Diatomaceous Earth: Non-Toxic Pest Control

Diatomaceous Earth: Non-Toxic Pest Control

Diatomaceous earth primary uses include filters for pools, cosmetics, insulation, anti-caking, filler, absorbents, and of course, pest control. Diatomaceous earth is entirely made of silica, which originated from the fossilized remains of microscopic aquatic plants called diatoms. Over thousands of years, these diatoms have accumulated in the sediment of rivers, lakes, and oceans turning into the natural substance silica. The silica from the rivers, lakes, and oceans is mined and processed for various uses around the world. It is non-toxic to humans. However, it should NOT be inhaled. The powdery dust is a lung irritant and could result in serious health issues.

DE for Pest Control Purposes (NOT FOOD GRADE or FILTER GRADE)

The DE that you’d use for pest control purposes is not food grade DE. Diatomaceous earth labeled for pest control is NOT as safe as food grade. Pest Control DE usually has specific additives to attract pests into the dust, which make them more dangerous to human health. DE labeled to kill pests has been evaluated by the EPA and is given an EPA registration number. This is important because the EPA evaluates pesticides for human health and environmental risks.

Pest Control DE is a low-toxic form of killing bugs often used as a food additive in grain production and is classified as a desiccant, which means it absorbs moisture from insects’ bodies causing them dry them out and eventually die.

Safety of DE

Touching diatomaceous earth

There have been no known issues documented anywhere reporting any dangers with touching DE. Aside from little dry skin, you should be fine to touch it.

Breathing Diatomaceous Earth

Of all the things that you could do with DE, breathing it, is something you should NOT do.

Inhaling DE (Food Grade or not) is dangerous. This is the #1 worst thing you could do when buying this product from anywhere. The CDC, OSHA, EPA, and other bodies of knowledge continuously agree that breathing in Crystalline or Amorphous silica (the stuff that DE is made of) is bad for human health.

Therefore, if you’re buying it to kill pests or for health reasons make sure you handle it with extreme care. In fact, for pest control purposes, we recommend utilizing a respirator for breathing and a duster to apply a light film in low traffic areas where you think bugs are hanging out.

Learn more about the safety of diatomaceous earth as pest control.

Natural Indoor Insect Pest Control


For long-term, nontoxic control of ants, sprinkle diatomaceous earth where ants congregate.

Bed Bugs

For bed bugs, it can take up to 10 days for DE to take effect and sometimes even longer.

It can be an effective pest control solution, but it must be looked at as a long-term “slow” approach that should be combined with other forms of pest control. In fact, this recent study in 2013 found that DE ISN’T very effective for bed bug control when used as a standalone solution.


Diatomaceous earth is a safe alternative that can be sprinkled in areas where roaches congregate, especially in hidden areas such cabinet tops and behind appliances. Harmless to people, the tiny particles cut the waxy exoskeleton and kills the insect within 48 hours. For a week or so after the treatment, the dehydrating insects will search more actively for water. Therefore, do not be surprised if you see roaches more often after the treatment. Most roaches should be killed within two weeks of application.

Dust Mites

Dust your mattress, rugs, bedding, and surrounding area with diatomaceous earth. Leave for 2-3 hours or overnight if possible before vacuuming up. Food-grade diatomaceous earth will reduce dust mite populations (along with bedbugs and fleas) and isn’t harmful to humans.


For long-term nontoxic control of fleas, sprinkle diatomaceous earth where fleas may occur. You can also rub diatomaceous earth into the fur of your cat or dog.


Diatomaceous earth is a safe and effective way to control earwigs in the home. One application in key spots (bathroom, baseboards, window frames) can be a long-term repellent.


Natural Insect Pest Control | Eartheasy Guides & Articles. https://learn.eartheasy.com/guides/natural-insect-pest-control/

Diatomaceous Earth (Benefits, Uses, and … – Pest Strategies. https://www.peststrategies.com/pest-guides/diatomaceous-earth/

Have you used DE? Did you find it effective? 

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