Diatomaceous earth (DE) is made of the fossilized remains of microscopic sea creatures called diatoms, the skeletons of which are composed of silica, one of the most common naturally occurring substances in the world. In fact, silica makes up 26 percent of the Earth’s crust if measured by weight. The FDA rated DE as a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) substance, and unless you or your small children and pets are breathing in the dust that DE creates when thrown around haphazardly, DE is a safe product, and it will amaze you with its many household uses. Important caveat: Always use food grade DE and never use the type of DE made for swimming pools. Filter grade DE is a different product and made strictly for pools and is not safe to use any other way.
The substance DE has been used since 1960 as a pesticide to kill mites and insects. Silica has a hardness rating of 7, and though it is harmless to the touch to humans and pets, it has razor-sharp edges that can tear small insects, mites, and other parasites apart on contact. Though DE is most commonly used as a pesticide, it also has many other lesser-known household uses, from alternative toothpaste, deodorant, natural soap, and hair regrowth products to thermal insulation and being used as an anti-caking agent. For a product that has so many useful functions, it’s surprising that DE is also incredibly affordable.
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) as a Pesticide
Topical flea and tick products that are meant for pets and humans almost always contain poisons that are not safe for either, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. The Environmental Protection Agency even claims that these widely used flea and tick products are actually responsible for the deaths of hundreds of pets each year. DE, however, can keep you and your pets safe from fleas and ticks without all of the harmful chemicals. This guide will teach you how to use DE to treat fleas and ticks on your pets safely and comprehensively.
Having issues with head lice? Never fear; DE is here. Head lice are known to develop gene mutations to help them become resistant to over-the-counter lice treatments. However, they can’t mutate their genes enough to evade DE, which absorbs the fat and other liquids inside the lice, killing them by drying them out from the inside out. Be careful not to let children you’re treating breathe in DE dust while you apply the head lice treatment. Use a surgical mask, or hang a T-shirt over your child’s face while powdering their hair to eliminate head lice.
Insects and pests don’t just attack us and our favorite pets. They can be a terror on our gardens as well. DE is actually one of the best organic garden pesticides available and can help rid your garden of aphids, earwigs, roaches, slugs, snails, mites, ants, and more with just a few applications a month. (You will want to re-apply DE after any heavy rain, as the water will wash away the silica and render it ineffective.) Simply sprinkle DE powder in the affected areas of your garden, and rest easy knowing that garden pests don’t stand a chance. Even better peace of mind comes from knowing that DE won’t harm your garden’s worms or other beneficial microorganisms that it comes into contact with.
Diatomaceous earth (DE) in the Bathroom
Make your own homemade toothpaste with this recipe, which utilizes DE and other household items that you may already have lying around the house. Why make your own natural toothpaste instead of using your normal store-bought brand? Well, there is no fluoride in this recipe, and its creator boasts of its ability to help remineralize your teeth. Tooth remineralization is an all-natural process that dentists used to think was an impossible feat. However, with the right diet and all-natural toothpastes, remineralization is a exciting new phenomenon that has been shown to help you regrow and strengthen tooth enamel naturally. The homemade toothpaste creator also claims that the toothpaste has made her teeth invulnerable to cold.
While you’re mixing up your all-natural toothpaste, you may also want to take the time to make your own deodorant. Over-the-counter deodorants are often filled with chemicals, pesticides, and hormone disruptors that many believe can be harmful. Some consumers feel more comfortable with all-natural alternatives. Most DIY homemade deodorant recipes call for baking soda, which can be irritating to many people’s armpits. If you are one of those sensitive-pitted do-it-yourselfers, DE is a fantastic alternative to baking soda. Simply find a natural deodorant recipe that you like, and substitute DE for baking soda for an irritant-free alternative.
Start small, with a teaspoon added to juice or a smoothie in the morning, and work your way up to a tablespoon per day. Also note that DE can dehydrate you a little, so make sure to increase your intake of fluids as you increase your intake of DE.
Diatomaceous earth (DE) as a Supplement
DE can be taken as a supplement to help your body function properly in many different ways. One of the ways that DE can help you is by regulating your digestive system. One tablespoon of DE taken orally each day can help produce more regular bowel movements. In addition, the increased collagen in your system will also aid your body in absorbing needed nutrients and in cleansing your system of excess waste.
