Win a copy of Growing Free this week in the Financial Strategy forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market pie forums private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • paul wheaton
  • r ranson
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Leigh Tate
  • jordan barton
  • Greg Martin
master gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • John F Dean
  • Nancy Reading
  • Jay Angler
  • Jeremy VanGelder
  • Jordan Holland
  • Saana Jalimauchi
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Listen Online

Get all of the podcasts in convenient, giant zip files
Subscribe on iTunes


During this podcast Paul Wheaton and Jocelyn Campbell discuss Paul's diatomaceous Earth article in detail. The number one reason to have it? It is a general insect control that you can eat. Anyone that eats grains. Eats it.

Diatomaceous Earth, or DE, is far more effective than any other pesticide because bugs can't build resistance to it. It works in two different ways. It is sharp for insects. It cuts and gets caught in the joints of their exoskeleton. It is a desiccant, meaning it dries things out. It turns bugs into little bug jerky.

Paul covers the variance in the grades of DE. There is a food grade version.

Diatomaceous Earth is the best stuff you can use on bed bugs, fleas, sugar ants, carpenter ants, flea beetles and chicken mites. Add a little DE where the chickens take their dust bath. It is even used on slugs and pin worms.

It is often used for long term storage of legumes and grains.

Also, it is so useful on the homestead Paul calls it, "Duct tape for the homestead."

Relevant Links

Paul's diatomaceous earth article

Support the Empire

Help support the empire and get all of the podcasts in bundles here

To support production of these podcasts, make a donation here at Paul's Patreon page.

Posts: 967
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So I guess you know that diatomaceous earth slashes earth worms to ribbons, if they were dumb enough to hang around.  They aren't, of course, so the earth worms leave, and then there is one fewer amazing soil amender left.

And since diatomaceous earth can't be removed, once it's in place, the earth worms won't come back.
Posts: 436
hugelkultur tiny house books urban chicken solar
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

00:51 Jocelyn: Again we have here Paul Wheaton of, and he now has Paul Wheaton... What is your blog's website name?

01:05 Paul: I'm just using and abusing WordPress I think and you know what it might change, there were some people that were saying I should put my blog there and really I was just putting it there so I could find a place to stick the Podcast stuff but instead I believe; if I remember correctly, it's

01:27 Jocelyn: That's what I'm recalling too. Again we're doing a Podcast from the road as where travelling now to Coquille, Oregon, we made a stop in Dexter, Oregon and got video footage of Rick Valley at Lost Valley Educational Centre. Anyway I'm Jocelyn Campbell of and Paul Wheaton also has Paulwheaton12, a YouTube channel where he's got over eighty YouTube videos. So we're doing Podcast number four.

02:03 Paul: Is it number four? I'm glad you're keeping track because I already forgot.

02:09 Jocelyn: Well you're driving so you're entitled to not have your full wits about you so I'm trying to help fill in the gaps while you're driving.

02:17 Paul: This is a demonstration of your awesome accounting skills, you can count to four. I went one too many.

02:30 Jocelyn: So as we mentioned at each of these Podcasts, we're taking suggestions for Podcasts out of the Tinkering Forum at and we're requesting links to  the different calls to bring staff to help spread the word about living more sustainably, living more frugally, living more self-sufficiently and today's topics is?

03:00 Paul: Diatomaceous Earth, so that would be the link for today too that I want to get people to do and when we ask for a link maybe it's like if you've got a blog or a website that's the best but if you don't have that, giving a link onto a forum is probably the next best and then after that putting it on your Facebook wall thing that's public but really a link from anywhere that you might have access to on the mighty Internet that is just grand but that's the thing we're looking for; Diatomaceous Earth source today, oh and I should say also, the link should say Diatomaceous Earth and of course you go to so you can get the exact spelling and then it should link to the article which I believe is I think.

03:58 Jocelyn: Good and we're going to talk about what Diatomaceous Earth is; it doesn't look very earthy, it's a white powder it looks more like flour almost.

04:09 Paul: Yeah kind of off white and it has a weird texture to it like if you stick your hand into flour actually it is really kind of similar to the flour, probably feels a little bit more sticky or a little bit more scratchy than flour when you rub it between your fingers.

