Does Diatomaceous Earth Kill Bed Bugs: Examining the Efficacy

Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Kimberly Crawford

Diatomaceous earth, a natural substance made up of fossilized remains of tiny aquatic organisms called diatoms, is touted as a pest control remedy, particularly against bed bugs.

This powdery agent is known to be a non-toxic alternative to chemical pesticides, making it a preferred option for many seeking to rid their homes of these unwanted guests.

It works mechanically rather than chemically, causing physical abrasion to the exoskeletons of bed bugs upon contact, leading to dehydration and death.

While diatomaceous earth is considered safe for humans and pets when used properly, its effectiveness against bed bugs requires proper application. The process involves spreading it in areas where bed bugs hide and frequent, like mattress seams, box springs, and along baseboards.

The treatment period can span several weeks, as it relies on the bed bugs coming into contact with the substance. To increase the likelihood of success, diatomaceous earth is often recommended to be part of an integrated pest management strategy, which may include other treatment methods like vacuuming and laundering at high temperatures.

diatomaceous earth kill bed bugs

Key Takeaways

  • Diatomaceous earth acts as a mechanical pesticide that is safe for use around humans and pets.
  • Proper application is critical in using diatomaceous earth effectively against bed bugs.
  • It is most effective when combined with other bed bug eradication measures.

What Is Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is a powdery substance consisting of the fossilized remains of diatoms, providing a naturally occurring level of pest control. It is rich in silica and has properties that make it a versatile product for various uses, including pest management.

Composition and Properties

Diatomaceous earth is made from the fossilized single-cell algae called diatoms, which are predominantly made up of silica. These tiny fossils have accumulated in freshwater lakes and rivers over millions of years.

The resulting sediment is mined and processed into a fine, dusty powder which has a high porosity. This fine structure leads to its excellent absorptive and abrasive qualities. In terms of pest control, the high silica content dries out the exoskeletons of insects like bed bugs, leading to their dehydration and death.

  • Abrasive qualities: Helps to break down insect exoskeletons
  • Absorptive: Capable of dehydrating insects upon contact

Types of Diatomaceous Earth

There are primarily two types of diatomaceous earth – food-grade and filter-grade. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is safe for consumption by both humans and animals and is often used as a natural pest control agent. It’s considered non-toxic, making it a popular choice for those looking for a chemical-free alternative to traditional insecticides.

  • Food-Grade: Used in pest control and safe for consumption
  • Filter Grade: Contains crystalline silica and is not safe for home pest control

The Efficacy of Diatomaceous Earth

In your battle against bed bugs, diatomaceous earth is a name that often comes up due to its effectiveness in killing these pests. Here’s how it works and what scientific studies have to say about its success rate.

How Diatomaceous Earth Works on Bed Bugs

Diatomaceous earth is not a typical insecticide; it kills bed bugs through a physical process rather than a chemical one. When bed bugs come into contact with diatomaceous earth, it adheres to their exoskeleton.

Over time, this substance absorbs the moisture from the bed bugs, leading to dehydration. Since diatomaceous earth works by causing physical harm to the bed bug’s exoskeleton, bed bugs are unable to develop a resistance to it, unlike some chemical pesticides.

Scientific Studies on Effectiveness

A 2016 study published in the journal Insects showed that diatomaceous earth could kill 100% of bed bugs throughout 9 to 15 days. It’s also proven effective against bed bugs that have developed resistance to chemical pesticides. The study highlights diatomaceous earth as a natural, non-toxic option that mechanically dehydrates and kills bed bugs.

This mineral substance operates without posing hazards associated with traditional pesticides, making it a preferred method for many households aiming to eradicate bed bug infestations. With patience and correct application, diatomaceous earth stands out as a potent weapon in the relentless fight against these pesky invaders.

Application of Diatomaceous Earth for Bed Bugs

When dealing with bed bugs, diatomaceous earth is a well-regarded solution because it’s effective and non-toxic. This section will guide you through the necessary steps to properly apply diatomaceous earth.

