How to Protect Books & Papers From Silverfish

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Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum

  • Boric acid

  • Chemical insecticides (optional)

Silverfish are small insects, about 1/2-inch long, that are silver in color and have flat bodies. The three long "bristles" at the rear of their bodies and their two long antennae at the front make them easily recognizable. These critters love damp, warm places, so you'll often see them in sinks, around plumbing fixtures, in closets, on bookshelves, in bathtubs and in attics and basements. Silverfish pose no threat to humans, but they are pests in the house. Silverfish can damage books and papers by eating small holes in them or by leaving light yellow stains.

Non-Chemical Protection

Step 1

Eliminate the places silverfish like to live by removing sources of moisture. Check plumbing, eliminate leaks, and run your air conditioner or a dehumidifier to lower the level of humidity in the home. Do not store books or papers in humid areas of your home.

Step 2

Silverfish like bookshelves and boxes with papers in them because they eat the glue that binds books and seals boxes. Vacuum bookshelves to remove silverfish. Attics where boxes of papers are often stored are also ideal habitats for silverfish. Vacuum often in these areas and store papers in airtight containers.

Step 3

Silverfish like to consume foods such cereal, oats and flour, so keep these items in tightly enclosed containers. Keep your books and papers far from silverfish food sources.

Step 4

Store books in plastic containers with tight lids, and place important papers inside sealed plastic bags before putting the papers in boxes for storage.

Step 5

If you still see silverfish or the damage they cause (holes or stains in books or on papers, fabric or wallpaper), consider a chemical extermination of these pests.

Chemical Removal

Step 1

Various insecticides can rid your home of silverfish. Learn as much as you can about the insecticides first so you can make an informed choice before adding chemicals to your home. You need to be especially sure that the insecticides will not damage your books or papers.

Step 2

First, try sprinkling boric acid in the crevices and cracks where silverfish are living. Boric acid can be used around bookshelves and in attics or basements near paper storage boxes as well.

Step 3

If you wish to try an insecticide spray, apply only a light coat in areas where silverfish are present. Avoid spraying books or papers.

Step 4

Consider various stronger chemical insecticides if the silverfish problem does not subside. Sprays, dusts, liquids and station baits are available by searching "silverfish insecticide" on the Internet or asking a pest control professional at places such as Terminix or Orkin. To be 100 percent sure your books or papers won't be damaged, remove them from the home before treating the home with chemicals.

references & resources

Deanne Lachner

Deanne Lachner has been writing and editing fiction and nonfiction for more than 15 years. She has published articles in "Working Women," "Performance Magazine" and the "Direct Selling News." Lachner holds a master's degree in English from Texas Woman's University and is pursuing a second master's degree in instructional design and technology.