Bed Bug Dust – Diatomaceous Earth (DE) Natural Solution

One of the most popular and environmentally safe ways to kill bed bugs is by using bed bug dust AKA Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE), also called bed bug dust. DE is a fancy name for fossilized water plants (algae-like plants called diatoms) that are ground to a fine dust and used to kill bed bugs. It’s popular because when placed in a spray bottle (duster such as a plastic ketchup container) and dusted into infestations, you avoid paying added fees for commercial (and often toxic) pest control solutions. You can find this product at almost any feed and supply store or online from a number of companies.

Tip: Are you sure you have bed bugs but being told you don’t or can’t find them? Read how Mimi found bed bugs using a bug sniffing dog when the pest control companies could find them!
Warning! The diatomaceous earth you find at the pool supply store is NOT what you want to use! You want Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth which is a safe all natural pest control which you can find at your local feed store; you can also look for Fossil Shell Flour at other stores.
Another Warning! Bed bug dust (DE) works by absorbing lipids from the waxy outer layer of their exoskeleton causing the bugs to die from dehydration; this absorbent quality will also cause significant drying of your hands if applied without gloves. It is also dangerous to breathe, so MAKE SURE TO WEAR A DUST MASK!
This is a completely natural, environmentally safe way to win the war against bed bugs (also called chinches), so let let me explain how it works.

When the bug comes in contact with DE’s microscopic razor sharp edges, their protective covering becomes damaged; without protection and exposed to the elements, the bug becomes dehydrated and quickly dies.

bedbug spray non-toxic
How to Apply Bed Bug Dust (DE)
You’ll need three weapons. First, create a mixture of %40 alcohol (ethyl alcohol works), %40 water and %20 dish soap [the spray]. Second, you’ll need to place your diatomaceous earth in a duster [the dust] and third, you’ll need a powerful vacuum with attachments – used for sucking loose bedbugs out of their hiding places.

Bedbugs love to hide and do a great job at it! If you read the comments throughout my site, you’ll see case after case where the victim went months without finding signs only to discover later that there was an infestation right next to them! Know where to look, see my bed bug checklist; I’ll cover some of their hiding places below.

Phase One – Cleaning: We need to clean, and good. Wash bedding and surrounding material with hot water that is at least 120 degree in temperature. Items such as pillows, toys, extra blankets should be cleaned and sealed in plastic bags for further decontamination later.

Start by vacuuming the baseboards, cracks in the floors and furniture (bed frame, dresser, headboard, picture frames, etc). Don’t forget about electrical outlets, but BE CAREFUL to make sure not to get the area wet or use conductive attachments!

Inspect that bed, again! Take the mattress and box spring off the frame and stand them on their side, vacuum along the seams, under tags and everywhere that bugs could hide. Take that frame apart and vacuum any cracks or openings such as where the frames connect – bugs love making their home there!

Bedbug hideout in electrical outlet
Don’t forget the surrounding areas, such as your dresser, night stand, under the carpet, chairs, electrical outlet and even in your clock! MAKE SURE to discard the vacuum bag immediately after use!

Once you’ve vacuumed everywhere, it’s time to have fun and spray (which kills them on contact!). Spray the mixture on/in all the seams, cracks, handles, buttons and labels (tags) of your mattress and box spring; if there are bugs, those that don’t get wet may become agitated and show themselves. Use a flashlight while doing this and look for signs of bugs, such as eggs, stains (looks like someone dotted the area with a black marker). If you find eggs (they look like tiny rice, use a fine tooth comb or masking tape to collect them. Make sure to place any eggs in a zip-lock bag with a little DE and get them in the trash immediately (outside trash!)

Phase Two- Heat Treatment: Okay, it’s not the type of treatment that you would receive from a professional exterminator, but it’s good enough to further agitate the bugs into showing themselves :)
Take a hair dryer set to high and start blowing heat into all those cracks and crevices you vacuumed earlier. As bedbugs start to pour out of their bunkers, take that opportunity to spray them with your alcohol mixture and vacuum the fallout.

inexpensive bug dust duster
Phase Three – BedBug Dust: Now take the duster, filled with your food grade diatomaceouse earth, and dust into the bottom of the box spring – you can choose to make a small hole in the fabric or simply dust through the fabric to prevent damage. I prefer making a small incision and getting the dust into the box spring rather than having a film of white powder on the outside. MAKE SURE you are wearing a dust mask and gloves!