Preparation Steps Before Application

Before applying diatomaceous earth for bed bugs, a few preparation steps are essential:

  1. Vacuum thoroughly: Go over all areas of your home, especially where bed bugs are likely to hide, such as carpets, crevices, and furniture.
  2. Inspect and clean: Remove all bedding, linens, and fabrics for laundry at a high temperature to kill any bed bugs present.

Methods of Application

To apply diatomaceous earth effectively, consider the following methods:

  • Direct dusting: Use a powder duster to evenly spread the diatomaceous earth onto areas where bed bugs are suspected, including bed frames, cracks, and crevices.
  • Brush application: For delicate areas, a paintbrush can apply diatomaceous earth with precision.

For a wet application, mix diatomaceous earth with water and spray it onto surfaces. This method reduces airborne particles but requires reapplication once dried.

Safety Measures During Application

Safety is paramount when handling diatomaceous earth:

  • Always wear a mask to avoid inhaling the powder.
  • When applying, ensure that the room is well-ventilated and that children and pets are not present to avoid unnecessary exposure.

By following these detailed steps and safety measures, you can safely and effectively employ diatomaceous earth in your quest to rid your home of bed bugs.

Combining Diatomaceous Earth With Other Bed Bug Treatments

combining Diatomaceous Earth

When addressing a bed bug infestation, diatomaceous earth can be an effective component, but it’s often more effective when used in combination with other methods. Each strategy has its strengths, and using them together can enhance your overall approach to bed bug elimination.

Chemical and Natural Pesticides

Combining diatomaceous earth with both chemical and natural pesticides can increase the likelihood of reaching all bed bugs, including those tucked away in hard-to-reach places.

Diatomaceous earth works by causing dehydration in bed bugs, while chemical pesticides, like pyrethrins, can act as neurotoxins. For a more natural approach, products containing essential oils or boric acid have been known to act as deterrents and can assist in controlling an infestation. It’s crucial to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to safely and effectively use these products.

Heat Treatment and Steam Cleaning

Heat treatment is an unparalleled method when it comes to penetrating deep into hiding spots that are often missed by sprays and powders. By raising the temperature to a level lethal to bed bugs, you can enhance the effectiveness of diatomaceous earth.

A steam clean not only complements the dehydrating action of the earth but is also an excellent choice for treating items that cannot be washed at high temperatures, such as mattresses and upholstered furniture.

Prevention and Maintenance

After using treatments, maintaining a bed bug-free environment is key. Regularly vacuum your space and apply diatomaceous earth as a preventative measure to deter new infestations.

Keep an eye out for signs of bed bugs and act swiftly if they reappear. Incorporating preventive measures such as encasements for your mattress and box spring can also create barriers against bed bugs.

By using a multi-faceted approach that combines diatomaceous earth, treatments, and maintenance, you’re equipping yourself with a robust defense against these persistent pests.

Safety and Precautions with Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth safety

When using diatomaceous earth to tackle bed bug infestations, it’s important to consider safety for both your health and the environment. This natural, nontoxic remedy works mechanically, not chemically, to eliminate pests, but proper handling is still essential.

Health Risks and Environmental Impact

Diatomaceous earth is considered to be safe and non-toxic for home use. However, breathing in the fine dust can be an irritant to your lungs and mucous membranes. This is especially a concern in large quantities or during prolonged exposure, as it can cause problems such as coughing and shortness of breath.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality indicates that long-term exposure to the calcined form of diatomaceous earth can contribute to silicosis, a lung disease, or even cancer. To minimize health risks:

  • Always wear a mask when applying diatomaceous earth.
  • Do not use the product in windy conditions where it can easily be inhaled.
  • Consider applying damp methods to reduce airborne particles.

Research shows minimal environmental impact when used as directed. However, local ecosystems could be affected if large amounts of diatomaceous earth enter water bodies or if it’s used excessively outdoors.

