Will Silverfish Eat Clothes in My Closet?

Picture of Silverfish

Typical Diet Habits

What Do They Eat?
As generalist feeders, silverfish are attracted to a wide range of food sources. The primitive insects show particular fondness for items containing high levels of starch, protein, or sugar.

Silverfish eat everything from cereal and flour to the glue or paste affixed to the undersides of book bindings and wallpaper. Unfortunately, finding silverfish in clothes is a result of their typical feeding habits.

Why Silverfish Eat Clothes:

These pests are attracted to wardrobes for the following reasons:

  • Silverfish eat clothes not for the actual material, but for the nourishing substances often found in or on the fabric.
  • The nocturnal insects feed on starched clothing to extract the starchy carbohydrates contained within.
  • To fulfill their need for sugars, silverfish also eat clothes that are stained with spills of sugary foods or beverages.
  • Articles of clothing stored in closets or other dark storage areas with moderately warm temperatures and high humidity are most susceptible to silverfish damage.

Preferred Clothing Fabrics

When silverfish eat clothes, they demonstrate a preference for garments made of:

  • Cotton
  • Linen
  • Silk
  • Leather
  • Rayon

Clothing Damage

Because their mouthparts are only capable of taking small bites and scraping edible material from various surfaces, silverfish create holes in clothes and yellowish stains that typically make up the majority of the damage left behind.

Prevention & Control:

To prevent silverfish from damaging clothes, homeowners should do the following:

  • Store clothing in an environment incompatible with the living conditions preferred by the pest insects. As silverfish thrive in damp and humid areas, closets should be kept free from excess moisture.
  • Keep books, magazines, papers, and other attractive food sources or potential harborages out of closets shared with clothes.
  • Seal cracks and crevices around the house.
  • Clean and vacuum closets regularly.
  • Storing garments in sealed packages or containers can help prevent silverfish from gaining access to and eating clothes.

Because it typically takes a serious, uncontrolled silverfish infestation to cause noticeable damage, the presence of small holes or stains on clothes may indicate a problem requiring the services of a pest control professional.

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