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What Smell Do Silverfish Hate? (Control & Prevention Methods)

What Smell Do Silverfish Hate? (Control & Prevention Methods)

Have you just seen something dart across the bathroom floor as you turned the lights on? The chances are that you just saw a silverfish and when there is one, there are likely to be others. When you spot a silverfish, you might wonder how to get rid of it in your home. 

The good news is that you can get rid of silverfish by using some familiar smells. There are smells that most people like but silverfish hate. So what smell do silverfish hate and how do you use them to your advantage? Read on to find out how to use smells as natural silverfish repellents. 

How to Identify Silverfish

How to Identify Silverfish

Image Credit: toe_biter606

Silverfish, which can be found in all corners of the world, are small insects without wings. They feed on starch and sugar and prefer areas with high humidity and you will often see them in damp spaces such as bathrooms and basements. Silverfish have a flat body, six legs, a tail, and extended antennae. They are between 1/2 and 3/4 inches long and are brown or silver. 

Are Silverfish Dangerous?

Silverfish are not dangerous to people. They cannot bite or sting you. However, if you are allergic to dust mites, silverfish in your home can cause an allergic reaction. But if they are harmless to people, why should you get rid of them?

While silverfish will not cause any harm to people, the same cannot be said about your property. When you have a silverfish infestation in your home, they will bite holes in your textiles such as silk and linen, and chew on carpets, books, and art. In addition, they feed on drywall and plaster

Smells Silverfish Hate

Below you will find a list of smells that will repel silverfish. Even if they get into your home, you can drive them away with these smells. 

  • Bay leaves are best used dry to deter silverfish. Their smell will affect their sense of smell and ability to find food or a mate. 
  • Cedarwood or cedar oil will not only repel silverfish, but it can also kill them when used in the areas they inhabit. 
  • While cinnamon has a pleasant smell for us, silverfish cannot stand it and will drive them away quickly. 
  • Cloves have a scent reminiscent of cinnamon and like cedar oil, both repels and kills silverfish. The other benefit of clove is that it will also repel other pests such as fruit flies
  • Citrus smells are great for repelling many pests, including silverfish. You can use lemons, oranges, lime, or almost any citrus fruit. 
  • Lavender is another smell that works on a range of pests. While it smells pleasant to use, silverfish hate it. 
  • Peppermint oil works on pests from ants to silverfish and spiders, so it is another all-around pest-repelling herb. 
  • Rosemary, like lavender, peppermint, and clove, will keep silverfish and other small pests away from your home. 

How to Use the Smells

You can get many of the smells as essential oils. Mix them with water in a spray bottle. Spray the dilution in damp areas, corners, and cracks. Repeat the spraying regularly as the smell will fade over time.

Another option is to use dried herbs. You can use them as they are, for example placing dried leaves or twigs in areas inhabited by silverfish. They will last for a long time and release a natural oil that repels silverfish. 

You can also use dry herbs in scent sachets. They work well in areas where you cannot use sprays, for example, your closets or bookshelves. Like the dried leaves or twigs, the sachets will release the smell into the air and last longer than sprays. You can also grow fresh herbs. 

What Are the Signs of a Silverfish Infestation?

What Are the Signs of a Silverfish Infestation?

Often you might only see one silverfish but you can be pretty sure there are more. While silverfish sightings can be a sign of an infestation, are there others?

Silverfish Droppings

When silverfish feed, they leave their feces behind whether it is on the carpet, your textiles, or books. The feces are tiny pellets and resemble tiny black peppers. Sometimes you might find silverfish feces in large amounts in infested areas. 

Signs They Have Been Feeding 

When silverfish have been feeding in your home, they leave evidence behind. Look for tiny holes and yellowish or black marks on anything they like to eat, such as magazines, artwork, books, clothing, plaster, and even glue. They go for pretty much anything with adhesive. 

Molted Skin

As silverfish age, they molt. This is a regular process and they leave behind a yellowish residue as well as molted shells. These shells are transparent and disappear quickly because they are so light. 

Silverfish Eggs and Nymphs

Silverfish like to lay their eggs in moisture-rich areas where they can find a suitable crevice. A female silverfish will lay many eggs, usually dozens, which are off-white and oval-shaped. It takes a few weeks before the eggs hatch, after which the nymphs, which are smaller and paler than adults, will appear. 

Other Ways to Get Rid of Silverfish

In addition to using smells, there are other ways to eliminate your silverfish problem. For the best results, you might like to combine two or three methods. 

Boric Acid or Borax

If you know where the silverfish are entering your home, boric acid or borax is an effective method. Apply a thin layer along the baseboards, at the back of your cabinets, and inside closets. The boric acid or borax will kill the silverfish. Note that boric acid is harmful if inhaled or ingested so do not use it if you have children or pets. 

Silverfish Traps

You can easily make a silverfish trap using items you already have at home. One method is to fill a glass jar with food items such as cereal and flour that will attract the silverfish. Wrap the jar with masking tape, or other textured tape, on the outside. The silverfish can climb in because of the tape, but cannot climb out along the smooth glass walls. 

Another popular method is to use a damp newspaper. Roll it up and leave it in a moist place for a couple of days. It attracts the silverfish as a perfect place to make nests. When they do, discard the newspaper. 

You can also buy a silverfish trap from a store. Just be aware that many of them can contain boric acid which shouldn’t be used around children and pets. A safer alternative is to opt for a sticky trap and put them in the area where you have spotted silverfish. 


These will kill silverfish but should only be used as a last resort. Pesticides can be dangerous to people and pets if not used correctly. If nothing else has worked and you are considering pesticides, you might like to contact a local pest control first. 

Silverfish Prevention

Silverfish Prevention

After you have gotten rid of the silverfish in your home, you want to ensure they will not be coming back since prevention is often easier than removal. There are several things you can do to prevent silverfish from choosing your home as their home, too. 

Lower Humidity

Since silverfish are attracted to damp spaces, a key prevention measure is to lower the humidity in your home. Check for leaking taps or pipes and waterproofing on your windows. If you live in a humid environment, it may be worthwhile to invest in a dehumidifier. 

Remove Silverfish Food Sources

Silverfish will also be attracted to your home if there are food sources for them. For example, they will happily feast on a pile of magazines in your basement. If you want to keep items such as old magazines, store them in dry places or airtight containers. Also, food items such as flour and sugar should be kept in sealed containers. 

Eliminate Potential Breeding Grounds

Because silverfish like to lay eggs in dark, damp, and well-protected spaces, check your home for potential breeding grounds. These could be, for example, cardboard boxes in a basement or a pile of newspapers in the bathroom. Replace the cardboard boxes with damp-resistant alternatives and remove the reading material from the bathroom.

Don’t Store Items Against Your Home

If you have items leaning against the walls of your home, consider moving them. Silverfish are good at climbing so they can use these items to get access to pipes or vents that lead inside your home. 

Clear Up Clutter

Silverfish will not only hide in clutter, but they will also use it as a food source. They will chew through books, magazines, cardboard, and even dandruff and dust. Therefore, keeping your home as clutter and dust-free as possible will help prevent silverfish. 


If you have seen a silverfish in your home, it is best to take quick action. While you might have spotted just one of them, there is likely to be more and they can cause damage to your property, even your home. 

We hope the methods described in this article will help you get rid of silverfish and prevent them from coming back. If you would like to ask us anything about what smell silverfish hate, you can write the questions in the comments box.

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