The Complete Guide to Using Diatomaceous Earth for Fleas

Fleas have plagued pet owners for longer than anyone can remember, but effective flea killing treatments are possible. No one wants to have to deal with tiny flea bites on their ankles, and seeing little spots jumping around can be disconcerting. And that’s not even what your dog or cat is having to deal with. After Fluffy and Fido have had their flea treatments, you’ll need to find something that kills the fleas that are living on the floors in your home. Fleas love carpet—it’s like a comfortable nest for their offspring. One of the best methods of treatment is by using diatomaceous earth, also know as DE, to kill them. DE is a safe and natural type of pesticide, as long as you buy the food grade DE, and not another type.

How Does Diatomaceous Earth Kill Fleas?

Diatomaceous earth resembles limestone, and was originally discovered by a 1830s farmer who thought he could make good use of it. After scientists checked it out, they discovered it was actually something which they called diatomaceous earth. It’s believed that DE is formed by algae and siliceous shells, most often called the remains of phytoplankton. By the time it becomes DE no algae remains, but only the powder of the shells.

homemade flea killer

Since then it has been used on farms, homes, and for industrial purposes. Who would have realized that something natural from the ground could prove so useful?

DE works to kill fleas by drying out their exoskeleton, or their hard outer shell of their body. It’s a lot like salt, but it works more quickly. Once they’ve become dehydrated, they die. It also works as the substance is razor sharp. You can see this if you look at it under a microscope. Of course it has no impact on humans or pets, but to a tiny insect it is deadly.

DE can be used safely in the home, and the garden. In fact, both spots should be treated, as usually the fleas come in from the outside, which causes issues with your pets first, and then great annoyance to humans.

Best Steps for Using DE

You can begin using DE in your home as soon as you get the food grade DE package home. Start by giving all floors and furniture a good vacuum. You’ll want to pull furniture out, as fleas can hide in nooks and crannies. Even if you don’t get all the fleas, they’ll start moving, which is what you want. You don’t want them to hide down in locations you can’t reach.

  1. Sprinkle the DE over the carpets. Outside, sprinkle on the concrete and in the grass. Add more in regions where your pets hang out.
  2. You may wish to scrub the powder deeper into the carpets with a brush or broom. You need it to sink down to where any fleas may be hiding.
  3. It can take about four hours to kill the fleas, after they have walked through it. You may wish to leave it for up to twelve hours.
  4. Launder anything and everything that will fit in the washing machine. This includes pet blankets and beds, cushions, and bedspreads. Anywhere where you may have seen the tiny little pests jumping around.
  5. Once this time is up, vacuum up all the powder. Be sure to go over the surfaces several times, and use the crevice tool in the corners. By this point, all the fleas should be dead.
  6. Repeat the treatment once a week for four weeks, as you need to get rid of the adult fleas first, to prevent them from laying more eggs. When new eggs hatch, they’ll swiftly be dealt with.
  7. Put your clean pet beds back in place. You may wish to keep certain items up in the closet for a month or so, otherwise you may find yourself doing a lot of extra cleaning each week.

What is Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth?

DE is rarely ever sold directly out of the ground. Like anything else, it’s processed for human usage. Food grade DE is gently abrasive, but exceptionally absorbent. It’s made mostly of silica, which is present in nearly every living thing today. It’s almost like talcum powder but it’s soft and light. But it’s the enemy of fleas and other small insects as they have delicate structures.

Food grade DE is actually used by the food industry to help preserve food from being eaten by pests, such as grain products. It’s completely safe to consume, as well as by pets, and safe for houseplants. Of course you don’t want to eat an entire bag, then it would be harmful, just like consuming an entire container of salt would be.

How to make Homemade Flea Powder Recipe with Diatomaceous Earth

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A homemade flea powder recipe can help to kill the fleas in your home. It utilizes four different ingredients, so each can work at your infestation. This provides some additional power to the DE, though you can use that on its own too. This powder can also be safely sprinkled on your pet, though a cat may be less tolerant. You’ll also not want to do if for more than a few days each month.

The four ingredients you need are food grade diatomaceous earth (DE), Neem powder, yarrow powder, and eucalyptus oil. Some of these may sound unfamiliar but you can find them in a health food store or online.

You’ll need to measure out amounts first :

  • 1 cup of DE
  • 1/2 cup of Neem powder
  • 1/2 cup yarrow powder
  • 20 drops eucalyptus essential oil (avoid if you have cats)

Steps to apply :

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Place the powder mixture into a container that has a shaker style lid. You can always drill holes in the lid if you can’t find one with holes.
  3. Sprinkle the powder over the carpet and floors where you’ve seen fleas. You can also use this powder to sprinkle on your pet. You can use a special silicone brush that will distribute the powder down to their skin.

Remember to only use the eucalyptus on dogs and not cats.

Focus on the areas where fleas like to hide, such as back of neck, shoulders, and lower back. If you wash your pet, you’ll need to reapply the powder afterwards.

If you’ve poured the powder onto the carpet, vacuum it up after twelve hours of time. Treat your carpet once a week for a month. Treat your pets every four days for a month.

After this time, you should see an eradication of your flea problem.

Using Diatomaceous Earth As An Insecticide for Other Insects

DE is also an effective treatment for other pests, particularly those who are immune to boric acid, which is more commonly used to eradicate ants and other types of grooming insects. You can use DE to kill bed bugs, chiggers, and knats too.

Do I Need to Take Safety Measures to Use Diatomaceous Earth?

The main precaution is that you purchase DE specifically for your purpose of killing fleas. DE is sold in many different forms, including for use in pools. Just like you wouldn’t buy a bag of salt meant for sidewalks for your cooking, you’ll want to ensure you’re buying DE meant as use for an insecticide, and not swimming pools or some other purpose.

In other words, you’ll want to search for food grade DE. This will provide the assurance that it’s safe to use around family, pets, and plants. If you buy crystallized or filter grade then there may be breathing issues with humans and pets.

Be sure to regularly vacuum your home. Even if you think you killed the last flea, you should be vacuuming at least every two or three days.

If you have asthma you may wish to wear a mask while sprinkling it over the carpets as the fine powder may trigger an attack. Keep medication on hand, just in case. Remember that you’ll have this issue no matter what type of flea treatment you decide to use, so it’s best to tackle the problem immediately.

You may also wish to avoid turning on fans in the areas where you are treating your floors as it will spray the DE around. Keep all windows closed until you have time to finish the treatment.

If you aim to use a lot of DE around your home, inside and out, you may also want to wear a mask to keep from breathing it in. Send your family out to do something else during this time. It’s recommended that you provide a thorough vacuum in rooms where it’s sprinkled, before anyone goes to sleep at night.

By making the flea killer recipe, and taking the steps necessary to eradicate these pests from your home, you should be flea-free in about a month or so. It will also be handy to keep some DE on hand in case the fleas come back the following year.


  1. Sica August 21, 2016
  2. Patricia August 31, 2020

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