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Diatomaceous Earth: A Cheap and Safe Way to Deal With Fleas, Ticks, Worms, And General Pests

Updated on January 25, 2011

Are you having problems with flea infestation in your house or your yard? Did your crops wither due to various pests killing them off? Are you anticipating a rough winter where certain winter pests will hole up in your warm, cozy home? Having a rough time with lice infestation? Plus, you're super, super poor and frugal like me.

If that's you, then you're pretty much in the same position I was. You've nearly pulled out your hair in frustration because you have land, house, animals, and/or children infested with those damnable things. You've seen the costs at the vet for dewormers for the animals, plus not to mention the frakkin' dangerous chemicals in pesticides in general. Crazy.

Here's a wild idea. Would you want a pesticide that is food grade and all-purpose? The kind of natural occurring pesticide that also helps with moisture content in your home, assists human health with important trace mineral, helps animals' coat to be shiny and healthy, cleans intestines, kills off unnecessary garden pests, and consistently gets rid of bloodthirsty worms, fleas, ticks, and more. Sounds super iffy, doesn't it? How is that going to work?

I'm going to introduce you to it, all in due time. Then, it's up to you to decide whether this information is for you. This is where my disclaimer comes in!

Please take this information with a grain of salt! I am not an expert. I am merely providing my experience and knowledge with this particular item. Consult with various experts on this. And also, remember there is a difference between a chemicalized, unsafe Diatomaceous Earth and a natural, food grade Diatomaceous Earth that has been ground into fine particles.

Amorphous Silica

DE has amorphous silica. states:

A naturally occurring or synthetically produced oxide of silicon characterized by the absence of pronounced crystalline structure, and which has no sharp peaks in its X-ray diffraction pattern. It may contain water of hydration or be anhydrous. Used as an extender pigment, a flatting agent, and a desiccant. Also known as CRYSTALLINE SILICA.

What is Diatomaceous Earth?

Diatomaceous is microscopic group of Silica skeletons of diatoms. It's also considered Diatomites. The diatoms were actually unicellular algae that lived in freshwater and dates back to the pre-historic times. The fossilized remains are soft and chalky sedimentary mineral compound. It is mined and rendered into talcum-like powder that can be used into all-purpose product.

Golden Harvest Organics describe it like this:

It is a mineral based pesticide. DE is approximately 3% magnesium, 33% silicon, 19% calcium, 5% sodium, 2% iron and many other trace minerals such as titanium, boron, manganese, copper and zirconium. Diatomaceous Earth is a natural (not calcined or flux calcined) compound. Diatomaceous Earth is a natural grade diatomite. However, the continual breathing of any dust should he absolutely avoided.

Basically, it is a bug killer than you can safely consume!  However, beware of how the Diatomaceous Earth (DE) product you may be considering is processed.  DE can be processed with additional chemicals to be used as pool filter! So, if you want an absolutely safe DE for use in your home, I recommend food grade Diatomaceous Earth.

The best analogy I can provide is baking soda and washing soda.  Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate.  It has a host of purposes it can be used for and it can be safely consumed in small quantities.  Washing soda is sodium carbonate.  The main difference is well-explained here:

. . .washing soda will consume two equivalents of acid, while baking soda will only consume one equivalent.

From left to right: Baking soda, diatomaceous earth, and washing soda.  You can see how similar and yet how different they are.
From left to right: Baking soda, diatomaceous earth, and washing soda. You can see how similar and yet how different they are.

How Is It Safe?

Diatomaceous Earth is basically trace mineral, which human body naturally has and needs. Consider that this contains silica. Silica already plays a very important role in various body functions. Earthworks Health provides an interesting data on this role: "The average human body holds approximately seven grams of silica, a quantity far exceeding the figures for other important minerals such as iron."

Diatomaceous Earth is also highly desirable for its ability to absorb certain things. They're considered cleansers, detoxifying, digestive aids, and many more. When pets and livestock consume this particular product, it actually helps with their joints and absorb many types of bacteria that shouldn't be in there in the first place. For example, with humans, they can absorb e coli, toxins, and viruses. It gets trapped inside the DE particles and we naturally flush it away.

It's only unsafe when inhaled in large quantities as dust. Remember that when handling Diatomaceous Earth. Another safety reminder is that it is also a drying agent, so use with care when your hands are touching the sand.

