How to get rid of booklice?

Firstly Booklice are not actually real lice and they won’t invade your hair. The bad news is they can still cause you problems inside your home.

Booklice are still a pest, they feast on mold in humid environments. We’ve created a useful guide to tell you everything you need to know about these fake lice and how to get rid of booklice from your home.

In this guide: 

  • What do Booklice look like? 
  • Useful facts about Booklice 
  • Are Booklice dangerous? 
  • Can Booklice make you sick?
  • How to get rid of Booklice? 
  • Booklice summary

What do booklice look like?

There are more than 200 species of Booklice otherwise known as psocids in the United States. The majority of them are very small in size. 

Size: It depends on the species, but the size of Booklice ranges from 1 to 6mm.

Color: The color of booklice varies depending on the species but commonly they are brown, white or grey.

Wings: Booklice that live outdoors often have wings, however Booklice that invade your homes usually don’t have wings or if they do they are very small.

Features: They have 6 pairs of legs, with their back legs being much thicker than their front legs however Booklice cannot jump. Instead, they can run quite quickly and are very good at hiding. 

Booklice have a three stage life cycle: egg, nymph and adult. The nymphs look like baby versions of the adults and they grow very fast. Most booklice become adults in less than a month. Each female is able to produce up to 60 eggs during the summer, unfortunately this means that booklice are able to reproduce very quickly. 

Facts about Booklice

What do Booklice like to eat?

Unlike their name suggests, booklice don’t actually eat books.

However, they do like to eat mold and fungi, their name stems from them being found to eat moldy paper in books. Booklice also like to eat dead plants as well as dead insects. It’s common to find booklice in construction sites due to plaster being wet which allows mold to grow.

They are also commonly found within food supplies, but only if there is the presence of mold.

Mold spores are not always visible to the human eye, so finding booklice in your cereal box could mean it’s time to throw it in the trash.

Where do they live?

Booklice are very common throughout the United States, they are especially popular in areas with high humidity. 

People living in the South are far more likely to discover booklice in their homes, predominantly in bathrooms, barns and other places that acquire moisture. They are sometimes found to be near food, which means that the food has acquired mold and should be thrown in the trash. 

They are also commonly found to live in areas where there is high moisture in the air, such as hiding behind wallpaper, in curtains and potted plants.

Are Booklice Dangerous?

Booklice aren’t a parasite and therefore don’t pose an immediate threat to humans. However, they are still pests and can be highly destructive due to their eating habits. Booklice are predominantly slow eaters, they can damage objects such as books and food sources such as crops and seeds. They are even known to damage the structural foundations of plaster and wallpaper. 

They are commonly discovered in libraries and courthouses, this is due to old records and files being stored. If you think you have stumbled across an infestation, you should set out to treat this pest quickly to avoid lasting damage.

Can booklice make you sick?

Booklice are not carriers of disease and therefore cannot spread a disease, they are not known for making people sick. That doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat food where booklice have been discovered. This means that food or crops that are clearly infested with booklice should be immediately thrown in the garbage.

How to get rid of booklice?

Here’s a few pointers to help prevent your booklice infestation before it spreads further.

  1. Remove infested objects or food sources – Throw out any items that contain mold.
  2. Use resealable plastic bags – Whenever possible use plastic bags for fresh food
  3. Reduce moisture in your home with a dehumidifier. This helps to destroy the environment booklice thrive in, and it can help cut down mold and mildew. 
  4. Use bleach, vinegar or similar chemicals to kill the mold and mildew spreading. If you’re not sure you want to do this by yourself, you can call a mold specialist to help you safely resolve your mold issue.
  5. Vacuum your floors and carpet. This collects dead booklice, as well as cleaning any infected areas to eliminate bacteria or mildew.
  6. Booklice prevention – Continue to make use of a dehumidifier as this will help prevent mold and mildew growth by keeping moisture to a minimum

Are my books ruined?

If you’ve found an infestation within your favourite book, there’s not much you can do to save them. You could try to dehumidify in an effort to kill them, but you would need to take them to a mold specialist who can eliminate mold from each page. 

It’s best to get rid of the objects straight away to prevent booklice reforming their colonies and expanding their population further.

Unless the item holds a great personal value to you, we recommend you throw it in the trash immediately. 

That being said, if you would like to try, we have provided a few DIY methods that can be done at home. Make sure each page of the book has been dried thoroughly and then use a small paintbrush to brush off any traces of mold or mildew. 

We recommend wearing gloves, eye protection and nose protection to prevent inhaling any spores. Also you should let the books sit for several days to ensure the mold is completely dead. We recommend putting your books near a heat source of humidifier to help with this process. 

Failing to wear protection when dealing with a book lice infested object can lead to severe illness, which is why it’s best to seek professional help for restoration.

Booklice summary

To be clear, a booklice infestation isn’t that serious and shouldn’t worry you too much. A bigger concern is that mold or mildew is growing in your home and that needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.

Dehumidifiers are super useful in dealing with mold as are standard cleaning products such as bleach, these are great methods of preventing the mold from spreading further. 

One final reminder – remember to wear correct safety equipment when dealing with mold such as gloves and a face mask, to prevent spores being inhaled and causing you to get ill. 



Ronald has 25 years of pest control experience under his belt. He scrutinizes each pest control method, product and process. 

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