Written by

David Floyd

David Floyd

Reviewed by

Brett Ehlert

Brett Ehlert

Using Diatomaceous Earth For Bed Bugs

Are you tired of dealing with bed bugs and looking for a safe, natural solution? Diatomaceous earth for bed bugs (DE) might be the answer you’ve been searching for. This non-toxic powder has the power to kill bed bugs without putting your family or pets at risk. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about using diatomaceous earth for bed bug control, from understanding its effects on bed bugs to applying it effectively and safely in your home.

Key Takeaways On Diatomaceous Earth For Bed Bugs

  • Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a natural, non-toxic powder that can be used to kill bed bugs and other insects. Food-grade DE with minimal crystalline silica content should be used because it’s much safer for humans and pets! (Don’t use Pool Grade Diatomaceous Earth!)
  • In my experience, Diatomaceous Earth is most effective for minor bed bug infestations. Bed bugs can be one of the most difficult pests to eradicate because they can hide in cracks and crevices, and with Diatomaceous Earth the bed bugs have to physically come in contact for them to be killed.
  • If you’re dealing with a severe bed bug infestation, I’d suggest using a heat treatment or a bed bug steamer rather than DE.
  • Safety precautions such as gloves and eye protection should be taken when using diatomaceous earth to reduce potential risks of irritation.

If you are dealing with a severe infestation, check out our guide on getting rid of bed bugs like a professional.

Understanding Diatomaceous Earth and Its Effects on Bed Bugs

bed bugs and diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth is a natural, non-toxic powder composed of fossilized algae, known as diatoms, which are microscopic and hard-shelled. This unique composition makes it highly effective against bed bugs, as diatomaceous earth kill occurs by functioning as a desiccant, dehydrating them upon contact. However, keep in mind that diatomaceous earth powder does not provide an instant solution; it generally takes between 2-4 weeks or longer for bed bugs to die and achieve the desired results. Bed bugs must come into direct contact with the powder for it to be effective. This is how the powder works its magic.

While diatomaceous earth is a powerful tool in the fight against bed bugs, it does have some limitations. Here are a few to consider:

  • It requires bed bugs to be in direct contact with it for extended periods of time in order to be lethal.
  • DE loses its effectiveness when exposed to moisture, though it regains its potency once dried, assuming it has not been washed away.
  • Not all treatments using diatomaceous earth are successful, as demonstrated by a University of Kentucky field study.

The Science Behind Diatomaceous Earth

At its core, diatomaceous earth is composed of the fossilized remains of diatoms, hard-shelled microalgae that form a very fine powder. The secret to its effectiveness against bed bugs lies in its physical structure, which consists of tiny, hollow cylinders with jagged, sharp edges.

diatoms make up diatomaceous earth

These sharp edges disrupt the protective cuticle of bed bugs, causing abrasion and sorption, which damages the waxy layer of their cuticle. This damage leads to the bed bugs losing their protective coating, ultimately drying out and dying.

When using diatomaceous earth for bed bug control, make sure to:

  • Choose food-grade DE, which is safe for use in homes and around pets
  • Ensure that the DE contains minimal crystalline silica content
  • Use DE sourced from mines free of toxic elements like arsenic

On the other hand, pool-grade diatomaceous earth, which is commonly used for swimming pool filtration, is not recommended for bed bug treatment due to its higher crystalline silica content and potential harm to humans and pets.

Food Grade vs. Pool Grade DE

As mentioned earlier, food-grade diatomaceous earth is the ideal choice for household use in bed bug control. This type of DE is limited to no more than 1 percent crystalline silica and must be sourced from mines that do not contain toxic elements, such as arsenic. Food-grade DE can be found in a variety of health food stores and is a chemical-free, safe option for insect control.

food grade DE vs pool grade DE

In contrast, pool-grade diatomaceous earth has not been certified as being free of toxic substances and can pose a risk to humans and animals. Its higher crystalline silica content can cause skin irritation and other health issues when inhaled or ingested. For this reason, it is not recommended for bed bug treatment, and you should always opt for food-grade DE when addressing a bed bug infestation.

