How to Use Diatomaceous Earth (DE) to Kill Fleas

How to Use Diatomaceous Earth (DE) For Fleas
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If your dog or cat has been scratching lately and you think they may have fleas, you can use diatomaceous earth (DE) as a natural, safe insecticide to get rid of fleas. Fleas are so tiny that they are very difficult to catch and destroy. Many chemical treatments for flea removal from the home can be harmful to your pet, your family members and the environment. The benefit of food grade diatomaceous earth is that it is safe to use around the home and is an effective home treatment for killing fleas. Diatomaceous earth powder kills fleas by causing them to dehydrate when the abrasive powder gets onto their outer shell (exoskeleton).

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Flea bites are very itchy and they can also cause you a lot of discomfort, so getting rid of these blood-sucking pests is a priority. Fleas lay eggs on the host (in this case your pet) which in time fall off onto your pets bedding, carpets around the home, and in your yard. Taking into account that one flea can lay up to 40 eggs a day, you need to use an effective natural insecticide to get rid of fleas and their larvae fast.

In this article, I will look at why diatomaceous earth powder is such an effective natural flea killer. In fact, you can also use DE as a natural pesticide for getting rid of ants or any other kind of annoying insect like ticks, bed bugs, and roaches. You will also find a step-by-step guide on how to use diatomaceous earth for flea control to both prevent fleas infesting your home and get rid of them for good.

What is Diatomaceous Earth?

Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring soft rock that formed from the fossilized remains of algae. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, food grade diatomaceous earth isn’t poisonous and doesn’t harm humans or animals if it is breathed in. So diatomaceous earth is safe to use on dogs and cats as a natural pesticide. When using diatomaceous earth for flea control around the home, you should always use “food grade” diatomaceous earth.1

Food grade diatomaceous earth has many other uses which you can read about in my article: The Most Extraordinary Diatomaceous Earth Uses and Benefits.

How Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth Kills Fleas

Diatomaceous earth is abrasive to the exoskeleton of fleas,bed bugs, ants and other insects and kills these pests by absorbing the oils from their outer layer. This causes the insects to dehydrate and the fleas die. Because no chemical reaction is involved, fleas, aphids, ants and similar pests don’t develop immunity to diatomaceous earth.

The effectiveness of diatomaceous earth in killing parasites is also backed up by research and studies into its action on pests.

The Journal of Field Ornithology published a study by an ornithologist who used diatomaceous earth to rid bird nests of fleas. He sprinkled a fine layer of diatomaceous earth powder in the nest of swallows. He discovered that over 2 years the fleas in the nests were almost eradicated, but no harm was done to the birds or chicks.2 The study concluded that diatomaceous earth is an effective way to reduce the population of parasites.

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Diatomaceous earth is also a natural and effective way to eliminate internal parasites. The journal Poultry Science found that when diatomaceous earth was added to the diet of hens, they had fewer parasites and their eggs contained larger yolks. DE was also effective at killing mites living in the feathers of hens.3

To make sure and get rid of fleas for good from your pets, home, or yard, it’s important to understand the life cycle of a flea.

Understanding the flea life cycle

Fleas have 4 stages in their life cycle and depending on the environment the fleas live in, they can live from a few weeks to many months. Doctor of veterinary medicine, Dr. Jennifer Kvamme describes the life cycle of fleas as follows:4

  1. Eggs. Adult fleas suck blood from your pet before they can lay eggs. An adult female flea can lay up to 40 eggs a day. They will fall off your pet as he/she moves around the home or yard. Depending on humidity and temperature, eggs will take between 2 days to 2 weeks to hatch.
  2. Larvae. Larvae will find dark places away from any light to continue growing. They will start spinning cocoons between 5-20 days after hatching.
  3. Pupae. It will take several days to a few weeks before the adult flea is fully developed in the cocoon. However, depending on the conditions, it can even take years before the adult flea emerges. Cocoons are usually sticky and are difficult to vacuum from carpets.
  4. Adult. Adult fleas feed on their host and will start breeding and laying eggs after their first “meal.” This continues the life cycle of the flea.

To get rid of fleas for good, it’s important to vacuum regularly and wash bedding regularly for several weeks to break the flea life cycle. Installing a humidifier will help to speed up the hatching and development of fleas so that you can eliminate them quicker.

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It’s important to be vigilant and remember to treat all areas with diatomaceous earth where your pets spend time, even if this is the yard or the car.

