Bed bugs are no small enemy. While tiny in size, they have huge effects on you and your home overall.
As always, you’ll want to consult with a local pest control professional before you use diatomaceous earth. Below, we’ll be taking a closer look at seven of the best types of diatomaceous earth that are the most effective against bed bugs.
How to Tell if You Have Bed Bugs
Okay, so now here we go. There are a few tell-tale signs to look for and places to inspect if you suspect that you have bed bugs:
- You find small bug bites when you wake up in the morning. Bed bugs feed at night, and their bites are commonly found to leave raised welts about 1cm across.
- There are stains on your sheets and pillowcases. Because bed bugs feed on blood (gross), you may find remnants of their midnight meals on your bedding. These stains are most likely from bites in various areas of your body, so look for small drops of blood in multiple locations around your bedding.
- Dark spots along the edges of your mattress or box spring. Often bed bugs will take up staying as close to their source of food as possible. This means they will hide during the day in the seams along your mattress and boxspring. The evidence to look for is the trademark dark spots they leave behind from fecal matter.
- Check for shed shells and exoskeletons. Bed bugs go through five cycles of shell molting as they mature. Each of these phases happens after feeding. If you have bed bugs, there’s a likely chance that they have been growing rapidly, shedding shells in the places they like to hide. Make sure to check small areas around your bed and in corners of your room and electrical outlets.
If you’ve found any of the evidence above, there’s a good chance that you may have bed bugs. Next, let’s look at one of the best solutions for this problem; diatomaceous earth.
IMPORTANT: IF YOU FIND THAT YOU DO HAVE BED BUGS, PLEASE CONSULT A PROFESSIONAL BEFORE TRYING TO RESOLVE THE ISSUE YOURSELF.
If you’re in need of an exterminator, you can use our nationwide partner network of pest control professionals by clicking here. We’ll connect you to an exterminator in your area in seconds.
What Is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth is an abrasive powder, made from a sedimentary rock. This rock was created from the fossilized remains of a type of algae called diatoms. The fossils of these aquatic creatures are very sharp, especially when ground into a fine powder.
The abrasiveness of this powder, called diatomaceous earth, is exactly why it is so effective when used against both soft, and hard-bodied bugs.
While extremely effective against bed bugs, the grains of the earth are too small to cut humans or pets, making it a great choice for a safe-to-use pest deterrent.
The Types of Diatomaceous Earth
There are two main types of diatomaceous earth. These are generally known as pool-grade and food-grade.
The first, pool-grade diatomaceous earth, has been heat-treated to increase the amount of crystalline silica in the product. This makes it much more efficient for filtering pool systems. It also makes it less safe for humans to be around, and specifically to inhale. Don’t use this for bed bugs.
The second kind of product is food-grade diatomaceous earth. This is the kind we are interested in when battling bed bugs.
Though the name suggests that food-grade diatomaceous earth is intended to be used in foods, and sometimes it is, more importantly, it means that it meets the FDA’s standards.
This is the type of diatomaceous earth to look for when purchasing something to battle against bed bugs.
Only purchase pool-grade diatomaceous earth if you plan to use it for its intended purpose: to filter your pool.
Why Is Diatomaceous Earth Effective Against Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs don’t get nourishment often. Some can even go four months to 2 years without feeding.
Because of this, they are at high risk of dehydrating between feeding times. To protect themselves from drying out, they have developed a waxy casing on top of their shells, which serves to lock moisture in.
This is a defense mechanism that many types of insects have developed over thousands of years.
The tiny particles of diatomaceous earth are very sharp, and when the bed bugs come in contact with them, the earth scrapes the wax off of the bed bugs’ shells, causes deep scratches, and allows the bugs’ small amount of hydration to escape.
It also causes mobility issues by getting into the joints of the bugs and causing irritation.
This is why many people think that diatomaceous earth “dries out” bed bugs, though it’s more accurate to say that it removes their defense mechanisms through physical abrasion.
Before using any diatomaceous earth product for any pest uses, it’s important to check with a professional before using any of the recommended products below.
The Best Types of Diatomaceous Earth to Buy
This effective powder product can eradicate your house of bed bugs, fleas, ants, and many other insects. The massive 5-gallon bucket will provide you with enough product to last you until your bed bug issue is solved. It also includes a resealable lid that means your product will stay dry and effective, as diatomaceous earth is only effective if dry.
This 7-ounce nozzle-topped bottle contains 85% diatomaceous earth. The product also contains other elemental oxides which may be more effective against the bugs. Better yet, JT Eaton specifically lists bed bugs on the cover of their bottle!
