Before resorting to expensive and time-consuming professional treatments, you probably want to try to tackle your bed bug issue on your own. These pests present a particularly tough challenge because they can hide in tiny crevices and go for days without feeding. However, some non-chemical natural treatments exist to cure your infestation. Using diatomaceous earth for bed bugs may just be the solution you’re looking for.
What is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a fine, white powder with a multitude of uses. Some people choose to ingest Diatomaceous Earth for its supposed health benefits, but combating some types of bugs is the proven use for Diatomaceous Earth. Diatomaceous Earth comes in two different qualities: food grade and filter grade. You should purchase the food grade for use in and around the house in case anyone accidentally ingests the substance.
The fossilized remains of tiny organisms called diatoms make up Diatomaceous Earth. These remains largely contain silica, a natural and common mineral found all over the earth. Although diatomaceous earth may look like flour or baking soda, on a microscopic level, it is much more abrasive. To us, it may feel like a mix between baking soda and sand, but its abrasive texture is what gives it so much power against small critters.
Does Diatomaceous Earth Kill Bed Bugs?
In short, yes! But this method for killing bed bugs does have its limitations. Mainly, using diatomaceous earth for bed bugs takes time. As anyone who's dealt with a bed bug infestation before will tell you, no “quick fix” for bed bugs exists. Unfortunately, bed bugs are notoriously difficult to kill, especially due to the need to kill all the bed bugs in your home to avoid re-infestation. It can take up to a week to notice results when using diatomaceous for bed bugs, but full results probably won’t be present until a month in.
Diatomaceous earth kills bed bugs by scratching away at the waxy layer on the bed bugs’ outer shells. This waxy layer is what helps bed bugs retain the moisture in their body. So, once the diatomaceous earth has removed enough of this protective layer, the bed bugs will dehydrate and die. Unfortunately, diatomaceous earth only works to kill adult bed bugs, and adults bed bugs may not even be the majority of the bed bugs living in your home. Due to its inability to kill young bed bugs, we recommend combining using diatomaceous earth for bed bugs with other treatments. Using heat, such as steam cleaning or washing sheets on hot settings, has been shown to be effective against young bed bugs.
Although you have to be patient when using diatomaceous earth for bed bugs, this method also has many benefits. Firstly, the diatomaceous earth is natural and chemical-free. Professional pest control services often use harsh (albeit completely effective) chemicals that require you to move out of your home for a short period. DE is safe to use if used as directed. You may still want to wear some protective gear, such as a face mask, when applying as you should avoid inhalation of diatomaceous earth. However, you don’t need to worry about your pet accidentally taking a taste if you purchase food-grade DE.
We’ve compiled a list of our recommendations for diatomaceous earth. These inexpensive and highly-rated options are all food-grade (safe to use around pets and kids!) and are three different sizes. The two options from the Harris brand also include a duster, which will make your application process much easier.
Diatomaceous Earth.com Food Grade
Harris Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade
Harris Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade
How to Use Diatomaceous Earth for Bed Bugs
To get the best results when using diatomaceous earth for bed bugs, combine this treatment with others. The best regime we've found is to use heat and vacuuming prior to the diatomaceous earth.
Before spreading diatomaceous earth, you should treat as many areas of fabric with a steam cleaner as possible. We wrote about our top 3 picks for steam cleaners for bed bugs in this article. Steam cleaning kills bed bugs at all stages of their life, not just adult bed bugs. Completing this step before using diatomaceous earth for bed bugs will allow you to greatly reduce the number of bugs reproducing in your home.
After killing bed bugs with a steam cleaner, you may want to pick up the dead bodies with a vacuum. In this process, you can also suck up live bed bugs, so make sure you dispose of the bag in an outside trash can.
Apply Diatomaceous Earth
Apply a thin, even layer of diatomaceous earth all over your space. In particular, place the diatomaceous earth in any cracks or crevices that bed bugs might be hiding in. Additionally, place the powder around the feet of your bed, forcing bugs to crawl through it. Putting diatomaceous earth directly on your sheets would be uncomfortable to sleep on. However, you can apply DE on your mattress and then cover it with a mattress cover such as this one.
Although diatomaceous earth doesn’t have an expiration date, its efficacy will be lessened if it gets spread around by foot traffic, air flows, or cleaning. To avoid this, you can repeat all three of these steps each week to get the best results. All of these treatments combined will kill bed bugs of any age and finally get you a restful night of sleep!
Using this combination of steam cleaning and diatomaceous earth for bed bugs has been proven effective against the tiny pests living in your home. You’ll need to have patience when using this method and trying to get rid of bed bugs. Make sure to follow all instructions on the products you buy and consider calling professionals if your infestation gets out of hand.