Instructions on Using Diatomaceous Earth

Diatoms are tiny creatures capable of huge results.
Diatoms are tiny creatures capable of huge results. (Image: Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring compound that is ground down to a fine powder and used for a variety of purposes depending on how it is treated. Untreated, or food-grade, diatomaceous earth can be used as a dietary supplement and pesticide. It is also used in abrasive cleaning compounds, facial treatments and some brands of toothpaste. Treated forms of diatomaceous earth are used in pool filters as a water treatment tool and are not safe for human or animal consumption. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is an excellent pesticide as it is nontoxic and environmentally friendly.

Things You'll Need

  • Gallon-sized zip-close plastic bag
  • Food-grade diatomaceous earth
  • Scissors
  • Eye goggles
  • Respirator face mask
  • Dish soap
  • Spray bottle
  • Salt shaker or flour duster
  • Juice

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Use as a Household Pesiticide

Fill a gallon-sized plastic bag with food-grade diatomaceous earth. Close the bag and ensure that it is completely sealed.

Pinch a corner of the bag and turn it upside down. Snip that end with a pair of scissors. Only cut off 1/6 to 1/8 of an inch to create a small hole.

Turn the bag over and pour the diatomaceous earth out in a long line along the areas of your house to be treated. Use along baseboards, along the backs of cupboards, behind the refrigerator, on windowsills and in any nooks or spaces where you have a pest problem. Diatomaceous earth is effective against household insects and bugs (cockroaches, ants, silverfish, etc.) but will not work on mice and rats. Wear protective eye goggles and a face mask while handling diatomaceous earth to avoid getting it in your eyes and lungs.

Sprinkle diatomaceous earth on your carpets to kill fleas and ticks. Allow it to sit in the carpet for at least 24 to 48 hours in order to expose all pests to it and then vacuum it up with an ordinary vacuum cleaner.

Dust diatomaceous earth on houseplants, around their pots and on top of the potted soil to control pests, such as tomato spiders, aphids and ants.

Use in the Garden

Create a 2- to 3 3/4-inch (about 5 cm to 7 cm) wide swath of food-grade diatomaceous earth around garden plants by using the baggie method to create a slug guard.

Dust garden plants with diatomaceous earth after it has rained. Diatomaceous earth will not adhere to plants well unless they are slightly moist. You can spray your plants with a mister and then dust, or you can wait until after it rains. The diatomaceous earth will need to be reapplied after it rains. Minimize the destruction of beneficial insects by applying diatomaceous earth in the late afternoon or early evening when insect activity is lowest. Do not apply it excessively.

Mix one part diatomaceous earth to five parts water with a few drops of dish soap in a spray bottle. Spray this mixture on the trunks of trees to kill off borers and bark-desiccating bugs.

For Use on Pets

Fill a salt shaker or flour duster with food-grade diatomaceous earth. Ensure that the ports are open so that it can flow freely.

Dust your pets' fur with diatomaceous earth, and rub it in to kill fleas and ticks. Avoid dusting in your pets' eyes and face. One dusting should be enough to treat a short-haired animal, but a second dusting might be required for a pet with longer fur. Wash, dry and comb your pet prior to dusting. Keep your pet calm and on a leash for a few hours before allowing it to resume normal activity. Do not wash your pet for at least a week after an application.

Apply diatomaceous earth to your pets' bedding on both sides and around any of the areas where the pet may roam or rest. You can apply it to outside pens, if desired. Be careful not to expose beneficial insects to diatomaceous earth or they will be killed along with undesired pests.

For Dietary Use

Combine 1 tbsp. food-grade diatomaceous earth with 8 fl. oz. juice (something of a non-citrus variety) and consume daily. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is the only diatomaceous earth product suitable for consumption. It has a high mineral content and is believed to help detoxify your digestive system. These statements have not been researched or approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Mix 1/2 tsp. food-grade diatomaceous earth with your pets' food (for smaller animals) and 1 tsp. for larger animals, once a day. Diatomaceous earth is believed to help control internal parasites, such as worms. Some pet foods already have diatomaceous earth mixed into them.

Blend food-grade diatomaceous earth with stored seeds to prevent infestation by dusting the seeds inside of their storage container. Shake the seeds off or rinse them prior to consuming, if preferred.

Tips & Warnings

  • Diatomaceous earth, at a microscopic level, is a very sharp compound. This sharp nature allows the diatomaceous earth to scratch, puncture and cut the outer surface of insects, which leads to dehydration and, eventually, death. Diatomaceous earth is capable of controlling pests without the use of harsh, toxic chemicals and is completely natural. So, when you use this compound (outside and inside the home) you don't have to worry about human or pet exposure and environmental pollution.
  • Diatomaceous earth is touted as a dietary supplement. Ensure that you use food-grade diatomaceous earth if you intend to use it in that manner.
  • Avoid breathing in diatomaceous earth and getting it in your eyes. The dust can irritate breathing passages and can scratch the surface of your eye.
  • Be careful not to expose beneficial insects to diatomaceous earth or they will be killed along with undesired pests.


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