What Is Diatomaceous Earth, Anyway?
Diatomaceous-earth-close-upGood question! Food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) is a fine powder made from diatoms, a type of fossilized phytoplankton. It looks like Rice Chex under a microscope, only in cylindrical form. Weird, right?
Here’s what makes it so unique:
It carries a negative ionic charge. This study suggests it helps to reduce parasites in chickens, and many experts believe this is due to its negative charge and cylindrical shape. The thinking behind this is that positively charged bacteria and parasites (plus some viruses) may be attracted to it like magnets are attracted to one another. Because of its shape, the pathogens get trapped in the center and carried out of the body.
It’s rich in silica, which is essential for healthy teeth, bones, hair, skin and nails.
It’s incredibly hard. On the hardness scale, diamonds are a 10 and DE is an 8. This has a variety of benefits, which we’ll cover below.
How Is Diatomaceous Earth Different From Bentonite Clay?
If you’ve been around for awhile you know that I use clay for everything from washing my hair to brushing my teeth even making soap. Clay is incredibly versatile and can sometimes be used interchangeably with diatomaceous earth, but the two powders are different. Bentonite clay typically comes from volcanic ash deposits, while diatomaceous earth is a powder made from fossilized phytoplankton.
Because it is made up of tiny, sharp, very hard phytoplankton, DE works well as an abrasive. It attaches to the protective waxy outer coating of bugs/pests and absorbs it or scrapes it away, causing them to dry out and die. Likewise, it can be used to mechanically remove stains from teeth or slough off dry, dead skin. I have found it to be slightly more effective in controlling odor in my homemade deodorant than clay, though I have used clay with success.
Bentonite and other clays such as rhassoul work primarily by absorbing (drawing within the clay) and adsorbing (drawing to the outside of the clay) impurities, which makes it ideal for gentle applications. For example, it also helps to remove stains and whiten teeth, but it does so by drawing stains out rather than removing them physically.
Diatomaceous earth would be too harsh for something like washing hair, but because of its silica content it’s actually very good for hair if taken internally. So as you can see, there’s a lot of crossover in terms of benefits but they are not quite the same.
Have you heard about diatomaceous earth? Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring product that is mined out of old lakebeds. This versatile product is completely organic and safe to use around family and pets. Be sure when choosing diatomaceous earth that you only use the organic food grade variety that is natural-milled, unheated, amorphous (non-crystalline) silicon dioxide.
There are so many wonderful ways you can use diatomaceous earth and it is so easy to try. Today I am going to share the top 10 surprising uses for diatomaceous earth.
1. Natural pesticide
We’ll start with the most common use. Even if you’re generally bug friendly but don’t want them in your home, you’re in luck. Diatomaceous earth is a natural and safe repellent that deters insects from entering in the first place. Dust inside and outside of your home to repel and kill insects. Here is a list of insects many people have used diatomaceous earth to treat:
-And so many others
2. Flea control
Diatomaceous earth can be directly applied on your dog or cat to get rid of fleas. Start at the base of the tail, moving towards the head and pushing the fur up to expose the skin. Apply diatomaceous earth with your hand and place it on the skin. Try not to get DE into your pet’s ears or eyes and remember to apply diatomaceous earth in the home to break the flea cycle.
3. Eating Diatomaceous Earth
This is perhaps one of the more “Googled” terms about diatomaceous earth. Many people are interested in the potential health benefits healthier hair, nails, skin that come from eating DE. Other potential benefits include DE lowering blood cholesterol and the health benefits of silica (food grade DE is 85 percent silica). Remember to only eat organic food grade diatomaceous earth.
4. Garden pest control
Sometimes an infestation can grow rampant, to the point it becomes necessary to pull out the diatomaceous earth. The kind of pest you have in your garden generally dictates the mode of application:
Dust your plants with diatomaceous earth after you have watered them. Make sure you lightly spray the plants as well to help the diatomaceous earth stick. Make sure to get underneath the leaves as well. This is best done in the morning to allow the DE to dry.
This works especially well on slugs. Put a ring of diatomaceous earth around the plants that are actively getting chomped on. Be sure to keep any leaf out from touching to soil outside the ring of DE. You don’t want to inadvertently use a “ladder” for these pests to get on.
5. Organic de-wormer
Some pet owners want to use an alternative to a synthetic de-wormer, and they do this by adding diatomaceous earth to their pet’s food. Here are the ratios for your pet’s daily dosage:
Puppies & Small Dogs: ½ tsp
Dog under 50 lb: 1 tsp
Dog over 50 lb: 1 tbsp
Dog over 100 lb: 2 tbsp
Kittens: ½ tsp
Cats: 1 tsp
6. Prolonged food storage
An article by the University of Minnesota states that almost all dry food is susceptible to a beetle infestation. Diatomaceous earth protects food from infestations and it keeps food dry which prevents food from clumping, germinating, or going moldy. If you have grains, legumes, beans, rice, or corn in storage then adding DE works well to keep it protected and dry.
7. Dust your chicken coop
Many chicken keepers add diatomaceous earth to their chicken coop and chickens’ dust bath to protect their chickens against lice and mites. Even if you coop currently doesn’t have this problem, a regular regime of diatomaceous earth can prevent these problems from cropping up.
8. Homemade toothpaste
The funny thing is that lots of toothpastes already use diatomaceous earth as an ingredient because it is a mild abrasive. You can add a pinch of diatomaceous earth to your toothpaste before you brush in the morning and you’ll be surprised at how clean your teeth feel afterwards.
9. Facial cleanser
If you have naturally oily skin, then mix diatomaceous earth in water until it reaches the consistency of paste. Place the paste on your face like a mask and let it rest there for at least a few minutes. Afterwards, wash it off with water. Do this no more than once or twice week because diatomaceous earth will dry out your skin.
You can deodorize numerous ways using diatomaceous earth. Here are a few ways to deodorize in your home:
-For smelly outdoor garbage, sprinkle diatomaceous earth to cover the bottom of a dry garbage can.
-Add diatomaceous earth to your cat’s litter box by mixing in it thoroughly with a spatula or gloved hands. Coupled with its deodorizing capabilities, DE absorbs liquids twice its weight.
-For smelly footwear, dust the bottom of each shoe with diatomaceous earth and leave it for at least eight hours.
-Carpets absorb a lot of smells, so vacuum your carpet and then dust it with diatomaceous earth. Leave it for at least 12 to 24 hours.
I hope that you will try diatomaceous earth and see how fantastic it is for so many different uses!