won’t wear for a while in a vacuum-sealed bag or in a large plastic container with a lid that securely locks.

Keep Paper Off the Floor

Stacks of books and magazines should be tidied up and kept off the floor.

Silverfish are capable of ravaging a bookshelf too, so it’s wise to remove books and dust them frequently.

Final Thoughts

Anyone with a high level of moisture in their home will likely spot at least a few silverfish.

They hide in the dark areas you don’t usually visit, so you might not know about them right away.

Frequent cleaning and plumbing maintenance will help you prevent infestations.

Removing the moisture and food sources is the best way to get rid of them, though you should definitely have a look at our elimination guide here.

If you need to get rid of them quickly, you can try sticky traps, like Greenway’s Silverfish Trap, or diatomaceous earth, which is a powder that will kill them after they walk across it.

Don’t miss out on any effective, easy-to-manage solutions!

Read the rest of our silverfish articles today to learn more about preventing, deterring, and eliminating silverfish. Just click here.

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