Have you ever heard of Diatomaceous Earth? This “wonder powder” has many uses, with one of its most prominent and important being that of pest control in agriculture. However, many households turn to Diatomaceous Earth, or DE, to safely and effectively keep their homes and gardens free of pests as well.
But what is DE, is it safe to use around children and pets, and how effective is it really when it comes to pest control?
Today, we are going to learn all about this amazing powder when it comes to pest control and talk about how you can use it in your home and garden to keep unwanted pests away for good.
What Is Diatomaceous Earth And How Does It Work For Pest Control?
DE is a natural form of pest control that does not use harsh chemicals.
Often called DE, Diatomaceous Earth is a fine white powdered mineral that was discovered in the early 1800’s by a man named Peter Kasten. Kasten discovered the powder, which was originally believed to be a limestone substance, while digging a well in Germany.
Upon further studies, scientists discovered that DE was actually made up of a type of diatom, which is a form of microscopic algae. It is a porous substance rich with silica, and is mostly found near dried water sources.
Since its discovery, DE has been used to make dynamite, filter candles, metal polishes, face scrubs, toothpastes, and is even believed to have health benefits when food grade DE is ingested.
However, and as we mentioned above, perhaps one of the most important roles DE plays is its role as a natural insecticide.
How does DE work to repel and kill insects? Well, DE works thanks to its unique makeup.
An insect’s exoskeleton is covered by a waxy lipid layer, which protects its hardened shell and helps keep in moisture so the insect stays hydrated. The sharp, fossilized shards of algae in DE are capable of penetrating the waxy layer of lipids on the insect’s exoskeleton, effectively keeping it from retaining water, thus dehydrating and killing it.
The below video explains a bit more about Diatomaceous Earth and how it works for insect control.
It sounds like DE is the wonder powder of the century, right? But while it is valued for its seemingly countless uses, including a detoxifying agent for human ingestion, is DE really safe to use as an insecticide around children and pets?
Let’s take a look.
Is Diatomaceous Earth Safe For People And Pets?
Many people like DE because it is safe to use around kids and animals.
If you are looking for a safe and natural alternative to pest control other than chemical insecticides, then you’re in luck. DE is considered a natural and effective way to get rid of pests while also keeping your family and pets safe.
That said, the overall safety and effect of DE may depend on the manufacturer. It also may depend on the substance’s granularity, or if DE is milled, micronized, or calcined. Depending on it’s form, some types of DE can be more abrasive than others. In fact, some types of Diatomaceous Earth can even cause irritation to humans and pets if not used properly, so it’s important you understand the type of DE you are using and the effects of that DE in homes and gardens where people and pets are active.
We should also note that while it’s not considered toxic, DE can be problematic if accidently inhaled, especially if it is not of food grade quality. It is a fine, sharp, powdery substance that is abrasive and can cause breathing difficulty and coughing when accidentally breathed in.
Because it is made up of abrasive fossilized algae matter, it can also be irritating to the eyes and skin. It is extremely drying as well, so it’s best to wash your hands after using it.
However, the good news is that most listed effects of ingesting, inhaling, or even getting DE in your eyes are mild and will go away, leaving no lasting residual effects. That said, keep in mind that studies are still ongoing as to the residual health effects of certain granular forms of DE on humans and pets. For this reason, any DE that isn’t food grade should be used with caution.
Let’s learn more about the difference between food grade DE and regular DE below.
Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth Vs. Diatomaceous Earth For Pest Control
Some feel that ingesting food grade DE is beneficial, although studies have yet to prove such a theory.
When you go about researching Diatomaceous Earth, one of the things you may come up with often is “food grade” DE versus DE specifically designed for pest control. What’s the difference?
Food grade DE is designed specifically for those looking to ingest the powder as a form of detoxification. While food grade DE can work well as a pest control option, most experts agree that you should use a DE product that is specifically designed for pest control use in order for you to get the most benefits.
The difference between food grade DE and pest control DE is that pest control DE can contain higher amounts of crystalline silica, which should not be ingested by humans or animals as it can lead to health issues.
That said, the higher levels of crystalline silica are more effective when helping to kill and reduce pests in the yard and garden.
But remember, DE isn’t just used for detoxification and pest control. Let’s take a closer look at some of the other uses of Diatomaceous Earth.
Different Diatomaceous Earth Uses – It’s Not Just For Pest Control!
DE can be an effective pest control option, but it is beneficial for more than killing bugs.
As you may have gathered from the information above, DE is not just used for pest control. In fact, there is a reason this powdery substance is known by so many different names!
Sometimes referred to as dinosaur dust, fossil shell, ancient treasure, and the miracle mineral, this mythical sounding powder has so many uses it will make your head spin!
Some Common Uses For Diatomaceous Earth Include:
As we mentioned above, DE has been used in the past to make dynamite. It was first used in 1866 as an explosive compound by a man named Alfred Nobel, and the formula created using DE is known as guhr dynamite.
- Water Filtration
Along with being a popular insecticide, DE is also commonly used for water filtration. It works to filtrate drinking water, pool water, fish tanks, and is even used in the filtration of syrup, sugar, wine, and beer.
- Abrasive Polishes
Because of it’s abrasive makeup, DE is a popular and effective metal polisher. It is also one of the oldest ingredients used in toothpastes. Some forms of DE have even been modified and used in facial scrubs.