This is a smaller amount and you may likely need more depending on the size of your infestation – but it’s a good starting point again if you’re unsure.
This highly reviewed product pairs diatomaceous earth with a small nozzle for accurate applications. Since bed bugs often live in small spaces, it’s important to be able to reach these areas to lay down the diatomaceous earth.
Harris also states that their powder takes care of the bed bug issue within 48 hours, so you should be in good hands. While it may just be marketing, it’s always a nice feeling when the product is marketed specifically for the use in question.
Named after their flagship product, the company Diatomaceous Earth has dedicated the last nine years in business to produce the best quality diatomaceous earth on the market. Their Crawling Insect Control product is no exception.
Coming in 10lb bags, this is ideal if you plan on using a larger application.
This product also claims to get rid of “fleas, ants, cockroaches, silverfish, beetles, earwigs, millipedes, centipedes, crickets, slugs, and grasshoppers.” The built-in spout makes it easy to apply the product to windowsills, cracks, bed frames, and other small areas of your home.
This 16 ounce, a fragrance-free bag of diatomaceous earth is claimed to be a great way to eradicate pests. Of course, it’s a food-grade product, something you always need to watch out for when looking to use DE to treat bed bugs. It isn’t marketed specifically for bed bugs.
This brand of diatomaceous earth is in its natural state. The 1.5-pound bag comes from an extremely natural freshwater deposit. The bag is also resealable, meaning you can store it for a later date if you ever need it again.
Even with these great diatomaceous earth products on hand, always check with a professional before taking on a battle with bed bugs.
These products are BEST used with a full on, treatment plan for bed bugs. If you want to fully eradicate the issue,
How to Boost the Effectiveness of Diatomaceous Earth
Finding the best type of diatomaceous earth is only half the battle. The other half is using it properly.
Because diatomaceous earth is a mechanical pesticide, that means that it works by coming into physical contact with the bugs. It is crucial to place the diatomaceous earth directly in the bugs’ path. This, along with other tips, is detailed below.
Again, DE may not be enough by itself to get rid of bed bugs (they’re super tough little pests.)
You can call our nationwide partner network of pest control professionals by clicking here, where you’ll be connected to an exterminator in your local area in seconds.
Spread the Diatomaceous Earth Directly in the Path of the Bed Bugs
If you know the source of the bugs, apply the largest amount of diatomaceous earth in front of that area. Make sure the line of powder is thick, with no way they can avoid it. Try not to disturb the path once it’s in place, if it does get disturbed or broken, replenish the earth as soon as possible.
Though bed bugs don’t have hives or nests, they do tend to habitually rest in the same areas during the day. These places should be surrounded by diatomaceous earth to ensure the best chance of eliminating them.
Apply Diatomaceous Earth Liberally to Your Box Spring
Since bed bugs only feed at night, they are most likely hiding in or near your bed during the day. Be sure to check along the seams of your mattress, and along the rails of your bed frame daily while you are experiencing the infestation.
Apply diatomaceous earth in large quantities to the crevices and seams of your mattress, headboard, and box spring. As you sleep, you will disturb the powder, so be sure to replenish often.
A great idea would be to sleep in another bed, if that’s possible.
Please, contact a local exterminator to find out exactly what you should do in your specific situation.
Sprinkle the Powder Around the Base of Your Bed
Because bed bugs cannot fly, there is only one way for them to get to you– by walking. They most likely climb up your bed legs and onto your mattress. Be sure to spread diatomaceous earth in complete circles around your bed legs.
Also, apply the powder all along your headboard if it touches the floor.
To increase the chances of this approach working, pull your bed out slightly from the wall so the bed bugs can’t crawl up it and then onto your mattress. The less areas that your bed has contact with the floor or the wall, the less areas the bed bugs have to climb.
Sprinkle Powder Around the Legs of Your Other Bedroom Furniture
While the bed is the main area the bed bugs are trying to get to, they are commonly known to also take up house in other bedroom furniture.
Spreading the diatomaceous earth around the legs of your bedside tables, dressers, chairs, and on your closet floor will help keep them at bay.
Set Up a Diatomaceous Earth Trap
While the most enticing thing in your room to a bed bug will always be you, setting a trap that bed bugs may be distracted by, or pass over on their way to you is a worthy effort.
Choose somewhere near your bed to set the trap, ideally, in the pathway between their known den and your bed.
