How Diatomaceous Earth Kills Bed Bugs
Diatomaceous earth does kill bed bugs and roaches, but it takes patience. Food-grade bug-killing powder is a mineral that rubs away bugs' defense systems and outer shells, leading to dehydration and death.
I have seen people do their own experiments, leaving bed bugs in a dish with DE and waiting to see if they die. When they are still alive after 24 hours, or a day or two, people assume it doesn't work.
But those experiments are not paying attention to how diatomaceous earth works. Using DE alone may not be enough, but it can be a useful part of the whole.
My DE Experiment
My investigation started with three dozen bed bugs obtained from volunteers' homes. Each one was kept in a special enclosure; if even a single one got out, it could have been a disaster!
Some were trapped in pill bottles, such as in the picture above, and others in an ant colony, which did not work as well as it does on ants! Inside of the enclosure was a thick layer of diatomaceous earth (pool-grade in some, food-grade in others).
DE Takes a While to Work
They were placed in each enclosure for observation. After checking them twice a day for a couple of days, I observed something odd: The bed bugs did not die right away, or even a few days later. It took 7–14 days to kill them.
I can see why people think it does not work. It is hard to be patient, but when it comes to killing bed bugs, it is worth it the extra time.
The conclusion of my experiment is that diatomaceous earth works great, but with large, embedded infestations it should be one part of a bigger plan.
How Does Diatomaceous Earth Work?
Diatomaceous earth is made from a material called silica. It is made up of small particles that seem smooth to us, but to a bedbug, they are razor sharp.
As they walk across the DE, it cuts their abdomens. This causes them to become dehydrated and eventually die. It is very slow-acting. Some may feel this sounds cruel, but it is not half as cruel as what bedbugs do to people.
Diatomaceous Earth Longevity, No Expiration
With umpteen types of bed-bug power on the market, it can be difficult to know what to buy. Different brands formulas incorporate chemicals and other ingredients into their products. The truth is that the kind of dust that kills bed bugs is food grade diatomaceous earth, and most brands use this as their active ingredient. The problem is that you end up getting less and spending more.
DE stays active indefinitely unless it becomes contaminated. Diatomaceous earth is a mineral, thus it does not have an expiration date. Over time the fine sedimentary dust may lose its effectiveness if it absorbs too much moisture and contaminants.
There is no reason to waste money on small containers of power that need to be replaced often. That is why I am only willing to review and recommend specific brands of DE. If you have already bought yours, you can still use the information here to understand how to use it.
My preferred brand of DE is . For under $60, you get a 50-pound bag of the powder 1-liter liter shaker. Why spend more on other products when you really don't need the powdered down version when you can get straight DE. Perma-Guard Pure Diatomaceous Earth Fossil Shell Flour
This one bag may be the only one you need to buy. It should last through the end of infestation. Some people claim it works in a matter of days. I did not have that experience but did see bug death within a week. This continued for a long time until all of the bugs were dead.
This brand isn't just a bed bug powder. It has many other household uses. It doesn't just work on these blood suckers; it works on fleas, ants, roaches, spiders and more. Many people use this product for farm-animal and pet-flea dust.
Diatomaceous Earth, Bedbugs, and Human Safety
How safe is DE in the fight against bedbugs? To answer this question, four families with bedbugs volunteered to try both food-grade and pool grade DE.
Each family was given one or the other type of DE for the experiment. Before the family members began the experiment, they were briefed on safety issues. For the most part, food-grade diatomaceous earth is safe to use around pets and children. However, this does not mean it is 100% safe.
Pool-grade DE is not safe to use in bed bug removal. It triggered one person's asthma in our experiment. As mentioned above, DE is made from silica. It may seem harmless to the touch but it is not harmless to the mucosal lining of our respiratory tracts. When an asthmatic inhales DE, it can damage their nose, sinus, throat, bronchi, and bronchioles.
Through my experiment with each family, I breathed in both food-grade and pool grade DE. Even I felt the irritation of this type of DE. On the other hand, no one became ill after using food-grade DE.
Warning: Asthma, COPD, and Other Lung Ailments
DE is useful as a part of a total bedbug elimination plan, but there are some people who should never use it: Asthmatics, people with COPD, and those with other lung ailments should not be exposed to DE.
The irritation caused by DE can be very dangerous with people who suffer from lung conditions and severe sinuses. If you want to use it, talk to your doctor about the risks.
Mine was not a scientific study, and would have never met standards of one. Readers can draw their own conclusions.
DE Bedbug Experiment Results
The effectiveness of diatomaceous earth depends on the severity of the infestation. In most cases, it will need to be used in tandem with spraying, sealing, and covering mattresses along with steaming and regular cleanings.
I suggest steaming the mattress before using the dust. Do not soak the mattress, but if it does seem damp, let it dry before applying DE. After you have steamed, place the mattress in a cover. Then use a duster to coat the inside of the mattress cover. As you can see in the picture above, we placed DE inside the mattress cover. Then the bugs are trapped and the DE cannot become airborne. The mattress cover should be checked daily for tears, which can be fixed with duct tape.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
I have foam robber mattresses; do bed bugs hide in or around those?
Bed bugs are attracted to the CO2 we breathe out. For us its a byproduct of cell respiration, but for bed bugs its a guide to where we are. Their nests are often built in proximity to the head of our beds. Regardless of what material our mattress is made of, they are likely to hide close to their prey.
In regards to bed bugs, the difference between the two is the lack of seams on foam mattresses. If the foam mattress has large pores, bed bugs can hide inside of them. If there are missing chunks or damage, again its a hiding spot.
If your foam mattress is well made with small pores and no damage, then it should be easy to wipe away any bed bugs or nests. However, this might make it more likely that the infestation in the bed frame itself will be larger.Helpful 47
Does diatomaceous earth kill fleas and ticks?
Yes, diatomaceous earth kills both fleas and ticks. In fact, many gardeners and homeowners use it on their lawns and around their gardens to kill a variety of pests. This fine powder works to kill fleas and ticks the same way it works to kill bed bugs. The tiny dust will cause abrasions that cause the flea or tick to develop tiny cuts. This will lead to dehydration, which will kill them.Helpful 25
© 2012 Melody Collins