When we think of getting rid of bed bugs, we commonly start to imagine a rigorous regime of pesticides and similar toxic, chemical solutions which often fail to meet the mark (or make the problem worse).
What we should be thinking of, however, is Diatomaceous Earth (DE) – a fantastic and all natural solution for treating bed bug infestations.
The compound is essentially a fine, chalky powder which is made up of the fossilized remains of long-dead single cell organisms (called diatoms).
Diatomaceous Earth works in a novel and fairly simple manner: the individual, tiny crystals that make up the powder have very sharp edges. This sharpness helps to attach the powder to the bed bugs’ outer shells, causing the little beasts to dry out and eventually die of dehydration (basically, it sucks them dry by absorbing their natural liquids).
And it makes a very natural bed bug killer for a number of reasons…
Diatomaceous Earth for Bed Bugs: The Pros
You might be wondering just how good this compound can be, if you’ve never heard of it before. Well, take a look at some of the perks of using Diatomaceous Earth for bed bugs!
It’s completely natural
The biggest thing that Diatomaceous Earth has going for is its natural makeup; unlike many other pest control measures, this compound is completely non-toxic (devoid of any man-made adulterations or harmful chemical additives) and perfectly safe to handle – which should be of utmost importance when you’re applying substances to your sleeping area.
DE is also safe for mammals to ingest (food-grade only, not pool-grade) so you don’t have to worry about getting it near your pets – people even eat this stuff to detox!
Due to the compound’s simple method of dealing with the infestation; it is completely non-invasive, meaning you don’t have to completely evacuate or annex off an area after spreading the Earth around. You can generally use the powder without running the risk of irritation or adverse symptoms that may arise from other chemical heavy pesticides; although it’s still worth taking precautions whilst applying it – more on that later.
It works as act a deterrent and physical barrier
Because the compound works in a purely physical manner, it can actually prevent the return or even the arrival of any bed bug infestations. Think of it like road blocks into your home or a moat around your bed; by sprinkling the earth around, you’re allowing the crystals to take hold and put up a barrier against the beasties.
This basically means you can keep whole swathes of real estate completely free of bugs.
It never loses efficiency
The reason that you can use the Earth in such a way (setting up barriers against bed bugs) is because the compound never loses its potency. Unlike chemical based treatments, such as pesticides, the bed bug cannot develop a tolerance or immunity to Diatomaceous Earth over time; it’ll always work just as well as the first time!
And it’s not just that bed bugs can’t build up resistance to it, DE is pretty much forever – which means that once you apply it, it works for all time.
It does a thorough job
It’s often easy to overlook natural remedies or all-natural products in favor of something manmade and chemical heavy because it seems like it’ll be more effective (this can often come at a price, however, with human allergies and reactions to ingredients).
However, once the Diatomaceous Earth latches onto its target, it immediately begins to absorb its bodily fluids and it won’t let up until the job is done. Whereas some less effective pesticides might just chase the bugs away, only to return later, i.e. foggers.
There are many ways to kill bed bugs. A professional bed bug exterminator will cost around $500 to $1,500. A bed bug heater is also pricey and can run into the thousands. A heat steamer is a little better but will still cost you a few hundred.
Diatomaceous Earth, on the other hand, is extremely affordable and you get heaps of the stuff so it’ll last you a good while as well.
Diatomaceous Earth for Bed Bugs: The Cons
Everything comes with a caveat, though; even incredibly effective natural treatments like Diatomaceous Earth…
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to note that the compound is on the slower side; remember it’s basically turning the bed bug’s own body against it so it’s a gradual sapping of energy rather than an instant kill.
Plus, in order for DE to work – the bed bugs must make contact with it. And since not all bed bugs will make contact with the dust in within the first few days, this is not a quick solution. It’s only when the dust gets on their bodies that DE can work its lethal magic. Once it makes contact with the bed bug, it’ll be dead in about 24 to 48 hours.
Even after the adult bed bugs are dead, there are still eggs lingering around as well – these typically take around 6 to 10 days to hatch and come looking for blood so they’ll also have to make contact with the DE. This can take awhile – expect it to take around a month to get the bed bug problem under control, especially if you have a severe infestation on your hands.
Here’s what to expect:
- Day 1. You apply the DE and the bed bugs seem totally unfazed. They continue to bite you but you know that their time is coming.
- Days 2 to 7. The bed bugs that have crawled over the dust to bite you yesterday are either dead or dying. But you know all about these bed bugs and that they typically only need to feed around once a week – so you lie in wait for the rest to get hungry.
- Days 8 to 14. Most of the bed bugs living in your home have crawled out from their hiding places to feed on you and have unwittingly made contact with the DE you laid out for them. The majority of the adult bed bugs are dead and thus, no longer reproducing. You’re getting less and less bites and sleeping a little better at night.
- Days 15 to 22. Many of the eggs that recently hatched and came looking for a blood meal are dead. You’re sleeping through the night and waking up with very few bites. You feel your sanity returning.
