Diatomaceous Earth is made from fossilized algae found in bodies of water. There are hundreds of registered products that use diatomaceous earth (DE) as a main ingredient. Recently it has even been known to have certain health benefits.

Diatomaceous earth in a bowl

How Does it Work?

Diatomaceous earth works by breaking down the exoskeletons of insects. Most DE comes in dust formulas, and can be applied with paint brushes, turkey basters, or puffers.

This product can also be used inside and outside buildings, farms, and gardens. Various products with DE can be used directly on pets to protect against fleas and ticks. DE can be use to protect against these pests and many more:

There are three grades of diatomaceous earth:

Pool Grade Diatomaceous Earth

This form of DE is used to filter impurities, especially in water. The product is heated to produce a high level of silica. This makes it dangerous for human and animal consumption, and should only be used for pool filtration.

Feed Grade Diatomaceous Earth

As the name suggests, this level of DE is used to feed animals. Although this product is graded higher than pool grade DE and has less than 1% silica, it is not meant for human consumption. In fact, many people will use food grade level DE for their feed just to be safe. Always read and follow the label of any product before using it, and speak to a vet if you want to start using feed grade DE with your animals.

Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth

This is the highest quality of DE, and is meant for human consumption. Similarly to feed grade DE, this product also contains less than 1% silica. This is the product you will need for pest control. Similarly with any new product, always read and follow the label, and use caution to ensure you are not having any adverse reactions to the product.

If you are using DE and it’s not working, there could be 3 possible reasons why.

  1. You’re over-applying your DE

You should want a thin layer of DE with your bait. There shouldn’t be any piles of DE in your baits.

If insects spot piles, they will just go around and avoid the bait. If you are using DE to kill bed bugs, the piles may encourage the bugs to migrate to new places to avoid the baits.

  1.   You’re applying it in the wrong place

Make sure you are applying diatomaceous earth in places with low foot traffic, or places that won’t be swept up and blown away. Ensure everyone in your household knows where the DE bait is placed, do it is not accidentally swept into the air.

  1.  You’re not making a good bait

DE can’t be used on its own. You should be using another form of “bait” to capture your pests. Research your pest to figure out what behaviours they typically have. For instance, certain kinds of ants will be attracted to different kinds of baits that can be used alongside DE.

Always clean up diatomaceous earth before you have an exterminator come inspect your home. If you are having troubles baiting your pests, or need extra assistance, call a local exterminator at (833) 431-0401.

Is Diatomaceous Earth Safe For Humans?

There are laws on diatomaceous earth and what kind you’re allowed to use for pest control. Be sure to only use pest-formulated DE for your pest solutions. As mentioned, this product can be dangerous depending on the amount of silica in it.

There are two types of silica that can be found in DE:

  • Crystalline silicon dioxide
  • Amorphous silicon dioxide

Crystalline silicon is very dangerous and can accumulate in lung tissue and lymph nodes if breathed in. The long-term effects of inhaling crystalline silicon has been linked to silicosis, chronic bronchitis, and other respiratory problems.

There is only a very small amount of crystalline silicon in DE. Amorphous silicon is also used in DE, but can dissipate quickly in lung tissue, and is not as harmful to humans.

Any lung damage associated with amorphous silicon is mild and reversible lung inflammation. It is the most prevalent silicon in DE, and has not been linked to any major health problems like cancer.

Like with any pest-formulated product, try not to breathe it in, or get it in your eyes and mouth. Take caution when first applying the product by wearing gloves and a mask, and keep pest formulated DE away from children and pets.

Although it is not known to cause any developmental or birth defects, it’s better to err on the side of caution if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

People have experienced shortness of breath when inhaling a large amount of filter grade diatomaceous earth. If you accidentally breathe any product, get fresh air and ask a healthcare professional if there are any additional steps you should take.

Is It Safe For Animals and Other Wildlife?

Diatomaceous earth has been known to protect pets, and can even be used as a treatment for:

  • Roundworms
  • Whipworms
  • Pinworms
  • Hookworms

You can either apply food grade DE as topical treatment, or can be used in small doses in food.

Always use caution when using new products on your pets, and consult your vet before introducing DE to your pet’s diet.

If your pet is known to have dry or sensitive skin, do not use DE as a topical treatment as it may further irritate their skin. For this reason, DE is not recommended for reptiles, as it dries out their skin.

It is not known to be toxic to wildlife. The exceptions to this are reptiles and bees. If you want to use a natural product to protect your garden, try using neem oil or cedarwood oil.

What Products Use Diatomaceous Earth?

As mentioned, most diatomaceous earth will normally come in a dust form and will require additional products to apply it such as puffers, or traps. Be sure to look for food grade level DE, and read and follow the label of any product you’re using.

Diatomaceous Earth vs Other Products

There are lots of products out there to help you ward off pests. Let’s look at some other naturally formulated products that compare to DE.

Diatomaceous Earth vs Boric Acid

If you’re unsure about the different kinds of DE and want to err on the side of caution to ensure you don’t break any laws, or unintentionally harm something, try boric acid!

Differentiating between all the different grades and formulations can be difficult. Boric acid only has one formulation, and you can achieve similar results with the same pests.

If you’re unsure if DE products are the right solution to protect against pests, call a local exterminator at (833) 431-0401 to see what other solutions they recommend.