Can You Use Diatomaceous Earth for Bed Bugs? Is Bed Bug Powder Safe?

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Pest Control | January 18, 2024

Man using diatomaceous earth for bed bugs after learning how to use Diatomaceous earth as bed bug powder to remove bed bugs and other pests, bed bug carpet powder.

If you are looking for natural solutions to one of the most notoriously challenging insect infestations to treat, diatomaceous earth for bed bugs is one of your best bets.

It is safe and inexpensive, especially when you purchase the food grade quality of this white powder.

But you should keep in mind that most natural treatments for bed bugs are best used as part of a multi-pronged eradication plan rather than the sole method to get rid of these most unwelcome house guests.

This guide outlines how you can use diatomaceous earth for Bed Bugs and other pests with exoskeletons.

What Is Diatomaceous Earth?

Diatomaceous earth (DE) comes from the ground-up fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of single-celled sea creature made primarily of silicon dioxide.

Its minuscule particles are what give DE its fine, powdery texture.

Types of Diatomaceous Earth graphic showing the two types based on diatomaceous earth uses.

But if you were to look at the substance under a microscope, you would see it consists of tiny hollow cylinders with sharp, jagged, uneven edges.

So while it looks smooth and powdery, it is very abrasive.

How Does Diatomaceous Earth Treat Bed Bugs?

DE is a desiccant, or drying agent, and essentially kills bed bugs by dehydrating them. Bed bugs have a waxy outer coating that keeps moisture and nutrients in the body.

The jagged edges of this substance slice away at this coating, leaving the bug vulnerable to the elements and eventually death by dehydration.

With the help of a tiny house bugs pictures and names guide, you’ll learn that DE will not only help with controlling bed bugs but also eradicating other house bugs.

Diatomaceous Earth for Bed Bugs Safety Information

DE is a generally safe substance, but even natural substances require caution. It may cause skin irritation and respiratory issues in sensitive individuals.

However, the amount of diatomaceous earth for bed bugs you would be using for treatment probably does not pose any serious risk to your lungs.

2 Types of Diatomaceous Earth for Bed Bugs

There are two types of DE, and both treat bed bugs.

1. Food grade (bed bug powder)

Generally speaking, most experts recommend only using food-grade diatomaceous earth for bed bugs and other insect infestations in the home.

To be labeled ‘food grade’, the DE cannot have more than 1 percent crystalline silica and cannot come from mines that contain poisonous elements such as arsenic.

2. Garden/Pool/Insect Grade

You may see this sort of DE labeled in a few different ways, and generally, it is not recommended to use it in your home. It is not held to the same standards as ‘food grade’ DE and may contain toxic chemicals.

If there are pets or young children in the house, this is not a good choice.

Diatomaceous Earth Uses: Does Diatomaceous Earth Kill Bed Bugs?

So, how long does diatomaceous earth take to kill bed bugs? Using diatomaceous earth for bed bugs will require patience. It is not a fast-acting treatment, and it may take several weeks before you see results.

Like it was mentioned previously, treatments or pest control such as this should not be used alone but in conjunction with other methods, like thoroughly washing infested items.

DE cannot kill bed bugs until it comes into direct contact with them, and it can take a few weeks before a significant number are exposed. Bed bugs can go a long time without feeding—at least 5 to 10 days or longer—so they aren’t out and about daily.1

The desiccation process can take up to a few days, and younger bed bugs may be able to shed their damaged exoskeleton and grow a new one before they suffer too much moisture loss, leaving them as good as new. Because of all these factors, it can be hard to tell if the treatment is truly working or not.

It is important to note that DE will not kill bed bug eggs. The eggs typically hatch anywhere from 6 to 9 days after being laid, so leave the DE out for at least this long.

How To Use Diatomaceous Earth for Bed Bugs

Can I put diatomaceous earth on my bed? Here are some things you need to do and keep in mind when using DE to treat your space.

Step 1: Prepare

The first step is the basic preparation of the areas you will be treating. Wash all bedding in hot water and put any clothes and bedding you are not using in well-sealed plastic bags.

Clear away any clutter—this is a favorite hiding spot for bed bugs. Move all furniture away from the walls, and ensure no part of your bed or sheets is touching the floor.

If you are using any liquid treatments for the infestation in addition to diatomaceous earth for bed bugs, do not apply them until the area is dried completely.

Step 2: Clean

Vacuum the bed and the surrounding area thoroughly. Pay close attention to crevices in the bed frame’s seams, baseboard, and corners.

Step 3: Sprinkle

Using gloves and a mask, sprinkle the DE in any areas where the bed bugs are hiding and the paths they are using to get to your bed. Use a brush or duster to spread it evenly on any applied surfaces.

Put a nice, thick ring around your bed so the bugs are forced to crawl through it to get to you. You should only use a squeeze bottle to apply it to crevices and cracks where you can’t use a brush.

A dead bed bug on its back with traces of white bed bug powder, killed by using diatomaceous earth for bed bugs.

(Image: Cicero73)

If you apply DE to your floor, vacuum it up and reapply every 7 days.

Some areas where you probably want to put bed bug carpet powder include:

  • All along your mattress, including the sides and underneath
  • The legs of your bed
  • Box springs
  • The floor around the bed
  • Where the carpet and walls meet
  • Nearby furniture
  • Inside gaps in the walls and baseboards
  • Door frames and window sills
  • The perimeter of every room being treated
  • Inside drawers

What Chemical Kills Bed Bugs and Their Eggs? Other Methods To Treat Bed Bugs

If you prefer trying to learn how to get rid of bed bugs on your own, here are a few other strategies to use in conjunction with DE to treat and prevent infestations:2

  • DIY forms of heat treatment are always a good go-to method for treating bed bug infestations
    • Washing infected items in hot water is one of the easiest. If you use public facilities for your laundry, bring your items in a plastic bag, transfer clothes from the dryer directly into a new bag, and fold the clothes at home.
    • Putting items in a plastic bag and leaving them in a hot car is another option.
    • Use a steamer in areas where bed bugs hide, such as crevices in your mattress and other furniture. It must be capable of reaching at least 130 degrees to be effective.
      Be sure it doesn’t have a forceful airflow, or it will just cause the bugs to scatter.
  • Use encasements for your mattress and box spring: This will kill any bugs that may be hiding in them and prevent new ones from making a home there
  • Get rid of clutter: It is one of their favorite spots to set up camp
  • Scented dryer sheets placed under the mattress, in drawers, and other hiding spots may repel the bugs
  • Vacuum regularly: Not only is this a very simple solution, but it is one of the most effective since it will not only eliminate adult bed bugs but nymphs and, most importantly, the eggs as well. The inability of many treatments like bed bug spray to kill bedbug eggs is what makes them less effective.

Between their tiny size, which allows them to make a home in even the smallest of spaces, and their ability to go a long time without feeding, bed bugs are a particularly formidable foe.

If you are not finding success with the DIYs and want a quick solution, you may need to consider calling in the professionals.

However, keep in mind that when using diatomaceous earth for bed bugs, along with a variety of other treatments, you will get the problem under control with persistence and patience.


1Department of Entomology, Virginia Tech. (2023). Bed Bug Biology and Behavior. VDACS. Retrieved November 09, 2023, from <>

2United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2023). Do-it-yourself Bed Bug Control. EPA. Retrieved November 09, 2023, from <>

3Bedbugs, Insect, From close Photo by Cicero7. (2019, July 17) / Pixabay Content License. Resized. Pixabay. Retrieved November 8, 2023, from <>