When I first heard of this weird ingredient called “Diatomaceous Earth,” I was reading a recipe for DIY deodorant. I couldn’t even pronounce it right. “DIE-UH-TUH-MACE-SHUS” I would feebly attempt to pronounce. Aside from its strange name, this naturally derived wonder material is known for many benefits. Natural deodorizer, natural pesticide and insecticide, natural detox, and the list goes on! I wanted to know more, so I did my research and have decided this product should be kept in every “natural lifestyle” home. In this post you will learn What is Diatomaceous Earth and 7 Ways to Use It in your everyday lives.
What is Diatomaceous Earth Made From?
As I mentioned, Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a natural product which is made from fossilized Diatoms, a marine microorganism. The fossilized remains of Diatoms accumulate on the shores of certain lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water(1). These fossils are collected, ground, and filtered, creating diatomaceous earth, a fine, white-to-gray powdery substance.
Now what makes these Diatom fossils so important? Well, their shells are made of the mineral Silica. Silica can be found in many examples in nature including sand, clay, quartz, and it also can be found in certain sources of water (1). In addition, silica exists in the human body. It is a vital part of various parts of the body including bones, ligaments, and cartilage (3). When consumed or absorbed, Silica has a low bio-availability, which means only a small fraction is absorbed, where the rest is disposed of through urine (4). Silica is generally considered safe and has many uses, whether in cosmetics, the food industry, and for industrial use (4). Thus, it’s no wonder diatomaceous earth has be found to be so useful for use at home as well.
How it Works
Diatomaceous earth has a very rough molecular surface. While to mammals it is harmless to our skin or internally, it works in various ways to pierce or exfoliate whatever in comes in contact with. For insects, this rough surface punctures their exoskeleton and they dry up (5). For humans, this can provide a mild exfoliation to the skin or internally, can help remove toxins and waste from the colon or intestines (3). Along the same lines, the molecule is also highly absorbent, drawing out moisture or binding to liquids (3). Notably, if your DE comes in contact with liquid of any kind, it no longer is effectively abrasive enough to kill insects, if that is your chosen use (5).
Silica crystalline, which is a certain type of silicon dioxide, can be toxic when inhaled (2). Although DE is primarily 100% amorphous silica, some brands may contain some silica crystalline (1). For safety, it is recommended to wear a mask or scarf over your mouth when using DE. This will ensure you avoid inhaling the very fine powder, which can cause irritation to lungs and airways.
In addition, it is important to only buy and use food grade diatomaceous earth, such as this one here. Food grade DE is 100% amorphous silica and is the safest, non-toxic version of silica. The particles are no more harmful than dust, but could still causes irritation to those with sensitivities, asthma, small children, or the elderly (3). When using DE, it is recommended to use in a well ventilated area and vacuum or remove with a damp towel if respiratory irritation occurs (3).
7 Natural Uses & Benefits Diatomaceous Earth
One of the more common trends in American food and health culture is a detox or cleanse. The act of taking supplements, whether natural or chemical, can aid the body in expelling toxins that have built up in the digestive track. When the goal is to do that naturally, people often turn to substances such as bentonite clay, activated charcoal, or diatomaceous earth to help.
DE helps remove toxins from your digestive track and colon which can promote regularity, increased energy, improved absorption of nutrients, even expelling any parasites that might be hanging out in your gut (3). One customer review on Amazon says:
“I threw in a tsp in 8oz of water, than an hour later I had the same amount (because I was not on an empty stomach). This morning I woke up to have a BM (Sorry, TMI). One of the things DE is known for, is it’s colon cleansing and parasite removal abilities. Not knowing, not even thinking for a second I would need this to cleanse any parasites (I never thought I had any!) I noticed a bunch of small worms in the toilet! I can’t believe it. Immediately, I have a jump in energy, my back pain has subsided, and I feel great!”
To use: Mix 1 tsp into 8-12 ounces of water, juice, or smoothie and drink on an empty stomach. You may gradually increase to up to 1 TBS per day. Recommended length of use is 7-14 days for detox.
Perhaps the most common use of DE is as an insecticide or pesticide in both the home or garden. Many store-bought products contain DE and they are effective at killing bed beds, fleas, roaches, ants, and spiders. When the powder comes in contact with an insect, as the insect moves, the silica cuts the bug up, effectively killing the insect (5). Or on a waxy surface (like roaches) it scratches the surface allowing moisture to escape until the bug dries up (5).
