If you share a home with a pet, then you may have run into a flea infestation at some point. Tackling fleas on your pet is one thing, but getting, and keeping, them out of your home can feel like an uphill battle, especially if you're averse to using chemical pesticides, or don't have much of a budget to spend on extermination.
If you're looking for a natural, low-cost, and safe alternative to traditional extermination methods, you could consider diatomaceous earth. This all-natural and super-effective powder is beloved by many for its flea-killing powers.
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What is diatomaceous earth?
Diatomaceous earth is commonly sold as a fine powder. This powder is made up of the fossilized remains of tiny aquatic creatures called diatoms, as the product's name suggests. The skeletons of these little creatures are super rich in silica, which is found in the earth's crust, as well as rivers, streams, oceans, and other bodies of water.
When you mix silica with water and oxygen, you'll get silicon dioxide, which is used as an anti-caking agent in a number of food products we eat every day. Diatomaceous earth was the first pesticide containing silicon dioxide to be registered as an insect treatment, and is still used by many people today as a low-cost, natural, and very safe solution for fleas, mites, and other bug infestations.
How does diatomaceous earth work against fleas?
So, how do fossils of tiny skeletons and a safe food additive kill fleas? Quite brutally! Diatomaceous earth kills insects by dehydrating them from the inside out. Despite its fine powdery finish, the sharp edges of each grain of the material are quite rough, absorbing all of the natural fat and oils found on a bug's exoskeleton. The types of bugs commonly treated by diatomaceous earth include ants, bedbugs, cockroaches, mites, and fleas.
If you're reading this article, you're likely researching using diatomaceous earth for dogs, or diatomaceous earth for cats, in which case you'll need to use food-grade diatomaceous earth for safety reasons.
Food-grade diatomaceous earth
If you have a pet, small children, or anything in the home that could accidentally ingest this powder, then it's important to use food-grade diatomaceous earth for flea control. The silicon dioxide that's used as an active ingredient in insect extermination comes in two forms—amorphous, and crystalline.
Food-grade diatomaceous earth contains mostly amorphous silicon dioxide, which is safe for humans and animals to consume and is found in many food products. Crystalline silicon dioxide, however, is toxic to mammals and is mostly used for filtering water and in the production of dynamite. Because diatomaceous earth that's not considered food-grade is toxic to pets and humans, you won't want to sprinkle this around your home, and doing so could result in fatal harm.
How to use diatomaceous earth for flea control
Diatomaceous earth should be sprinkled in light, even amounts around the home, on your pets, and on their bedding. This will work to kill adult fleas, along with flea eggs and larvae.
To use diatomaceous earth to get your flea infestation under control quickly and effectively, follow these simple steps:
- Start by acquiring food-grade diatomaceous earth. You must use the food-grade variety of this product when treating fleas on cats, dogs, or other mammals in order to prevent injury, and possibly death.
- Now that you have your food-grade diatomaceous earth on hand, vacuum your home and your pet's bed or kennel area, as well as areas that your pet walks on, rests on, or hangs out in frequently. Wash any pet bedding in hot water if possible, and dry it on high heat.
- Sprinkle a dusting of diatomaceous earth around your home, focusing on areas where your pet hangs out. Add a dusting of the product near your floorboards as well.
- Let the product sit for a long time, ideally, a couple of weeks.
- Vacuum up the diatomaceous earth and dead fleas, and be sure to empty the vacuum bag or canister outside of the home in case any fleas or flea eggs survived.
- Check your pet for fleas with a flea comb or other preferred method. If you still see fleas on them, repeat the process.
Benefits of diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth has a number of benefits as a flea control product. It is:
Safe for humans and pets: Food-grade diatomaceous earth has been tested extensively to see whether it can contribute to cancer, skin irritation, and other health issues, and even over prolonged periods of time, no evidence was found linking this item to any health issues.
Non-toxic: Again, as long as you're using the food-grade variety (which is essential,) you won't be bringing a toxic item into your home.
Non-irritating: Children are typically extra-sensitive to chemicals, including those found in common pesticides, however, research has shown no sensitivity to food-grade diatomaceous earth in children or adults.
Natural: Silicon, which is what diatomaceous earth is mostly made of, is a naturally occurring material that's widely abundant all over the world, so this product has no negative effect on the environment, or the wild animals that live in it.
Affordable: This item is one of the most affordable pest control solutions available, and as long as you keep the material dry, it never goes bad.
Safety precautions of using diatomaceous earth to kill fleas
While diatomaceous earth is well-known for being a natural flea control method and a safe alternative to many pesticides, you should always take precautions when administering any insecticide near your pets.
- Always use food-grade diatomaceous earth to treat a flea infestation. This includes the outside of the home as well as indoors, as ingestion of this material can be fatal.
- Keep diatomaceous earth on surfaces rather than on your pet's fur or skin. Some people like to use this product as a dry bath, and while that can be effective and safe in some cases, it has been known to irritate the eyes, nose, and respiratory function of some people and animals. It's best to use diatomaceous earth around the home, and traditional flea treatments on your pet.
- Vacuum your entire home before and after treating it with diatomaceous earth. Leaving the product on your floors can leave fleas, flea larvae, and flea eggs behind, which can start the infestation life cycle all over again.
Diatomaceous earth is an excellent way to eliminate flea populations from your home because it's safe, effective, low-cost, and has no negative effect on the environment. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is an absolute must when using this product to control fleas because the alternative variety can be fatal to animals and humans. Like any insecticide, a good habit of hygiene, regular cleaning around the home, and other preventative measures like flea treatment products will produce the best results, so be sure to keep your pets and their bedding washed, your floors and fabric furniture vacuumed, and your vacuum emptied on a regular basis.