What is Diatomaceous Earth?

What is Diatomaceous Earth?

Michelle Chin
Aug 11, 2011
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Bedbugs. Ants. Fleas. Cockroaches. Is your skin crawling yet? There are many solutions to rid oneself of pests, but few of them are harmless to our families and pets. 100% organic and non-toxic, save for some possible skin or respiratory irritation if applied sloppily, diatomaceous earth is the product of…

...prehistoric fossilized fresh water diatoms which have been finely ground. It's been used for over 4,000 years in China as a dewormer and colon cleanser. Bonsai plant enthusiasts will sometimes use 100% diatomaceous earth as their potting soil because of its ability to retain moisture and nutrients while promoting excellent drainage.

How it works for bug control is the powder absorbs lipids from their waxy exoskeletons and can take up to 48 hours to exterminate the icky critters. In my own experience, watching ants walk through a very fine line of diatamaceous earth, the desired effect is nearly instantaneous.

Planet Natural has it available in handy 4oz applicator bottles, which makes it easy to snip off the end and apply to the perimeter of your home or along cracks and sidewalks to keep ants at bay. A little really goes a long way. Out of the 5 pounds I purchased 10 months ago, I have nearly a pound left. If I use my finger to smudge a line of the powder across the threshold or window sill, it will stop ants from crossing. But I wash my hands immediately after touching the diatomaceous earth so I don't forget and accidentally rub my eye. I don't know what it would do, but I don't want to find out!

Having a small feral cat colony (all spayed and neutered), as well as rogue raccoons, squirrels and opossums means that I'm going to have fleas in my garden. The friendlier cats, I can apply flea treatment to. The others, I lightly dust diatomaceous earth in their sleeping areas and favorite hiding spots. Considering that I'm terribly allergic to fleas and received fewer than 10 bites all summer, I considered things well under control.

Please keep in mind that you should only buy organic, non-toxic diatomaceous earth. There is a version that is made for cleaning pools and you don't want that product anywhere near you or your pets. If you have a sensitive respiratory system, you may want to use a dust mask. Careful application should prevent any problems though.

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