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How to Protect Books from Silverfish

Silverfish are small, scaly insects found in damp, humid spaces in your house, such as in the bathroom, the basement, crawlspaces, and inside books.

While they’re’ not a threat to your health, a silverfish infestation in your books will leave them with holes through the pages and unsightly yellowing stains.

Read on as we look at different ways to protect books from silverfish and how to completely get rid of an infestation.

How to tell if you have a silverfish infestation

Silverfish are quick creatures with love for dark spaces, so you may not always see them.

However, they leave behind telltale signs when silverfish eat books and paper, such as:

  • Holes in pages as well as jagged edges
  • Yellowing stains
  • Black flecks like ground pepper
  • Silverfish scales and droppings
  • Abrasions on photos and other thick/hard paper
  • Scratch marks on the wallpaper
  • Dead bodies of silverfish

In some cases, you may catch them in the act of chewing paper.

They also taste glue and paste, so chewed book bindings and damaged wallpaper are also likely to be the work of a silverfish.

If you think you might have a silverfish problem, the first step is to check all the potential hiding spots in your home.

This includes:

  • In the bathroom – look for damp areas like under the sink, in the bathtub, around the toilet, and near shower curtains.
  • In the basement – check any dark, humid corners and crawlspaces.
  • In the kitchen – look in any cupboards, near the sink and dishwasher, and under the fridge.
  • Anywhere else that’s damp and humid – this includes laundry rooms, garages, and storage spaces.

If you still can’t’ find them, leave a piece of paper or cardboard out overnight as silverfish are attracted to the cellulose in paper and cardboard.

In the morning, check to see if there are any silverfish or their scales on the bait.

Natural ways to get rid of silverfish

Depending on the level of the infestation, you can get rid of silverfish with simple home remedies or with something more substantial.

Here are some home remedies to get rid of silverfish:

Keep your books away from humidity

Silverfish thrive in places with moisture and humidity. Make sure you don’t’ have any leaky pipes or faucets in the house.

Store your books in a well-ventilated area and turn on a dehumidifier if necessary.

The attic and other storage spaces are not ideal for storing books since they attract silverfish.

If you are storing books in the attic or similar space, keep them in airtight bags or containers.

Vacuum the area frequently to remove any silverfish that may have crept in. Sealed plastic bags are ideal for storing books that are not in use.

Cedar chips

Cedar has a strong smell that silverfish hate. You can find cedar chips at any hardware store.

Sprinkle them around the areas where silverfish are present. You can also put some cedar chips in a sachet and place them near your books.


Cloves have a strong scent that silverfish hate. You can either place whole cloves around the infested area or make a clove oil spray.

Mix 10 drops of clove oil with water in a spray bottle to make the spray.

Spray it around the areas where you’ve’ seen silverfish.

Lavender oil

Lavender oil is another natural repellent for silverfish.

Mix 10 drops of lavender oil with water in a spray bottle and spray it around the house, especially in areas where silverfish are present.

Diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth is a natural way to kill silverfish.

It’s’ made from the fossilized remains of algae. It works by puncturing the exoskeleton of insects, causing them to dehydrate and die.

Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around areas where silverfish are present. Make sure to vacuum regularly to remove any dead silverfish.

Lemon juice

Lemon juice is a natural way to repel silverfish. Just mix equal parts water and lemon juice in a spray bottle and spray it around the house.

You can also place lemon peel around areas where silverfish are present. The strong citrus smell will keep them away.

Boric acid

Boric acid is a natural insecticide that you can use to kill silverfish. Just mix 1 part boric acid with 3 parts flour and sprinkle it around the house, and the silverfish will eat the mixture and die.

Make sure to vacuum regularly to remove any dead silverfish.

Dryer sheets

Dryer sheets contain a chemical that repels silverfish. Just place them in drawers, cupboards, and anywhere else where you’ve’ seen silverfish.

You can also put a dryer sheet on your bookshelf to keep silverfish away from your books.


Cinnamon is another natural way to repel silverfish. Just sprinkling cinnamon around the house will help keep silverfish away.

You can also make a cinnamon spray by mixing 1 part water with 1 part cinnamon oil.

Spray it around areas where silverfish are present.


Hairspray is a quick and easy way to kill silverfish. Just spray them with hairspray, and they will die.

You can also use hairspray to prevent silverfish from damaging your books. Just spray the inside of your bookcase and any books sitting out.


Potatoes are a natural way to kill silverfish. Just place a potato in an infested area, and the silverfish will crawl inside.

Check the potato regularly and throw it away when it’s’ full of silverfish.

Thyme sprigs

Silverfish don’t’ like thyme. Get your hands on some fresh thyme sprigs, dry them thoroughly and puncture them to release their aroma.