You’ll want to spray the bed bug dust into all the crack and crevices you vacuumed – a light dusting will do fine. Placed under the carpet along the edges, it will help prevent future infestations. Bed bug dust can also be used to kill ants, mites, fleas and more, plus it’s safe to humans (again, don’t inhale it) and easy handle.

After your treatment, you’ll want to make it as difficult as possible for future infestations to occur by doing the following:

  1. Prevent the bed bugs from climbing up your bed by placing the legs of the bed into a plastic bowl with an inside coating of Vaseline. When they try to climb up the bed, they’ll become stuck. If you have a large infestation and catch a good number of bugs this way, please, send me the picture! I helped you, please help me show others how successful this DIY treatment can be!
  2. Fill cracks and crevices with the appropriate filler
  3. Tape any holes that would allow bugs to enter your box-spring
  4. Use a mattress cover that completely seals – one made for dust mites will work just fine
How Long Before Bed Bugs Die from DE Dust?

Changlu Wang, Timothy Gibb, and Gary W. Bennett from Purdue University did an excellent study on the cost and effectiveness of using Diatomaceous earth (also called DE, diatomite or kieselgur/kieselguhr and bed bug dust) on bed bug infested (1000′s of bugs) apartments. Also tested was chlorfenapyr spray but it was not as effective as the all natural DE.

They treated by using mattress encasements (including the box spring) and the steam treatment I outlined above. They also made sure to put the legs of chairs, sofas, nightstands and anything else into bed bug intercept traps like that shown in the image above.

It took ten weeks and they re-steamed and reapplied Mother Earth-D (food grade DE) when necessary; because death is not immediate, the females may be able to deposit eggs which will hatch and become active. It is these hatchings (instars) that you need to stay on top of.

The study found that bug interceptors trapped an average of 219 bed bugs per apartment and were an extremely effective part of the treatment program.

In the study, 16 equally infested units were selected and half the units were 100% bed bug free while the remaining units were 98% free; another application would likely have taken care of the rest (but the study was limited to 10 weeks). Total bed bug extermination costs average $470 but this amount can be great reduced using generic products, such as:
  • Using dust mite mattress encasement rather than one made for bed bugs
  • Using food grade DE found at feed and supply stores rather than something labeled “Bed Bug Dust”
  • Making your own bed bug climb up protectors rather than buying pre-made devices.
  • Buying a generic steamer (or renting) besides one made for bedbugs.
There are many success stories of DIY treatment using DE here on this site. The thing to keep in mind is that these pests are not going to die overnight; it can take a couple of months for a large infestation to be eliminated but in the end, you will win!

Visitors have successfully eliminated bed bugs using this exact same method, and truth be told, you’ll have to do most of this anyway if you were to hire a professional exterminator!

Bed Bugs in Used Furniture

Here is a great example of why you should not bring used furniture into your home without first making sure it isn’t infested. Bed bugs in used furniture can lead to a complete infestation of the home as Leah123 explains. I have listed Leah123′s story below and would like to thank her for taking the time to submit her story and pictures! By the way, you can click on the thumbnail to see the full picture.

Several months ago we were given a chair and around the same time my husband bought a used bed at a yard sale. Around May I think I was in the chair watching TV and saw a bug I had never seen before crawl out. Over the next few weeks I saw them maybe one or two is all, hadn’t a clue what they were.

My husband also noticed some specked spots on the bed he had bought and put in guest room and he sprayed it w/raid or something. Well next thing we know we have bites between our thighs that itch and welt. Then in next few weeks I see more and more on the chair I mentioned. I found this site and bought a steamer and steamed the chair like crazy, took it apart and thought I got it good but I think my steamer isn’t top of the line, it was 39$ at walmart.

bed bugs in used furniture on headboard
A few weeks ago one of our kids fell asleep in the chair then went to my bed to lie down. I went up 30 minutes later, turned on the light and there were 5 on pillow around her! I thought they attached to her and went up on her pajamas! Then I remembered reading a post here about dots on wooden headboard and realized my wooden headboard has those unique wooden markings…yeah….so I go in the dark with flashlight and there’s 3 hiding in cracks of headboard!

