diatomaceous earth

Why we use food grade Diatomaceous Earth

Why we use food grade Diatomaceous Earth

Insects have been around since the dawn of time. They will be around until the final sun sets. Because they are not going anywhere anytime soon, there’s no getting around it—we must deal with them.

Diatomaceous earth (DE) in tube ready for use

Many insects are mere nuisances, while others can (and do) cause serious harm. In either case, we must protect our livelihood from these pests. At the same time, it’s important to ensure that we are not causing harm to ourselves, our families, our pets or our environment. This is why we, at Dr. Killigan’s, use food-grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE) powder.

We also use (and highly recommend) our Dust to Dust Non-Toxic Insect Powder. It is a safer and more effective alternative to Diatomaceous Earth for insect control. Dust to Dust is proven to have kill times up to 50% faster than Diatomaceous Earth.

What is Diatomaceous Earth?

Diatomaceous Earth is not just a marvel of the natural world but also a versatile tool in our daily lives. This fine, white powder, made from the fossilized remains of aquatic microorganisms known as diatoms, has a myriad of applications beyond the commonly known uses in water filtration and pest control. Its skeletons, composed of a natural compound called silica, are mined from ancient riverbeds, lakes and ocean floors. Once harvested, silica undergoes a reaction with oxygen and water to form silica dioxide, or Diatomaceous Earth, which is then ground into a fine powder.

DE's eco-friendly credentials are solid. It is a sustainable resource that, when used responsibly, has minimal environmental impact. Its natural origin and biodegradability mean it doesn't introduce harmful substances into the environment.

What is the difference between pool grade and food-grade DE powder?

There are two different forms of DE: pool-grade (or filter-grade) and food-grade. Understanding the difference is crucial for safe and effective use, as each type serves distinct purposes and has specific safety considerations.

Pool-grade (or Filter-Grade) DE

  • Super-heated
  • Ends up being 60-70% crystalline silica
  • Dangerous to inhale
  • Should only be used for filtration
  • Widely used in water filtration for both taste and quality (though dangerous to inhale)
  • Requires special handling. Mask up and wear those gloves to prevent inhalation

Food-grade DE

  • Untreated
  • Must remain below 1% crystalline silica to be labeled "food-grade"
  • Hazardous to breathe with long term exposure (due to its abrasiveness)
  • Used for a wide range of purposes, from toothpaste to dietary supplements
  • While safe for human consumption, DE is also a non-toxic pesticide, though not in the traditional sense. It is not a poison; it disposes of insects through the process of dehydration
  • Requires special handling. Again, mask up and wear those gloves

How can food-grade DE powder help my home?

Image shows a house with yard

Food-grade diatomaceous earth is a natural powerhouse for your home, offering a range of uses that promote a clean, safe environment:

  • Pest control: Safely combat household pests like ants, cockroaches, bedbugs and fleas by applying food-grade DE, which dehydrates and kills them without harsh chemicals.
  • Pet care: Use DE as a natural flea treatment for pets and their bedding to control infestations.
  • Deodorizer: Neutralize odors and absorb moisture in your home by using DE in refrigerators, garbage cans and shoes.
  • Cleaning: Clean tough stains and grime from surfaces without scratching them, thanks to DE's abrasive yet gentle nature.
  • Gardening: Protect your plants from slugs and other pests by sprinkling DE around the garden.

By integrating food-grade DE into your home and garden routines, you can reduce reliance on chemical products, ensuring a healthier living space. Remember, only food-grade DE is suitable for these uses, as pool-grade DE is not safe due to its different composition.

How does Diatomaceous Earth work?

Bugs, like every other living creature, need two essentials to survive: food and water. Disrupt either of these and they are just as vulnerable as you or me. When food-grade DE is dusted across the path of an insect, such as an American cockroach or carpenter ant, these unwanted invaders will soon be a thing of the past. Ready for the details. This is what happens:

  • It sticks to their feet and bodies
  • It absorbs the oils from their exoskeleton
  • It dehydrates the pest
  • The pest dies

The effect is not instant. It takes time, depending on the insect. The slower timing, though, can be of great advantage to you: The trespasser can take the powder home and share it with its roommates.

