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HOWTO: Get Rid of Silverfish

The bane of every book collecting person: the Silverfish. DUN DUN DUNNNNN!!!

How to get rid of them?

If one book has been infected, place it inside an air-tight plastic bag along with some silica gel desiccant. The silica gel is important to get rid of moisture, because you will now place the sealed plastic bag with the book in it inside the freezer. Leave it in there for a couple of days so that those bugs catch their death of cold.

If you're feeling particularly paranoid, (like I usually am) feel free to leave the plastic bag in there for a week. If they're not dead, then you might likely have an infestation of zombie silverfish, which is out of the scope of this blogpost.

But what if a whole colony of silverfish decided to invade your whole bookcase? Then you have to make sure you're ready for war.

Place a generous amount of silica gel (or if you can find it, diatomaceous earth) behind your books at the back of the shelves so that moisture levels remain low. Silverfish like things to be damp, and turning their environment into a parched desertscape will not make things peachy for them.

The next step is to place traps for these pests along the bookshelves. This is how you go about building Your Very Own Silverfish Trap:
  1. Find some jars that will fit into your shelves.
  2. Clean out the inside of these jars thoroughly until the inside walls are so clean and smooth, baby bottoms can't even come close to comparing.
  3. Wrap the outside of each jar with masking tape.
  4. Place some starchy food inside each of the jars, then place them along your bookshelves.
You now have what is hopefully an efficient silverfish trap.

How it works is the desiccants behind the books will push the silverfish out towards the traps. And then, once they sense the food inside the jars, they will climb the easily-climbable masking tape-wrapped outer walls and fall inside the jar to get the food. They won't be able to get out, because the inner walls of the jars will be too smooth to climb up. Leave the traps out long enough, and you will find your silverfish infestation considerably lessened.

Good luck!



  1. Hates silverfish. (The insects, not Raman.)

    Thank ye kindly for tips. :D

  2. You're welcome, Kenny! hey... did you notice the post I made specially for you? You gotta scroll down a bit... sorry for making you wade through the ads!

  3. Wow, the things we book-types in cold places don't have to worry about ... snagged on Ted's googling for something else. Exciting to see the literary scene is alive and well in Malasia.

  4. Thanks for dropping by Lynda!

    You don't have Silverfish in Canada?

  5. I'm still trying to imagine the entire place-starchy-food-in-jar process, but i think i'll stick to the silica gel for now, sounds less complicated!

    Where can i get the gels? Nearly died when I found a silverfish in my book!

  6. That's a really good question! I'm not really sure myself, but I think I may have seen it in some gardening shops. Also try stationery or packaging suppliers. Hope that helps!

  7. There's a type of cat litter which is essential silica gel balls.

    Thanks very much for the info on how to make your own silverfish traps!

  8. Ah! Very helpful. Thanks a lot, Citrine!

  9. I hear if you roll up a damp newspaper and leave it out overnight they will crawl in it. Then you can throw the newspaper away, or burn it, or give it to your neighbor. (:

  10. I've never heard that one before. I'll have to keep that in mind the next time silverfish visit.

  11. Having just found evidence of silverfish -nasty- in my cookbook collection, I was directed to your post via google. Then after reading solutons , I thought, maybe Boraxo might work easier to find and cheaper than silica jel. I'll try, Wish me luck, Barbara

  12. i just got an apartment about a two months ago and i have only seen these creatures in my bathroom. is there a chance they are in my books too? hate to sound paranoid but they are not my idea of a welcomed guest.Thanks for your help!

  13. My darling wife found a silverfish in one of the older books she pulled out to read and I've been rousingly dispatched to do my duty and "make them go away". My manhood has been challenged, and the war is on!!!
    Thanks so very much for the tips Ted.
    :-) Phil in Orlando FL

  14. haha i wanted to make the trap to catch the silverfish and study it :P

  15. Hah, I didn't even think about wrapping the infested books in plastic. I guess that makes more sense than taking the books outside to let the silverfish go. Maybe this is why my silverfish problem hasn't gone away yet.

  16. well now, quick question. If you freeze a book that has live silverfish, yes it may kill them. However, if there are eggs in the book that have yet to hatch, they could still potentially hatch once the book gets back to temperature. Does anyone know if silverfish lay eggs near their food source? I have to "cure" about a hundred books from the 1800's that were left in a storage shed.(not the best idea). I am thinking of getting a big tote and wrapping it with masking tape and performing a complete death sentence. I am extremely nervous about hurting these books but if the silverfish don't leave.. the books have to. Also, a bit off topic but does anyone have any ideas for getting rid of the musty smell in these books?

  17. Freezing overnight should kill the eggs also. If you freeze books make sure they are in an airtight container (like a ziplock bag with all the extra air squished out) and don't open it until they are back up to room temperature. Otherwise you will get condensation on the books which will lead to mold growth. You can also put some silica gel in the ziplock bag prior to freezing for added protection.
    P.S. - I've seen silverfish in Montreal (and cockroaches and earwigs, too).

  18. microwave, 30seconds shouldn't hurt the book and should kill the eggs

  19. I'd be careful about microwaving. Some glue bindings melt pretty easily.

  20. My solution is simpler. Get an ebook. ;)

  21. Just found this - thanks Ted. I work in a dusty little museum with moisture problems under the floor of a storage closet - silverfish magnet. Boxes of books in there a horror show. The closet is one big trap - good for the archives a few rooms away. Will set up many traps using my half pint canning jars on the shelves of the closet and bag the books for the freezer.
    Tip - They way I get rid of moth eggs on textiles - after the first freezing (I do it 10 days) don't open the bag - let it sit for 10 days - eggs will hatch - then back in the freezer for another 10 days. Do not open as Citrine pointed out until contents achieve room temp - could take awhile for books. Toni

    1. In response to the person who asked about getting rid of the smell from books... Smelly books are a danger to your collection as the smell can grow to include many of your books. I have used the following technique with success. Get a large plastic bin with a cover. Place cat litter in the bottom of the bin/box/container and place a wire shelf similar to what you would find in an oven or a counter-top cooker on top of the cat litter. Place your book standing on the end similar to the position they have on your bookcase with the pages fanned out so that multiple pages are exposed to the air in the sealed container. Cover and leave for one to three days. Remove your books and smell them. If they still have an odor - "re-fan" the pages and place back on the rack and cover the container again for as long as is needed - checking every few days to see if odor has been eliminated. Remove once odor is gone and place back in a clean section of your bookcase. I have purchased books online (like from EBay) and occasionally get a book that smells of mold or (even worse, in my opinion) cigarette smoke. This method works very well with the occasional book that arrives for your collection with an odor issue. You should change the cat litter occasionally as it absorbs the odor and can actually spread the smell if it is not fairly fresh. Good luck with "de-smelling" your books and Happy Collecting...


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