Diatomaceous Earth – information about and how to use it

diatomaceous earth for insect control

Diatomaceous Earth (often referred to as “DE”) is a natural product made up of fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms. These are over 30 million years old and are formed from the cementation of microscopic algae-like plant remains into the earth’s surface. These clay-like, chalky remains are usually found in the form of a thick, white, siliceous powder that is now known as diatomaceous earth. Besides having the ability to improve the body’s use of calcium, improve bone mineralization, protect joints and fight the effects of aging, it can also be used as a filtration aid, or a mild abrasive in products including metal polishes and toothpaste, mechanical insecticide, absorbent for liquids, matting agent for coatings, reinforcing filler in plastics and rubber, anti-block in plastic films, porous support for chemical catalysts, cat litter, activator in blood clotting studies, a stabilizing component of dynamite, and a thermal insulator.

diatomaceous earth for insect control

Where can diatomaceous earth be used

The main uses of diatomaceous earth range from areas such as pest control, which is what we are detailing in this article, to health support and food related applications. Below are some of the main ways diatomaceous earth is currently used:

  • It can be a natural source of silica, being composed of approximately 85% silica, which is an important mineral, required by tendons, cartilage, blood vessels, and bones. This nutrient even contributes to almost every vital organ, including the heart, liver, and lungs.
  • As it is a strong abrasive, it is often used as a toothpaste and facial exfoliator, helping with the removal of dead skin cells. The product’s natural silica content dries out harmful toxins and leaves behind cleaned, smooth skin, being often sold as a potent beauty mineral.
  • Diatomaceous earth acts as a mild abrasive internally as well, as it can help to remove intestinal invaders and other harmful organisms from the digestive tract. It helps in reducing odors, helping to curb gas, cleansing the digestive tract, boosting liver function and absorbing harmful toxins within the blood, as it is considered a works like a natural detoxifying agent within the body, killing parasites and viruses that can contribute to illnesses while also helping to clean the blood.
  • It can aid animals in getting rid of harmful organisms, by being placed in the feed of livestock, as it can discourage fleas and other harmful bugs from approaching and infesting the food.
  • Due to its filtration properties, diatomaceous earth is also used in many products used to filter water and help prevent tap water toxicity. It can also be used to purify fish tanks. Additionally, it’s also important for manufacturing beer and wine, syrups, sugar, and honey without removing or altering their color, taste or nutritional properties, as it kills potential viruses found in the water used to manufacture these products

Diatomaceous earth is often used as a control measure against pests, as when it is sprinkled on a bug that has an exoskeleton (such as bed bugs, ants or fleas) it compromises their waxy coating, absorbing the lipids from their outer layer, and causing the insects to dehydrate. It is one of the most used natural pest repellents, as it has a high efficiency rate and it is preferred to chemical pesticides. Products containing diatomaceous earth are most found in the form of dusts, wettable powders or pressurized liquids, and over 150 type of products are registered for inside and outside use, as it can be applied against a wide range of pests, such as bed bugs, cockroaches, crickets, fleas, ticks, spiders, and many other pests.

diatomaceous earth on a roach

As a pest control measure, diatomaceous earth is very effective as long as it is kept dry and undisturbed. Once the insects have come in contact with it, it causes them to dry out and die by absorbing the oils and fats from the cuticle of the insect’s exoskeleton. Its sharp edges are abrasive, speeding up the process, as it looks and acts like shards of glass. These small pieces go under the shell or waxy coat of the insect, puncture the body, and dehydrate the bug. It is considered to be a natural insecticide, as due to the incessant use of pesticides, many insects have become resistant to chemical deterrents. This organic pest control method is helpful for reducing the amount of environmental toxins we’re all exposed to. DE is classified as a safe substance for households use, being useful in food preservation, as a natural home deodorizer and cleanser, and for helping to treat livestock suffering from parasites.
Should you want to use a natural product to eliminate bed bug, house dust mite, cockroach, ants and flea infestations within your home, diatomaceous earth is the answer. Due to its silica base, it can easily adhere to the insects crawling over the treated surfaces. It works in efficiently killing insects by removing a portion of the razor-thin, waxy outer coating that helps the insects conserve moisture. Once this open wound has been created, the fine powder absorbs lipids from the waxy layer of insects’ exoskeletons, causing dehydration.
Although it is more effective against arthropods, as they die due to the result of water pressure deficiency, DE can also be used against gastropods, more commonly known as snails and slugs. However, efficacy is lower in their case, as they inhabit humid environments. Should it be mixed with an attractant or other additives, it can then have an increased eliminating effect when it comes to slugs and snails as well. In the case of slugs and snails large, spiny diatoms work best to lacerate the epithelium of the mollusk. Diatom shells will work to some degree on the vast majority of animals that undergo molting, such as the above mentioned arthropods.

Methods of applying and cleaning up diatomaceous earth

Depending on the situation, there are several ways in which diatomaceous earth can be used: around the house, in the garden or on your pets. As it is more effective when used as a dry powder, DE can absorb unwanted spills and smells, or dehydrate insects. However, there are also circumstances, where an application of a wet variant is needed. Dry treatments can be applied with a sifter around the house, as it can be sprinkled in cabinets, around baseboards, in window sills, beneath refrigerators or stoves, on a pet bed, in the garbage can, on a carpet, and many other areas. A flour sifter can thus be used to apply a light treatment on the areas mentioned above.
Wet application methods are also easy to use, as DE can be mixed with water and sprayed on the needed area. You can mix the two at a ratio of four tablespoons of DE per gallon of water, and then apply a thick coat on the tops and undersides of all your plants. When applying it to grass, wet down the grass with the hose. Then apply a heavy layer of dry DE through a dust sprayer onto the grass, as once the water dries, the DE will stick to it. Keep in mind that when used on the exterior of the house, it needs to be reapplied at least once a month, and especially after a rain, as it will be washed away. You can also use it as a spray inside your house, as you can apply it along cracks and corners in your home or other hard to reach places. When you start discovering dead insects, clean and vacuum the area and reapply the treatment if needed, in order to keep the DE evenly spread and fresh.

diatomaceous earth get rid of insects non toxic

Once the treatments have been successful, you can clean up the diatomaceous earth through several methods, depending of the surface on which you have applied it to. You can use a damp towel to clean up surfaces such as wood floors, tiles, countertops, baseboards, or in cupboards. You can either sweep it away or vacuum it, as the latter option is probably the best all around choice for carpets and cloth.  However, keep in mind that DE is so hard and abrasive that it can destroy a vacuum filter in just a few minutes, so it is better to try and use a filterless vacuum. Cleaning up DE can be simple, just make sure you are taking the appropriate precautions and using the right tools for the job. This advice also applies to the moment when you utilize this substance in large amounts, as you should wear gloves, a face mask, and protective goggles. This is to prevent irritation to the skin, eyes, and lungs.

One of the benefits of diatomaceous earth for insect control is that the insects it helps to control have no way to build up a resistance to this substance, like with many of the chemical control insecticides. Since DE is nontoxic to humans, you will often find it in grain-based foods, as it is mixed in with commodity grain to keep it safe from bugs. It is inexpensive and effective, useful in many industries, and can be found in deposits all over the world. When thinking of how to get rid of certain pests around your house or garden, or just of preventing certain insects from gathering near your property, take into consideration the use of diatomaceous earth, as its high rate effectiveness and natural origin is the best alternative to using chemical pesticides.


Got a question?

    1. Diatomaceous earth is used as an insecticide against bed bugs and for more information on how to use it please read the article.

      Nexles -

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