This image of diatomaceous earth particles in water is at a scale of 6.236 pixels/m, the entire image covers a region of approximately 1.13 by 0.69 mm.
This image of diatomaceous earth particles in water is at a scale of 6.236 pixels/m, the entire image covers a region of approximately 1.13 by 0.69 mm. | Source

How Does It Work as Pesticide, Then?

If DE is really so safe for animals, earthworms, livestock, and even humans, then how is this supposed to kill pests?

Short answer, it just does. The razor sharp edges of Diatomaceous Earth cuts and maims the internal and external pests.

Okay, okay, long answer is this. It doesn't work in a chemical manner. Pests can't build up immunity to it because it's not chemical! It's actually physically aggressive on its own. It cuts the insects to where they lose oxygen and important functions to survive. There are two reports on this. One, it acts as a dehydrator. It dehydrates insects to death by scratching off their coating. Two, it's a de-ionizer. It de-energizes the pests.

Because of that, Diatomaceous Earth has to be consistently used until the cycle of pests are broken. It doesn't kill the eggs, but when the pests have freshly hatched, the consistent use will kill them before they hatch more eggs.

Applications and Many Uses of DE

This is coming up soon!

Part 2 on Diatomaceous Earth will bring you the many uses and applications of Diatomaceous Earth.  It's a ridiculously simple product with many simple ways to use it.

It will answer these questions:

  • How to use it on animals?
  • How much to feed them for deworming?
  • What are the many other uses for it, other than pesticide, insecticide, and digestive aids?
  • What is the best way to apply DE to plants, household, furniture, and animals?

If you have more, please leave a comment or message me.


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      does it mean D E and baking soda nad / washing Soda can be used interchangably for bed bug ...or baking and washing Soda ARE one form of DE ??

    • profile image

      blah blah 

      6 years ago

      diatomaceous earth ingested won't hurt the digestive system. The digestive tract has a natural mucus excretion that protects it. That's how circus geeks can eat broken glass and nails w/o having to go to the hospital; the mucus layer doesn't allow it to penetrate. The same with the diatomaceous earth, and charcoal, and bentonite clay. The de moves through the bowel, and when it comes into contact with pests (like a tape worm), it starts to shred and dehydrate it. The stuff comes out like talcum powder, so you have to be sure not to inhale it and use it in a low-wind condition. You can spread it on the ground as an anti-bug barrier (good for chiggers, which are really bad this year). Combined with sulfur, you can have an effective yard pest control regimen. People through-out history have taking de and sulfur internally to fight / prevent parasitic infections. DE works through a physical action (the cutting and dehydrating), while sulfur works from a chemical reaction (most things just don't like the environment sulfur makes). The de is so small, it's working on a microscopic scale, though. But, like asbestos, continued inhalation can cause irritation then perhaps ulceration to the lungs. But, you'd have to be in continual breathing contact with the stuff, like working in a de mine for years without a breather. Any powder inhaled over long periods of time (years) can be bad for your lungs. My sister got on a baking soda kick, and would powder the house with it. It would get into the air, and after a year or so she came down with hacking coughing fits. I told her to stop tossing baking soda all over the place, or to vaccuum right after. She finally listened to me, and, surprise! her coughing fits went away.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have recently successfully used food grade, amorphous DE to rid my home of unwanted bedbugs. It's brilliant stuff. I took great care to wear a good quality dust mask so as not to breathe the powder in as it's not a good idea to breathe in any type of dust/powder.

    • Sunny Robinson profile imageAUTHOR

      Sunny Robinson 

      7 years ago from Tennessee

      DE isn't designed to attack organs of an animal, but the shells of parasites. DE can also be consumed by cattle, pets, and humans. If a human can consume it for digestive aid and cleansing, it has the same effect for the cat.

    • J Sunhawk profile image

      J Sunhawk 

      7 years ago from South Carolina

      From the article: "The razor sharp edges of Diatomaceous Earth cuts and maims the internal and external pests."

      Cats lick themselves. What do think happens in the cat's internal organs with these "razor sharp" particles that maim and slice up pests?

    • SognoPiccolo profile image


      7 years ago from Wilmington, Ohio

      I'm so glad i talked you into trying this! It was so crazy awesome that within less than a week Dexter's worms were gone and I haven't noticed a single flea. This stuff is a life saver. I thought we would argue back and forth about who would write this hub forever. lol


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