Using Diatomaceous Earth Around Pets and Children

Safety for your family and pets is paramount. Diatomaceous earth is considered safe when used around both pets and children, yet some precautions should still be taken to prevent accidental ingestion or inhalation:

  • Keep children and pets away during the application process.
  • Apply diatomaceous earth in thin layers, hardly visible to the naked eye, to avoid accidental ingestion or contact with skin.
  • Ensure that food-grade diatomaceous earth is used in any areas accessible to children or pets, as it’s subjected to stricter regulations and is more suitable for household use.

Remember, although diatomaceous earth is a natural ant repellent and is used against various pests, its safety largely depends on how well you follow these guidelines.

Additional Uses of Diatomaceous Earth

diatomaceuos earth usages

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a versatile substance that not only tackles bed bugs but also has a multitude of other uses for maintaining a pest-free home and a healthy garden. Let’s explore these applications in more detail.

Pest Control Beyond Bed Bugs

When you think of DE for pest control, don’t limit your thoughts to just bed bugs. It’s a formidable adversary against a broad range of household pests. Key benefits include its non-toxic nature and ease of application, making it a go-to for homeowners:

  • Fleas and Ticks: Protect your pets by lightly dusting their bedding and surrounding areas.
  • Roaches and Ants: Apply lines of DE in areas where these pests are known to travel.
  • Beetles and Spiders: Sprinkle in crevices and other hiding spots to prevent infestations.

DE works by causing abrasions on the pests’ exoskeletons which leads to dehydration. This mechanical action ensures that pests don’t develop resistance, as they often do with chemical pesticides.

Diatomaceous Earth in Home and Garden

Your home and garden can reap the silent benefits of DE beyond confronting pests. Here’s how DE can help you maintain a pest-free zone:

  • Home: Keep your storage areas, such as basements and garages, free of lice and other insects by dusting areas where you’ve noticed them.
  • Garden: DE is excellent for combating slugs, which feast on your plants. Sprinkle DE around the base of plants for protection. It’s important to note DE must be reapplied after rain or watering.

Always apply DE in a thin, barely visible layer. A heavy application can be as ineffective as no application at all. And remember, for the best results in your home and garden, it’s essential for the treated areas to be dry because wet DE won’t be as effective against pests.

Frequently Asked Questions

In tackling bed bug infestations, you’re likely seeking the most effective methods. Let’s explore how diatomaceous earth stands up to these persistent pests and address some common concerns you might have.

What is the most effective powder treatment for eliminating bed bugs?

Diatomaceous earth is highly acclaimed for its effectiveness in eliminating bed bugs. When applied properly, the fine powder can cause dehydration and death in bed bugs by clinging to their exoskeletons.

How effective is diatomaceous earth in dealing with bed bug infestations on furniture, such as mattresses and couches?

The efficacy of diatomaceous earth in treating bed bugs on furniture is significant. It can be applied to the crevices of mattresses and couches where bed bugs commonly reside, but it should be used with caution to avoid inhalation.

Can diatomaceous earth be considered safe for use around pets while treating for bed bugs?

Yes, diatomaceous earth is considered safe for use around pets. It is a non-toxic approach to pest control, as long as it is food-grade and used as directed.

What is the estimated time frame for diatomaceous earth to exterminate bed bugs?

The time frame to eradicate bed bugs using diatomaceous earth can vary. However, bed bugs typically die within a few days of contact with the substance.

Is there a specific type of diatomaceous earth recommended for eradicating bed bugs?

For best results in eradicating bed bugs, use food-grade diatomaceous earth. This type is free of added chemicals and safe for home use.

Are there any reasons professional exterminators might not use diatomaceous earth against bed bugs?

Some professional exterminators may opt for faster-acting substances as diatomaceous earth works more gradually. Also, they often use a comprehensive approach that includes a variety of treatment methods.