Bed Bug Powder: How to Use It Effectively to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

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Bed Bug Powder: How to Use It Effectively to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Bed bug powders are a very effective way to kill bed bugs and get rid of them from your home for good. Most bed bug powders contain diatomaceous earth (DE) which is non-toxic and generally safe to use around the home. Many people use natural powders for killing bed bugs because they last for a long time and can help deal with recurrent or persistent bed bug infestations.


Waking up in the morning with itchy red bumps around your ankles and black specks on your bedding could be a sign that you have a bed bug problem. Because they are so tiny and only come out at night, bed bugs can be difficult to eradicate from your home. Unlike chemicals that poison the bugs and can be dangerous to humans, bed bug powders from food grade diatomaceous earth won’t harm you or your family. That means that you can use bed bug powders to get rid of these pesky critters while still staying in your own home.

In this article, you will find out all you need to know about using powders to kill bed bugs that have infested your home. I will also look at ways to spot the signs of a bed bug invasion and where to dust the bed bug powder for best results.

How Powders Effectively Kill Bed Bugs

Diatomaceous earth is the main or only ingredient in many bed bug powders. In fact, you can easily make your own powder at home to control bed bugs and get rid of them from your home for good. Bed bug powders and diatomaceous earth work as desiccants, which means that they dehydrate the bugs to kill them.

According to the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC), diatomaceous earth is a substance made from grinding up the fossilized remains of diatoms – a type of algae. This forms a white fine powder or dust that acts as a pesticide. DE kills bugs, ants, roaches, and other insects by sticking to their exoskeletons. This destroys their outer shell and causes the pests to dehydrate and eventually die.1

The NPIC says that diatomaceous earth pesticide powders are registered for use against bed bugs, fleas, ticks, spiders, and cockroaches. Many studies into dust insecticides have shown their effectiveness in killing bed bugs.

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The journal PloS One reported that diatomaceous earth powder helps to kill off groups of bed bugs. Researchers found that the white dust sticks to the shell of bed bugs and is transferred to other bed bugs and nymphs. This causes bed bugs and nymphs to die and it can be an effective natural insecticide for bed bugs in hard to reach places.2

Another study published in the journal Insects found that diatomaceous earth powder can help to greatly reduce large numbers of bed bugs. This was recommended as a cost-effective and practical way to kill off bed bugs.3

Why Bed Bug Powders are Better than Chemicals

Bed bug powders don’t have to be ingested for them to be effective. This means that you don’t have to rely on the bugs ingesting the dust for it to be effective. All you need to do, is make sure and use food grade diatomaceous earth powder, keep it dry, and dust it around places where the bed bugs are lurking.

Professor Stuart Hill from Department of Entomology and Ecological Agriculture Projects describes diatomaceous earth as an ideal non-toxic pesticide. Prof. Hill says that bed bug powders have an insecticidal effect for as long as the powder is on the bed bug’s skin. It is also safe to use around the house and there are no recorded harmful effects to humans or pets.4

In fact, food grade diatomaceous earth is so safe that you can add it to food to get rid of intestinal parasites and worms. You can also use diatomaceous earth to get rid of ants and other creepy crawlies.

Before you use diatomaceous earth powder to exterminate bed bugs, it’s important to know the signs of a bed bug infestation and where to look for them.

How to Tell if You Have Bed Bugs

Bed bugs can be difficult to spot and, if you don’t get rid of them completely, you can soon have a recurring bug infestation to deal with.

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According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, it can be difficult to distinguish bed bug bites from other insect bites. Some people even mistake a cluster of bed bug bites as just an itchy rash on the body. Bed bug bites usually cause symptoms like itchy red spots with a darker center, spots in a straight line or cluster, and they usually occur on the legs, arms, or face.5 Bed bugs can leave a nasty cluster of bites on your skin that can last for a few days.

To look for bed bugs, the Mayo Clinic recommends looking for signs of them around mattresses, bed frames, headboards, or behind furniture beside beds. However, bed bugs also reside behind torn wallpaper, behind baseboards, or in the seams of pillows and cushions.6

Dr. Carol DerSarkissian on WebMD says that signs that bed bugs are infesting an area are a distinctive musty smell, tiny blood stains on bed linen, evidence of feces and shed skin where the bugs are lurking.7

How to Use Bed Bug Powder to Kill Bed Bugs

Once you have established where bed bugs are residing, you can use a natural bed bug powder to start eradicating them.

Here is a step-by-step guide to kill bed bugs for good and prevent a recurring infestation. Please remember, if you are using diatomaceous earth as your bed bug treatment powder, only use DE that is classed as food grade (here is one example). Food grade diatomaceous earth is safe to use around the home and it’s an effective home treatment for killing bed bugs and fleas.

1. Identify the Problem

The first step is to locate where you have a bed bug infestation before applying the bed bug powder. You should thoroughly examine all cracks and crevices in your bed frame, along base boards, behind drawers, and behind torn wallpaper.

2. Remove Bed Bugs

The next step is to physically remove any bed bugs, fecal matter, shed skin, and eggs that can be seen around furniture.

Researchers from the Texas A&M University recommend stripping the bed and vacuuming the mattresses, box springs, bed frame, and anywhere else you found evidence of bed bugs. After this, you should discard the vacuum bag outdoors.8

All sheets, pillowcases, and other bed linen should be washed in hot water and then put on a hot dryer cycle for at least 30 minutes to kill any remaining bed bugs and their eggs.

