The Many Varied Uses Of DE (Diatomaceous Earth)

What Is Diatomaceous Earth?

If you are not familiar with DE, it stands for diatomaceous earth.  It is composed of the remains of microscopic aquatic organisms that formed layers that can be mined.  The safe, multi-purpose kind is a white powder (“amorphous silica”), labeled as “food grade.”  It contains minerals like iron and silica and for that reason, some people take it orally as a dietary supplement.  It is a common ingredient in toothpaste, baking mixes, soaps, cosmetics, and body powders.

There is another type often used in pool filters and other for agricultural reasons, but you should stick with only food grade so that you can know it’s safe to use for all applications.

How Does DE Work?

Viewed under a microscope, DE particles are spiky which makes it perfect for one of its best known uses-  insect control.  When insects, worms, and the like come into contact with it, the sharp surfaces scratch through the skin or exoskeleton of the creature and cause it to dry out and die.  It is not a chemical, so there are no harmful warnings that come with it.  In fact, being “food grade” means that it is edible.

What Is It Useful For?

Intestinal Worms

 Intestinal worms can be a bad problem for animals, especially during warm weather.  We have used DE to de-worm them with success.  For several springs, we struggled with keeping our goat kids from succumbing to anemia due to worms, but since I began feeding them DE, we haven’t lost a single one. Much to my surprise, the goats will lick up the loose powder off the bottom of the feed troughs, so getting them to eat it has never been a problem.  For livestock, the suggestion is 2 lbs of DE for every 100 lbs of feed.

Our outdoor cats often got very skinny and sickly looking in the summer too.  I suspected they had worms because I knew they had hearty appetites, but they seemed light for their sizes and weren’t thriving.   DE mixed into their food put an end to that also.  One-half teaspoon daily is the recommended dosage for cats and small dogs.

Worms have cycles like all creatures, so you have to feed it consistently for a while until you have wiped out all the hatching ones.  Most types of intestinal worms I’ve researched seem to have a 3 week life cycle, but they are much more plentiful in fair weather when they can survive outside their hosts longer.

For Humans

Some people regularly take food grade diatomaceous earth for its reported health benefits.  It is mostly silica and many believe its addition to their diet will reduce their cholesterol and blood pressure.

A few claim that DE is negatively charged so taking it internally will bind it to positively charged harmful bacteria, fungi, etc. and flush them out of your system.  I’m not sure how it would be selective and only take out the harmful ones, though.

If it is useful in animals, it is presumed effective for intestinal parasites in people.  I have no direct experience with any of this and advise that you do your own research and talk to your physician before making DE a part of your daily diet.

Around the House

Inside the house, it can be applied in the same way you would use any insecticide- around baseboards, behind the kitchen appliances, etc.  The plus is that it’s completely safe for children and pets since it is not a chemical.  Unlike poisons, it does not lose potency over time.  As long as it is there, it continues to work.  And insects cannot develop an immunity to it since it physically kills them by its very structure.


In the garden, you can apply it to plants right up to the day to harvest the produce.  It will work best if you apply it when the plants are damp so that the powder will adhere to them.  Be cautious though!  It will also kill beneficial insects like honeybees, so be discriminate when using it.

Parasite Control

I have never used it for fleas and ticks on our animals, but I read that it can be dusted on and rubbed into the fur to kill them also.  If you do this, be sure to sprinkle it on all bedding the animals use also.

Poultry often take “dust baths” to control their parasites.  The literally wallow around in loose dirt flinging it over their backs and under their wings.  I’ve heard different explanations about why this would help, but offering DE in a box in their coop would be a great way to control to control mites on their skin.  Chickens aren’t terribly neat when they do this, so they will work it around the coop which will help control other unwanted insects.

It is said to stop the breeding of flies on manure.  It’s presence in the manure or application on top should help.  I have read it is useful in the barn because it is absorbent and good at reducing odors.  Some people use it in the place of lime.

Food Storage

Another great use of food grade DE is in your food storage.  Since it is edible for you and deadly for insects, adding it to your grain, popcorn kernels, etc. before sealing them up will kill any lurking creatures.  There is no need to try and remove the DE before eating it since it is “good for you.”

One Caution  

Since DE is a very light powder, it is easily airborne.  Most people seem to have no problem with it, but if you are prone to asthma or other respiratory problems, consider using a mask when working with it.

Know any more uses for DE?  Please share them in the comments section.

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9 Comments on “The Many Varied Uses Of DE (Diatomaceous Earth)”

  1. Janae Says:

    Love DE. I originally bought it for my chickens and have ended up using it everywhere!


  2. AJ Says:

    definitely keep it out of your eyes!! got it in mine while dusting boxes before packing to move and it was awful. lodged in my eyelid, made a cyst, not fun!!


  3. Jones sabo and maybe even platinum eagle Says:

    I was looking for this certain information for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.


  4. Says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on comment maigrir.



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