04:29 Jocelyn: So we're going to... As we were reviewing the different key points Paul has a very thorough article out on about the uses and what it is and we're going to just briefly touch on most of those in today's Podcast and as we're making the list Paul was wrapping up the list by saying he thought no homestead should be without it.

04:57 Paul: Right I think every homestead needs to have at least ten to maybe fifteen pounds of Diatomaceous Earth on hand a day at a time and you know the stuff is already millions of years old so it's not like you have to worry about it spoiling or anything. I know that here in the Pacific Northwest the place I like to get it is from *Azure Standard* but I mean like a lot of people might not know about Azure or they might find it a little wonky to try that out. I got a new source and for years now I've had a link to stuff that I found that was really good on Amazon and a link from the article but just a few days ago I got a new source and we'll talk more about that later as we get into the talking with the crystalline silica content. I think that the place to really start with it though is; why the hell do you want it at all? I'd say that the number one reason to have it is that it's a general insect control that you can eat and in fact you do eat it. Anybody who eats grains, eats it, it might even be in other foods too but in the old and mouldy days they use a stick these nasty pesticides in with the grains that they stored in the grain silos; I know because I used to drive the wheat trucks and as we would drop off our load these guys would throw this smelly pink stuff at us and now they've gotten rid of that and they use Diatomaceous Earth.
The Diatomaceous Earth is far more effective than any other insecticide because they can't build resistance to it. The way the Diatomaceous Earth works is that... Well and in fact this part I've heard from so many different sources, so many different things and I believe it actually does two different things so I'm going to go with what I think it does and that is, it's actually kind of sharp for insects; for us it's totally fine but for insects it's kind of sharp and it actually cuts and it gets caught between the joints of their exoskeleton and cuts in more, it also helps to kind of scratch off... It's kind of abrasive so it helps to scratch off their waxy outside coating and then since it’s a dessicant, meaning that it dries things out, it actually kind of turns bugs into little bug jerky, so they're all dried out and crispy inside because most of their water needs are met through humidity in the air and this thing kind of screws that all up. So I'd say it's primary function is as a general insect killer, I don't even want to use the word insecticide because it's not a chemical at all and to me when I hear the word insecticide I think I think chemical.

08:04 Jocelyn: So if we eat it in gains why do we end up eating it in grains?
08:09 Paul: So now when we go and we take the grain to the grain silo, they dump gobs of it in with the grains and so it's already there and there's also different grades of Diatomaceous Earth and of course the stuff that they dump into the food is food-grade Diatomaceous Earth and so that the grade of Diatomaceous Earth that has a very low crystalline silica content. To qualify as food-grade I'm pretty sure it has to have less than one percent of crystalline silica and there's a lot of people who are familiar with the stuff that the Diatomaceous Earth is used for swimming pools as a filter and that's stuff has been baked and when it does that it turns to like seventy percent of crystalline silica and that stuff is dangerous. If you powder the air with it and starts breathing it in, it could lead to cancer and other problems so don't be fooling with that stuff; don't touch that. In fact the Amazon links that I have are to Diatomaceous Earth that has a content of crystalline silica at 0.5 percent and I tried to talk to the manufacturers a little bit about their crystalline silica content level and I really didn't get very far and so I just kind of let it go, 0.5 percent was the best I could find anywhere on the Internet by far; I found a lot of one percent so there's only one place where it's 0.5. So it's like "well okay, I was kind of hoping for something even lower but oh well."
Then a few days ago I found a source where I visited with a guy on the phone for a while and he was saying that the guarantee is to be less than 0.5 percent and they're usually at 0.1 to 0.2 percent and he and I talked a great length about the different Diatomaceous Earth mines and how this stuff was by far the best in the world, there is no better and I think a lot of his business is with people who buy it and they intentionally eat cups of it; not just like it ends up being in their grains are something but they actually go like "oh I want to eat a third of a cup of it today, I want to eat a third of a cup per meal today" and I mean they ingest large quantities of it and I've heard of this and it's very popular among the crowd where it's like they're really bonkers about longevity, they want to live to be more than one hundred years old and they eat a lot of this stuff and I have tried to read it several times and it has something to do with it having the right kind of silica in it and it's like a building block for cells and bones and all kind of things and it's a critical component and it's like this really good Diatomaceous Earth apparently is like just the right stuff.

