Help! My apartment has bed bugs; they are everywhere! On my bed, carpet, even in my wardrobe! What should I do?
When the bed bugs start to settle in your mattress, that’s usually just the start of a bed bug infestation in your apartment. It will start from your bed frame and mattress, and invade your whole space in a matter of a few days. However, there is a simple and straightforward solution to this – use diatomaceous earth.
What Is Diatomaceous Earth (DE), and What Are Its Uses?
Diatomaceous earth is off-white sand that looks like salt. It consists of fossilized algae, also known as diatoms, made from lapidified water plants. These diatoms primarily consist of a chemical compound named silicon dioxide. It is found in all-natural elements in some quantity, from sand and rocks to plants and humans. However, the one found in diatoms is about 80% to 90% concentrated, making it distinctive from other forms.
Diatomaceous earth has many industrial and medical uses. For example, it has been used to treat high cholesterol and blood pressure levels and to improve the health of hair, teeth, bones, nails, and skin. It also plays a vital role when it comes to pest control. It is used as an insecticide to kill bed bugs, lice, fleas, and mites quite effectively.
From Where Can You Get Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth is a multi-purpose antidote, and luckily, it can be easily found in all kinds of stores, including:
- Grocery stores
- Departmental stores
- Pet supply stores
- Garden shops
- Drug stores
Diatomaceous earth is one of the most effective bed bug killers. It is an inexpensive insecticide powder free of harmful chemicals and shows the best ultimate results.
However, before diving into the process of applying diatomaceous earth, let’s unknot some confusion that arises with the topic.
Why Not Hire the Bed Bug Exterminators Instead?
You have been conditioned to call the bug exterminators whenever there is a bed bug problem in your house. Thinking about the consequences never crosses your mind because you think there is no other better way to deal with it. However, you should understand that the exterminators use harsh chemicals to wipe out the bed bugs, leaving a severe effect in your place for a long time.
Everything in your apartment, including all furniture and furnishings, get soaked with these dangerous chemicals. The chemicals are poison for not just the bed bugs but also other living things. Just think about how harmful it will be to your health when you touch a piece of furniture unknowingly after the bed bug extermination process. Also, the smell is a nightmare to tolerate after the deed is done, and it takes months to clear that malodorous aroma from the house completely.
That’s why it is better to invest in other methods like using diatomaceous earth for killing the bed bugs, instead of calling the exterminators on the first go.
But How Does The Diatomaceous Earth Powder Kills Bed Bugs?
When the Diatomaceous earth (DE) touches the bed bug’s skin, it acts as a desiccant and gradually absorbs the oily, protective layer that covers their exoskeletons. Without their exterior protective shields, bed bugs die within a few hours due to dehydration. It is a great technique to get rid of the bed bugs without spending a ton of money on the exterminators.
How Long Does It Take For Diatomaceous Earth to Kill Bed Bugs?
Diatomaceous earth takes approximately a week to start affecting the bed bugs significantly. It is not an instantaneous process, so you need to give it some time before you start getting the desired results. In most of the cases, it is seen that the DE entirely obliterates the bed bugs in your apartment in about seventeen days.
To escalate the process, it is recommended to leave the diatomaceous earth on the carpets and bed seams for as long as possible. During the seventeen days, the bed bugs may lay more eggs, so leaving the insecticide on your furniture for an extended time exterminates the possibility of dealing with the bed bugs in the future as well.
Is It Safe to Use Diatomaceous Earth On Your Beds?
Using diatomaceous earth is an innocuous method to prevent bed bug infestation effectively. However, you should get bed bug preventive covers to wrap your mattress in after applying DE on the mattress cover and seams. This way, you can ensure that the bed bugs get exposed to the insecticide thoroughly. It will also provide you the perfect solution to end the bed bug’s birth cycle by trapping them for at least two weeks inside the covers.