How to Use Diatomaceous Earth for Flea Control

Food grade diatomaceous earth powder can be sprinkled on carpets, bedding, on sofas and soft furnishings, and in the yard to control fleas. Because the abrasive action of diatomaceous earth kills fleas, you don’t have to worry that the powder will lose its flea-killing effectiveness. However, wet surfaces and dampness make diatomaceous earth less effective, so if you sprinkle the powder on grass, soil, or paving, the surfaces must be completely dry.

Diatomaceous Earth for Killing Fleas – Step by Step Guide

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to use diatomaceous earth as a home remedy to eliminate fleas:

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  1. Thoroughly vacuum areas where your pet spends time to get rid of any flea eggs. Diatomaceous earth doesn’t destroy eggs laid by fleas. Also, check that the area is absolutely dry.
  2. Use a sieve or similar object to lightly dust the area with food grade diatomaceous earth. Make sure that your pet’s blankets and bed are lightly covered with the powder.
  3. After 2-3 days, vacuum the area again to remove any dead fleas, eggs, or larvae.
  4. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth on your pet’s bedding 2 times a week to help completely get rid of fleas for good.

Some people use diatomaceous earth directly on their pets to control fleas. But a few words of caution are needed here – DE is very drying and may dry out your pet’s skin. When applying diatomaceous earth on your pet’s skin, don’t use large amount and don’t use it on a daily basis. Also make sure to protect your pet’s eyes, nose and mouth and shampoo your pet within 12 hours.

Even if you don’t use diatomaceous earth directly on your pet’s fur, give your pet a thorough bath, using a moisturizing shampoo. This is because the diatomaceous earth that was sprinkled around the home can dry out the skin of your pet. Once your pet is dry, use a flea comb to remove any dead fleas and eggs from your pet’s fur.

Continue the diatomaceous earth treatment for fleas for 2-3 weeks to make sure you break the life cycle of fleas to get rid of them.

Precautions When Using Diatomaceous Earth for Insect and Flea Control

Food grade diatomaceous earth without added chemicals is safe to use around the home and is non-toxic for children and pets alike. However, there are still a few precautions you should take into consideration when using diatomaceous earth for controlling fleas.

Diatomaceous earth can dry out your skin and your pet’s skin. Therefore, it is best to always wear gloves when handling DE. Also, don’t use it on your pet’s skin on a daily basis, and when you use it, apply a small amount.

Diatomaceous earth powder is very fine, so you should use a good vacuum cleaner to remove it from carpets and bedding.

Always use “food grade” diatomaceous earth for flea control and elimination.

When sprinkling diatomaceous earth powder on carpets, make sure there isn’t a draft or a household fan working because this will blow the powder onto other surfaces which can be difficult to clean.

Make sure that all areas that you treat with diatomaceous earth are kept dry. Diatomaceous earth is an effective natural pesticide only when it is completely dry.

Where to Buy Diatomaceous Earth?

When buying diatomaceous earth, Make sure to look for a brand that is food grade, meaning that it is safe to ingest (here is one example).

You can find diatomaceous earth in many gardening stores such as Walmart, Lowes and Home Depot. But if you plan to ingest diatomaceous earth, buy your product from a credible source like your natural health food store.

So, if your pet has brought those tiny pests into your home, diatomaceous earth is a natural, safe, and effective home treatment for fleas that gets rid of them quickly.

Read my other related articles:
1. The Most Extraordinary Diatomaceous Earth Uses and Benefits
2. How to Naturally Get Rid of Fleas From Your Home, Garden and Pets
3. Coconut Oil for Dogs, Cats and Other Pets – The Ultimate Guide
4. The Best Bed Bug Sprays to Kill Bed Bugs Fast
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20 Responses to How to Use Diatomaceous Earth (DE) to Kill Fleas

  1. Liz says:

    I discovered two leaping fleas last week, and my husband had gotten several bites. I applied DE 5 days ago and have had no issues so far. Does DE kill all stages of flea life cycle? If not, when do I need to retreat?

    • Jenny Hills says:

      Hi Liz, DE doesn’t destroy flee eggs so you need to continue the DE treatment for fleas for 2-3 weeks to make sure you break the life cycle of fleas to get rid of them. You also need to thoroughly vacuum areas where your pet spends time to get rid of any flea eggs (see the “Step by Step Guide” in the article).

  2. shaina says:

    We have spread DE in our infested room, a week ago, the room is still infested, it did not work!

  3. Joshua Crowder says:

    my woodshop is infested cause i had my dog in there for a couple of days. ive mixed DE with water in a pump sprayer and totally saturated everything. it dries and leaves a powder so i figure thats a good way to disperse it. it didnt work. then i civered everything i own in DE powder. the fleas are bigger faster jump higher and there are way more of them. thus stuffs a joke. im about to burn the place down. i cant even be in the building. pest control and extermi ators have failed me in the past. i need answers. im getting behind on work and losing money! help!