Now I am in no way advocating we go around all willy-nilly pouring DE on any bug we see. I am merely providing the information for people to be aware that this non-toxic ingredient is a safer alternative to many strong chemicals used today. It isn’t a poison, which would then eventually end up in our streams and drinking water (and into our bodies). The bugs are killed physically, not chemically. Which is safer for everyone!
DE can also be used in an organic garden as a natural pesticide. For use, sprinkle or spray the DE directly on the plant leaves. This will kill the pests and then will wash into the soil, providing nutrients to the plants. Pretty cool stuff.
For Use: Read more here about specific application for various insects.
One of the many uses of DE include use for personal care, such as homemade toothpaste or a face scrub. Since the silica is rough in texture, it can be used to polish just about anything. And it is gentle enough that it won’t over-do it. For a basic face scrub, mix 1 tablespoon of DE with 1 tablespoon of liquid (water, aloe vera, honey). Smooth on face and allow to set for 2-3 minutes before scrubbing with hands or washcloth. Rinse well.
Many other DIY products would lend well to DE, such as soaps, masks, or even bubble bath. You can even add it to recipes you already have developed. I personally use DE in a recent recipe I developed for natural deodorant. For a list of ideas check out this article here.
Finally, as a natural scrubbing agent, the silica in DE can aid in natural household cleaning as well. Since it is abrasive, it would be perfect for counter-top cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, or stain removal.
4. Supplement for Skin, Hair, and Nails
Another common use and benefit of DE is for taking as a silica supplement (4). Silica is already present in many foods, primarily plant-based, and is used in the creation of bones and other tissues (4). Silica supplements have been known to provide many benefits such as fighting free radicals, boosting collagen production for skin and joints, improved hair thickness, and stronger nails and hair (3, 4).
For use, mix 1 tsp of DE into 12 ounces of liquid and drink daily. Try 12 ounces of coconut water plus one tablespoon of lemon juice.
While taking DE for supplementation is considered generally safe, as with any supplementation, discuss with your doctor.
5. Pet Care (Fleas & Worms)
With as many pets (and subsequent fleas) there are on this planet, its a wonder the flea treatment companies don’t run the world. Seriously, Advantage flea treatment is $39.99 for 2 doses. Being a proud cat Mom, I was thrilled that there are cheaper and more natural options available. Not only is it much more affordable, DE is effective to eliminate fleas from your pets and home.
For the mechanics of how this works, read the “insecticide/pesticide” section above. Fleas, especially for indoor/outdoor animals, may be an ongoing issue. But with weekly or monthly treatment with DE, you can keep the fleas under wraps. Simply sprinkle DE on your pets fur and gently rub in. Be sure to apply in a well ventilated area and do not apply directly to the animals face.
You will also need to treat pet bedding, carpets, and other cloth furniture with DE. First, vacuum carpets or other areas. Sprinkle on surface where fleas and their larvae may be and leave on for up to 2 weeks. Make sure the area is dry before sprinkling/spraying with DE to ensure effectiveness. Vacuum after 2 weeks to remove dead fleas.
Finally, pets can take DE internally to safely remove parasite and worms. If your pet has fleas, they very well could have worms. Feeding your pet a dose of food grade DE mixed in their wet food can eliminate all worms and parasite. For specific dosage instructions, check out this article here.
6. Use to Dry Flowers
Sometimes you really just want to preserve that beautiful bouquet of flowers, right? Especially when fresh flowers are hard to come by (aka winter). Using DE to help dry and preserve the flowers can help you enjoy your colorful collection for many months to come.
For use, begin to dry flowers normally for 2-3 days, hanging upside down. Next, in an airtight container (think shallow storage bin), sprinkle DE in the bottom. Arrange flowers on top of DE, spreading out to avoid touching, top with another sprinkle of DE and clode lid. Dry for 3 days and then flip the flowers over, close lid, and dry for 3 more days. When complete, gently brush off excess DE and arrange flowers to display.
The last benefit of diatomaceous earth is for use as a natural deodorizer. The moisture-wicking qualities (ie absorption) helps to neutralize the bacteria that causes odor.
From shoes and carpets, to trash cans and litter boxes, DE can help neutralize even the strongest odors. Simply apply with an applicator to carpet, or sprinkle in at the bottom of a trashcan or on top of an open/ventilated cat litter box.
To make into a natural armpit deodorant, mix 1/4 cup arrowroot powder, 1/4 cup diatomaceous earth, with 1/4 cup melted shea butter, 2 Tbs melted coconut oil, 1/2 tsp vitamin E oil, and 20-30 drops of your favorite essential oils. You can also buy some natural deodorant with a similar recipe here.
Any questions, comments, or concerns? Please leave a comment below! Thanks for reading, friends!