Things to Look For When Checking the Locations for Bed Bugs
When the bed bugs make a nest, they tend to leave spots behind. By tracking these spots, we can figure out their exact locations. You should check every crack and crevice in your apartment for the following signs:
- Bed bugs (alive and dead)
- Black spots
- Eggs (tiny black dots)
Locations to Cover When Applying the Diatomaceous Earth Powder
Bed bugs typically prefer to hide and reside anywhere where it is dark and relatively cold. These are the locations you should cover when applying diatomaceous earth powder in your apartment.
- Underneath the bed mattresses (especially the seams and corners of mattress)
- Underneath the bed baseboards
- Behind bed headboards
- On the box spring
- Behind the wall-framed pictures
- Behind and underneath all furniture
- Underneath the carpets and mats
- Underneath the table baseboards
- Underneath the sofas
- On the internal wood frame of sofas and chairs
- Cracks in the wall
- Cracks or designed-patterns in your furniture
- Behind the electronic appliances, including tube lights
- Borders of the room
Now that you know all the basics about using diatomaceous earth, let’s move forward to the main topic at hand – “how to use diatomaceous earth for bed bugs?”
How Do You Apply Diatomaceous Earth for Bed Bugs?
Although the application instructions for diatomaceous earth are relatively straightforward, you still need to make sure each course of action is taken correctly. Follow these seven clear steps, and you will have your apartment free of bed bugs in no more than seventeen days.
Bug-Proof Every Room
It is a standard procedure to seal all the places where bed bugs could enter and make a nest before you do something about the bed bug infestation. It includes sealing all cracks and crevices on your wall, bed frames, doors, and windows.
However, most people skip this step and move on to the next step, which is a rookie mistake. Because until you don’t seal all the potential places the bed bugs can reside in, they will keep moving on to that next crack or crevice to nest again.
To ensure there is no re-infestation of the bed bugs in your apartment, don’t pass over this step to save some time and labor.
Wash All Fabrics At Certain Temperatures
The second step is to strip all your beddings, linens, and curtains and wash them thoroughly. Several research papers state that bed bugs can’t survive in severely hot or freezing temperatures. Washing the fabrics in the water at about 130 degrees Fahrenheit is one way to get rid of the bugs. You can also use freezing water to wash them, but remember that it will take more time to wipe out the bugs this way.
After the fabrics are clean, you should dry them on high heat. It would clean off all the remnants of bed bugs if there were any left. Finally, store the clean and dry material into sealed plastic bags or containers.
Another method to free your home from the bugs is to place the fabrics in sealed plastic bags and store them in a freezer for four days. This alternate method takes more time, but it does the trick nevertheless.
Steam Clean the Apartment
Now that all the fabrics are clean and free of bed bugs, you need to focus solely on your apartment. If you don’t have a steam cleaner, it is highly recommended to get one for this job. As the bed bugs can’t tolerate temperature above 130 degrees Fahrenheit, steam cleaning your home at this temperature before applying diatomaceous earth would do wonders to ease the process.
If nothing else, the high temperature will force the bed bugs to get out of their hiding places, which will help you locate their locations more conveniently.
As the bed bugs are active and you can easily locate most of the nests, it’s time to put the vacuum to good use. You must vacuum each corner, crack, and tight spot to clean them of the bed bugs. Pay extra attention to the designs and cracks on the furniture. It would be best if you dismantle all the big furniture to get as much access to the corners as possible. When you are done with the vacuuming, you may reassemble everything back together. Don’t forget to vacuum your mattress, carpets, and sofas as well.
This step will reduce the bed bugs to a certain extent. However, it cannot clean everything along with the eggs. And for that, you will need to use diatomaceous earth as the next step instructs.
Apply Diatomaceous Earth
Applying the diatomaceous earth on to the furniture will not be a challenge. However, it would be best to get an applicator to reach all the tight corners and smaller nooks.
