Does Diatomaceous Earth Really Work Against Bed Bugs?

by Matt on February 14, 2010

Diatomaceous earth, made from one-celled fossilized organisms, is a very popular powder often used to treat bed bugs and can be found for sale at many online bed bug stores.  The question we get most often is if it’s safe and does it work.

Let’s first start by analyzing a bed bug, which breathes through spiracles in their abdomen.  Unlike humans, insects do not carry oxygen through their blood and rely on these spiracles and a process called diffusion to reach their cells directly with oxygen (this is a very basis explanation).  Bed Bugs are also made up of 60% water and can quickly dry out.

So, Diatomaceous Earth,  a.k.a DE, a.k.a Bed Bug Powder, works by clogging the spiracles in the bed bugs, drying the bed bug out and cutting open it’s abdomen all leading to death.  DE under a microscope looks like tiny razorblades and is deadly to most insects including bed bugs.  What’s also great about DE is bed bugs are not able to become resistant as its all natural without chemicals.

Diatomaceous Earth can absorb up to 10 times its weight and must remain dry to be effective against bed bugs.  One of the top mistakes we find people make is thinking the more they dump in their room, the better the results will bed.  DE should be applied solely in crack and crevices where contact with actual bed bugs might occur.  Placing powder all over your floor isn’t going to do much more than make you sneeze and cough.

We like to use a professional powder applicator to get into walls by removing the electrical plates (don’t powder into the electrical outlets and be sure the power is off).  If you have carpet a light dusting between the carpeting and base board is suggested.  If your using an insecticide with the powder be sure to use the spray first, allow to fully dry and then apply the powder as you don’t want to get the DE wet.


DE or Diatomaceous Earth is a safe product when used correctly.  People even sprinkle food grade DE on their food to eliminate stomach parasites so it’s relatively safe.  We actually offered a bottle to our neighbor the other day to sprinkle on food for her outdoor cats.  When applying DE a mask is highly recommended to prevent inhaling the fine powder.  As with any dust, dirt or powder, your better off not getting it into your lungs. Also, DE can be abrasive to the skin so it advised not to make contact with your skin.  As stated earlier in this post, less is more when applying DE.  Always read and adhere to the product labels usage and safety precautions.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristol September 23, 2012 at 10:38 pm

I am going to be placing DE in my home, and I dont have much to go on…. would it be ok if i lay it under my box spring and mattress and wait for the bugs to come out and go into it trying to get to me??? I know that they are attracted to my CO when im sleeping so i figure if i sleep with it down to draw them out then it will work….I plan on doing this for four days and then cleaning it up and placing it again in cracks and crevices….do you think this is a good idea? (also to protect us from skin contact, we are going to wear slippers all the time, and breathing masks…) Then we will clean all our clothing and seal it untill its all cleaned up…

sosbedbug December 7, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Hi Kristol,

Diatomaceous Earth, also known as Bed Bug Powder is a product that we only recommend placing in cracks and crevices. If the D.E is visible after doing the treatment, then it has been applied incorrectly. D.E can not come in contact with any types of fluids, nor sunlight, to where it will make it ineffective. Reason why it is only recommended to place D.E inside of electrical outlets and light switches by removing the face plates and pumping the powder inside of the walls. By doing this, it stops the bed bugs from traveling from room to room, or apartment to apartment. Bedlam Plus would be the one insecticide which we recommend spraying around the seems of your mattress and box spring and around your bed frame for residual effect which keeps killing for up to 2 weeks.

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