Many Americans are becoming more and more aware of the chemicals and other potentially dangerous ingredients in the food we eat, in our household cleaners, and in the products we use to maintain our gardens and control pests. So we’re trying to eliminate these products from our lives with more natural, less toxic products.
That’s where diatomaceous earth (DE) comes in.
Table of contents
- What is diatomaceous earth?
- How does diatomaceous earth control pests?
- Three Uses of Diatomaceous Earth for Insect Control
- How do I store diatomaceous earth?
- Is DE safe for human consumption?
What is diatomaceous earth?
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is made from the fossilized remains of diatoms, ancient algae. It’s both non-toxic and all-natural. It’s harvested from the sediment of dried-up water bodies. Two grades are available: industrial and food-grade.
How does diatomaceous earth control pests?
For insect control, when bugs of all types wander through diatomaceous earth, it clings to their bodies and scratches their exoskeleton, which causes a dehydrating effect. As a result, the insect’s body dries up until it falls over dead. This usually takes around 48 hours.
Unfortunately, DE will also kill beneficial insects. It’s indiscriminate in that respect. That still doesn’t outweigh its benefits; it’s just something you need to be aware of.
Because food-grade DE is safe for both humans and animals, it has many great uses, both indoors and outdoors. So ALWAYS buy the food-grade DE, even if you aren’t planning on using it in stored food.
Three Uses of Diatomaceous Earth for Insect Control
This article covers three areas of use:
- for pets
- for general pest control, and of course,
- to protect food storage.
How can DE help control fleas and parasites on pets?
This season our dog and cats have been beset with fleas. It seems that the squirrels in our backyard carry these obnoxious little creatures and deposit the eggs and larvae in our backyard, where our dog sunbathes just about every afternoon. She brings the fleas inside, where they eventually land on our cats.
It’s been a real problem.
We’ve used DE to combat the situation, though. First, we bathed the dog and cats and watched as fleas leaped to temporary safety within the bathtub. Then, once each pet was dry, we worked DE into their fur with our fingers and a brush.
To tackle the issue of fleas inside our home, we sprinkled the carpet in every room with DE, used a rake to work the powder down deep into the carpet, and then let the DE do its work for a few days. Then, finally, we vacuumed up the DE, dusted the furniture, and we were good to go.
If pets have parasites, mix a small amount of diatomaceous earth into their food for 3 or 4 days until the worms are eliminated.
Since DE is harmless, this process can be repeated whenever necessary.
How do I use DE for general home pest control?
For use inside your home, place shallow containers of DE in crawl spaces, in the attic, on windowsills, behind the refrigerator, or anywhere else you find insects. In just a matter of days, those insects will disappear.
If bugs are getting inside your house from outdoors, sprinkle DE around the outside of your home, especially where plants grow close to your foundation.
If ants are a problem, and this includes the infamous fire ant, sprinkle DE directly on the anthills where it will be tracked into the colony. Then, suddenly, ants will no longer be an issue without using toxic insecticides.
Keep in mind that DE will kill beneficial insects and the ones you want to be rid of. We want those friendly ladybugs and earthworms and such in our garden. They’re on our side! So be mindful of friendly fire.
How much diatomaceous earth for food storage?
Want to keep pests out of those bags and buckets of food?
Mix it in with your wheat, rice, oats, etc., using about a cup of food-grade diatomaceous earth for a five or 6-gallon bucket of food. Leave enough headroom at the top of the bucket or bag so you can shake the container, making sure the DE is thoroughly dispersed.
If you’re using a smaller container, adjust the amount of DE used accordingly.
At the same time, lightly sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the baseboards of your pantry room and at the base of any outdoor windows. Pests aren’t welcome anywhere near our food, right?
I’ve sprinkled it around the baseboards of my pantry and around buckets of wheat, rice, and beans. I’ve seen a few signs of bugs, a few small spider webs, but that’s after an entire year with my food storage in this location!
How do I store diatomaceous earth?
As long as properly stored, DE has an indefinite life span. It’s not a chemical, so its potency is unaffected by time. Keep it clean and dry, and you’re good to go whenever you need it.
How often should I reapply DE?
Although DE doesn’t lose potency, it can lose effectiveness when wet. Moisture prevents the scratching and dehydrating effect necessary. This is more of a factor outdoors than inside. If you have issues with dampness inside your home, you have more to worry about to adequately protect your food storage than just bugs.
Is DE safe for human consumption?
Some people ingest DE as a de-toxifer and claim it’s beneficial to bones, skin, nails, and hair because it contains silica. A teaspoon added to juice, water, or a smoothie makes it more palatable. Since DE isn’t regulated by the FDA, there aren’t any official claims of its health benefits to humans, but you can read plenty of positive testimonials online. For example, read here where DE is perfectly safe for us, but it’s like ground glass to parasites.
All in all, DE is worth having around the house as a non-toxic, multi-purpose product for controlling pests. I recommend it.
What is your experience using diatomaceous earth?
“This is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any disease. Consult your personal medical professional.”
WARNING: Do not use the DE intended for use in a swimming pool filter. Buy the food-grade DE, even if you aren’t planning on using it in stored food.
This article was originally published on May 6, 2019, and has been updated.
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