How to do my own pest control with NON-TOXIC insecticides

I lived in Alaska for several years, and it was absolutely beautiful.  I highly recommend everyone go there at least once!  While we had to be on alert for moose and black bears, we never had to worry about pests/insect invasions.  I definitely took that for granted.  When we moved back to the lower 48, I remembered very quickly how much I detest the creepy crawlers.  Honestly, I’m still torn as to whether the bugs and snakes are worse than the moose and bears (and that is coming from someone who had a scary run-in with an angry mama moose)!

I quickly made a phone call and had a “Green” pest control company here to spray.  I watched where he sprayed and thought, I can do that.  And when I saw the ingredient list of the pesticide, I knew I could find something safer for my kiddos as well as my epileptic dog 🐶.  So I started searching for how to do my own pest control with non-toxic insecticides.  I found a few options, but here is what I currently use and with what I have had great success!  This detox tip actually made my top 10 free ways to detox the home list, which you can view HERE or by clicking the Resources tab at the top menu.  

What is Diatomaceous Earth (DE)?

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is ground up fossilized remains of tiny, phytoplankton called diatoms. A diatom’s skeleton is made of a natural substance called silica, which is scratchy and allows it to penetrate the bug’s exoskeleton.  It then basically absorbs the bug’s layer that would allow it to retain water, thus killing the bug by dehydration.  DE will kill fleas, ticks, ants, cockroaches, slugs, bed bugs, SCORPIONS, and basically any bug that crawls. 

Safety of DE

There are two types of DE: amorphous & crystalline.  Amorphous DE has been shown to be very safe for both humans and animals.  Food-grade DE is only allowed to contain up to 2% crystalline silica while filter or pool grade is made of 60% crystalline silica.  The food-grade is also approved by the FDA for human consumption for certain health benefits.  Regardless of whether you plan to ingest the stuff, you definitely want to use food grade as the crystalline form is not safe for mammals (including humans and pets)!  If you want to see the details of the studies done to prove the safety, click here.

Although DE has not been linked to health issues, it is a fine powder and, as mentioned before, is a scratchy structure.  Thus, it is recommended you wear a mask when applying DE as well as sleeves and pants if possible (I don’t always do this) to prevent respiratory and skin irritation.  The first time I applied DE I did not wear a mask and definitely used way too much.  I had a scratchy throat and sinus congestion for a couple days.  I was also not using the best applicator.  

DE Recommended Products

Food-grade DE is the safest for humans and pets; however, most of these are not labeled for pest control.  This is because in order to have that label, you must be registered with the EPA who confirms your product’s killing capabilities.  I did find one DE company who makes both a DE labeled for pest control as well as a food-grade DE.  The former is more expensive due to the EPA registration costs, but the company states that it is the same powder, which is why my primary recommendation is to just buy the food-grade product sold by this company.  I do list both options in case you prefer to see that pesticide label.

  • Respirator Mask
  • Food-grade Diatomacous Earth (this is the one I’ve been using without issue and with good results)
    • You could buy a smaller bag to test it out if you want, but you will pay a lot more per lb. with the smaller ones.  DE does not expire and there are lots of uses, which is why I linked you to the larger bag.
  • Crawling Insect DE – this one is made by this same company and is (per the picture above) the same powder used in the above linked food-grade DE, but it costs more because it is registered with the EPA as a pesticide
  • Dr. Killigan’s Insect Buster – this is the one I use most often.  You can get to high places as well as into cracks and crannies. It is also best for indoor application.  
  • Harris DE Powder Duster w/ Extension – I have not used this one but overall it has great reviews and is a lot cheaper.  If you give it a try, let me know if it works.  
  • Or, watch this video to learn how to make a duster for free if you have all the needed tools and like to DIY