11:32 Jocelyn: And that's not really what your article on rich soil is about, it isn't about people's use of it even though that's the kind of Diatomaceous Earth; sometimes you call it D.E. for short, it’s the kind that is the food grade and that people could eat but you're recommending using it to help get rid of pests right?
11:57 Paul: Dominantly yes and my point in going down that path was to make it clear how safe it is, that it's actually has a variety of health benefits for mammals while it's horribly deadly to insects. One of the people at took some Diatomaceous Earth and put it into a jar along with some fleas and the fleas were dead in minutes and this reminds me before I forget, one of the important things when you use D.E. is, use lots of it. Use gobs, don't be bashful, don't be shy, in fact my article 'Ants and Aphids on my Apple Tree' I started off trying to use D.E. and it wasn't effective so I tried a bunch of other things and then I ended up coming back to the D.E. and then I used lots of it and it worked great and the thing is if you need like a fifty pound sack, if you go to the right source; if you go to Azure Standards, I think a fifty pound sack is something like fifteen bucks.

13:10 Jocelyn: And I just want to interject that it's such a fine, light powder that fifty pounds is a lot.
13:18 Paul: Yeah. I think if any of you get some you should probably get ten pounds, don't fool around with the five pound stuff get ten pounds, it last forever but I imagine that once you do... If you've got a homestead; if you've got twenty acres and you start using this stuff, I think that you're going to end up burning through ten pounds in a year or so maybe two years and you will be really glad that you got it. I know that a lot of farmers will feed it to their animals as a form of parasite control which is always going to bother me a little bit because I kind of think the key is that once it gets wet it doesn't work, you've got to keep it dry for it to be effective and then how can it be effective then if it's inside the gut of an animal and so I don't fully understand that. However, people have been reporting awesome stuff with it and like the animals just become phenomenally healthy after being a little on the ill side of feeding it to them and they're also doing sequel parasite counts and they're showing dramatic improvements so it's definitely worth it. Now I did after writing the article, I did get a copy of the book 'The Diatomaceous Earth' by Tui Rose and I read it and wow, not only did it confirm everything that I had researched for years but it went into a lot of details of a lot of other stuff that I never even knew about Diatomaceous Earth. It's being used as a cleaner, as abrasive agent, it's amazing as a body health kind of a thing and apparently it does amazing things when you powder yourself with it when you're having certain kinds of issues and the list just goes on and on the stuff is like a miracle thing of some kind. I don't know how to express, I do think it's like... I know that for a lot of problems on the farm, the first thing that pops into my head is "I bet Diatomaceous Earth will fix this." It's like duct tape! That's what it is, it ought to be on The Red Green Show.

15:58 Jocelyn: There you go.
16:00 Paul: Yeah duct tape. If the women don't find you handsome they should at least find you handy so that means you better have Diatomaceous Earth with you.

16:12 Jocelyn: So it's effective against fleas and aphids you mentioned that right?

16:16 Paul: Oh yeah and well not aphids; I don't know about anything about it; ants though because it was ants and aphids. The ants basically heard the aphids and then if you've got like an aphid or something that eats aphids, you can't get it anywhere near the aphids until you get rid of the ants. So really usually what happens is that if you just get rid of the ants then the aphids will go away because the aphid's natural predators will come in because you know those aphids are sucking the sugar out of the plant and so they taste like little pieces of candy so then along come all these Lady Bugs and they love candy, they'll eat aphids like crazy but bed bugs; nothing works better against bed bugs than Diatomaceous Earth, nothing comes close and for fleas, I've got my big 'Flea Control' article. Nothing works as good as Diatomaceous Earth and fighting fleas. There are a couple of things that have been very interesting and I'd like to conduct more experiments and there could be more fun, more scientifically that Diatomaceous Earth and because with Diatomaceous Earth, you've got to leave it on for a while with fleas you could out last their life cycle but for the most part, Diatomaceous Earth is a number one for grasshoppers, insect sprays, it's great for a chicken dust bath because chickens get mites on them and then they'll give themselves dust baths to get the mites off of them. So Diatomaceous Earth inside where the dust is for their dust baths, that's awesome stuff that really helps them a lot.
18:06 Jocelyn: I used Diatomaceous Earth to get rid of ants in my kitchen because I had tried what I thought where the less toxic ant traps; they were Borax Ant Traps and I swear the ants were just eating that and having fun, the Borax wasn't doing anything and I also moved a flower pot outside my kitchen window and the ant hill was under the flower pot and I saw the woodpeckers come and eat all the ants but I still had ants in my kitchen until I put Diatomaceous Earth around the edges of the floor boards where they were coming in and I haven't had them since.

