Diatomaceous earth has a lot of uses, both industrial and domestic. It is incredibly versatile, making it an essential product to have at hand.
If you’re experienced in homesteading, you will have probably come across diatomaceous earth in some capacity, but you may not know about the full range of its capability.
Or maybe you’re new to it all and want to discover the best investments to make for your home. In this article, we discuss some of the top ways to apply diatomaceous earth to aid a self-sufficient lifestyle.
What Is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth is a powdery substance made up of fossilized diatoms (a type of algae). It is found in the sedimentary deposits of rivers and lakes and contains a high percentage of silica.
Use of diatomaceous earth as a building material dates back to ancient Greece, where they would form bricks out of it. Today, it is popular all over the world for various reasons, since people have discovered its agricultural and health benefits.
What Can I Use Diatomaceous Earth For?
As stated above, there are many reasons why you may need diatomaceous earth, and there are two general types that have different uses. These are industrial grade and food grade.
For homesteading, you will need the food grade powder, which is mainly used for eliminating pests such as cockroaches, fleas and spiders. Food grade diatomaceous earth is purified for culinary purposes to make it safe for human consumption.
Diatomaceous earth is used in industry to purify drinking water, produce insulation or mop up spills. It is also used in paints, healthcare products and certain foods and drinks.
Is Diatomaceous Earth Dangerous?
Diatomaceous earth will not harm other wildlife, and the components of diatomaceous earth are integral to the health of many plants and animals. This provides peace of mind for homesteaders, who care about the safety of wildlife.
It is not poisonous to humans either, but can cause issues if they are exposed to it. This can be through contact with skin or eyes, breathing it in, or ingesting it. Effects of diatomaceous earth exposure include shortness of breath, coughing, and irritation to skin, nasal passages and eyes.
Make sure you read the label to reduce the risk of exposure, but don’t worry too much as it won’t cause long-term damage. Research has shown that amorphous silicon dioxide, which constitutes the majority of diatomaceous earth, is not carcinogenic to humans.
Even so, you should only use the food grade variety around children and pets, as industrial grade is not safe for them.
How Does Diatomaceous Earth Work?
Diatomaceous earth has a strong negative charge. This means that its ions attract positively charged ions in harmful things such as viruses, bacteria and parasites.
Therefore, if you ingest the food grade variety, diatomaceous earth absorbs these and flushes them out of your body. Its particles are also very hard and sharp, enabling them to destroy the dangerous organisms and expel them from your body.
When used as a pesticide, diatomaceous earth doesn’t poison the insects it targets, and instead works by absorbing oils from their exoskeleton so they dry out.
How To Apply
Diatomaceous Earth For Pest Control
Do you enjoy growing your own food, but worry about pests wreaking havoc on your plants? Read on to learn how to keep insects, slugs and worms away from your precious homesteading projects.
- Sprinkle diatomaceous earth powder straight onto the ground, targeting areas that are particularly vulnerable or where you have noticed insects congregating.
- Examine leaves for any eggs – don’t forget to check the undersides! If you find any, carefully remove them and apply diatomaceous earth over the tops of the plants.
- Apply again after rainfall or when it is significantly dewy outside, as diatomaceous earth needs to be dry to be fully effective against pests.
- Continue to reapply and check leaves until crops are ready to harvest.
- Diatomaceous earth for this usage usually comes in a powder bottle, but if you buy bagged powder, you can always transfer it to an empty container of your choice for easier application.
- If you have a compost heap, you can add diatomaceous earth to keep pests out and limit foul odors.
- Diatomaceous earth eliminates the need for pesticides that contain harmful chemicals, so it won’t have a negative impact on the environment.
Diatomaceous Earth For Fleas In The Home
If you’ve had fleas in your home, you will know how annoying and persistent they can be.
Diatomaceous earth is an option you may not have thought of yet. Use the purest form you can find – ideally at least 99% diatomaceous earth content – to ensure your animals’ safety.
- Scatter the powder generously over any carpets or other fabric surfaces, such as curtains, in rooms where you have spotted fleas. You should do this even if you’ve only seen a single flea.
- Leave it to sit for at least 12 hours, then use a vacuum to clean it up..
- Repeat the process once a week for a month for best results, especially if it is a recurring problem. This way you are likely to target new hatches and eliminate all the fleas.
- You can also apply it directly to your pets’ coats and in litter trays for more protection against fleas and lice.
- If your pets are prone to worms as well, try adding a little diatomaceous earth to their food every day.
Diatomaceous Earth For Body Health
Diatomaceous earth has a range of health benefits, from aiding digestion to lowering cholesterol. It also keeps your bones, skin and nails in top form. For these purposes, you must use only food grade diatomaceous earth, which can be purchased both in local health food shops and online.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of diatomaceous earth with 8 oz water and drink on an empty stomach (it may taste slightly chalky, but is mostly tasteless!)
- This can be repeated daily up to 10 days, when you should take a week’s break before taking any more.
- You can gradually increase the amount of powder if you wish, but do not go over 2 tsp in one sitting.
- You may experience mild side-effects such as constipation or headaches as the parasites are cleansed from your body.
- To create a simple skin exfoliant, add half a teaspoon of diatomaceous earth into your favorite face or body wash.
- You can also clean your teeth with it! Mix 1 part diatomaceous earth with 9 parts toothpaste in a small container before brushing. The abrasive nature of the powder helps get rid of plaque and tartar, improving your dental hygiene.
As you can see, diatomaceous earth carries a whole range of potential advantages when used correctly, and it can improve your life in more ways than you could have imagined.
Just remember to handle it properly, taking care to minimize the amount you breathe in as it is still a fine powder. Follow these tips and you’re good to go!