Diatomaceous Earth for bed bugs – The good and the bad

Bed Bugs Diatomaceous EarthDiatomaceous earth, often marketed as “Bed Bug powder” or “Bed Bug Dust”, per Wikipedia, is a “naturally occurring, soft, chalk-like sedimentary rock that is easily crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. This powder has an abrasive feel, similar to pumice powder, and is very light, due to its high porosity.”

Diatomaceous earth is primarily the fossilized remains of a aquatic organisms called (diatoms).   The fossilized remains are made of silica, a very common natural substance.

Diatomaceous earth can be an effective treatment strategy for bed bugs, but should not be used as the only treatment method.   Additionally, Diatomaceous earth has also proven itself as an effective bed bug prevention method as well.

A natural bed bug killer

Diatomaceous earth isn’t a pesticide like bed bug sprays, but a natural dust that kills bed bugs after they’ve had contact with it.

The fossilized diatoms in Diatomaceous earth are basically very tiny crystalline structures that are sharp.  Diatomaceous earth causes bed bugs and other insects, like fleas, to dry out and die as as the diatoms absorbs the oils and fats from a bed bug’s body.

Diatomaceous earth is available in a number of varieties including food grade.  Food grade Diatomaceous earth is the recommended type for treating your home against bed bugs.

While natural and inexpensive, Diatomaceous earth is not without issue:

  • Can take up to 10 days to kill bed bugs once they’ve made contact with it.
  • Can be harmful if breathed in or even when it comes in contact with skin or eyes
  • Bed bugs will avoid large amounts of it, so it must be spread out as a thin dust

How to properly use Diatomaceous earth for bed bugs

As noted, Diatomaceous earth is a significant inhalation hazard.  Proper care and protection must be used when utilizing it as a bed bug treatment strategy.  Here are some tips:

  • Should be applied as a very fine dusting barely visible to the eye.  Applying large amounts of “mounds” will just cause the bed bugs to walk around it.
  • Using large amounts of diatomaceous earth can cause bed bugs to spread to other areas of your home as a result of them trying to avoid it.
  • Should only be used in areas where it will not get kicked up into the air
  • Apply diatomaceous earth using a special dusting applicator designed to produce a fine dust, such as a Mini Duster.
  • Do not use diatomaceous earth on soft furniture or your mattress.   This will result in the dust becoming airborne and being inhaled.  Steamers are a much better option for soft furniture and mattresses.
  • Wear protective gear when using diatomaceous earth, this includes at least: protective gloves and a respirator.

Diatomaceous earth is ideal for difficult to reach areas, where you know bed bugs are “hiding out”.  This includes cracks and crevices such as around molding and electrical outlets.

How to use Diatomaceous earth to kill bed bugs

  1. Put on your safety gear, wearing a minimum of protective gloves and a respirator (normal face air-filters will not work).
  2. Fill up your Mini Duster with diatomaceous earth using a spoon.  Diatomaceous earth does not pour well at all.
  3. “Puff” the diatomaceous earth around the infected room, focusing on moldings, carpet edges and behind furniture.   Puff the dust around legs of furniture, including your bed.  Do not use the dust on your mattress, as many sites commonly recommend.
  4. Use additional bed bug treatment measures, as using diatomaceous earth alone generally isn’t enough.


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