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Will Diatomaceous Earth Kill Fleas? Vet-Reviewed Facts


May 18, 2023
Diatomaceous Earth in bowl


Diatomaceous Earth in bowl
Dr. Amanda Charles Photo

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Fleas can cause discomfort, skin problems, and other health problems for you and your pets. It’s essential to recognize a flea infestation and react accordingly. There are many different treatment methods for fleas, and one that stands out is diatomaceous earth. Many people use the food-grade version of this product to kill fleas and reduce their numbers in their environment. While it can kill fleas, it does have limitations and there are some important precautions to take when using it.

In this article, we talk about diatomaceous earth and how to safely use it to kill fleas. Let’s dig in!


What Is Diatomaceous Earth?

Diatomaceous earth is a fine powder made of fossilized diatoms with silica walls, coming from single-celled algae that inhabit waterways like oceans and lakes.

There are two main types of diatomaceous earth:

  • Food grade — This type is considered a safe insecticide for killing fleas and is FDA, EPA, and USDA approved.
  • Filter grade — This type is toxic to animals and humans and shouldn’t be used for killing fleas.

The food-grade version of diatomaceous earth is frequently used for killing fleas and for preventing infestations of other insects.

Diatomaceous earth powder
Image Credit: M.M.PHOTO, Shutterstock

Does Diatomaceous Earth Kill Fleas?

Diatomaceous earth kills fleas due to the ingredients that it contains. This substance causes insects, including fleas, to dry out and die after ingesting it. It can also affect insects through their skin.

After a flea gets in contact with diatomaceous earth, the ingredients slowly start to absorb fats and oils from the flea’s exoskeleton. Diatomaceous earth also has hard, sharp edges, so it’s very abrasive, speeding the drying-out process and killing the fleas.

Although diatomaceous earth is effective at killing fleas, you should know that this product only works on adult fleas and doesn’t kill flea eggs or prevent further flea reproduction. Always contact your vet to get the right flea preventative product for your pet.


3 Ways to Use Diatomaceous Earth to Kill Fleas

1. Using Diatomaceous Earth on Your Pet

Food-grade diatomaceous earth contains low levels of silica, which is why it’s not toxic to pets. Some people suggest directly applying it to your pet’s skin to kill fleas. However, since it comes in powder form, it may cause respiratory problems or allergies. It should be used with caution and you shouldn’t use this product on animals that are prone to these types of health issues. Check with your vet before using it in this way.

If you do apply diatomaceous earth to your pet’s skin, avoid the areas around the eyes and nose to prevent possible irritations.

food grade diatomaceous earth supplement
Image Credit: marekuliasz, Shutterstock

2. Using Diatomaceous Earth in Your Home

Although you can use diatomaceous earth on pets, this substance has the best effect when used in a contaminated environment. You can sprinkle diatomaceous earth on areas of your home that are contaminated with fleas and allow this substance to do its job.

Before applying this solution to your home, though, thoroughly vacuum all the infected areas. After you finish, sprinkle some diatomaceous earth on the places where your pet typically sleeps and spends the most time.

Try to cover all floors, carpets, and furnishings that have been in contact with the contaminated pet, but don’t use too much of this product.

3. Using Diatomaceous Earth in Your Yard

You can use diatomaceous earth to get rid of fleas in your yard, though you may need to use large amounts because the area is so open. Keep in mind that this solution isn’t effective when wet, so only use it outdoors when the weather is warm and there’s no rain.

Like any other flea-prevention method, you’ll likely need to repeat this process and sprinkle diatomaceous earth in your yard multiple times to ensure that it kills all the fleas infested there.

Diatomaceous earth powder in jar
Image Credit: FotoHelin, Shutterstock


Is Diatomaceous Earth Safe for Humans & Pets?

Diatomaceous earth comes in two different types; one of them is safe for humans and pets, and the other one is toxic. The safe type is food-grade diatomaceous earth, which contains low levels of silica, so you can use it to kill fleas on your pet and in your home or yard. However, it can cause respiratory issues for both animals and humans.

The other type is filter-grade diatomaceous earth. It contains high levels of silica and is highly toxic to humans and pets, which is why you should never use it for treating fleas.

Things That You Should Know Before Using Diatomaceous Earth for Killing Fleas

Although diatomaceous earth is considered a fairly safe product for killing fleas, there are a few things that you should know to make the whole process as safe and as effective as possible:

  • Always store diatomaceous earth in a dry, clean environment, as this product is ineffective when wet.
  • When handling diatomaceous earth, remember to wear a mask and safety gloves.
  • Allow the diatomaceous earth to sit for a few days to get the most out of its effect.
  • Repeat the process multiple times until there are no more fleas in your home or pet.

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Final Thoughts

Food-grade diatomaceous earth kills fleas by abrasive action and dehydrating them. However it does have limited effectiveness, it can be slow to kill fleas and doesn’t kill flea eggs. When dealing with a flea infestation, it’s always best to speak to your vet for help and advice on the safest and most effective flea treatment and preventative products for your pet.

Featured Image Credit: Anna Hoychuck, Shutterstock

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