Diatomaceous Earth – Uses, Side Effects, Interactions

Diatomaceous earth, anyone? You probably were searching for remedies to the roach infestation in your home or a solution to fleas that have become a nuisance to your pet and stumbled on Diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth

And now you are wondering what this Diatomaceous earth is. This article is going to lay down all the facts about Diatomaceous earth and its benefits.

Definition: Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring siliceous sedimentary rock made from fossilized tiny aquatic organisms. These tiny organisms are called diatoms, and they contain shells of single-cell hard-shelled algae-like water plants. Diatomaceous easily crumbles to form a white to an off white fine powder. 

Diatomaceous Earth – Uses, Side Effects, Interactions

This powder leaves a dusty effect on your hands.

  1. Other names: DE, diatomite. Read Also: Does Diatomaceous Earth Kill Bed Bugs?
  2. Size: The particle size of the diatomaceous earth ranges from 10 micrometers to 200 micrometers.
  3. Formation: Diatomaceous earth is formed by accumulating diatoms in the sediments of oceans, rivers, and lakes.
  4. Composition: The major component in the diatomaceous earth is Silica. It takes 85%. Others are Sodium-5%, Magnesium-3%, Iron-2%.


Silica is among the most abundant elements on the earth. It accounts for 27.7% of the earth’s crust. It is the second most abundant element in the universe after oxygen.

Silicon is found in Silica. It does not exist in its pure form. Instead, it reacts with oxygen forming Silicon dioxide.

Silicon dioxide has two naturally occurring forms, namely crystalline silicon dioxide and amorphous silicon dioxide.

Chemical formula: SiO2.

1. Crystalline Silicon dioxide

It is mostly found in sand, quartz, and emerald, amongst others. Breathing crystalline silicon dioxide causes silicosis, lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and other respiratory problems.

Appearance:  crystalline Silicon dioxide is transparent to gray odorless powder.

It has an irritating effect on the skin and eyes once it is in contact with you.

2. Amorphous Silicon dioxide

Amorphous means without shape. The structure of amorphous silicon dioxide is loose and without shape.

Also called Silica gel is a powdery form of Silicon dioxide. It is highly adsorbent, i.e., it can remove material such as water, ammonia, and other gases from the air. Most Diatomaceous earth is made up of amorphous silicon dioxide.

Breathing amorphous does not cause any severe health issues in your respiratory tract.

Diatomaceous earth “Food grade”  vs. Filter grade diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth has two main forms, namely food grade diatomaceous earth and filter grade diatomaceous earth.

Food grade diatomaceous earth has been approved for human and pet consumption, while filter grade diatomaceous earth is used for water filtration and dynamite production.

Food grade diatomaceous earth is also used as a pesticide and an insecticide. When ingested by either you or your pets, it kills worms. Food grade diatomaceous earth gets rid of fleas, roaches, bugs, ants, and any other insects that may bug you.

The major difference between the two is the amount of crystalline silica content. Food grade diatomaceous earth contains less than 1% crystalline silica content. Filter grade diatomaceous earth has 60-70 % crystalline silica content.

The difference is caused by how the two forms of diatomaceous earth are treated. Pool grade is treated with very high temperatures (Calcined), which turns the silicon dioxide into crystalline silica.

The other difference is in the amount of heavy metal content. It must not contain more than 10mg/kg of arsenic for food grade diatomaceous grade and no more than 10mg/kg of lead.

Diatomaceous Earth Benefits

The following are some of the benefits of using diatomaceous earth.

  • Non-toxic

DE has no chemical composition in it. Using it is hence safe for you, your pet, and the environment.

  • Promotes stronger teeth, bones, ligaments, and joints.

Silica is a paramount element in the formation of strong teeth, bones, ligaments, and joints. The silica in food grade diatomaceous earth helps in strengthening teeth, bones, ligaments, and joints.

  • Detoxification and removal of heavy metals as well as strengthening your digestive system.

