Can Boric Acid Get Rid of Silverfish?

Updated July 12, 2018

Silverfish are wingless, crawling insects represented by 250 species throughout the world. The name for the common household variety is Lepisma saccharina, which indicates the dietary staple of this critter—starch. They’re not only one of the most primitive insects still around, but they can live up to six years in your home feeding on clothing, wallpaper, carpeting, books and dry foods. If you haven’t yet heard, boric acid can get rid of silverfish.

Boric Acid Basics

Boric acid occurs naturally in seawater, volcanic ash, in some plants and in nearly all fruits. It is also found in several minerals, such as borax. You can find boric acid in hardware stores and in some pharmacies, where it may also be labelled as boracic acid or orthoboric acid. However, don’t confuse boric acid with commercial borax. The latter is a disinfectant and laundry booster sold in the cleaning products section of supermarkets and will not kill silverfish.

Insecticide Use

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, boric acid has been approved for use as an insecticide to control silverfish since 1948. Since that time, more than 180 pesticide products have been registered with the EPA that contain boric acid as the active ingredient. The agency has also determined that boric acid and its compounds has a low toxicity in humans and is generally safe for residential use.

How Boric Acid Works

Liquid boric acid acts as a poison when ingested by insects, including silverfish. Powdered boric acid has the same toxic effect, but it also dehydrates the protective outer shell of the insect after coming into direct contact with it.

Using Boric Acid at Home

It’s more practical and much safer to use the powdered form of boric acid rather than the liquid to get rid of silverfish in your home. This is because the powder is easier to contain and handle with less risk of spillage. You can make a homemade boric acid bait for silverfish by combining 1 tbsp powdered boric acid with a cup of finely ground oats and a tsp of sugar. When this bait is placed in a container filled with scraps of torn paper, the silverfish will be attracted to the starch in the paper. Eating the paper will poison them since it will contain residual boric acid. The silverfish will also come into direct contact with the boric acid while crawling through the materials, which will dry out their skin.

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About the Author

Karyn Maier is a seasoned columnist and feature writer. Since 1992, her work has appeared in Mother Earth News, The Herb Quarterly, Better Nutrition and in many other print and digital publications. She is also the author of five books, and is published in six languages.