Preparing Your Home for Diatomaceous Earth Treatment

Before applying diatomaceous earth, preparing your home is necessary to maximize the effectiveness of the treatment. This involves:

  1. Thorough cleaning, decluttering, and washing fabrics to eliminate hiding spots for bed bugs.
  2. Sealing any potential points of entry, such as crevices or cracks.
  3. Vacuuming the entire home, with special attention to areas where bed bugs are commonly found, such as mattresses, furniture, and baseboards.

After vacuuming, ensure to wash all fabrics, including bedding, curtains, and clothing, in hot water to remove any potential harborage sites for bed bugs. This process not only helps to expose bed bugs and their eggs but also allows for better penetration of diatomaceous earth into crevices and cracks where bed bugs may be hiding, effectively helping to kill bed bugs.

Cleaning and Decluttering

Cleaning and decluttering play a crucial role in the success of bed bug treatment, as they reduce hiding places, improve treatment effectiveness, and prevent re-infestation. Clutter can impede the effectiveness of diatomaceous earth on bed bugs, as it provides additional hiding spots for the bugs, making it more difficult for the DE to come into contact with them. Thus, eliminating clutter and creating a clean and organized environment is a necessary step when utilizing diatomaceous earth for bed bug control.

To properly clean and declutter a home for diatomaceous earth treatment, follow these steps:

  1. Vacuum the entire home thoroughly, focusing on furniture seams and frames.
  2. Spread diatomaceous earth evenly on floors, rugs, and carpets, leaving it for a couple of days.
  3. Continue with the decluttering process, removing any unnecessary items, such as old clothes, papers, and clutter, as bed bugs can hide in these areas.
  4. Clean and sanitize all surfaces, including furniture, countertops, and walls, using a mild detergent or disinfectant to ensure that any bed bug eggs or residue are eliminated.

Washing Fabrics and Bedding

Cleaning fabrics and bedding is a significant step in preparing your home for diatomaceous earth treatment. To effectively eliminate bed bugs, use water of at least 140°F (60°C) for a duration of no less than 90 minutes. After washing, dry the fabrics on the highest heat cycle compatible with the fabric for a minimum of 30 minutes to kill any remaining bed bugs or their eggs in the dryer.

In addition to washing and drying fabrics, you may consider using laundry detergents or additives specifically designed to improve the efficiency of eliminating bed bugs, such as Hygea Natural Bed Bug Laundry Treatment, Premo Guard Bed Bug & Mite Laundry Detergent Additive, and Say Bye Bugs Laundry Treatment. These products can further enhance the effectiveness of your washing and drying efforts in eradicating bed bugs and their eggs from your fabrics.

How to Apply Diatomaceous Earth For Bed Bugs

applying diatomaceous earth for bed bugs

How To Use Diatomaceous Earth For Bed Bugs:

  1. Use a powder duster or a shaker bottle (think a powdered sugar shaker duster)
  2. Apply a thin layer of DE around the baseboards of the infected room, as well as around the bed frame, on the mattress, in the carpet, along window sills, in and around furniture.
  3. Ensure you’re using proper safety measures such as gloves, goggles and a mask while applying.
  4. Leave the powder around the infected area for 7-10 days, before vacuuming it up.
  5. Monitor bed bug activity and the effects of the treatment. If you’re still seeing bed bugs, then reapply DE, and continue to monitor results.

Effective application of diatomaceous earth demands targeting key areas where bed bugs are likely to hide and using the right techniques to ensure maximum contact. Focus on the following areas when applying DE:

  • Mattress seams
  • Bed frames
  • Baseboards
  • Furniture crevices

To ensure even coverage, use a powder duster or paintbrush to apply a thin layer of DE.

When applying diatomaceous earth, ensure to:

  • Wear gloves, goggles, and a mask to protect yourself from potential irritation caused by the fine powder.
  • If you accidentally apply too much DE, simply vacuum it up and reapply a thinner layer.
  • It’s important to maintain a constant barrier against bed bugs by leaving diatomaceous earth applied for as long as possible.