Other Non-Toxic Pest Control I Love

Occasionally, a bug will slip through your DE barriers.  Don’t grab the Raid, instead, use a non-toxic bug spray.  Although I rarely have to use this anymore because the DE works so well, I can definitely attest to it’s efficacy, which is why it is one of the few DIY things I do.  Before I discovered DE, I was using this both as a preventative spray and to kill on contact.  I switched to DE for prevention because it’s effects last longer, and I can buy it in bulk!  You could totally use this spray for prevention, but you would need to spray it around doors, windows, and in weep holes about every 2 weeks, at least.  My favorite thing about this spray is IT KILLS ROACHES within seconds.  I tested this out twice so I know it is true.  And, it apparently was made to kill scorpions!  I got this recipe from Danielle at It’s a Love/Love Thing, and she uses it in Arizona.  A reader of hers from Israel also attested to it’s effects on scorpions!  Here is the recipe:

  • 16 oz. Glass Spray Bottle (essential oils should not be used in most plastic containers)
  • 2 cups water
  • 20 drops cedarwood essential oil (strong insecticide properties)
  • 20 drops lavender essential oil
  • 10 drops lemon essential oil
  • 10 drops wild orange essential oil
  • 5 drops cinnamon essential oil
  • Add all ingredients to the spray bottle.  Shake well before each use!

Finally, How To Do My Own Pest Control with Non-Toxic Products

  1. Shove steel wool into your weep holes.  Be sure to shove it way back in the hole so you don’t have rust marks running down your house.
  2. Cut back bushes and branches.  Branches should not be touching your house or roof as it provides bugs with easier access to entry points. 
  3. Put on your mask and apply a light dusting of DE around the perimeter of your house.  Be sure to dust around all doors, windows, and in weep holes.  This is why I like Dr. Killigan’s Insect Buster because it makes application to the cracks/crevices much easier.  Dust around the base of the house as well.  Repeat after big rains or every 6-8 weeks, whichever comes first.  (Honestly, unless it rains a lot, I usually only do this every 10-12 weeks.  Experiment and see what time frame works best – when the bugs come back, you need to reapply!)
  4. Indoor Application: pick up stuff.  When kids are out of the house or napping, put on your mask and apply a very light dusting of DE where you have been seeing bugs, at entry points, and/or where bugs could hide (windows, doors, back of cabinets, dog beds, etc.).  You only need to do hidden areas 1-2X/year and the windows/doors maybe every other time you apply outside.  Indoor dust doesn’t dissipate as easily as outdoor because there is no wind or rain! 
  5. Use the bug spray mentioned above as needed for killing the occasional bug that gets through.  Anytime I do see a bug, it is usually on it’s last leg from the DE (muhahaha)! 

DIY, really?!

I have a love/hate relationship with my pest control solutions.  I love them because they work really well, are SO much safer than all the traditional methods, and they save me a ton of money.  But, I hate them because they are all, to some degree, DIY.  Time is precious, but these solutions really are worth the efficacy and financial benefits for my family.  Are they right for yours?

Please comment below if you have any questions on how to use DE.  If you are having continued bug issues after instituting these methods, please email me!  DE is very effective so you may just need to tweak your technique.  Definitely invest in a good duster – a light dusting works best.

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Resources:
Bunch, T. R.; Bond, C.; Buhl, K.; Stone, D. 2013. Diatomaceous Earth General Fact Sheet; National Pesticide Information Center, Oregon State University Extension Services. http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/degen.html.

Heidi Written by:

2 Comments

  1. Lora Garcia
    September 28, 2019
    Reply

    I use a pest control. It is expensive! I am going to try this. Especially, the spray. Can I use the DoTERRA plastic spray bottles for bug spray? My husband uses the DE on the occasional ant pile that pops up in the yard. Works great!!

    • Heidi
      September 28, 2019
      Reply

      I would recommend getting a spray bottle with a nozzle that can be adjusted. I find that when you are spraying a bug directly, it works best if you can set it to the stream option rather than the wide spray. Those continuous spraying bottles are more of a mister thus not ideal for maximizing the kill factor 🙂

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