Recently, food grade DE has become a popular supplement for those looking to detoxify. While the studies are still ongoing as to the true benefits of DE and human health, many believe that ingesting food grade DE helps to eliminate heavy metals from their body and can assist in aging and overall digestive health.
- Pest Control
And of course, DE is used for all forms of pest control whether it is commercial use or in homes and gardens. DE works to control pests like spiders, roaches, bed bugs, ants, earwigs, aphids, beetles, and countless other insects.
Now, let’s talk a bit more about how to use this powder for pest control safely and effectively.
How Do You Use Diatomaceous Earth For Pest Control?
DE is easy to use and effective when used correctly.
As we mentioned above, DE is an effective pest control option because of its unique ability to penetrate the exoskeleton of insects, which dehydrates and kills them. While this is an effective and natural insecticide, we should note that the insects have to physically walk through the powder in order for it to be effective.
With that being said, it is simple to use and easy to apply. You can apply DE directly to your home and around the perimeter of your property to keep pests from entering. I personally used DE when I was dealing with a bed bug infestation. I found it quite useful and left powdered lines beneath by dressers, along my headboard, along baseboards, and at all entry and exit points of bedrooms.
While DE is a powerful insecticide, it is less effective when it is wet. When using it outdoors, you must reapply it after it rains or gets moist in order for it to work. When using it inside, DE is effective as long as it is out and dry. It is also very easy to clean up and simply vacuums when you no longer need it.
But which DE is most useful when looking for a pest control option? Most experts recommend purchasing a DE product that is specifically designed for pest control, especially if you are dealing with hard to get rid of pests like bed bugs or fleas.
And speaking of fleas, did you know that food grade DE can be used on dogs and cats to help eliminate ticks and fleas from their fur? Of course, because DE can be so drying and abrasive, we recommend using this method with caution and making sure you speak with a trusted veterinarian or professional before you powder it on your pet.
What Are Our Favorite Diatomaceous Earth Products For Pest Control?
Some of our favorite products use DE as an ingredient for natural pest control.
There are a lot of different companies out there who sell Diatomaceous Earth as pest control. However, not all DE products are made the same and some work better than others.
Remember, if you have insects that are difficult to get rid of, we highly recommend you purchase a DE product that is specifically created for pest control.
Wondering what some of the best DE pest control options are? We have listed some of our favorite products for you below.
Diatomaceous Earth Crawling Insect Killer
We like that this DE product is specifically designed for pest control, and especially for the control of crawling insects like beetles, ants, bed bugs, roaches, silverfish, and more.
It comes in a powder dust form and includes a pump duster to help you reach hard-to-reach cracks and crevices where many of these insects like to hide. For indoor use, we recommend sprinkling this powder along baseboards, inside cracks and crevices, along windows, and even under furniture. This particular DE product works best when dry, so reapply it if it gets wet.
Diatomaceous Earth Bed Bug Killer
If you have ever had bed bugs, you know how tough they are to get rid of. I had a personal experience with these insects and this is the exact powder I used to help get rid of them. I sprinkled this powder along baseboards, along the bed headboards, beneath furniture, and even in all the entry and exits of each room.
However, when it comes to using DE for bed bug control, you will likely need to use this product as well as other bed bug control methods including professional removal if the infestation is too severe.
Safer Diatomaceous Earth
This is another DE product we like for crawling insects. It is 100% made of Diatomaceous Earth and contains no other chemicals or additives. It works to kill earwigs, roaches, fleas, silverfish, and bed bugs.
You can use this product inside or outside, and it’s even safe to use around gardens and directly on plants. However, keep in mind that once the DE powder gets wet it is not as effective so you will need to reapply it if it rains.
Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth
Many people with families and pets opt for the food grade option of DE when it comes to pest control, simply because it is considered safe to ingest. That said, do note that there are still ongoing studies as to the benefits and even the safety of ingesting DE.
Still, a food grade DE product is going to be safest for pest control, if safety is what you are looking for. It is also highly effective for pest control options and works on many insects, although it may not be as effective for very hard to kill insects like bed bugs. For those types of pests, we recommend a more targeted DE product specifically designed for them.
Bonide Diatomaceous Earth
As you know, experts do recommend if you are planning to use DE for pest control that you choose a brand that is specifically made for that purpose. That’s why we have included Bonide DE as the final DE product on our list of favorites for pest control options.
Like many other Diatomaceous Earth products on this list, it is specifically designed to be used for pest control against crawling insects like ants, fleas, roaches and more. You can use it inside and outside as well, including in your gardens and along the perimeter of your home. Like most DE products, this is safe to use in areas where children and pets play.
Is Diatomaceous Earth Right For Your Pest Control Needs?
Diatomaceous Earth may be considered a miracle powder to some, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. It’s important to note that while there are very clear benefits of using this substance for pest control and other home uses, there are still many studies being conducted to ensure the safety and effectiveness of DE.
If you have questions or concerns regarding the use of DE in your home and around your family or pets, we recommend doing plenty more research to ensure this is the right product for you and your pest control needs.
What do you think? Is Diatomaceous Earth the miracle substance it’s made out to be? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
Jack founded our blog after two decades of working in the pest control industry. His vast experience dealing with a wide array of pests allows him to diagnose issues quickly and get to the heart of pest problems quickly and effectively. He has serviced more than 2,000 homes over his career and there is hardly any pest situation that he has not seen before.