One of the most popular and environmentally safe ways to kill bed bugs is by using bed bug dust AKA Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE), also called bed bug dust. DE is a fancy name for fossilized water plants (algae-like plants called diatoms) that are ground to a fine dust and used to kill bed bugs. It’s popular because when placed in a spray bottle (duster such as a plastic ketchup container) and dusted into infestations, you avoid paying added fees for commercial (and often toxic) pest control solutions. You can find this product at almost any feed and supply store or online from a number of companies.
Tip: Are you sure you have bed bugs but being told you don’t or can’t find them? Read how Mimi found bed bugs using a bug sniffing dog when the pest control companies could find them!
Warning! The diatomaceous earth you find at the pool supply store is NOT what you want to use! You want Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth which is a safe all natural pest control which you can find at your local feed store; you can also look for Fossil Shell Flour at other stores.
Another Warning! Bed bug dust (DE) works by absorbing lipids from the waxy outer layer of their exoskeleton causing the bugs to die from dehydration; this absorbent quality will also cause significant drying of your hands if applied without gloves. It is also dangerous to breathe, so MAKE SURE TO WEAR A DUST MASK!
This is a completely natural, environmentally safe way to win the war against bed bugs (also called chinches), so let let me explain how it works.
When the bug comes in contact with DE’s microscopic razor sharp edges, their protective covering becomes damaged; without protection and exposed to the elements, the bug becomes dehydrated and quickly dies.
How to Apply Bed Bug Dust (DE)
You’ll need three weapons. First, create a mixture of %40 alcohol (ethyl alcohol works), %40 water and %20 dish soap [the spray]. Second, you’ll need to place your diatomaceous earth in a duster [the dust] and third, you’ll need a powerful vacuum with attachments – used for sucking loose bedbugs out of their hiding places.
Bedbugs love to hide and do a great job at it! If you read the comments throughout my site, you’ll see case after case where the victim went months without finding signs only to discover later that there was an infestation right next to them! Know where to look, see my bed bug checklist; I’ll cover some of their hiding places below.
Phase One – Cleaning: We need to clean, and good. Wash bedding and surrounding material with hot water that is at least 120 degree in temperature. Items such as pillows, toys, extra blankets should be cleaned and sealed in plastic bags for further decontamination later.
Start by vacuuming the baseboards, cracks in the floors and furniture (bed frame, dresser, headboard, picture frames, etc). Don’t forget about electrical outlets, but BE CAREFUL to make sure not to get the area wet or use conductive attachments!
Inspect that bed, again! Take the mattress and box spring off the frame and stand them on their side, vacuum along the seams, under tags and everywhere that bugs could hide. Take that frame apart and vacuum any cracks or openings such as where the frames connect – bugs love making their home there!
Don’t forget the surrounding areas, such as your dresser, night stand, under the carpet, chairs, electrical outlet and even in your clock! MAKE SURE to discard the vacuum bag immediately after use!
Once you’ve vacuumed everywhere, it’s time to have fun and spray (which kills them on contact!). Spray the mixture on/in all the seams, cracks, handles, buttons and labels (tags) of your mattress and box spring; if there are bugs, those that don’t get wet may become agitated and show themselves. Use a flashlight while doing this and look for signs of bugs, such as eggs, stains (looks like someone dotted the area with a black marker). If you find eggs (they look like tiny rice, use a fine tooth comb or masking tape to collect them. Make sure to place any eggs in a zip-lock bag with a little DE and get them in the trash immediately (outside trash!)
Phase Two- Heat Treatment: Okay, it’s not the type of treatment that you would receive from a professional exterminator, but it’s good enough to further agitate the bugs into showing themselves :)
Take a hair dryer set to high and start blowing heat into all those cracks and crevices you vacuumed earlier. As bedbugs start to pour out of their bunkers, take that opportunity to spray them with your alcohol mixture and vacuum the fallout.
Phase Three – BedBug Dust: Now take the duster, filled with your food grade diatomaceouse earth, and dust into the bottom of the box spring – you can choose to make a small hole in the fabric or simply dust through the fabric to prevent damage. I prefer making a small incision and getting the dust into the box spring rather than having a film of white powder on the outside. MAKE SURE you are wearing a dust mask and gloves!
You’ll want to spray the bed bug dust into all the crack and crevices you vacuumed – a light dusting will do fine. Placed under the carpet along the edges, it will help prevent future infestations. Bed bug dust can also be used to kill ants, mites, fleas and more, plus it’s safe to humans (again, don’t inhale it) and easy handle.
After your treatment, you’ll want to make it as difficult as possible for future infestations to occur by doing the following:
- Prevent the bed bugs from climbing up your bed by placing the legs of the bed into a plastic bowl with an inside coating of Vaseline. When they try to climb up the bed, they’ll become stuck. If you have a large infestation and catch a good number of bugs this way, please, send me the picture! I helped you, please help me show others how successful this DIY treatment can be!