Put a mixture of sugar and yeast in the center of a ring of diatomaceous earth. The mixture creates carbon dioxide, the same chemical that draws them to us. To get to the sugar and yeast, the bugs will be forced to cross over the earth, increasing the likelihood they will be affected by it.
The mixture is only effective for about 8 hours, but an affordable accelerator to diatomaceous earth if used nightly.
All in all for setting this up, you’ll most definitely want to contact an exterminator for a consult.
Lay It and Leave It
Bed bugs are very small, and while you and I may not see a way through a line of diatomaceous earth, they can pick out any gap. Once you spread the diatomaceous earth, leave it be. The thicker the pile of powder, the more effective it will be against bed bugs.
Try not to kick or disturb the earth as this may create those pathways that the bed bugs can follow to dodge the deterrent.
If you do disturb the earth or break a line of the powder, repair it as soon as possible.
Apply to Every Nook and Cranny
Bed bugs like to hide in small spaces. This is because they have a higher risk of surviving if they take up room in a place they are not likely to be found.
Where do bed bugs like to hide?
- Crown moldings
- Seams of furniture
- Folds of curtains
- The underside of bedside tables
- Wall corners
- Electrical outlets
- In dresser corners
- Along drawer rollers
- Picture frames
- Peeling wallpaper
- Clothing on the floor
Even if you haven’t seen evidence of bed bugs in these areas, applying diatomaceous earth to the small spaces where bed bugs are known to hide can put you ahead of the game if they do decide to venture there.
Use a Powder Applicator
The Harris Powder Duster with a precise applicator is the perfect gadget to get to those hard-to-reach areas where bed bugs might be hiding that we’ve listed above.
Be sure not to apply too much pressure when using a powder applicator, as you can end up blowing the dust away, and that will render your plan useless.
Keep It Dry
The abrasive qualities of diatomaceous earth are only effective when dry. Try not to spill any liquids after you have applied the product in your bedroom or home. If you do, clean the area, wait for it to dry, and then reapply the powder.
If you are using diatomaceous earth outdoors, be sure to reapply after every rainfall.
The same goes for every watering if you are using diatomaceous earth in your indoor plants or garden.
As always, contact an exterminator to verify what you should and could do in your specific situaiton.
What Else Is Diatomaceous Earth Used For?
As we’ve discussed, diatomaceous earth is very coarse but very fine. It’s so fine, in fact, that to the human touch, it feels more like flour than anything sharp.
It is also a natural substance, something that is safe to have around pets and children.
The combination of these three aspects means that it can be used in many different goods. Diatomaceous earth (food grade) is not just found in products that battle bed bugs.
It is used in toothpaste and skincare products as a polishing agent or exfoliant. It is also used in the preservation of dry goods such as pasta and grains to keep the bugs at bay.
The tiny granules of diatomaceous earth are sharp, but they are also porous. This means they allow water to pass through, and can hold onto scents. The powder is used as a purification method in water processing as well!
Diatomaceous earth is also often used as a deodorizer and abrasive cleaning agent in the home.
Wrapping it up!
Diatomaceous earth is one of the best defenses and tools that we have to use against bed bugs. The fact that it is a natural substance, and safe to use around children and pets makes it a hard pest deterrent to beat.
When purchasing diatomaceous earth, be sure to look for the right size and type of earth. It is important to avoid pool-grade diatomaceous earth products if you’re planning to use it to get rid of bed bugs.
When using diatomaceous earth, be sure to place it in generous lines directly in the path of the bed bugs. Replenish these piles as needed, and avoid getting the powder wet.
Lastly, always consult a professional before taking on a bed bug infestation yourself.
Criado, P. R., Junior, W. B., Criado, R. F. J., e Silva, R. V., & Vasconcellos, C. (2011). Bedbugs (Cimicidae infestation): the worldwide renaissance of an old partner of human kind. The Brazilian Journal of Infectious Diseases, 15(1), 74-80..
Potter, M. F., Haynes, K. F., Christensen, C., Neary, T. J., Turner, C. R., Washburn, L., & Washburn, M. (2013). Where do bed bugs stand when the dust settles. Pest Control Technol, 41(12), 72-74.
Bunch, T. R.; Bond, C.; Buhl, K.; Stone, D. 2013. Diatomaceous Earth General Fact Sheet; National Pesticide Information Center, Oregon State University Extension Services. http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/degen.html.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
Download My Free E-Book!
Take a look at my guide on Pest Proofing Your Home In Under a Day! I get into the nitty-gritty on the most common types of pests you’ll see on your property including BOTH insects and wildlife, along with the specific signs to look for regarding any pest you have questions about.