- Days 23 to 30. Pretty much all the bed bugs living in your home are dead. But there may be a few survivors who avoided touching the DE and if your neighbors are infested, new bed bugs can make their way into your home so keep the dust around for another few weeks to ward off another infestation. As long as the powder is there, it will continue to kill bugs any bed bugs that dare tread on its surface.
It works best as part of a team
For all of its usefulness, Diatomaceous Earth does benefit from teaming up with other bug ridding methods; namely bed bug heat treatment since DE can be heated without losing efficacy. Think of how quickly you dehydrate in a warmer climate… it’s the same principle, only instead of a dip in the pool or a bed bug-sized cocktail to take the edge off; the creepy crawly only has more of the compound to look forward to.
You could almost feel sorry for it. Almost.
Used together, heat and DE make a great bed bug killing dream team. Heat treatments like a steam cleaner is great for killing bed bugs on contact (and their little eggs, too) so it allows you to put a significant dent on bed bug populations instantaneously. However, the steam can only penetrate about a inch into fabric surfaces and this is where DE comes into play, killing the ones that were hidden deeper when they eventually come out to feed.
It can be harmful
Even for something naturally-occurring, caution must be exercised. The Earth can be dangerous and harmful if it’s breathed in during application – anything getting into your lungs can be bad news, let alone a cloud of dehydrating crystals. To be safe, wear a respirator mask when applying to avoid breathing in the dust.
Similar care must be taken for your eyes, too; make sure none of the compound makes its way into your vision. Wear goggles and gloves if necessary.
Bed bugs can become savvy to it
Although they won’t build up immunity to Diatomaceous Earth, bed bugs will avoid if you spread it out in thick, obvious clumps rather than a light even spread (leaving nowhere to run to).
Try to leave no section of your target area uncovered or, counter to that, make sure no area is covered with too much of the powder.
How to Use Diatomaceous Earth to Kill Bed Bugs
Ready to plan a Diatomaceous Earth bed bug massacre? Here’s how to best use this powder to annihilate these bloodsuckers!
When using the powder, you first want to get the environment sorted. This means:
- Wash all of your bedding, pillows, fabrics etc. in hot water and then dry them on the highest setting that your dryer allows (ideally, you also want to steam clean your mattress if you can).
- Pull the bed out from the walls, to create a standalone island, giving you full access to all angles.
- Once you’ve done this; put on some protective eyewear and a mask for your mouth to avoid any potentially risky contact with the compound.
Then, it’s time to get to work. Our goal is to use the DE to both kill bed bugs while preventing more bed bugs from moving in. Here’s how to do that:
Seal off your home
Fill DE into any cracks, or seams like those between the wall and the floor and baseboards so bed bugs cannot enter your home from neighboring apartments without first crawling through the DE. Use a bulb duster so you can inject the bed bug dust deep within the cracks and crevices.
Also dust the entryways (doors) of every room – and the main entrances into your home.
Line the entire length of your walls with the DE as well, forming a border around each room – this will act as a physical barrier to bed bugs crawling through the walls from neighboring apartments since they will avoid crawling through it.
Treat electrical face plates too by removing the covers of electrical sockets and pouring DE into each outlet.
Secure your sleeping space
The absolute favorite spot for all the bed bugs in your home is where you sleep and rest – they will come looking for you in bed, if they’re not living in it already.
So first get rid of the bed bugs living in your bed and then create a safe space by dusting a circle of DE around your bed. Since bed bugs have to crawl – they can’t fly or jump, thank heavens – a barrier of DE around your bed ensures every hungry bed bug that comes looking to feed will die in a few days.
Bed bug proof every spot
The last step is to make sure the DE gets into every place that bed bugs like to hide. Think like a bed bug and make sure the DE goes anywhere the bed bugs go.
Liberally, but evenly, apply Diatomaceous Earth around and underneath your furniture and other free standing items, as well as interior spaces like the internal wood frame of sodas, beds and chairs.
Sprinkle the DE on your carpets, making sure you rub it in with a broom as as you want to make sure it gets deep into the fibers rather than just resting on top.
Hunt down every gap, hole, crack and crevice in your home and dust it with DE – leave no area untreated.
More tips on using Diatomaceous Earth
- Make sure you are applying it in locations that won’t be affected by air flow that can blow away the DE. A ceiling fan is probably fine, but try to avoid strong airflow until the DE has done its job. Also, apply around areas that don’t receive constant foot traffic or other disturbances, as this can displace the crystals.
- On the question of whether you should vacuum and reapply – you don’t have to since the DE remains effective for years. But regular vacuuming does allow you to suck up dead and dying bed bugs as well as their eggs so feel free to vacuum if you want to. Just make sure that you first leave the DE alone for around a week before vacuuming and reapplying.
And there you have it – a simple, yet effective natural treatment for those horrible bed bugs! Now go conduct your Diatomaceous Earth bed bug massacre!