How to Clean Up Diatomaceous Earth

How to Clean Up Diatomaceous Earth

Using Diatomaceous Earth to target an insect infestation in your home, garden or business is a great choice when you’re aiming to get the job done without synthetic chemicals. The Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is deadly to most bugs, but it does present certain issues of which users should be aware.

Most notably, this fine dust can irritate your eyes, throat and lungs. Generally, these irritations can be avoided by wearing a breathing mask while lightly applying it around your trouble areas. If you over-apply it or spill it, then you may want know how to clean up Diatomaceous Earth.

Before you attempt to clean up Diatomaceous Earth, we advise you to consult the label on your DE package and review the instructions below.

tips for diatomaceous earth clean up


If you’re trying to clean up Safer® Brand Diatomaceous Earth after using it for pest control, you have several options. But before you even apply DE, please understand that a little bit goes a long, long way. A very light layer in all the right places is all that’s needed to take down most insect infestations. In fact, if you apply it correctly there shouldn’t be enough to bother cleaning up!

Most importantly, remember this: Diatomaceous Earth is for crack and crevice treatment – don’t toss it around like grass seed.

If you need to clean up Diatomaceous Earth, first don a breathing mask and rubber gloves, and then use one of these methods:

  • WET TOWEL OR MOP – Getting Diatomaceous Earth wet makes it non-irritating while also rendering it ineffective against insects. Essentially, the minute particles in DE will fill up with moisture. This means that you can quickly clean up Diatomaceous Earth by adding water and wiping up the mud that forms. This method is best if you accidentally spill some Diatomaceous Earth in an area where you don’t want it. Don’t attempt a wet clean-up if you want the powder to still function as an insecticide.
  • VACUUMING (BUT DON’T STOP READING HERE) – Understand that DE is very abrasive and it can have a devastating effect on your vacuum cleaner – but only if you use the wrong kind of vacuum. When cleaning up Diatomaceous Earth do NOT use a regular, filtered vacuum or one that has a bag – these vacuum cleaners will get clogged and the powder may destroy the motor. Instead, vacuum up Diatomaceous Earth with a shop vac or a vacuum that has a high-quality HEPA filter. Even then, vacuum slowly and give your machine time to draw the abrasive powder entirely through its system.
    When vacuuming:


    • Ensure Diatomaceous Earth does not make contact with your eyes.
    • Use adequate ventilation.
    • Avoid breathing any dust.
    • Wear a suitable dust mask (approved by NIOSH/MSHA).


sb_us_diatomaceous-earthDiatomaceous Earth is a fine, yet abrasive, powder that injures insects by grinding into the seams of their exoskeleton. As the powder continues through their shell, it enters their interiors where it wicks up their internal moisture and fatty material. The end effect is that the bugs die from rapid dehydration.

What’s great about this pest control method is that it is entirely mechanical in nature, so insects cannot develop immunities to it in the way they do with other insecticidal methods.

Be aware though that Diatomaceous Earth is not effective on all insects. Certain insects go through larval stages where they don’t have a true exoskeleton, and they won’t be injured by Diatomaceous Earth. Other insects never develop an exoskeleton, which also means the DE will be ineffective. However, the vast majority of insects do develop a hard exoskeleton at some life stage, so Diatomaceous Earth is always a helpful insecticide treatment to have around.


Above, we described how beneficial Diatomaceous Earth is at eliminating pests, but you may be asking “What is this stuff?” and “How could it possibly be considered an alternative to pesticides?”

Diatomaceous Earth is an amazing substance, and you’ll be impressed by where it comes from, too. Diatomaceous Earth is technically considered a soft form of sedimentary rock. It’s broken up and sold in powder form. But what’s really interesting is that it’s a very special sort of rock – it’s made of microscopic fossils!

No, we aren’t saying you’re using crushed T-Rex bones to kill bugs. These fossils are far more common than a T-Rex’s – they are the remains of diatoms, a hard-shelled alga found in water. Diatoms have existed since the time of the dinosaurs, and their fossils are found all over the world, including in Nevada and California.

DE is extracted through mining operations and sold for a variety of uses, most notably pest control.

Since Diatomaceous Earth is sourced directly from the ground and not artificially created, it’s considered an ideal pest control and compliant for use in organic gardening. Of course, there is synthetic diatomaceous Earth, too; so make sure you buy Diatomaceous Earth labeled “amorphous silicon dioxide.” If it’s labeled “diatomite diatomaceous earth” or made with “synthetic amorphous silicon dioxide,” then it won’t be OMRI Listed®.


Have you used Diatomaceous Earth to eliminate bugs around your home, garden or business? Was it a successful treatment? Tell us about it or ask your questions about Diatomaceous Earth when you visit Safer® Brand at Facebook. If you have specific questions about DE before you buy or while applying it, reach out to our dedicated Consumer Care Team at 855-7-ORGANIC.

Also consider signing up for a subscription to the Safer® Brand E-Newsletter, which offers helpful articles like this and helpful information about your purchases at

EPA Directive on Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth

When using desiccants (diatomaceous earth or boric acid) to control bed bugs it is critical to use those that are registered by EPA and labeled for bed bug control. Desiccants that are intended for other uses, such as food-grade or for use in swimming pools, pose an increased inhalation risk to people. Learn more here:


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