    • Jenny Hills says:

      Hi Joshua,
      Firstly – sorry to hear about your flea issue. You’ve mentioned that even the exterminator was unable to get rid of the fleas. My only guess is that you have lots of flea eggs in your workshop and as a result even after killing the fleas you’ll have a new generation after 40 days. Another reason is that after killing the fleas you “introduce” new ones. Maybe you have a pet with fleas coming to your workshop all the time or possibly other animals.

      Please read carefully the section on how to use DE for fleas. You need to vacuum the area thoroughly to get rid of the flea eggs. DE doesn’t kill the eggs. If you don’t get rid of the eggs you’ll have new fleas coming again.

      The first thing that I would do (instead of burning the place..) is vacuuming your workshop thoroughly and remove as much of the stuff from there. Then I would apply the DE or use stronger stuff than that. Follow the instructions carefully. If all fails, call a professional exterminator before burning the place down. Good luck!

      • jennifer solly says:

        I was told to use Borax and salt spread throughout the building and carpets to kill the eggs and all stages of life of the flea you may have to do it at least 3 times to get them all but it is supposed to work. mix the two together and spread it then wait 12 hours to vaccume it up then a few days later do it again. use caution when doing this around children. hope you can get rid of them. I am so gonna use this method as well as the DE. side note use moth balls in your vaccume bags to kill them in the vaccume.

    • Diane Scott says:

      DE only works when DRY. You need to vacuum the entire place to rid it of the eggs. Then apply the DE. Leave it there 2-3 days. Vacuum and reapply again. If the dog goes in there, they WILL hop on the dog as a means to escape. Of course, that also means they won’t be hopping on you. Treat your dog with a Seresto collar. And you can either dust dog with DE which is messy or you can use an essential oil mixture before your dog goes out as an additional protection against fleas and ticks. Keep the house clean and free of fleas using the DE. Dust carpets and furniture, leave on for 12 hours and deep vacuum. You should see great improvement. I live in Florida where it is almost impossible to get rid of them. It is a battle, but it can be won!

  4. Sarah says:

    Thanks for the info! My dog recently got fleas from the neighbor’s dog. I’m worried that even if I follow the steps to get rid of the fleas in our house, he will just get them again from going outside. Any thoughts on keeping fleas away?

  5. Rob Reeder says:

    As a means of capturing hatched fleas, I use a mouse-catching glue pad with a 40 watt INCANDESCENT desk lamp about 3 inches over it. It really works and the mouse pads are cheap.

    I’m currently undergoing a massive infestation – due to the weather and neighbor’s free-range dogs. I’m catching several hundred a day, and moving the capture stations around to where they are doing the best job. The white TomCat mouse pads are the best.
    Most important is to use an old 40W filament bulb, and not an LED. They are attracted to heat, not light.

  6. Pat Garner says:

    How quickly does the flea die after coming in contact with the DE? Is it immediate, or hours, or days? Thank You

    • Jenny Hills says:

      Hi Pat, I have read that once the fleas come into contact with the DE, they usually die a few hours later, but the recommendation is to leave the DE for 12 hours before vacuuming it up to make sure the fleas are dead.

  7. Bugged Barb says:

    Moved into an apartment end of August, 2017. Labor day weekend had my pet at vet to be treated for a flea I found on him. Three days later, I find MANY and tons of flea waste on my white bedding. WHITE BEDDING/SHEETS help to notice the tiny flecks of black flea dirt that the eggs live on after hatching.
    Be sure to brush your pet ON white to discover the black flecks. If you see the flecks, the fleas are close by. I used extra-hold HAIR SPRAY to immobilize the flea after finding them on my pet. Much easier to remove and destroy. They are full of blood after popping them.

    I had the apartment professionally treated and now it has been nine days since that $200 treatment and they are still thriving. Jumping. Onto bed. Dresser. Dog. I have used Dawn soap in tub on pet and removed FIVE. I brush/comb and hair spray him three to four times a day and find two to three fleas EACH TIME. I trapped some in soapy bowls of water in living room and bedroom.

    I have never had them. For the first time in 60 years of life, I am being bitten. It is 400 am and I can’t take this. I worry about the chemicals on my pet who is 13 and reacted to vaccinations a few years back – he almost died.

    This is outrageous. I want to move out of here so bad.