Place the springs close to your books or scatter them around your bookshelf. Make sure you replace the thyme frequently for this method to be effective.

Keep your books away from food

Silverfish eat many things, including cereal and grains. Keep your food items well sealed and store your books far away from them.

You should also avoid storing books in damp areas, as silverfish attract moisture.

Baking soda traps

Baking soda is toxic for silverfish. On a piece of parchment, add a thin layer of honey and coat it with baking soda – leave these close to your books to catch the insects.

You can also make a baking soda and flour trap. Just mix equal parts baking soda and flour and place it in a container with holes.

The silverfish will crawl in and won’t’ be able to get out.

Keep your house clean

Silverfish are attracted to dirt and clutter. Keep your house clean and free of clutter to prevent them from entering.

You should also vacuum regularly and dust your shelves to remove any food sources that silverfish may be attracted to.

Seal up any gaps

Silverfish make their way into your house through openings like windows and doors and any gaps or cracks in the walls. Seal up any cracks and crevices with a bit of caulk to keep them from coming back.

Chemical ways to get rid of silverfish

Natural remedies are only helpful if the silverfish haven’t’ caused any damage yet.

If there are holes or yellow stains in your books, the infestation is more widespread, and you’ll’ need a better solution to get rid of the silver insects.

Boric acid

Boric acid is toxic for silverfish since it destroys their exoskeletons and leaves them to die.

It can be sprinkled on bookshelves and any open spaces and cracks in the house through which these bugs can come in.

You can also create boric acid traps: cover a mason jar with tape or fabric to make it easy for the silverfish to climb in.

Sprinkle the boric acid inside and add a little bit like cereal crumbs. Once the silverfish climb inside, they’ll’ come in contact with the boric acid and die.

You can even leave out the boric acid for a less toxic trap since the silverfish can’t’ climb out. Clean and replace these jars regularly.

Please note that boric acid is toxic for humans and should be kept out of reach for children and pets.

Silverfish insecticides

Look for insecticides explicitly designed to tackle silverfish and ones that won’t’ damage the pages of your book.

Powdered insecticides work best for sprinkling close to the books. However, you can use a spray to kill those on the floor or anywhere else in the house.

Do not spray books or papers since this can wreck them.

Hire an exterminator

As a last resort, if the silverfish infestation is widespread among your books and other spaces in your house, you may need to get the place fumigated.

Make sure to take all your books and papers out of the house before being cleaned. Store them in a place that is free from moisture and humidity.

Check and clean any new books that come into the house

If you’ve’ purchased new books, papers, or something paper-based, check it thoroughly for signs of silverfish damage.

If there are signs of silverfish damage, keep them away from your other books until you’ve’ cleaned them thoroughly. Here is how you can take care of that:

Clean the books with vinegar

For moldy or damp books, soak a cloth in water with a slight bit of vinegar added to the mix.

Clean the pages and the binding of the book with this cloth and let it dry under the sun for around 30 minutes.

Bring the books indoors and once they’re completely dry, store them on your bookshelf.

Freeze the books

You’ll need to be more extreme for books that show holes or silverfish remnants. Place the book in a plastic bag and freeze it for 24 hours.

This will kill any silverfish or silverfish eggs hiding among the pages.

Once you remove the book from the freezer, clean it with the vinegar cloth, remove any dust and place it on your bookshelf.

Get rid of silverfish permanently

If you’re dealing with a silverfish infestation, you’re probably wondering how to permanently remove them.

While silverfish are challenging to control, there are a few things you can do to reduce their population. Start by vacuuming regularly and dusting your home with an insecticide.

You can also try setting out bait traps or using natural predators, such as spiders or centipedes. If you’re dealing with a severe infestation, you may need to contact a professional exterminator.

However, by taking some simple preventative measures, you can dramatically reduce your chances of dealing with these pesky pests.

Related questions

What do silverfish look like?

On average, silverfish are about half an inch long with silvery scaled bodies. They are flat and long and are identifiable by their antennas: three on the rear end and two at the front. They can move quite quickly and generally prefer to stay in the dark, so it’s’ best to keep your books in a place that gets plenty of light.

For more on identifying silverfish, click here.

What do silverfish eat?

Silverfish have a very diverse diet, and they eat everything from food scraps and grains to dandruff, glue, paper, hair, carpet fuzz, etc. If you have an infestation, you’ll’ need to make sure that you eliminate all these food sources to keep them from coming back.

Why do silverfish eat paper and books?

Silverfish survive on a diet of carbs and starches. When tree bark is broken down into pulp and processed to make paper, cellulose is converted into starch, which becomes a source of nourishment for silverfish. Keep an eye out for silverfish since they also eat money and wallpaper! Avoid keeping any magazines or newspapers in the bathroom where they can be attacked by silverfish at night.