Hot steam is another recommended home remedy to eradicate bed bugs and you can use it after vacuuming. The hot steam can get rid of bed bugs from small crevices and cracks. It can also penetrate through the mattress lining and eradicate bug infestations inside the mattress.

Another practical way to destroy the irritating pests lurking in your mattresses is to encase your mattress in a specially designed bed bug-proof encasement. This will prevent bed bugs from coming out at night and biting people sleeping on the bed. Eventually, the bugs will die because they have no food source. In addition to encasing your bed items, you can also place bed bug traps (such as this one) under your bed legs to stop bed bugs crawling up.

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3. Kill Bed Bugs with Bed Bug Powder

To completely exterminate all bed bugs from your living areas, you need to use bed bug powder. This will eventually remove all traces of bed bugs and help you sleep easier at night.

There are many commercial products listed as natural bed bug killing powders (here is one example). However, you can dust affected areas with diatomaceous earth which is just as effective as powders for bed bugs.

To get rid of bed bug with diatomaceous earth powder, this is how you should apply it:

  1. Make sure that all areas where you plan to sprinkle the bed bug powder are completely dry.
  2. Using a dusting applicator or sieve, lightly sprinkle the bug powder on all cracks and crevices where the bugs are hiding.
  3. Remember to lightly dust the bed bug powder on carpets, along the edges of baseboards, door frames, and behind furniture.
  4. Wait for 2-3 days and then vacuum the area thoroughly to remove any more bed bugs.
  5. Reapply the bug powder.

Make sure to wear a mask to prevent inhaling the fine dust and also read the next section about precautions when using bed bug powders.

As long as the powder for bed bugs stays dry, it will continue to dehydrate and kill the bugs. All it takes is for the bug to get a little of the powder on its skin for the remedy to work.

If you have a large bed bug infestation, there is always the chance that some bed bugs have migrated to other rooms. Therefore, to prevent bed bugs becoming a major problem, you should check other rooms.

Other places to do some “preventative bug dusting” include:

  • behind kitchen appliances
  • behind electrical outlet faceplates
  • behind drawers of furniture
  • at the corners and edges of rooms where carpeting the baseboards meet
  • in the seams of soft furnishings like sofa, cushions, and pillows

Precautions When Using Bed Bug Powders

Even though food grade diatomaceous earth is a non-toxic pesticide that really works for killing bed bugs, you should take some precautions when using it around the home.

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Diatomaceous earth is a fine abrasive dust and you should avoid breathing it in when applying the white powder. The National Pesticide Information Center says that DE can irritate your nasal passages and cause eye irritation. This can result in watery eyes, itching, and redness around your eyelids. Also, irritation in your lungs could result in a dry cough.1

Therefore, when using powders as a bed bug killer, you should wear a mask to prevent inhaling the fine dust.

Other Natural Bed Bug Control Methods

Using bed bug powders for bug control is just one effective tool in your fight against these invasive critters. There are other great ways to get rid of bed bugs naturally without having to resort to harmful chemicals.

Essential oils. Essential oils are a great way to get rid of various types of bugs around the home. Many essential oils contain compounds that act as a bug and insect repellent but won’t harm humans or pets.

For example, the journal Insects published studies on the efficiency of various essential oils in repelling bed bugs. They found that essential oils like lemongrass, peppermint oil, clove oil, and cinnamon oil, among others, were effective bed bug pesticides.9 Also, tea tree oil has proven antimicrobial activity that can destroy cell membranes.10

You can make a natural bed bug pesticide from essential oils by mixing 10 drops of lavender oil, 6 drops of lemongrass oil, 6 drops of tea tree oil, and 10 drops of thyme oil with some water in a small spray bottle. Spray liberally along cracks and crevices of your bed frames to get rid of bed bugs for good. Use the natural bed bug spray daily until all the signs of bed bugs have disappeared. Remember to shake the natural spray well before each application.

Just remember not to spray the natural bug repellent on areas that have been treated with DE. For bed bug powder to continue to be effective, it has to be dry.

Tea tree oil is also a great spot treatment to take the itch out of insect bites and prevent the itchy bump becoming infected. All you have to do is dab a tiny amount of tea tree oil on the itchy skin and let it dry. For other natural treatments, read my article about the best home remedies to get rid of bed bug bites.

Cold treatment. Bed bugs die off in extreme cold temperatures. The United States Environmental Protection Agency recommends freezing any bug-infested items that will fit in a freezer. So, you can easily exterminate bed bugs from bed linen, sheets, and pillowcases by leaving them in the freezer for 4 days.11

Use bed bug sprays. There are commercial and homemade natural bed bug sprays to kill these nasty critters. You can find out how to make and use these sprays in my article about the most effective bed bug sprays.

For other ways to kill bed bugs, read my article about the top 10 home remedies to get rid of bed bugs.

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources

  1. NPIC. Diatomaceous earth.
  2. PLoS One. 2013 Sep 25;8(9):e75626.
  3. Insects. 2013 Nov 28;4(4):731-42.
  4. McGill. Diatomaceous earth – a non-toxic pesticide.
  5. MayoClinic. Bedbugs – symptoms.
  6. MayoClinic. Bedbugs – causes.
  7. WebMD. Bedbugs.
  8. TAMU. Bed bugs – do it yourself control options.
  9. Insects. 2014 Dec; 5(4): 849–859.
  10. J Appl Microbiol. 2000 Jan;88(1):170-5.
  11. EPA. Do it yourself bed bug control.
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