Follow these steps to apply DE:
- Locate all the spots mentioned in the “Locations to Cover When Applying the Diatomaceous Earth Powder” heading.
- Before applying diatomaceous earth, cover your face with a mask and hands with plastic gloves.
- Use diatomaceous earth on the mentioned spots and any others that you may think of. You don’t need to overflow each area with DE; apply a light coating on furniture and mattresses. Make sure to apply DE gently on the surface and don’t spray it all over the area.
- Use your hands to spread the powder over everything evenly. Use an applicator where needed.
- Remove all the electrical switches and faceplates and use an applicator to puff diatomaceous earth behind the switches and outlets. Then place back the electrical faceplates and outlets.
Give Some Time
Now that you have put so much effort into this process, it would be smart to practice some patience and leave the applied DE on the surface for a few days. The white powder may not look great on your furniture and accessories, but it is necessary to clean the bed bugs from your apartment. The longer you leave it, the better results you will see ultimately.
It is unnecessary to vacuum and reapply the diatomaceous earth after every couple of days. Diatomaceous earth is not an organic product, so it will not rot or decay.
Repeat If Needed
If you still experience the bed bug symptoms after a couple of weeks, don’t get discouraged. Sometimes you need to repeat the process a second time to wipe out the bugs. Again clean, steam, and vacuum your house before applying diatomaceous earth, and you will surely get the results this time.
You can use DE even after your home is clean of the bed bugs to prevent future infestations. Once in two months will be enough to get the upper hand here.
If you are still unsure about using diatomaceous earth because of health reasons, here is a quick uptake on how it affects you health-wise.
Is Diatomaceous Earth Bad For Humans?
Some amount of silicon dioxide is already present in the human body. Therefore, when you eat diatomaceous earth in a small quantity, it doesn’t affect you. Some doctors even prescribe it when their patient’s blood pressure or cholesterol shoots up.
However, it would be best if you don’t inhale the diatomaceous earth as it may affect your lungs and esophagus. That’s why it is recommended to wear masks when you apply DE to your home. Once the powder gets settled, it is not harmful in any way. Also, it is recommended not to rub your eyes with the DE powdered hands as it may cause irritation.
What Are the Symptoms From Exposure of Diatomaceous Earth’s?
Research shows that if you inhale a small amount of diatomaceous earth, it may irritate your nasal passages for a while. However, if you breathe in a large amount, it can affect your lungs and cause you to have a severe cough episode and shortness of breath. It can also irritate your eyes as any silica-based product tends to when exposed to eyes.
Can Diatomaceous Earth Cause Cancer In The Long Term?
There is more than one answer to this question. Some researchers have not found any cancer-related effects of diatomaceous earth on humans whatsoever. However, other studies have revealed that people working with massive amounts of DE can suffer from lung problems, including lung cancer. But, there is no harm using DE until you are using it in small quantities.
Can Diatomaceous Earth Affect the Pets In Home?
When it comes to aquatic invertebrates, the diatomaceous earth has proven to be non-toxic to them. DE does not affect wildlife animals in any way as well. Cats, dogs, hamsters, and other pet animals remain completely unharmed when encountered with diatomaceous earth.
It is also found that when silicon dioxide or DE is not fed to hens with their feed, their bone formation gets harmed.
What Health Benefits Does Diatomaceous Earth Provide You?
The food-grade diatomaceous earth claims to provide several health benefits to a human body. For example:
- Diatomaceous earth improves your skin health.
- It lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- It provides the body with essential minerals.
- DE also promotes healthy digestion.
- It significantly improves bone formation and health.
Where Can You Get More Information About Diatomaceous Earth?
The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) cooperates with the United States Environmental Protection Agency to provide objective, science-based information about pesticide-related topics to the people. For more detailed and authentic information about diatomaceous earth, you can visit the NPIC website right now.
Featured image credit: “Diatomite” flickr photo by James St. John https://flickr.com/photos/jsjgeology/16656348400 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license