Fleas are among the most challenging pests to eliminate from your home. They expertly hide in your pets’ fur and in your home’s furniture and carpeting while they reproduce rapidly.
As bothersome as they are, however, you may not want to use harsh chemicals like sprays and powders to get rid of fleas. You can eliminate them thoroughly and protect your home and pets from dangerous chemicals by using diatomaceous earth for fleas.
What is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth, or DE, is natural silica rock that contains the diatoms, or fossilized skeletons, of marine and plant life forms. The microscopic diatoms are crushed into a substance so fine that it feels and looks like talcum powder (1).
The crushed diatoms contain silica and on a microscopic level work like shards of glass that dehydrate and break down the exoskeletons of pests like fleas. DE that is consumed by pests also works from the inside out, killing fleas and other insects by drying out and tearing apart their bodies.
DE occurs naturally in the environment, making it a plentiful and inexpensive flea insecticide. In its natural state, it also poses little risk to humans or pets, allowing you to use it both inside and outside of your home safely (2).
Why is Diatomaceous Earth Effective in Killing Fleas?
As noted, diatomaceous earth for fleas contains millions of silica-containing, microscopic diatoms that in effect work like crushed glass as it dries out and breaks down both the inside and outside of these pests’ bodies. The fact that it does not contain any odor likewise makes it ideal to use for killing fleas because the pests do not suspect that it can pose them any harm. Fleas willingly walk through and consume the DE rather than avoid it like they might pungent chemical-laden sprays and flea repellent powders that you can buy at the grocery or hardware store.
Moreover, because DE does not contain harsh chemicals, fleas are unable to build up a resistance to it like they increasingly are with many popular grocery store and hardware store pesticides and repellents. A recent study showed that up to 15 different species of fleas have shown metabolic resistance to some of the most common flea pesticides and treatments available on the market (3). These pests have evolved to the point that they are no longer affected by the over-the-counter sprays and powders or even prescription flea treatments like Frontline that people most often use on their pets.
However, fleas cannot build up a resistance to diatomaceous earth because of its very makeup and consistency. It contains billions of tiny, razor-like exoskeleton fossils that dry out and break down the bodies of fleas and other pests that walk through and ingest it. Pests do not suspect that the DE poses any danger to them because of its organic appearance and scent.
Why Use Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth?
While DE in is natural state pose little risk to people or pets, it can present a danger if it contains high levels of crystalline. Crystalline DE is most commonly used in swimming pool filters to kill bacteria and keep out other organic components in the water. This processed DE contains high amounts of both crystalline and silica, which if inhaled or consumed could lead to health problems like cancer or respiratory distress (4).
Food grade DE, however, lacks the chemical processing and high levels of crystalline and silica that could cause you or your pets to suffer damaging side effects to your health. You can find food grade DE for sale at most grocery or hardware stores as well as outside lawn and garden retailers and other merchants that sell natural pesticides.
As safe as natural food grade DE is, you should still take the appropriate precautions while using it inside and outside of your home to kill fleas. These precautionary measures minimize any risk that the DE can pose to you or your pets and also maximizes its effectiveness in getting rid of these pests for good.
How to Use Diatomaceous Earth Safely
It is important that you understand that diatomaceous earth for fleas should be kept dry and applied as a fine powder. Studies have shown that it has little to no effectiveness if it is mixed with water and applied as a spray or if it is applied to the wet ground (5).
Rather, you should take every precaution to keep the DE dry so that it retains its natural powder-like texture and appearance. Before you apply it to the inside or outside of your home, you should don safety gear like eye protection and a respirator mask that covers both your nose and mouth. DE can dry out and irritate your eyes, mouth, and skin if you accidentally apply too much of it. You should also make sure that your pets, children, and other people are out of the area before you use the diatomaceous earth (6).
Along with removing your pets and loved ones from the area, you should also cover or remove household objects like dishes, toys, and other items. Finally, you should ensure that the area that you are treating is not exposed to wind from the outdoors or a fan. You want the DE to remain where you apply it rather than blow around and potentially get in your eyes, mouth, or on your skin.
You can safely apply DE to many areas of your home including the cabinets, cupboards, along the base boards, and even on your carpeting and in pet bedding. Apply generous amounts in places where you have seen fleas so that these pests come into contact with the DE immediately. You can use a flour sifter to apply DE to your carpeting or pet bedding.
You should also reapply the DE every 10 days to two weeks until you no longer see fleas in your home. You may need to use this natural product for several weeks or even a month or longer until existing fleas, new hatchlings, and their eggs are killed.
What Other Pests Can Be Treated with Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth is not only effective in killing fleas. Studies show that it is ideal for safely and naturally eliminating other common household pests (7). You can use DE to get rid of pest like:
- Bed bugs
- Sow bugs
- Potato bugs
And dozens of other insects that can take up residence inside and outside of your home. As when eliminating fleas, you should use food-grade DE in its natural powder state and apply it as needed in cracks, crevices, along doorways and window sills, and elsewhere you have seen these pests.
Pesticides and repellents laden with chemicals may not be practical or safe to use around your home to kill fleas. You can eliminate these bothersome pests effectively and avoid bringing dangerous chemicals around your pets and loved ones by using natural food-grade diatomaceous earth to exterminate fleas.
1. Diatomaceous Earth: A Non Toxic Pesticide. http://eap.mcgill.ca/publications/eap4.htm. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
2. Diatomaceous Earth FAQ. www.deq.state.or.us/er/docs/LowerBridge/DiatomaceousEarthFactSheet.pdf. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
3. Insecticide/acaricide resistance in fleas and ticks infesting dogs and cats. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3891977/. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
4. Diatomaceous Earth FAQ.
5. Insects in the City: Safer Flea Control. http://citybugs.tamu.edu/factsheets/biting-stinging/others/ent-3001/. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
6. Nontoxic Ways to Protect Your Pets. https://www.nrdc.org/stories/nontoxic-ways-protect-your-pet. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
7. Commonly Encountered Pests and How to Deal with Insects. http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/agr/pesticides/commonly-encountered-pests-and-how-to-deal-with-insects.html. Retrieved October 25, 2016.