- Fill cracks and crevices with the appropriate filler
- Tape any holes that would allow bugs to enter your box-spring
- Use a mattress cover that completely seals – one made for dust mites will work just fine
How Long Before Bed Bugs Die from DE Dust?
Changlu Wang, Timothy Gibb, and Gary W. Bennett from Purdue University did an excellent study on the cost and effectiveness of using Diatomaceous earth (also called DE, diatomite or kieselgur/kieselguhr and bed bug dust) on bed bug infested (1000′s of bugs) apartments. Also tested was chlorfenapyr spray but it was not as effective as the all natural DE.
They treated by using mattress encasements (including the box spring) and the steam treatment I outlined above. They also made sure to put the legs of chairs, sofas, nightstands and anything else into bed bug intercept traps like that shown in the image above.
It took ten weeks and they re-steamed and reapplied Mother Earth-D (food grade DE) when necessary; because death is not immediate, the females may be able to deposit eggs which will hatch and become active. It is these hatchings (instars) that you need to stay on top of.
The study found that bug interceptors trapped an average of 219 bed bugs per apartment and were an extremely effective part of the treatment program.
In the study, 16 equally infested units were selected and half the units were 100% bed bug free while the remaining units were 98% free; another application would likely have taken care of the rest (but the study was limited to 10 weeks). Total bed bug extermination costs average $470 but this amount can be great reduced using generic products, such as:
-Using dust mite mattress encasement rather than one made for bed bugs
-Using food grade DE found at feed and supply stores rather than something labeled “Bed Bug Dust”
-Making your own bed bug climb up protectors rather than buying pre-made devices.
-Buying a generic steamer (or renting) besides one made for bedbugs.
There are many success stories of DIY treatment using DE here on this site. The thing to keep in mind is that these pests are not going to die overnight; it can take a couple of months for a large infestation to be eliminated but in the end, you will win!
Visitors have successfully eliminated bed bugs using this exact same method, and truth be told, you’ll have to do most of this anyway if you were to hire a professional exterminator!
Here is a great testimonial to the power of DE by T.M
First off I want to say my review is 100% true 100% legit. Hate trying to read articles on the net about something that go out its way to falsify information.
Got bed bugs cause I was staying in a lot of different hotels because of my job. At first my wife kept complaining about bites but I was never getting bitten so I thought maybe it was something else. Well after about a year of infestation I finally started getting bit. Checked bed for sign of bed bugs and to my surprise, I couldn’t find anything. Finally one day i spotted an adult bug running across the bed and that was the last straw!
After a lot of researching it finally came down to the Diatomaceous Earth (DE) solution. I don’t have children or pets and just don’t like chemicals around myself period if not necessary. The infestation we had could be considered moderate. Like some of the other reviews say, it is a slow killer. So if you looking for an instant solution of failure go another route. I figure as Rome was not built in a day I won’t get rid of bed bugs in a day.
Fortunatly for us the bugs were in our bedroom only. So first stripped down bed washed all sheets, blankets, etc in hot water and dried on hot like recommended. Since we weren’t gone to be in the room I basically layered everything with diatomaceous earth; in-between box springs, under my mattress, entire carpet area of the room including under the bed, my bed railing, headboard front and back, dressers front and back, *some in the wall outlets*, my entire room was covered in a layer of DE. I slept in our living room for a month but hey, had bugs for over a year so a month of not sleeping in my bed was worth it!
After two weeks from the initial treatment, I vacuumed up everything except for under the bed area. Got a hot wet soapy towel and wiped down all the furniture to clean up the DE and vacuumed the TOP of my mattress. I left the DE on the backside of my headboard on the bottom of my mattress in between my box-springs, the carpet under the bed, and of course inside the box springs. Then I put a red sheet on my bed for the next two weeks. I would come check it and find what looks like small white cotton pieces which are actually the baby bed bugs just curled up and dead. So finally removed that sheet rewashed and can am now sleeping in my bed bug free room. I am happy to have found the DE (bed bug dust)!
For those who completely remove the DE from infested areas, the eggs that are there hatch over time and you may end up re-infested, that’s why I didn’t remove it all. So the babies that hatched got exposed and died off as well. I will keeping the layers that are left there and will reapply more in a few months just as a preventive measure. There is no reason for me to go in those places so DE can stay there.
If you use the DE please PLEASE wear a dust mask. I’m a hard-head and don’t listen and applied without one. Well the powder floats in the air very lightly and before I knew it, my nose hairs were covered in it! For next two days my lungs were hurting. I got a 4lb bag of DE at lowes for less than $10. Like I said it’s not an instant solution but it is a great solution. 1 month total to get rid of a medium bed bug infestation – well worth the time!