Diatomaceous earth (DE for short) is an extremely helpful tool in both eradicating bed bugs and proofing a home against re-infestation..

What is Diatomaceous earth?

Diatomaceous earth is a chalky substance that is derived from fossilized sea creatures called diatoms whose bodies were made up primarily of silicon dioxide.  It acts as a desiccant, disrupting the waxy shell of bed bugs and making them more prone to eventual death by dehydration. It does not kill the bugs immediately—it can take upwards of 7 to 17 days. It can also act as a mechanical barrier to bed bugs and they will avoid crawling through it. DE is a highly recommended tool in your bed bug fighting arsenal as it is a mechanical barrier, meaning that bed bugs cannot develop a resistance to it as they do with some pesticides. They also provide long-lasting action against bed bugs.

Diatomaceous earth is non-toxic and safe to handle. Sometimes it is even fed to pets for de-worming.  You will want to wear a dust mask when spreading DE because getting any fine particulate matter in your lungs is not a good idea. To reduce the risk of inhaling dangerous particles make sure that the diatomaceous earth you are using is pesticide grade, not pool grade, as it will have different sized diatoms that make it less hazardous to breathe in. Also be aware that some brands of diatomaceous earth include insecticides in their formulation. We do not generally recommend using these as they will have different safety warnings and restrictions, but if you are using them make sure to follow the directions included by the manufacturer and read all warnings carefully.

Disclaimer: Diatomaceous Earth can be dangerous if inhaled. Please consult the MSDS before using diatomaceous earth:MSDS version one, MSDS version two, and consult any safety sheets or instructions provided by the supplier of diatomaceous earth. Always exercise caution when applying diatomaceous earth. If you have any concerns consult with a physician before applying diatomaceous earth. Always avoid pool grade diatomaceous earth.

How to kill bed bugs with diatomaceous earth

Bed bugs can crawl through electrical conduits and live in wall voids, so you need to “cordon off” these areas with diatomaceous earth. We recommend using DE along with other methods for a comprehensive treatment protocol. DE works best in large furniture and around the rooms you are treating, so we recommend using heat treatment for all your smaller belongings.

Purchasing Diatomaceous Earth and helpful tools

  • Any brand of diatomaceous earth will work, but we like Thomas Labs’ 3 lb Jar of Diatomaceous Earth because of the handy plastic jar it comes in. You will likely need more than 3 lbs, but a jar this size is easy to move around because it’s not too heavy and the convenient screw on lid is helpful as it’s tidier to have a jar with a lid, rather than rolling up the end of an open bag.
  • When you buy diatomaceous earth in larger quantities the price per pound drops dramatically. Larger quantities of diatomaceous earth are a real bargain.
  • For spreading a lot of diatomaceous earth over a wide area a pesticide duster is useful and reduces the risk of breathing in DE. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it is helpful. We do not have a strong recommendation on which pesticide duster to get.
  • Diatomaceous Earth is safe to handle. However you will want to wear a dust mask to avoid inhaling any diatomaceous earth.

Additional Resources


Disclaimer: Some of the procedures outlined in this guide may be dangerous and should be undertaken at the readers own risk. Readers should consult all material safety data sheets for any products they use in their own attempts at pest control and consult with the manufacturers of all products regarding best usage practices. This guide should be construed as theoretical advice. ZappBug and its employees will not be held responsible for any injury due to the advice offered herein. This guide cannot be construed as formal advice and ZappBug will not be held liable in any instance of an action resulting from this story. This disclaimer assigns the readers all responsibility for their own decisions.