Food grade diatomaceous earth works like a natural detoxifier. It kills parasites, worms, dangerous micro-organisms, and viruses in the body. Food grade diatomaceous earth also cleanses the intestines and digestive tract.

Silica from the diatomaceous earth soaks several heavy metals and other toxins, eliminating them from the body cleaning the blood. 

  • Helps Clean and Protect Skin, Nails, and Teeth-DE has natural abrasive qualities and kills parasites and hence is used in many tubes of toothpaste, skin products.
  • Helps maintain low cholesterol levels in the body hence improving heart health
  • Using diatomaceous earth in your house results in a cleaner house free from bugs, insects, and viruses.
  • Aids in purifying water
  • Promotes better hair growth and skin health. Read Also: Diatomaceous Earth for Fleas on Cats.

Diatomaceous earth Uses

1. Garden pest killer

Diatomaceous earth is a suitable pesticide to kill unwanted pests in the garden. It is effective, pocket-friendly, and not toxic to the plants and you.

2. Stain Remover

Due to its abrasive qualities, diatomaceous earth acts on stains pretty well, removing them all.

  • Toothpaste and skin products.

Diatomaceous earth is used in the production of toothpaste and skincare products.

3. Health supplement

Diatomaceous earth contains vital elements that assist in bone, ligament, digestive tract improvement, and cleaning the blood. Those minerals also help in nail, skin, and hair development.

Feeding yourself and your pet with diatomaceous food (Food grade) could lead to those and many more health benefits.

4. Pest and insect control

If you look at diatomaceous earth under a microscope, you will realize it has sharp edges. Its action is purely mechanical. In controlling pests and insects, Diatomaceous earth cuts the protective outer shell (Exoskeleton for insects). This leads to dehydration, and subsequently, the pests/insects die.

5. Water Filtration

Filter grade Diatomaceous earth is used to filter water and other fluids to kill viruses and bacteria and remove heavy metal toxins.

  • Chicken feed and other animals

Feeding your chickens with Diatomaceous earth leads to the production of stronger eggs. This is attributed to calcium from the diatomaceous earth.

For other animals, Diatomaceous earth kills parasites and pests.

  • Composite Plie

Putting diatomaceous earth in your compost pile eliminates pests and odors. It does not affect worms that are useful for the compost.

  1. Deodorant to remove body odors

Diatomaceous earth has an ability to absorb odor and is hence used in making deodorants.

Products that contain diatomaceous earth?

Diatomaceous earth is contained mostly in dust/wettable powders & pressurized liquids, skincare products, kinds of toothpaste, foods & beverages, medicines, rubbers, and Paints & water filters.

  1. Pest Control
  2. Diatomaceous Earth Ants

Among the organic methods to control ants is the use of diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous Earth is as effective as the other chemical remedies. Its advantage is that it is not toxic and safe even for any children playing around your home.

There are two ways of getting rid of ants using Diatomaceous Earth. The dry and wet method.


  1. Pest grade Diatomaceous Earth
  2. The applicator of your own choice

Dry application method

  • Step 1- Identify areas where you have seen ants crawling and spot any places that might be the ants’ entry points; if the ants are moving across a large flat area, use the wet application. If the ants are moving along edges, cracks, baseboards, and window sills, use the dry application method. 
  • Step 2- Use a duster to apply Diatomaceous Earth to the edges, behind baseboards, and other places you will find hard to reach. Use a flour sifter to apply to larger problem areas, and remember to apply to the windows and doors where you have spotted ants.
  • Step 3- Once you apply Diatomaceous Earth to the affected parts, ants will want to find alternative routes and paths to watch out for them. Apply Diatomaceous Earth to the new paths. Clean off the areas you applied Diatomaceous Earth after a month as you pay more focus on entry spots for the ants to prevent future entry.