DE, when taken orally, has also been shown to help lower cholesterol levels, thereby lowering your risk of heart disease. The study linked above connected DE taken as a supplement to positive results in lipid metabolism and reducing blood cholesterol levels.
Considering that DE can tear apart mites, insects, and pests, the last way most would think to use it is orally. However, one tablespoon of food grade DE taken daily can be a wonderful supplement for your hair, skin, and nails. This beneficial effect is because silica increases collagen production, which helps build strong bones, healthy hair, and clear skin. Everyone should consider taking one tablespoon of DE per day. It does a body good.
Research has shown that DE can assist in removing heavy metals from water. According to Vitale Therapeutics, DE can also function in assisting the removal of heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, as well as other toxins, from the body. If you are taking prescription medications, you will want to consult with a physician before adding DE to your regimen, as it is also known to absorb some drugs in the process of helping your body cleanse.
DE as a Skin Treatment
Not only can silica be good for the skin, it has been reported as a home remedy to clear up many common skin conditions, such as eczema, allergic rashes, acne, and even minor cuts and scrapes. Make a silica mask by mixing the powder with water until it forms a spreadable paste. Allow the mixture to dry thoroughly, and then rinse with water. You can also make a facial scrub using DE by mixing two tablespoons of DE with half of a tablespoon of coconut oil. Massage the mixture deep into the pores on your face or other affected areas before rinsing away.
Diatomaceous earth (DE) as a Natural Cleaner and Deodorizer
Many people use baking soda as a carpet deodorizer, but it’s not as commonly known that adding DE to the baking soda makes a great mix for keeping your carpets smelling fresh and new. Try out this recipe for a carpet deodorizer that not only rids your carpets of unwanted smells but also protects your home against bed bugs, fleas, and other home invaders that can hide in the carpets. You can also add in a few drops of your favorite essential oils to make the mixture help your carpets to smell more pleasant.
Carpets are not the only thing that DE can freshen up. Just like when using baking soda, you can leave a container of DE in your fridge to neutralize unwanted food odors. Sprinkle some DE into your cat’s litter box to help get more mileage out of your cat litter (as long as it’s not a covered litter box, as breathing in DE dust regularly can be harmful to your pet’s health). Not only will DE help to regulate the pungent litter box smells, but it will also assist the cat litter in absorbing more liquid, as DE is known to absorb twice its weight in liquids.
Having trouble removing tough grime and greasy stains from your dishware? Try a bit of DE as a scouring agent to help your dish soap cut through the madness. Just a few drops of dish soap, a sprinkle of DE, and a little bit of elbow grease should have any dish looking shiny and clean in no time.
As you can see, there’s almost no end to the ways diatomaceous earth can be used in the garden and elsewhere around your home. We recommend picking up some food grade DE on your next trip to the garden center or hardware store so you can use it in any of these applications.
Want to learn more about using Diatomaceous Earth (DE)?
See these resources:
Animal Wellness covers Using Diatomaceous Earth to Control Fleas
Gardening Know How covers Uses For Diatomaceous Earth – Diatomaceous Earth For Insect Control
Global Healing Center covers 5 Benefits of Diatomaceous Earth
Livestrong covers Diatomaceous Earth Nutrition
Natural Living Ideas covers 17 Diatomaceous Earth Uses For Health, Beauty & In The Home
PubMed: Diatomaceous earth lowers blood cholesterol concentrations
Morning Chores covers 39 Diatomaceous Earth Uses
PubMed covers Turning the volume down on heavy metals using tuned diatomite. A review of diatomite and modified diatomite for the extraction of heavy metals from water
National Pesticide Information Center: Diatomaceous Earth General Fact Sheet
Wellness Mama covers Remineralizing Toothpaste
Written by Matt Gibson
Matt Gibson is the Sales Director and Project Manager for Russell Gibson Content. He is also a freelance writer, poet, lyricist, rapper and composer. His gardening expertise is centered around herbs, cacti, succulents, and carnivorous plants.