All about diatomaceous earth

What is diatomaceous earth? (DE)

image of diatom by Derek Keats

image of diatom by Derek Keats

A multitude of Americans is becoming more and more aware of the chemicals and other potentially dangerous ingredients in the food we eat, in our household cleaners and in the products we use to maintain our gardens and control pests. We’re trying to eliminate these products from our lives with more natural, less toxic products.

That’s where diatomaceous earth (DE) comes in. It’s non-toxic and all-natural, made from the fossilized remains of diatoms, an ancient algae.

For insect control, when bugs of all types wander through DE, it clings to their bodies and acts like a sort of dehydrator, drying up the insect’s body until it falls over dead. This usually takes around 48 hours.

DE is a life-saver for pet owners

Since DE is safe for humans and animals, it can be used indoors and outdoors.

This season our dog and cats have been beset with fleas. It seems that the squirrels in our backyard carry these obnoxious little creatures, deposit the eggs and larvae in our backyard, where our dog sunbathes just about every afternoon. She brings the fleas inside where they, eventually, land on our cats.

It’s been a real problem. We’ve used DE to combat the situation, though. First, we bathed the dog and cats and watched as fleas leaped to temporary safety within the bathtub. Once each pet was dry, we worked DE into their fur with our fingers and a brush.

To tackle the issue of fleas inside our home, we sprinkled the carpet in every room with DE, used a rake to work the powder down deep into the carpet, and then let the DE do its work for a few days. We vacuumed up the DE, dusted the furniture, and we were good to go.

If pets have parasites, mix a small amount of DE into their food for 3 or 4 days until the worms are eliminated.

Since DE is harmless, this process can be repeated whenever necessary.

Use DE to rid your home of pests

For use inside your home, place shallow containers of DE in crawl spaces, in the attic, on windowsills, behind the refrigerator, or anywhere else you find insects. In just a matter of days, those insects will disappear.

If bugs are getting inside your house from outdoors, sprinkle DE around the outside of your home, especially where plants grow close to your foundation. If ants are a problem, and this includes the infamous fire ant, sprinkle DE directly on the ant hills where it will be tracked into the colony. Suddenly, ants will no longer be an issue without the use of toxic insecticides.

Keep in mind that DE will kill beneficial insects as well as the ones you want to be rid of. That would include friendly ladybugs and earthworms that you want in your garden.

Ridding pests in your food storage

Want to keep pests out of those bags and buckets of food? Simply mix it in with your wheat, rice, oats, etc., using about a cup of food-grade diatomaceous earth for a 5 or 6-gallon bucket of food. Leave enough headroom at the top of the bucket or bag so you can shake the container, making sure the DE is thoroughly dispersed.

At the same time, lightly sprinkle DE around the baseboards of your pantry room and at the base of any outdoor windows. Pests aren’t welcome anywhere near our food, right?

I’ve sprinkled it around the baseboards of my pantry and around buckets of wheat, rice, and beans. I’ve seen a few signs of bugs, a few small spider webs, but that’s after an entire year with my food storage in this location!

DE for human consumption?

Some people ingest DE as a de-toxifer and claim that it’s beneficial to bones, skin, nails, and hair because it contains silica. A teaspoon added to juice, water, or a smoothie makes it more palatable. Since DE isn’t regulated by the FDA, there aren’t any official claims of its health benefits to humans, but there are plenty of positive testimonials you can read online.

All in all, DE is worth having around the house as a non-toxic, multi-purpose product that I recommend.

WARNING: Do not use the DE intended for use in a swimming pool filter. Buy the food-grade DE, even if you aren’t planning on using it in food that is stored.


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