I made bleach/dawn/water mixture (I think its supposed to be alcohol, but this works on contact too) and killed them, also took razor blade and ran through cracks and it came out with blood on it! So during the last few days I put Vaseline smeared on headboard and caught a few trying to get to me lol….they got stuck trying!

picture of bed bug feces on mattress with casting shells and fecal matter
About 3 nights ago I did that and was reading this site in the dark in my bed and guess what? Like 5 came 1 at a time at me, and I just happened to be reading the story of a dim light attracting them, go figure!! So tonight I took mattress and box springs off and to my dismay I found them, several on boxsprings, mattresses, etc!!!!

I sprayed a ton of the bleach mixture all any used furniture, my headboard, everything in fact! They were even in the slats of bed…it sucks!!!! I probably found and killed 50, after only seeing 20 total for months in either the chair, the guest bed and now here!! Tomorrow I’m getting DE (Bed Bug Dust) and showing them whose boss!

Thanks for posting this, and what’s amazing is I didn’t know there was a nymph in the pic of the one on my headboard, eww!! Tonight I tried to puff DE around the baseboards, headboards, box spring, mattress etc and also did the bleach solution again.

I’ve not been sleeping in there or going in my room for a few days really. I need help figuring out how to get the DE out of the bag and into the puffer thing without making a mess, I tried rolling up a piece of construction paper…and I tried a funnel but its like it was too thick and wouldn’t flow into the bottle? So I’ve gotta finish tomorrow.

Thanks for posting my story..oh btw I rechecked all furniture everywhere else in my home and all seems ok, and the chair is nothing but ashes now, just dealing with my bed and hopefully that will be it. I only found about 5 alive tonight.

Also, an extremely helpful tool is a sticky lint roller!! Great for those bed slats that had tiny eggs and nymphs on them and also good for the crevices in the bed frame and seams on mattress after the dawn/alcohol/water spray….hope this helps someone!

Bed Bug Traps

Bed Bug Trap using Dry Ice
Bed Bug Trap step 1
We are going to place a thermos with dry ice on top of a glass bowl sitting inside a litter box. Bed bugs zero in on the CO2 you give off when sleeping which is exactly what dry ice gives off as it warms. Being heaver than air, the CO2 drops down into the box and overfills into the room – it’s like a loud dinner bell!

The bugs climb up the box, fall inside and can’t get out. The outside cloth helps them climb up and drop into the box but once in, the power and plastic sides prove too slippery to escape and they become trapped.

It takes less than an hour to make and you can do it with products from your local dollar store. You’ll need a plastic cat litter box, glue, white paint, baby power (avoid powder made with cornstarch), scissors, cloth, foam brush, dry ice, insulated thermos with spout on top and small round glass bowl.

Bed bug trap step 2
Note, I already had some products, but when I went to the dollar store, I found they had everything I needed ($1 each) except for the dry ice which I purchased from Meijer’s grocer for $2.00.

Let’s get started building your bed bug trap.
Paint the bottom of the litter box white (I used white gloss) so that the trapped bugs are easy to identify. I used fast drying paint and a hair dryer to speed up the process.

Once the paint has dried, cut the top of the box off so that edges are straight. My top had a lip that would have made it difficult for the bed bugs to climb inside.

Bed bug trap step 3 and 4Bed bug trap step 5 and 6Bed bug trap step 7

With my $1 towel, I cut sections that would fit on the outside of the box and glued them in place taking care to not leave any gaps between the cloth and side where the bugs could hide. Make sure the cloth goes the entire length of the side so that as you lay the trap on the floor, it touches the carpet (or wood, etc). This makes it easy for the bed bugs to climb up the side.

Once you have glued the cloth on, apply a light dusting of baby power to the bottom and insides of the trap. Also apply a light coating to your glass bowl. The small bowl will sit on the inside of the trap acting as a base for your thermos and prevents the bed bugs from climbing up the thermos.

bed bug trap in action

Dry Ice CautionThis next part can be Dangerous as dry ice can severely burn your skin; use thick insulated gloves, grill thongs or pliers to handle the ice. Placing dry ice in a sealed container without ventilation will cause pressure to build until the top blows. Dry ice releases carbon dioxide which could cause asphyxia so only use one of these traps per average sized room. A 1/3 gallon bug trap is said to be the equivalent of two adults sleeping. Keep away from children.

