If you’re finding that your beloved books or favourite jumpers have been nibbled away at, then the culprit may be silverfish.
These small nocturnal insects can be found all over your house, but are especially drawn to starched clothing, book bindings, cereal and sweet houseplants due to their love of carbohydrates.
Silverfish are wingless, silvery-blue in colour and moves like a fish – hence the name.
Using essential oils is one of the best ways to be rid of these pests as the scent repels them and some can even kill them.
Essential oils are also natural, and are safer than many chemical products (though they aren’t completely risk-free).
Where Do Silverfish Come From?
Silverfish usually live outside, but sometimes they enter homes looking for food.
They can also be carried into the house in your grocery shopping or things like boxes of books, which have a high starch content that attracts silverfish.
Silverfish are very resilient and can even last a year without any food at all, meaning you may not realise that you have them at all to begin with.
What Are the Best Essential Oils for Silverfish?
There are many different oils that you can use including eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, lime, and peppermint to name a few.
As essential oils are very concentrated, you can add a small amount to a spray bottle of water and spray it in the affected areas or where you think the insects may be coming from such as cracks and crevices, on shelves and in baths or showers.
You can also simply add drops of the oil on its own into your wardrobes and drawers which not only keeps them smelling fresh, but wards off these destructive insects.
1. Lavender essential oil
Lavender is a popular essential oil to use to repel silverfish as it is a popular scent to use around the home and is readily available in shops.
As it’s made of natural ingredients, you can spray it onto almost any surface without worrying about chemical damage.
It can be used on carpets, inside wardrobes and many other places. The silverfish will be repelled by the smell and hopefully leave your home.
2. Cinnamon and orange essential oil
If you have a damp area of your home such as a cellar filled with boxes, you may find that this is where the silverfish have congregated.
You can oust them from these damp, dark corners by dipping cotton balls in cinnamon oil and placing these in boxes, on shelves and in the bottom of your wardrobe to repel silverfish.
You may want to mix this with orange essential oil too, which actually kills the silverfish by destroying the exoskeleton.
Make a lethal mixture of 20 drops of each of these two essential oils mixed with 250ml of alcohol and shake it up to spray on suspected nests – look out for black dots that could be silverfish eggs as well as the adults.
3. Peppermint essential oil
Peppermint essential oil has a strong smell that repels silverfish and other pests.
Try adding 10-15 drops of peppermint essential oil to a spray bottle filled with one cup of water.
Shake the bottle to blend the oil and water, and then spray the solution in areas where silverfish are likely to hide, such as cracks, crevices, and dark corners.
Keep applying the mixture every few days until you stop seeing silverfish in your home.
4. Tea tree essential oil
Tea tree oil is known for its insect-repelling properties, so it could be a great choice for combating silverfish.
Mix 10-15 drops of tea tree essential oil with a cup of water in a spray bottle.
Shake the bottle thoroughly to make sure the oil is diluted, and then apply it to areas where you know silverfish are active.
5. Japanese cedar essential oil
Cryptomeria japonica, or Japanese cedar, not only repels silverfish, but can also kill them.
It could be a good choice if you want a powerful silverfish killer that is also biodegradable and environmentally friendly.
Try diluting Japanese cedar essential oil with water in a spray bottle, and spraying it on affected areas.
How to Disinfect a Silverfish-Infested Wardrobe
- Remove everything from the space – all boxes, clothes, shoes, etc. Silverfish hide in everything, so all boxes must be emptied and inspected – you may want to spray or add the cotton balls previously mentioned to prevent future infestations.
- Once the wardrobe is empty, vacuum and then wipe it down to remove any nest of eggs that could be present. You can then choose one of the sprays previously mentioned to wipe down all of the surfaces inside to drive out any remaining silverfish that may be hiding nearby.
- Before replacing any of the boxes, check any that are not airtight sealed. Silverfish are especially attracted to the paper found in shoe boxes, so you may want to check or remove this before spraying the boxes or adding the soaked cotton balls.
- Shake out and even wash all of the clothing to remove any silverfish that may be hiding in the creases. They can cling very well to clothes, so your best option, though laborious, may be to wash everything.
- Replace all the items and add other precautions such as drops of essential oil or the essential oil-soaked cotton balls.
Things to Know Before Using Essential Oils
While essential oils can be a valuable tool in repelling silverfish, there are a few additional points to consider when using them:
- Dilution: Dilute essential oils properly before using them to avoid skin irritation or damage to surfaces. Always follow the recommended dilution ratios provided with each essential oil. This will usually be around 10-15 drops per cup of water.
- Targeted application: Focus on areas where silverfish are commonly found, such as dark corners, cracks, crevices, and damp areas. Spray the essential oil solution directly in these areas to maximise its effectiveness.
- Regular reapplication: Essential oil solutions are not a one-time fix. Silverfish are resilient pests, so it’s essential to reapply the oil regularly, every few days or once a week, to maintain the repellent effect. Consistency is key to driving them away.
- Prevention measures: Alongside using essential oils, it’s crucial to take preventive measures to discourage silverfish infestations. Keep your home clean, dry, and well-ventilated to reduce moisture levels, as silverfish are attracted to damp environments. Seal cracks, repair leaks, and eliminate food sources, such as starchy materials and crumbs.
- Combine with other methods: Combining essential oil usage with other silverfish control methods can give better results. Consider using traps, diatomaceous earth, or professional pest control services for severe infestations. By using several strategies, you’ll increase your chances of getting rid of silverfish.
- Individual sensitivities: Some people have allergies or sensitivities to certain essential oils. If you or anyone in your household experiences any adverse reactions, stop using them immediately and seek medical advice if necessary.
- Child safety: Keep essential oils away from children. While they are relatively safe compared to many regular pest-control products, they can still be harmful. Essential oils can burn sensitive skin and obviously shouldn’t be drunk, so store essential oil bottles somewhere where kids won’t have access to them.
Other Natural Ways to Prevent and Get Rid of Silverfish
1. Seal cracks to stop silverfish getting in
To stop silverfish from entering your home, seal up any cracks or crevices through which silverfish could enter.
You can buy fillers to do this yourself, so there is no need to employ a builder or decorator for small gaps and cracks.
2. Avoid creating a silverfish-friendly environment
Silverfish are attracted to damp, dark homes, so make sure your home is warm enough and use a dehumidifier if it’s damp.
Keep your home clean and clutter free to ensure that there is less spaces for these insects to hide away in dark and damp crevices.
3. Store food correctly
Ensure that foods that attract these insects are properly sealed. These include cereals, coffee, sugar and flour.
Also, make sure that the shelves that these items are stored on are kept clean and dry.
4. Vacuum regularly
Hoovering regularly helps remove silverfish as well as their eggs and food sources from carpets, rugs, and other surfaces. Pay extra attention to cracks, crevices, and dark corners where silverfish tend to hide.
5. Citrus juice spray
If you don’t have any essential oils to hand, you can make a citrus juice spray from freshly squeezed lemon juice mixed with some water.
Much like the essential oil sprays, you can use this on your house’s furnishings to wipe down surfaces and deter the silverfish and other insects repelled by the scent.
6. Sticky traps
Try putting sticky traps or adhesive tapes in areas where silverfish are frequently seen. These traps will capture silverfish when they come into contact with them.
7. Natural repellents
Silverfish are repelled by the scent of certain things like bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, and cedar shavings.
Place these natural repellents in closets, drawers, and other infested areas to discourage silverfish from entering.
8. Regular cleaning
Keeping on top of your cleaning by regularly dusting and wiping surfaces will remove potential food sources and egg deposits.
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