Pointers on using DE

To effectively harness the benefits of DE in managing pests, it’s essential to understand its unique action mechanism and apply it with careful consideration. Here are four steps to guide you:

1. Keep the area dusted dry

Wet DE will not stick to the insect and thus not allow the powder to absorb properly (into the insect). The absorbing of oils in the exoskeleton is what disposes of the insect.

2. Target high traffic insect zones

Dust areas where insects crawl, walk or jump regularly. In your home, this could be under your cabinets, in crevices between appliances and under the sink in your kitchen or bathroom. Outside your sacred abode, this could be in tight spaces or corners of your tool shed, your garden space or your garage. 

3. Leave the area dusted alone (at least for a while)

Time variations depend on where you lay the powder. If in an undisturbed area, it can be left indefinitely. If in a high traffic area, we recommend leaving it for at least 24-48 hours. Then, if you can, simply sweep it to the side (to continue its pest control function). 

Note: The more DE powder the insect comes into contact with, the sooner you’ll rid yourself of these invaders.  

Note: Unless you have a HEPA vacuum, don’t even think about using your vacuum cleaner. You’ll ruin it.

4. Take precautions when dispersing

Food-grade DE powder may be inhaled. While non-toxic, it can still cause issues in those with sensitivities.  Good practice: Use gloves and wear a mask and a long-sleeved shirt when dispersing.

diatomaceous earth (DE) In wooden spoon ready for use.

Food-grade DE does not differentiate between insects. It will have the same effect on a butterfly as it would a roach. If you have a pet spider, you may want to reconsider your use of this powder.

How do I use food-grade DE powder?

You will need a means of dispersing it. Methods like scoops or shakers or by hand can be messy, and they simply do not get the powder to the areas where it will be most effective. You’ll end up making a mess, inevitably getting frustrated, and wasting much of the product. 

Drumroll please... 

Dr. Killigan’s has developed a tool that works with DE Powder and gets it right where you want it.

Dr. Killigan’s Insect Buster® is a bulb that is designed to effectively disperse DE. It is sturdy, easy to aim and you can store the powder in it. It comes with a nozzle with a standard curved tip, an extension rod for hard-to-reach areas, vinyl tubing for extra hard-to-reach areas (which easily slips over the brass tip) and a funnel for easy pouring. The Insect Buster goes where sprays cannot reach. Together, let’s dispose of those unwanted guests!

Dr. Killigan’s final word on DE powder

Our team of professionals is dedicated to perfecting the art of Killing Them Softly®. We have designed 100% toxin-free products that are not only safe but are also created with style, restoring peace of mind and returning a “classy” look to your home.

We are continually raising the bar in toxin-free pest control remedies. All our products come in a design that is pleasing to the eye and carries a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you are not satisfied for any reason, contact us, and we will not hesitate to make things right.

Reading next

Is DE Powder Safe? - Dr. Killigan's
What pest control products are safe for pets?

Get into the nitty-gritty on insects & arachnids

View all
Baby-wolf-spider

Tiny terrors or helpful hunters? Identifying baby wolf spiders

Ever spotted a small, hairy spider and wondered if it's dangerous? Learn about baby wolf spiders, the misunderstood hunters that are more helpful than harmful!

How-to-get-rid-of-cicada-killers

How to get rid of cicada killer wasps

Are cicada killer wasps turning your yard into their hunting ground? Learn how to manage or eliminate these intimidating wasps with Dr. Killigan's eco-friendly and effective strategies.

Baby-stink-bugs

How to get rid of baby stink bugs

Struggling with baby stink bugs? Learn effective, eco-friendly ways to identify, prevent, and eliminate these pests from your home and garden.

Read all about our unique ingredients

View all
Dr-Killigans-plant-powered-pest-control

Putting customers first: The power of full disclosure from Dr. Killigan's

Discover the power of full disclosure at Dr. Killigan's and how our transparency puts you in control of your pest solutions.

Ant-killer-pet-safe

What makes an ant killer pet-safe?

Navigating the challenge of ant infestations while ensuring the safety of our pets is crucial. Learn the key features of pet-safe ant sprays and powders.  

pest-free-homes

Home preparation for travel & maintaining a pest-free haven

Travel with ease using Dr. Killigan's home preparation guide. Discover deep cleaning strategies and download our free house cleaning checklist for a pest-free return.