    Tomorrow, I will apply DE *FOOD GRADE with gloves and aspirator/face mask. TO every inch of carpet in the place. My pet and I will stay elsewhere for a couple days. I will also do my car with DE.

    I do have borax, baking soda and salt in my room. Sprayed with rubbing alcohol yesterday as someone suggested too. I vac with upright *heavy duty PET Hoover and then I use my canister vac. THREE TIMES A DAY.

    I have washed the white bedding and towels in HOT HOT water. Every day, I am going broke.

    I am depressed over this for I tend to be a neat freak and this is killing me. I also feel bad for my pet who does not deserve this. But I will continue to fight.

    Please. Put your pet ON WHITE SHEETS or TOWELS to brush/comb. Have the pet sleep on WHITE to discover the flea dirt. When those little black specks appear you have FLEAS. Watch for clumps of yellowish goo on your pet. I scrape them off and he bleeds…EGGS? LARVA??? ew.

    He is the cleanest dog…yet still fleas. I even did a GARLIC BARRIER product outside where I walk him to potty. He does not ever go INTO the grass. I carry him in the hallway out the door for I fear MORE FLEAS!! THe neighbor claimed her dog has fleas.

    They cannot crawl correct? Only jump? I worry they may be falling thru duct work in ceiling. I will put cheese cloth in there sprayed with garlic. ???

    I am really lost with this. I have to repeat the D.E. every two weeks for how long?

    For I will. For my pet.

    Thanks. Best of Luck to all

  8. Bugged Barb says:

    Forgot to ask….even tho the adult fleas/new hatches are dying with the Food Grade D.E., there could still be many, many eggs beginning to go into larv stage or pupa, right? Pupae stage they can remain in hiding for almost a year?? Impervious to any chemical. Fire is out of the question.
    How to get rid of Pupae? I can vac up eggs that fall, dead/alive fleas too. Will the larvae and the pupae be sucked into vac? Or, do they stick in this awful cheap carpet to remain forever? Warmth and humidity hatch the eggs, correct? I want that to happen right?
    Sorry I am so exhausted right now…

    Is there also a product that can drench the carpet to kill stages of these awful fleas? That is not going to be too toxic to me or my pet?

    Thank you again. Gosh, I am really tired.

  9. Barb says:

    I find this flea killing to be daunting, at best! What are the steps if you repeatedly find fleas every day on pet? He has been treated with capstar AND frontline GOld, the apartment was professionally treated ($200 a liquid and a powder)and laundry must be washed in HOT water daily. Yet they are jumping around like crazy. One landed in a bowl of soapy water, one was on my white sock this am. One jumped into the bed onto my hand when I was looking up ways to kill fleas on my cell.
    If my dog does have an egg layer two/three times a day — How can you possibly keep ahead of the game? I must vac the rug two to three times each day. I did apply D. E. in my bedroom – I probably used too much but I am beyond rationality here. Is it dangerous while it is on carpet – to breath? FOr the living room is worse. The love seats are infested too. Not even a year old.
    I just worry this routine is going to have to be repeated daily for the next 1 – 200 days.

  10. Mary Stitt says:

    I have 1 dog and 3 cats. My dog accidentally brought in the fleas. Will D.E. actually work? I need to be sure because I am on a fixed income and canr afford extwrminators.

    • Jenny Hills says:

      Hi Mary, flea infestation can be persistent and may require several measurements to get rid of the fleas, depending on how severe the infestation is. If you follow the step by step guide and keep the treated surfaces completely dry I believe it will work, but I also suggest that you read my article “How to Naturally Get Rid of Fleas From Your Home, Garden and Pets” to make sure you include other measurements to make sure the success of the treatment.

  11. Katherine Kean says:

    It is not reccomended to use DE outdoors. It kills all insects, including those that are already in trouble and that we can’t live without, such as bees and butterflies. It is so helpful against fleas, just limit use to the indoors.

    • Sam says:

      Thanks also to Katherine Kean, regarding this will kill beneficial insects outdoors, as well. Goodness, don’t want to kill bees and butterflies. Would not have thought of that. Indoor only, it is, then.

  12. evelyn d johnson says:

    I have tried for several months to get rid of these fleas in my apt. I used the DE all over the apt vacuumed over and over again. Can’t sleep in my bed or sofa. I have cleaned and did laundry every day . I have no animals. My friend had a dog brought it over my house, my house never the same . Please what can I use to sleep . I will have to contact a exterminator which they said 600.oo for three visits including my car . What a terrible situation this is why I wont have a animal in my apt again. i wasn’t aware this was so hard and expensive to get rid of . If anyone has any advice that could help me please respond.

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