What Is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a naturally occurring mineral that forms when tiny organisms called diatoms die and sink to the bottom of ponds or lakes where they are eaten by aquatic insects such as mosquitos. DE has been used in home construction projects since ancient times because it repels water and keeps soil from rotting.
The use of DE in gardening was first documented in the early 1900’s. Since then, it has become one of the most popular natural pesticides around. It is inexpensive and easy to apply.
Because it works so well at repelling pests, many gardeners have turned to using it instead of toxic chemicals like DDT.
How Does Diatomaceous Earth Work?
Diatomaceous earth works by attracting mosquitoes to your plants. When these bugs land on the surface of your plants, they get stuck and drown. This means that you don’t need to spray insecticide all over your garden every time there is a mosquito problem. You just need to spray them once and they will not come back!
Some people believe that DE kills adult mosquitoes but this isn’t true either. When an adult mosquito lands on DE, they are unable to take off again. This is not because of the DE, however.
It is because the mosquito has a hard time getting water off of its wings after touching the surface of the DE. Without water, the insect dries out and dies in a few days.
Diatomaceous earth does not repel all types of bugs, though. Those that do not land on the surface of your plants remain unaffected. They will happily continue sucking nutrients out of the leaves and flowers of your plants.
Diatomaceous earth also does nothing for diseases or other types of pests like caterpillars, thrips, or grasshoppers. If you have a serious problem with caterpillars then DE is not going to do anything to save your garden!
Food grade vs garden grade: is it safe for vegetables?
One of the main questions that many people have about DE is whether or not it is safe to use in vegetable gardens. There is a slight risk involved, but only if you don’t follow directions.
The type of DE intended for use in the garden contains no traces of silica and does not need to be cleaned before application. This type of DE is safe for vegetable gardens because it is completely safe for consumption. It does not contain any heavy metals or toxins.
The type of DE intended for use in the home contains large amounts of silica and should be cleaned before use in the garden. The main concern with this type of DE is that it sometimes contains traces of heavy metals.
It is very important to purchase DE that has been tested and approved for use in organic gardens. There are several labs that test DE for purity and these products will have a stamp indicating approval. It is also important to make sure that the product you buy is not old.
Is garden grade diatomaceous earth safe for pets?
Diatomaceous earth is completely safe for pets if it is food grade. There are no negative side effects and it does not cause any harm when used as directed. It also can be used to keep your pet free of ticks and fleas.
The only problem with DE and pets is that some animals seem to enjoy playing in it. Once they get it all over their feet and fur, the only way to get it off is to either give them a bath or brush them. If you have a dog that loves to play in the DE, you can make their life easier by getting them a flea and tick collar so that they don’t pick up any unwanted guests.
Is garden grade diatomaceous earth bad for you?
While it is true that diatomaceous earth is not a natural substance, it does not cause any harm if used properly. Since it is not a fertilizer, there is no need to worry about over-application and “burning” your plants. Many people are concerned that DE causes their skin to be itchy or irritated. While this can be the case for people who have extreme chemical sensitivities, in most cases this reaction does not occur when using food grade DE. In fact, because of its ability to kill insects, diatomaceous earth has been used as an insecticide for centuries. This is not a new product!
How long does garden grade diatomaceous earth last?
If you store it properly, DE can last for several years. It does not need to be replaced unless it has become contaminated by a lot of dust or other foreign materials. It can also be hard to know how “good” the DE is that you are buying. If you are unsure, it is best to purchase a small amount first and test it before you buy more.
Can I mix diatomaceous earth with other substances?
Yes, you can add DE to your garden soil, but it is not necessary. It can also be mixed with clay to make a perfect insecticide powder. It can also be mixed with water and turned into a spray for smaller plants.
What is the difference between food grade and garden grade D.E.?
The main difference is that food grade is meant to be ingested by people and animals, while garden grade is not. Food grade can also be defined as D.E.
that does not have any crystalline formations.
How do you apply diatomaceous earth?
Most DE applications are either through direct contact or ingestion. The insects ingest it when they eat, while the sharp edges of the D.E. slice their outer body so that they dehydrate and die.
Can I use diatomaceous earth to repel spiders?
No, this is a common misconception. D.E. will kill insects, but it will not have any effect on spiders or any other arachnids.
Can I use diatomaceous earth on my pets?
You can use food grade DE to get rid of fleas and ticks on your dogs and cats. Be aware that although the D.E. does not harm the animals, it can be harmful if accidentally ingested so keep it away from their paws and fur when applying.
What is a good way to get rid of insects?
One of the best ways to eliminate insects is to use D.E. in your garden soil before planting. This will keep a large majority of the insects out of your garden without having to use harmful chemicals or sprays. There are many other uses for D.E. as well such as keeping ants out of your home and even getting rid of fleas and ticks on your pets!
What is the shelf life of diatomaceous earth?