Key Areas to Target

When employing DE for bed bug control, it’s essential to target the following areas as part of your bed bug treatment strategy:

  • Mattress seams
  • Bed frames
  • Baseboards
  • Furniture crevices
  • Areas behind or beneath furniture and appliances
  • Pet bedding
  • Box springs
  • Windowsills
  • Baseboards
  • Carpets

These areas are attractive to bed bugs as they provide hiding spots and are close to potential hosts. Additionally, bed bugs can inhabit a range of furniture in a home, not just beds, including sofas, couches, mattresses, and other soft furnishings. By concentrating your DE application in these key areas, you increase the likelihood of bed bugs coming into contact with the powder and ensure bed bugs die.

You can also check out our guide on how to find bed bugs during the day which will help find high-trafficked areas to apply the DE to.

Monitoring and Reapplying Diatomaceous Earth

After applying diatomaceous earth, monitoring the treated areas for signs of success and reapplying DE as needed to maintain its effectiveness is necessary. Signs of a diminishing bed bug population include:

  • A decline in the number of bed bug bites
  • A reduced presence of bed bug fecal spots, blood spots, egg cases, and shed skins
  • Fewer sightings of live bed bugs
  • Rusty or reddish smears on bed sheets or mattresses from crushed bed bugs

Reapply diatomaceous earth every 7-10 days or after vacuuming to ensure a steady defense against bed bugs. Keep in mind that moisture and humidity can influence the efficacy of DE, so it’s important to reapply the powder after rain or periods of high humidity in order to guarantee sustained pest control.

Signs of Success

A successful diatomaceous earth treatment will result in a decrease in bed bug sightings and bites. With effective treatment, bed bug bites can take anywhere from one to three weeks to completely disappear. It may take a minimum of 10 days for diatomaceous earth to reduce the bed bug population, however, it could take up to a month for visible results.

Other signs of successful elimination include:

  • The absence of blood stains on bedding or furniture
  • Decreased or no sightings of live bed bugs
  • Lack of bed bug eggs or nymphs
  • No bed bug activity or presence in monitored areas

Monitoring for these signs will help you determine the effectiveness of your diatomaceous earth treatment and whether reapplication is necessary.

When to Reapply

To maintain the effectiveness of your diatomaceous earth treatment, it’s important to reapply the powder every 7-10 days or after vacuuming. The frequency of reapplication may vary depending on the severity of the infestation, but it’s typically suggested to reapply the powder every 2-3 weeks in areas where bed bug infestations are present.

When reapplying diatomaceous earth, be sure to observe any changes in the treated areas, such as the absence of the powder or dampening of the DE due to rain or watering. If you notice any of these changes, or if pests are still causing damage to plants or surfaces, it’s time to reapply the diatomaceous earth to ensure continued bed bug control.

Final Thoughts On Diatomaceous Earth and Bed Bugs

In conclusion, diatomaceous earth is a powerful, natural, and non-toxic solution for bed bug control. By understanding its effects on bed bugs, preparing your home for treatment, applying the powder effectively, and monitoring and reapplying as needed, you can successfully eliminate bed bugs while minimizing risks to your family and pets.

Overall in my experience, diatomaceous earth can be very effective at treating minor bed bug infestations, but it isn’t as effective as a traditional bed bug heat treatment. That being said, due to the cheap price, I’d recommend testing this method out before paying for a professional.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take diatomaceous earth to kill bed bugs?

It takes approximately seven to seventeen days for diatomaceous earth to kill bed bugs, as they need to crawl through it and the waxy shell is disrupted causing eventual death by dehydration.

Can I sprinkle diatomaceous earth on my mattress?

It is generally safe to sprinkle diatomaceous earth on your mattress, however, you should take care to wear a mask when applying and keep away from inhaling the powder. Additionally, results of its effectiveness may not be seen until after a few weeks.

Why do exterminators not use diatomaceous earth?

Exterminators tend to not use diatomaceous earth because generally professional-grade insecticides are more effective, and for bed bugs specifically, heat treatments are much more effective.

What is the difference between food-grade and pool-grade diatomaceous earth?

Food-grade diatomaceous earth is safe for household use due to its minimal crystalline silica content, while pool-grade diatomaceous earth is not suitable for bed bug treatment as it has a higher crystalline silica content and may cause harm to humans and pets.

David Floyd:

David Floyd has 20 years of experience working as a pest control technician as well as running his own pest control company. David is Quality Pro certified and is a certified Structural Pest Control Operator in the state of North Carolina, and the owner of NCPestControlExperts pest control company.