To test your trap, place some dry ice in the thermos, add a quarter cup water, close the lid and learn the spout angle to determine levels (closed, part way and completely open).

Completed bed bug trap
The final step is to place the dry ice in the empty thermos, screw on the cap, open the spot half way and place it on the glass base inside the litter box around 10:00pm. Place the bed bug trap next to the bed. Note: if the spout directs the CO2 away from your trap, you can hang a piece of paper over the spout to redirect the flow downward and into the trap (without blocking the spout).

In the morning you’ll see any bed bugs that were in the area. You should set the trap multiple times over a two week period. NOTE: If you move this trap to another room, make sure to seal it in a plastic bag and freeze it to make sure you don’t accidentally transport the bugs to another room!

Bed Bug Trap w Alka-Seltzer®

Did you know that Alka-Seltzer when placed in water creates Carbon Dioxide (CO2), yup, those bubbles are filled with it and it’s the same stuff that tells bed bugs food is on the table (that being you!).

You’ll need a plastic litter box and materials used to finish the box (shown in the image used for the Dry Ice trap), wet sponge, disposable hand warmers, a plate and 4 Alka-Seltzer tablets and DE. Make the box as shown in the image above. Activate the hand warmer and place it in the center of the plate. Place the wet sponge on the hand warmer and then the tablets spaced evenly on the sponge. Now take the plate and everything that’s on it and place it inside the box.

The moisture in the sponge will keep the Alka-Seltzer reaction active and continually release CO2; this should be enough to attract any bed bugs in hiding close to the trap. Once they are in the trap, they will be unable to leave and you’ll have the proof you’re looking for :)

Note: Placing the tablets in room water will cause the CO2 to release much faster but won’t last nearly as long (you need to give them time).

I’ve Trapped Bed Bugs, Now What?

When you have captured the bugs, please, take a picture and share it with others! Simply email the picture to and I’ll edit it before placing it on the site (I’ll clean it up, remove any identifying information and size it for the site).

Know that you know you have an infestation, you need to get rid of them, it’s war, but war doesn’t have to be expensive :) See my page on using bed bug dust to eliminate an infestation, it’s inexpensive, easy to do and works great!

Thanks to Dr. Changlu Wang, an entomologist from Rutgers University who came up with the idea of using dry ice to trap bed bugs and Richard Fagerlund, a board- certified entomologist at the University of New Mexico for covering the use of Alka-Seltzer in traps.

Trap or kill other pests:
A peanut butter covered Alka-Seltzer tablet will put an end to mice, rats and other rodents. Combine the tablets with soap and water to catch fleas from pets and mosquitoes looking for food.

Duct Tape Bug Trap

I receive the comment below from Richard in Dallas (Thanks Richard!) and had to add it to the page, it’s an excellent example of how you can trap bed bugs with duct tape:

Duct tape worked for me.
I had bed bugs for over a year. The guy came in and sprayed the apartment every week. The poison sort of worked but no poison ever killed them all.

The bed bug guy suggested petroleum jelly because the bugs have very small legs and would get stuck in it. I rejected that solution because I knew from previous non-bed bug experience with petroleum jelly that it was very messy.

After waking up several times the previous two nights with those critters all over my pillow, I decided to set a duct tape trap for them. One of those times when they woke me up I determined from what direction they were coming from.

The next night I positioned duct tape so that they would have to crawl over the duct tape to get to me. The next morning thirty some odd bed bugs were caught in the tape. None got to me.
The next night I put new duct tape out. Again, the next morning there were thirty odd bed bugs caught in the duct tape.

I kept doing this every night. By the forth morning no adult bid bugs were caught in the duct tape. But I kept putting new duct tape out every night to catch the baby bed bugs.
After about a month I stopped putting out the duct tape.
In the past year I have seen only one bed bug. He ended up not only Cloroxed but entombed in duct tape inside a dumpster.