Stored in an airtight container, food grade D.E. has a shelf life of at least 5 years. It is best to buy an amount that you know you will use within that time. If you do not think that you will use 1 lb. in a year, it is better to buy only what you need so as to always have the freshest product possible.
How long does diatomaceous earth last once applied?
There is no set time limit. This depends entirely on the situation that you are using it in. Some insects will die within a few hours or days while others can take up to a month to perish.
Can I use food grade diatomaceous earth internally?
No, D.E. is not safe to be ingested by people or animals. It can cause choking if inhaled and ingestion can cause serious health problems.
Can I use food grade diatomaceous earth in my pool?
No, DE will not filter out any particles in the water and can cause the filter to clog if it is not functioning properly. If you need to reduce the amount of debris and algae in your pool it is best to use a salt chlorine generator or a non-chlorine shock treatment instead.
Can I use food grade diatomaceous earth as an anti-caking agent?
No. It will not work and can potentially ruin the efficacy of your product.
Can I use food grade diatomaceous earth to make my own toothpaste?
Yes, you can make a type of powder toothpaste by mixing D.E. with cinnamon, mint flavouring, and enough flour to form a paste that can be applied to your toothbrush. Keep in mind that although this is an alternative, it will not be as effective in getting rid of plaque and strengthening gums like regular toothpaste.
Can I use food grade diatomaceous earth to water my plants?
Yes, D.E. can help to add nutrients to your soil and keep away harmful insects. Be sure not to over water your plants as D.E. can also keep the soil too dry. Use a watering can and apply D.E. directly to the soil only.
Can I pour food grade diatomaceous earth on my pet?
Although it is an effective insecticide for killing ticks and fleas, it will not be as effective as a topical treatment that you find at the store. It is also not recommended to apply D.E. directly to your pet as it is harmful if ingested in large amounts.
Can I use food grade diatomaceous earth as an exfoliant?
Yes, if you dilute it with water and rub in on your skin with your hands it will act as a mild exfoliant.
Can I use food grade diatomaceous earth to waterproof my boots?
Yes, although not the most effective. You will need to apply multiple layers and build up the D.E. after each layer dries.
Why does food grade diatomaceous earth not kill the ants that come in with my groceries?
D.E. only kills insects that come into contact with it, so unless the ants are walking on top of the D.E. they will not come into contact with it and will eventually die off from starvation (which is still good since it will cut down on the number of insects in your house).
Can I use food grade diatomaceous earth on my pet for skin irritations?
Yes, since D.E. is an all natural product it can be used externally on your pets to heal irritated skin and help soothe itches.
Can I use food grade diatomaceous earth as a sunscreen?
No, although it has UV protection properties, the D.E. will not effectively protect your skin like regular sunscreen will. It is best to apply the D.E. after you have properly applied sunscreen.
Can I use food grade diatomaceous earth instead of laundry detergent?
You can try, but D.E. does not contain any cleaning or whitening agents and will not get your clothes as clean as regular detergent.
How will food grade diatomaceous earth effect my plumbing system?
It should not cause any problems if you are careful and only apply it to areas where the direct flow of the water will not come into contact with the D.E. For example, do not apply D.E. to your shower wall if your shower head leaks on that side.
Can I use food grade diatomaceous earth instead of deodorant?
You can try, but you will smell like D.E. and not perfume, as it does not contain any fragrance agents and some users might find the smell unpleasant, also be aware that the D.E. will cause your underarms to itch until you get used to applying it.
Can I use food grade diatomaceous earth as a fire-starter?
Yes, but you will not get the long-lasting kindling flames that you get from commercial fire-starters. You can use D.E. to start fires and then use those fires to burn more traditional fire-starters if you run out of D.E.
Can I use food grade diatomaceous earth to make homemade wine or brew beer?
Yes, but again D.E. does not contain any ingredients to improve the taste or odour of your beverages.
Can I use food grade diatomaceous earth as a de-icer for my car brakes?
It is not recommended, D.E. can jam the sensors that detect if your car is stopping and may cause accidents due to faulty sensor readings.
Is it safe for pets?
If you would like to use D.E. on your pets for any reason it is best to consult your veterinarian first as some animals might have allergies to D.E. and others might find the smell unpleasant and not want to be near it, this can be a problem if you have a pet that likes to eat rocks or other substances.
Can I use food grade diatomaceous earth as an insecticide?
Yes, although not very effective on larger insects such as spiders, but will kill ants coming in from the backyard.
Sources & references used in this article:
Diatomaceous earth for pest control by W Quarles – IPM practitioner, 1992 – biconet.com
Diatomaceous earth insecticidal composition by Z Korunic, P Fields – US Patent 5,773,017, 1998 – Google Patents
Diatomaceous earth and stored product pests. by W Quarles, PS Winn – IPM practitioner, 1996 – cabdirect.org