Diatomaceous Earth (DE) FAQ

What is Diatomaceous Earth?

The word “diatomaceous” comes from the root word “diatom”, which is a single-celled organism. Diatomaceous earth is a chalk-like powder that is made up entirely of these diatoms that have fossilized over thousands of years.

Where does it come from?

Diatomaceous earth forms over a long period of time as millions of single-celled organisms fossilize in lake beds. These lake beds then dry up, exposing the sedimentary deposit that we call diatomaceous earth.

What is DE used for?

Food grade DE is used for a great many things, almost all of which fall into two main (and rather unrelated) categories: health benefits and pest control. It is either taken internally as a supplement or used as a natural solution to treat all kinds of insects. There are other grades like pool grade DE that are used to filter water, but have been treated and are not safe for consumption. Make sure you have the right grade for the job.

How long has DE been around?

Diatomaceous earth is naturally formed, and has been around for thousands of years. It has only been relatively recently that we have discovered how to effectively use it.

Why are there different grades of DE?

Not all diatomaceous earth is the same. As a naturally occurring mineral, its quality varies from mine to mine. Not only that, but companies reguarly alter or add other substances to diatomaceous earth to enhance their effectiveness for a particluar task. It is important to know what you want to do with DE, and which grade will best fit your needs. Here at DiatomaceousEarth.com, we only sell food grade DE (though we do have a Crawling Insect Control label, this too is food grade DE). All of the information you find on this site is tailored to using pure food grade DE that has no additives or treatment. If you are unsure whether the DE you purchased is suitable for a given task, contact your supplier and check with them.

Is all diatomaceous earth considered organic?

The short answer is, it depends. While all DE is naturally occurring, any DE that has undergone artificial treatment may no longer be considered organic. It also depends on which standard you want to use to define organic. The diatomaceous earth sold on our site is certified organic by OMRI, the Organic Materials Review Institute. Not all food grade DE sold by others is OMRI listed. If you have concerns about whether the DE you purchased is organic to your standards, it is best to contact your supplier and check with them.

What is the shelf life of DE?

As a naturally occuring mineral that has been in existance for thousands of years, diatomaceous earth doesn’t expire. You’ll need to store it in a dry environment to preserve its effectiveness however.

Should you store it in the fridge?

There is no need to store it in the fridge and we wouldn’t recommend it, but you can if you wish to. Be careful though, DE can take on scents and might taste like uncovered leftovers after a while.

Can you store DE in plastic containers?

Yes. DE can be stored in basic plastic containers so long as they are airtight.

Is diatomaceous earth safe?

For food grade diatomaceous earth, yes. Pool grade DE is safe so long as you don’t ingest it or inhale it for long periods of time. While food grade DE does not pose the same dangers, it can still be a mild irritant to the lungs or eyes. If you have sensitive lungs and plan on applying large amount of DE, we would recommend wearing a dust mask.

Is DE harmful to my lungs?

Food grade DE is no more harmful to your lungs than regular dust in your home, however for those with sensitive lungs such as asthmatics, you will want to be careful if large amounts are being applied in an indoor environment. A standard dust mask will prevent any respiratory discomfort.

What are the potential health risks to using DE?

There’s a very short list of mild risks to using food grade DE, and they fall into two categories:

External Risks

Dry skin: Exposure to DE on your skin can cause it to dry out. Simply wash off the DE with water and apply a moistuising lotion.

Mild lung irriatation: For anyone with sensitive lungs, breathing the airborne DE particles can cause irriatation. Wear a regualr dust mask if this is a concern to you.

Internal Risks

Constipation: Eating too much DE with not enough water can lead to constipation. Simply lower your DE intake and increase your water consumption, along with your fiber intake if needed.

Bloating: Again, this tends to occur as a result of not enough fluids in the body. Increase your water intake to mitigate the problem.

Can DE cause cancer?

There are no studies that show a link between the consumption of or exposure to our food grade DE and cancer. Studies have shown, however, that prolonged exposure to pool grade and industrial DE over several years is carcinogenic.

Does DE react if mixed with chemicals?

No. DE is quite innert and often does not respond to chemical exposure.

What is the difference between diatomaceous earth and bentonite clay?

Diatomaceous earth and bentonite clay are two very different natural substances. Diatomaceous earth is formed through the fossilizing of single celled diatoms in freshwater rivers and lakebeds that build up as sedimentary deposits over a long time. It is almost pure amorphous silica. Bentonite clay on the other hand is primarily montmorillonite, which is a group of minerals that can vary slightly depending on the type of bentonite. Both products are highly absorbent, but bentonite clay does not have the same abrasive properties as DE and so it cannot kill bugs and boost cleaners like DE can.

Since DE is abrasive, can it cause damage to the intestinal lining?

We have yet to find any medical reports that suggest DE could cause intestinal damage. The extended list of testimonials in the community suggest that DE may add to intestinal health, rather than cause harm.

Is there proof of the benefits?

DE’s potency as a pest control has been made clear by research and years of use. As for the health benefits of ingesting food grade DE, we rely mostly on the testimonials of people who take it as proof that it can benefit the body, but scientific research does suggest that DE can have tremendous benefits, such as lowering cholesterol (source:¬†European Journal of Medical Research).

What is the pH level of DE?

The pH level of our DE falls between 7.5 and 9.0, depending on the batch.

Does DE go bad?

Because diatomaceous earth is made from fossilized diatoms, it is already extremely old and won’t expire. As long as you keep it clean, it will stay good indefinitely. Remember that DE is highly absorbent, meaning that it will absorb any foul tastes, smells, liquids, or other contaminants it is exposed to, which could make your DE unusable. But as long as you keep it clean, your DE will be fine to use for years to come.

How should I store diatomaceous earth?

Store in a bag or container in a dry, clean place. As long as it stays clean, it will store indefinitely.

Will DE eventually lose its strength?

DE is like a sponge. Once it has been applied to a surface, it will absorb anything it comes in contact with. Eventually it will reach a limit where it has no more room to absorb any additional material and will lose its strength. Depending on where it’s applied, it could be months or years before it reaches this limit.

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