18:44 Paul: I think an important thing with Diatomaceous Earth and with Borax is I don't... I would not Borax with all these situations, I think Borax is a useful tool for the tool box but when it comes to insect control Borax is almost never the solution. Diatomaceous is almost always better and still Borax is toxic, it's just a low toxic thing, a low toxicity item but in this case it's almost always used incorrectly. It's always used in a way where you get to experience the toxicity of it; don't do it, stay away but Diatomaceous Earth and Borax both are generally used by folks in an incorrect way and the correct way is to keep in mind that it's not a bait, the insects don't like it and they will avoid it as opposed to a bait that's like "oh this seems like the stuff, give me some of that" and then it's got some kind of toxic element to it. For ants if you know the path that they're on, just a little bit where their path is will usually do the trick. They put ten steps, fifteen steps into it and they've got enough on them that they're goners and that's all you need. I have seen it a couple of times, I've fiddled with it a couple of times when I see ants in the area I just put a little bit down in that little area and they're gone within an hour but it's not like you put it someplace and hope that they'll still come to it, you've got to get it on them and make sure that you get it on them.

20:39 Jocelyn: You told me about that experiment someone on did with putting the fleas in a jar and I've been using Diatomaceous Earth in my place for fleas not very successfully because I wasn't consistent enough with it and so I put some fleas in a jar with Diatomaceous Earth but I had Diatomaceous across half of the bottom of the jar, half with the D.E. on the bottom half totally clear and the fleas did stay away from the D.E. and they stayed hopping around on the clear side of the jar just fine for a while, it wasn't until you made them go through the D.E. then they were dead and they were dead almost instantly after getting in the D.E. but it made a big difference; you had to have the whole surface covered where they were going to go instead of just hoping they'd fall in it.

21:41 Paul: With the flea stuff that you had at your house that was a long road but they are gone and I do think it was a big part of the D.E. but you were uncomfortable with the idea of going full D.E. and so it's like "alright, we won't do that" and so it was just slower; it was really slow, it was fun but then it was just all on the edges and stuff and the thing is that if you give them a place where they can go without it, they'll go there, they'll go hangout there instead and you know in time they'll probably accidentally hopped on to the D.E. once in a while but you got to be patient then and they could still keep reproducing forever but that's another topic for another day is talking about the flea control stuff, the flea life cycle and things of that nature. All right I think we've covered quite a lot here what else is on the list there?

22:53 Jocelyn: I think you covered just about all of it, oh the other pieces you want to cover are the unwarranted fears with using D.E. which is mostly well I'll let you go into that and then also it can... I experienced it can clog the vacuum and that's not a fear, that's just a mitigation.

23:17 Paul: Yeah you're going to have to have a kind of... And then that's another thing too, for fleas with vacuuming is a great way but you've got to put a little bit of Diatomaceous Earth in your vacuum first but if you've got these vacuums with the fancy pants filters on them and stuff that will filter out little teeny tiny bits, well D.E. is a little teeny tiny bit so it's going to filter it and once it filters it and you get a whole lot of it, well be prepared to be able to change your filter a lot and also hopefully you've got some kind of set up where you can wash it or something like that. Imagine what's going to happen if you spilled flour on the ground, if you spilled like a couple pounds of flour and then you took the vacuum to it, well it's going to also clog up your filter the same way. There are a lot of people that are all like "oh no D.E. is dangerous; you get in the air and you get it in your lungs and you're going to die." That's got a little bit of truth to it for the pool grade great stuff but not for the food grade stuff. The food grade stuff, there's people that have worked their entire lives in Diatomaceous Earth mines and have never had any health problems; no cancer, no nothing like. Now there are also people that have worked in the food grade Diatomaceous Earth factories that have a lot of problems; but that is where you’re taking the Diatomaceous Earth and you're feeding it and getting more of that crystalline silica stuff.