Wet application method

  • Step 1-Identify the areas where you might have seen ants crawling and spot the entry points where the ants are passing through as they enter your house. In this method, wet applications, the ants are moving across large flat areas.
  • Step 2- Fill a spray bottle with the Diatomaceous Earth mixture to target larger areas such as walls where you spotted ants. This method works when the water evaporates.
  • Step 3- Take note of alternative routes taken by the ants after spraying and spray again. Clean off the applied surfaces after some time as focusing more on entry spots for the ants to prevent future entry.

1. Diatomaceous Earth Roaches

Roaches are a nuisance in the home. From the smell they cause to the scares to the infections they can cause, these insects are a real menace. Of the organic methods available, Diatomaceous Earth is actually the most effective method.  Better still, it’s a natural method hence no toxicity ensuring safety for you and your family.

The following are the steps to be followed when using Diatomaceous Earth to eliminate roaches in your home.

  • Step 1- Clean Ensure your house is clean. Vacuum all places; food remains should be disposed of, behind furniture. Cleanliness is itself enough remedy for roaches.
  • Step 2- Ensure that all areas are for the application of Diatomaceous Earth are dry. Diatomaceous Earth is more effective when dry, and the surface is dry. Seal any cracks that may leak any water or moisture.
  • Step 3- Apply Diatomaceous Earth to any places you have spotted roaches. Apply using an applicator of your choice. Apply where roaches hide, sleep, and where food is dropped the most.
  • Step 4-Apply Diatomaceous Earth around your house, paying more attention to cracks or entrances along with doors and window sills.
  • Step 5- Leave the Diatomaceous Earth as long as the infestation continues. In any case, the Diatomaceous Earth gets washed away, apply it again. Once the roaches are completely eradicated, please clean up the Diatomaceous Earth or leave it as a prevention measure against future infestations.

After 2-3 weeks, the roach infestation should be over.

In fact, studies have revealed that diatomaceous earth is key to the development of strong bones in wildlife.

In the case of plants, diatomaceous earth has no negative effect on them. It is used as a garden pest killer to kill unwanted pests. It is also used as a soil additive, and it helps plants retain water and nutrients.

Diatomaceous earth also helps preserve foods, mostly grains, due to its ability to absorb moisture.

Are children more sensitive to diatomaceous earth than adults?

Children are more vulnerable and sensitive when it comes to pesticides compared to adults. When it comes to diatomaceous earth, kids are more sensitive compared to adults. Once they inhale Diatomaceous earth, kids react by shaving irritations.

Diatomaceous Earth on Cancer

As earlier discussed, exposure to crystalline silicon dioxide causes an increase in the number of lung cases. In a study of workers exposed to crystalline silicon dioxide, there were increased cases of lung cancer.

In another study, some mice were left to breathe diatomaceous earth rich in crystalline silicon dioxide for one hour each day for a whole year. The results showed an increase in lung cancers among mice.

However, amorphous silicon dioxide was not associated with any cases of lung cancer.

Eating Diatomaceous earth

Among the various diatomaceous earth grades, only food grade diatomaceous earth is suitable for consumption by man and pets. This is because it has less than 1 % crystalline silica.

Always check with your doctor or veterinarian for the recommended amounts you should take. Ensure you are eating food grade diatomaceous earth and not any other type as they are dangerous for consumption.

Breathing Diatomaceous earth

When inhaled, diatomaceous earth irritates the nose, nasal passages, and lungs. In case you inhale a large amount of DE, you may experience coughs and breathe shortness. Amorphous Diatomaceous Earth is, however, rapidly eliminated from the lungs.

Crystalline Diatomaceous Earth has smaller particles and may accumulate in lung tissue and lymph nodes. Inhaling crystalline silica can cause inflammation and scarring of your lungs, known as silicosis, chronic bronchitis, and other respiratory problems.


Diatomaceous earth has many benefits and uses across the house and industries and is hence recommended.

If you have respiratory problems, you are advised to wear protective gear. You should find diatomaceous earth at any store near you.

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