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Fantastic Home and Garden Uses of Diatomaceous Earth

There is a substance that has a lot of uses around the home. Many people might already be using it. Others may have never heard of it. It is called diatomaceous earth.

This is a natural substance that comes from a sedimentary rock that is composed mostly of fossilized diatoms. The rock is quite soft and it’s easy to crumble. Most often, it is sold in the form of a powder.

Diatomaceous earth was discovered around 1836 in Germany. Other deposits have been found since then in places such as Scotland, Nevada, California, Colorado, in the Sahara Desert, Virginia, Oregon, Washington, France, Florida, Canada, and Denmark, among other places.

It is amazing how many uses diatomaceous earth has, though. Here are just some of them, specifically for the home and garden.

Diatomaceous earth in the garden

Although diatomaceous earth looks like a fine powder, that is a human perception. Under a microscope, it can be seen that diatomaceous earth has many sharp edges and these are hard.

Sprinkled around in the garden, this substance is a wonderful deterrent to many troublesome insects, such as ants, grasshoppers, and aphids. It affects these pests in a few ways. First, the sharp points and edges can puncture the exoskeleton of the insects. This usually causes the insects to dehydrate rapidly.

Second, diatomaceous earth is exceptional at absorbing moisture. This causes the insect pests to dehydrate even faster, killing the insects.

Third, it absorbs fats from the waxy cover of an insect’s exoskeleton. The waxy coating prevents insects from dehydrating, so by absorbing the fats, the insect can die of dehydration even if it isn’t punctured.

Diatomaceous earth also works to kill slugs and snails.

Although it is harmful to insects, it doesn’t harm plants. In fact, it can be used in potting soil. The actual chemical composition of diatomaceous earth is up to 80 or 90% silica. This makes the composition similar to that of sand.

In the kitchen

Diatomaceous earth is mildly abrasive, giving it good properties as a metal polish and as a cleaner. In fact, it is sometimes even used as a toothpaste.

In water filters

Many sorts of water filters use diatomaceous earth. This includes filtration systems for drinking water, swimming pools, and fish aquariums. It is used commercially to filter honey, corn syrup, beer, and wine.

On pets

If you have pets that have issues with fleas, diatomaceous earth might be the answer. It isn’t poisonous to the pets, but when it is dusted into the pelt, it kills fleas and flea eggs in the same way that it kills insect pests in the garden. If you put it to this use, make sure you use uncalcinated diatomaceous earth. This means that it isn’t heat-treated and it is much more effective than calcinated (heat-treated) diatomaceous earth.

In fact, the uncalcinated diatomaceous earth is also an effective treatment for bed bugs and cockroaches.

Note: Avoid getting this into your pet’s eyes (or your own) and don’t breathe the dust. Otherwise, diatomaceous earth is poison-free and harmless to people and pets. For that matter, it is often used in grain storage for humans, pets, and livestock feed. It is also used as an anti-caking food additive. This shows that consumption isn’t much of an issue with higher animals.

These are just some of the home and garden uses of diatomaceous earth. There are other uses, such as in industry. This substance isn’t cheap, but a little bit goes a long way. It also tends to be cheaper than man-made chemicals and poisons.

If you have issues with cockroaches, fleas, bedbugs, snails, slugs, aphids, ants, grasshoppers, silverfish, or other insect pests, it might be a good idea to invest in a bag of diatomaceous earth. It is great for combatting the insect infestations in a totally natural and non-toxic way.

What do you think?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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19 Comments

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  1. Good article. One other use for diatomaceous earth: If you live in an apartment building with a bedbug problem, spreading a little by the door can help keep them from spreading.

    I don’t think it’s a good idea to use it on pets, however. When they clean themselves they can ingest it and that can cause problems.

    • Our vet actually recommended using d. earth on cats and dogs, just to keep it out of their eyes and not to let them breathe it. The licking isn’t as much of an issue because it isn’t toxic and their saliva moistens it so any that they pick up simply passes straight through them.

      It is also a good treatment for earwigs. We have a lot of earwigs this year and it really lowers the number.

      • I didn’t think the problem with pets and diatomaceaous earth wasn’t that it was toxic but that all the little points and sharp edges could irritate the intestines. Thinking more about it, though, I would think that, since it’s calcium, the stomach acids would make quick work of it.

        • The funny thing is that most people, at least in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, have easy access to a tremendous source of calcium; eggshells. If the shells are thoroughly washed, allowed to dry, then crushed into a powder, they are almost entirely calcium carbonate and could be used to increase dietary calcium. If a small amount of the powder is used in baking, it can even be done without a person even being aware of it, when they eat the food, because crushed eggshells are flavorless. Yet, eggshells are routinely thrown away.

  2. I have used this for ants. I just wish there were a less messy way to use it than sprinkling it along the ant paths. I haven’t used it in the garden because I have been under the impression that irrigation and rain will make it ineffective. Is that true? Snails and slugs are most active when the ground and plants are wet. Also, I want to make sure I don’t harm the bees.

    • If it gets wet, it wouldn’t be effective until it dried out again. Thankfully, it dries fairly easily. Still, it is fast acting enough that it doesn’t take much time for the insects to be affected.

      I’m thinking that a person could use anything that is used to apply a powder, to make the application easier. For instance, an empty baby powder container should work. I’ve not tried it, so I can’t say for sure. I don’t mind applying the DE by hand, so I’ve just never tried using an applicator.

      As for bees, don’t get any on the blossoms and the bees should be fine. With a little care, it would be much less harmful than most commonly used pesticides. It also doesn’t wash into the water table and poison fish or leach into the ground and poison the soil for years.

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