How to leave the bugs behind?
November 6, 2020 7:25 AM   Subscribe

Help! I moved out of a place that had the occasional silverfish but put everything into storage and am now worried about an infestation timebomb. What would you do to nuke them from orbit?

I packed up a bunch of my possessions into standard cardboard moving boxes and put them in storage for a couple months until I move into my new place. Problem is, the storage unit is in a cold, foggy city in the Bay Area, and it's not climate controlled. As I've been reading about silverfish on past AskMe posts, it seems like they thrive on this combo of humidity, paper, cardboard. UGH. They are creepy nightmares and I REALLY don't want to bring them into my new place. Can the good people of AskMe help me solve this?

-- Repack - buy a giant bag of diatomaceous earth, silica gel packs, and big plastic bins. Remove items from the cardboard moving boxes and repack everything into the plastic bins, sprinkling diatomaceous earth and the silica gel packs liberally.
-- How - can I find people to help me do this? who would I need to look for? Mefi Jobs?
-- Clothes - what should I do with my hanging storage rack of clothes? Take them all to the dry cleaners?
-- At new place, unpack everything and then call an exterminator to do whatever they do to make sure the buggers are permanently gone.

Please don't tell me this will just go away or to ignore this. I realize it may be expensive to hire someone and buy a bunch of bins to repack everything, but seriously, it would be worth it for me to never have to see one of those long-tailed demons ever again. Have you had this experience and succeeded with the ultimate master bug-free plan?
posted by hampanda to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I’d hire the exterminators for the new place while it’s still empty so you know there’s no existing problem first. What kind of place are you moving to? I have a habit of living in 100+ year old houses and they can be, well, buggy no matter what you do.
posted by cabingirl at 8:03 AM on November 6, 2020 [5 favorites]

First of all, silverfish are not in any way dangerous for you or your stuff. Second, from personal experience I know that this is one of the rare pests where it really pays off to kill them when you see them. Maybe they reproduce slowly. I usually smash them using a piece of kitchen- or toilet paper. Or my shoe.

I don't think you will bring them in from storage, but if you do, just take a deep breath and kill them one at a time when you meet them. You will get rid of them rapidly.

Also, there are tons of reasons you should keep your home and all storage units in it dry and well ventilated, apart from pests. I have the doors to the bathrooms open when no-one is home. I always air the bathrooms well after a shower or bath. I haven't ever seen silverfish in my kitchen, but if I did I would thoroughly air after boiling water or running the dishwasher. If your bedroom has silverfish, you need to air much more.

I have read about it, but forgotten the reason, but I live in a place with a similar cold, foggy climate to the Bay Area, and it still works to open windows and air, even on a rainy day.
posted by mumimor at 9:49 AM on November 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

There’s some evidence that Japanese cedar oils are an effective treatment for them, and even if cleaning your place out periodically with a mild solution doesn’t solve the problem right away it will still smell pretty nice.
posted by mhoye at 10:38 AM on November 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would be concerned about having to deal with diatomaceous earth all over my things when I unpacked, but I am also a huge klutz and would probably breathe in a big lungful before I even remembered it was there. YMMV.

I like Dekko Silverfish Paks for throwing into boxes/containers to deal with the little buggers. They’re less messy than DE but the packs themselves have doubled in price since the beginning of the pandemic and it might be hard to get large quantities cheaply. Maybe there’s another boric-acid-in-cardboard solution?

You’re not overreacting about silverfish. They will happily nibble away at any kind of paper, including books, which can be a problem if you have emotional attachments to certain books, like I do. I also really dislike seeing hairy, squirmy things scuttling away among my belongings. It’s fine to not want them in your new place.
posted by corey flood at 11:26 AM on November 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

Will you have the opportunity to lay your belongings out in the sun for a few hours before bringing them into the new place? I think I would unpack the boxes onto sheets and use some of their airing-out time to open items and look for silverfish. Wear rubber gloves for the heebie-jeebie factor.

If you’re not moving to a place with a yard, maybe you know someone who would let you use their yard for this, just don’t put stuff back into the cardboard storage boxes after airing; transport them in clean containers.

Things like clothes that never touched the floor, I would not suspect silverfish to infest, but they would still probably benefit from an airing-out.
posted by lakeroon at 12:48 PM on November 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Dekko packs work really well and they’re not gross and last a long time. Get a bunch and tuck them in all your boxes.
posted by exceptinsects at 9:24 PM on November 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

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