24:57 Jocelyn: Alright so on one other piece of the notes we wanted to talk about what Diatomaceous Earth is and we've covered that pretty thoroughly. You might discuss a little bit it is fossilized critters of a kind right?

25:13 Paul: Yeah and so they're actually called Diatoms and at the bottom of my article there was somebody who saw the article and she works as a scientist monkeying with Diatoms and documenting them and so she took a whole bunch of pictures of living Diatoms of today and so those are on the website. She gave me permission to post them up there, I've given her full credit, there's even a picture of her up there collecting samples but the Diatomaceous Earth is actually the fossilized remains of Diatoms millions of years old and so you'll get to these places where there used to be million years ago lake bottoms or something and they were just full of Diatom critters and all the things lined up just right so that the Diatoms were fossilized by the tons. Apparently there is... It's not like... I'd say it is a limited resource but it's pretty massive; my impression is anyway.

26:27 Jocelyn: We also wanted to talk about the different uses for Diatomaceous Earth and we talked about how it's put in flowers to help kill any bugs that might get in the grains or in grain silos and so it ends up in our flour that we eat. We talked about people actually eating it as a health thing and we talked about using it for bugs and we didn't talk so much about using it as a desiccant except how that acts against bugs but there's a homesteading use as using it as a desiccant as well.

27:02 Paul: Well as far as saving seeds I mean you want to keep your seeds dry when you store them and so putting a little Diatomaceous Earth in your seed packet is very helpful. From a homesteading perspective a lot of people put Diatomaceous Earth in a five gallon bucket and fill it with their home harvested grain and they'll in some Diatomaceous Earth with grains. I'm not sure where else on the homestead I can think of other than as insect control.

27:40 Jocelyn: I think we've covered everything, you already at the beginning talked about the updated source links in your article and the places to get it so that you're getting the kind with the lowest silica.

27:55 Paul: Crystalline silica.

27:57 Jocelyn: Crystalline silica.

27:59 Paul: Right because my understanding is that with Diatomaceous Earth is like a major component of it is silica but it's like the good kind and what you want to do is you want to minimize the bad kind and that would be the crystalline silica. Does that make sense?

28:18 Jocelyn: Yes. We’re at about half an hour for this Podcast.

28:25 Paul: Sweet because the exit is not that far away and you know I'm worried that we're going to miss the exit so we got to strategize around that.

28:35 Jocelyn: Right so this Podcast is a little different, we are doing it on the road as we're visiting all kinds of cool eco people and Paul has been driving and I've been trying to help hold together the topics and this was Podcast number four. Again let us know what Podcast you want to hear about at the Tinkering Forum on and Paul has a promotion running for people who push links of any of his stuff out to that's also...

29:10 Paul: In theory people are going to listen to this Podcast maybe a year down the road and it then if you want to be involved in that promotion it'll probably be over in and it sucks to be you. You should've been here a year ago. So again make the link to the Diatomaceous Earth article and if I get lots of links to my stuff, I'll be a very happy guy and I'll make more Podcasts. So I think that's it, you want to do the grand finale?

30:00 Jocelyn: It's got to be you.

30:02 Paul: It's got to be me? Okay, alright if you like this sort of thing and I know you do, come on out to the Forums at where we talk about non-toxic techniques, homesteading and permaculture all the time.
Posts: 950
Location: Galicia, Spain zone 9a
dog duck chicken cooking food preservation fiber arts pig bike bee solar ungarbage
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Im going to try giving the dogs and cat a light dry shampoo to combat fleas and ticks.
steward & author
Posts: 32748
Location: Left Coast Canada
books chicken cooking fiber arts sheep writing
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
What a blast from the past.

Love the Red Green quote!  
We must storm this mad man's lab and destroy his villanous bomb! Are you with me tiny ad?
The Permaculture Playing Cards are a great gift for a gardener
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic