What is Diatomaceous Earth?

DiatomsIf you have a bed bug infestation, you’ll hear a lot of mentions of Diatomaceous Earth Powder. So what exactly is Diatomaceous Earth (DE)? DE is powder that is made from crushed tiny, fossilized diatoms (aquatic organisms) that lived in fresh water lakes. Although to the human eye it just looks like plain powder but to the insect world it is a deadly trap!

These crushed diatoms have sharp edges that cut and penetrate insects with exoskeletons when they walk on top of them. This causes their bodies to dehydrate and eventually die. Because of this process insects won’t die immediately and might take a couple of days but it is a save and effective way at controlling pests if applied properly.

Bed bugs love to hide and mainly feed during the night when you’re sleeping. It takes about 5 minutes for them to feed then they crawl back to their hiding place until the next meal. This makes it extremely difficult to spot and kill bed bugs. DE allows you to set traps around your bed because eventually they’ll have to walk on top of the powder to get to you and when they do…STAB! They get punctured by several sharp diatoms, they dehydrate, and die.

How to Buy Diatomaceous Earth?

Diatomaceous Earth PowderDid you know that diatomaceous earth can be eaten and we eat traces of it all the time? When farmers store grains they pour big scoops of diatomaceous earth to kill the pests. There are also health benefits associated to it that you can read more about here.

Keep in mind that you should only use “Food Grade” diatomaceous earth which safe to eat. There are other forms of diatomaceous earth like those used for industrial purposes that may contain other chemicals that may harm you. We want to be as safe as possible when dealing with with products so the safer the better.

You can buy diatomaceous earth from your local hardware and garden store but I’ll repeat again, make sure it’s food grade. If none of the stores around you carry the item or you want to shop online and have it delivered to you, you can check out my suggestions on some of the Best Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth to kill bed bugs.

How to Apply Diatomaceous Earth?

I mentioned that Diatomaceous Earth is an effective way to control pests if applied “properly”. So what does this mean? Well first of all, make sure you wear protective gear like a mask or shirt wrapped around your mouth and nose because although it may be safe to eat, you don’t want to be inhaling the powder when you’re applying it.

A lot of people figure the thicker the layer of powder they apply the better but this is NOT the case. In this case, less is more. Imagine you are a bed bug and you encounter a massive hill of powder you have to climb. Most likely you’ll try and find alternative ways to get across or not cross it at all. This is BAD! As mentioned before, we need the bugs to walk over and come in contact with the powder for it to work. If they just avoid it, it is useless and they may end up looking elsewhere and spreading to other areas of the house or walls in search for a meal.

The best way to use diatomaceous earth is by applying a very thin layer almost barely visible to the naked eye. That might be hard to do so you can use a small brush to spread the powder or add the powder in salt and pepper shakers and sprinkle a thin layer. The thin layer is key because as I explained earlier the bed bugs won’t walk over it if it’s too thick and if the layer of powder is thick there is more chance of it becoming airborne and breathed in by us.

Diatomaceous earth is only effective when kept dry so don’t use it where there will be lots of moisture and try to keep the area dry. If it does become wet for any reason it will be ineffective so carefully dust it or vacuum it away, dry the area, and apply another thin layer.

Where to Apply Diatomaceous Earth?

Diatomaceous Earth Kills Bed BugsThe best places to apply diatomaceous earth is around your bed posts, under your mattress cover, under your bed, and along baseboards. Remember you want bed bugs to come in contact with it so apply it wherever you think they might be hiding or have to eventually cross. It’s a good idea to put a thin layer along doorways as well to prevent bed bugs from spreading into other rooms.

Other areas you might want to place the powder are cracks and crevices in walls, bed frame, nearby furniture, carpet edges, under rugs, window casings, and behind things hanging on the wall.

Make sure you dust or vacuum the powder after 10 – 14 days and apply a fresh layer if necessary to maintain the effectiveness.

Final Thoughts

Diatomaceous earth is a safe and effective way of getting rid of bed bugs. Although it might be good enough to get rid of bed bugs when early in the infestation, it should be used with other techniques to more quickly and effectively eliminate bed bugs and other pests. Make sure you apply it properly in strategic areas and use a thin layer otherwise it will not work.

Read About Other Effective Bed Bug Treatment Methods

Check Out My Recommendations for Bed Bug Sprays and Powders


2 thoughts on “What is Diatomaceous Earth?

    • Great question! You would sprinkle a layer on places where it doesn’t come in contact with you like along base boards, between you box spring and mattress, under your bed sheets.
      If you put it directly on your bed it’ll just stick to you or get blown away which will make it ineffective. The whole point of the powder is for the bed bugs to walk over it so they dehydrate and die.

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