Diatomaceous Earth Is The All-Natural Way to Save Your House (and Plants!) From Pests

updated Sep 16, 2022
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When your favorite houseplant becomes infested with spider mites or aphids, do you: a) Obsessively try to combat the issue with every home remedy you’ve read online; b) Shrug your shoulders, hope they go away, and get used to living with insects; or c) Throw the plant out the window and go buy a new one. For me, it’s A, B, and C, in that order. Or at least it was until I discovered diatomaceous earth, an all-natural solution that works like a charm to kill insects indoors. And it’s good for more than just plants.

What is Diatomaceous Earth?

For the unfamiliar, diatomaceous earth is a powdery “soil” that’s made up of ancient fossilized algae plants called diatoms. Diatomaceous earth is mined from sediment deposits of streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans and is extremely common. It’s also extremely effective at killing indoor insect pests.

While diatomaceous earth feels like baby powder to human hands, the tiny granules actually have jagged edges that are razor-sharp to insects. The abrasive particles nick the insects’ bodies at the same time as the absorbent dust soaks up the oils in their exoskeletons, killing them by dehydration.

(Image credit: Alexis Buryk)

As mentioned, this substance is a great way to take care of your plant’s bug problem. Simply sprinkle the powder on top of the soil in your planter. For best results, do this when the soil’s surface is dry to the touch—but before your plant is in dire need of watering—since soaking up water will make it ineffective.

Other Diatomaceous Earth Uses

Here’s some even better news: diatomaceous earth has lots of uses. You can use it to take care of other household insect pests like silverfish, ants, roaches, bed bugs, and earwigs by sprinkling it around baseboards or other affected areas. Make sure to put it in all areas where they like to hide, including cracks and small holes.

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

Is Diatomaceous Earth Safe for Humans & Pets?

Unlike with pesticide sprays, you don’t need to worry about exposing your family or pets to diatomaceous earth, especially if you use the food-grade kind. (Food-grade diatomaceous earth is used commercially in makeup, water filters, and even food and beverages as anti-caking agents and clarifiers.)

It’s a good idea not to breathe it in (wear a dust mask or cover your face with a scarf if you’re worried) since the fine particles could induce coughing fits or make it hard to breathe, but once the dust is settled, you’re good to go.

Where to Buy Diatomaceous Earth

Have an insect infestation you need to take care of ASAP? You can easily find diatomaceous earth at your local garden center, Home Depot, or online retailers like Amazon.

(Image credit: Diana Paulson)