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Does Diatomaceous Earth Kill Fleas and Is It Safe For Pets

Written by

Tracy Isenberg, LVT

If you are seeking natural ingredients and remedies to protect your pet from fleas & ticks, you may be wondering if diatomaceous earth is an effective option.

Diatomaceous earth (DE) can kill active lice, mites, adult fleas, ticks, and other pests when applied correctly. However, you shouldn’t apply diatomaceous earth directly on dogs and cats. And diatomaceous earth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Diatomaceous earth does not get rid of flea problems at the source. This means it doesn’t kill flea eggs or prevent flea reproduction. To effectively treat fleas and flea infestations, you’ll need:

  • A flea and tick preventative
  • A household spray with an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR)

Keep reading to learn the truth about using diatomaceous earth for fleas. Plus, we answer some frequently asked questions from cat and dog parents about using food-grade DE for flea control.

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What is food-grade diatomaceous earth

What is food-grade diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth, in its natural form, is a fine powder made from fossilized remains of tiny aquatic organisms called diatoms. Diatoms used to exist in lakes, oceans, and other waterways in prehistoric times.

The food-grade version of diatomaceous earth has a lower level of crystalline silica and lead compared to other versions. Crystalline silica can be toxic to your pet in large quantities.

To qualify as food-grade DE, there must be less than 10 mg/kg of lead and arsenic in the diatomaceous earth. "Generally Recognized As Safe" by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, food-grade DE is a natural flea control option to get rid of fleas without using harsh chemicals.

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Frequently asked questions

Finding effective flea preventatives and solutions for infestations can be challenging. Before you buy diatomaceous earth for fleas, consider these questions from pet parents.

Is diatomaceous earth safe?

Although diatomaceous earth is a natural substance, it doesn’t mean it is safe for you, your dog, or your cat. Despite the label, food-grade diatomaceous earth is not safe for human consumption.

The small particles can irritate your nasal passages if inhaled. It can also irritate your skin or eyes due to its abrasive nature.

Is using diatomaceous earth for fleas harmful to pets?

Food-grade diatomaceous earth is non-toxic to pets. But, you should never try applying DE to your pet’s fur or dry skin. Asthma and other respiratory health concerns can arise if you or your pet ingest diatomaceous earth dust.

How does diatomaceous earth kill fleas on cats and dogs?

When a flea ingests diatomaceous earth, the powder kills the flea. In general, diatomaceous earth dries out flea populations by absorbing the oils and fats of the insect's exoskeleton. Then, its sharp edges damage the insect.

Diatomaceous earth can kill flea larvae and adult insects. But, flea eggs are not affected by diatomaceous earth — making it only a short-term solution for flea infestations.

How do I use diatomaceous earth for fleas?

Food-grade diatomaceous earth works best when used in your pet’s environment, rather than directly on your pet. But, it’s difficult to apply diatomaceous earth correctly and safely.

Here’s the ideal way to apply it in your home:

  • Remove all pets and humans from the treatment area
  • Sprinkle a small amount of DE powder over hardwood floors, carpets, and furniture
  • After 4 hours, vacuum all treated surfaces (and any dead fleas)
  • Then you can allow humans and pets back into the area

Be sure your surfaces do not have traces of other diatomaceous earth left after treatment. Direct contact with diatomaceous earth can irritate you and your pet’s eyes, skin, and nose. So, avoid breathing in DE powder and dust.


Using diatomaceous earth for fleas can be harmful to your furry friend if applied incorrectly. If you use diatomaceous earth, wear gloves, and be careful letting humans or pets sit on carpet or furniture after treatment.

How long does it take for diatomaceous earth to work to kill fleas?

If applied correctly, adult fleas and other insects begin to die from using diatomaceous earth after about 4 hours. But, some pests may take up to 48 hours to feel the effects of DE.

Is boric acid better than diatomaceous earth for fleas?

You should not use boric acid to treat fleas on a dog or cat. Boric acid can poison humans and pets if ingested.

What is the safest flea control for pets?

Fleas and flea bites can lead to skin problems and other health issues for your pets. The best way to control fleas is to protect your pet with effective flea medication.

If you don't want to use a topical treatment, you can use a flea comb to remove fleas from your pet's skin. There are also oral treatments and shampoos you can use on your pet.

But, a major infestation in your home often requires more work. So, we suggest using a household spray with an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) to get rid of fleas in your home.

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The best way to get rid of fleas in your house

The best way to get rid of fleas in your house

Using diatomaceous earth for fleas is not a long-lasting solution. But, there are other solutions that are more effective and still safe for your furry friends.

To effectively get rid of a flea infestation, follow these steps:

1. Use a flea and tick preventative.

Use a flea and tick preventative

Fleas can lead to skin problems and other health issues for your pet. Protect your pet with a topical flea and tick treatment.

Be sure that all pets in your household receive treatment every month. Consistent treatment reduces the risk of re-infestation in your home.

2. Safeguard your home.

Safeguard your home

If your pet has fleas, your home probably does, too. But don’t worry, safeguarding your home is a fairly simple process. Start by vacuuming all carpets, furniture, and pet beds. Then, wash any bedding, blankets, and toys in hot water.

To get rid of any active flea eggs, larvae, or adult fleas, use a household spray with an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR). Pet-friendly pest control services are another option for flea control.

Whether you receive expert help or use something over-the-counter, remember to keep your pet protected year-round. Talk to your veterinarian about the best option for flea treatment for your furry friend.

Protecting your pets from fleas and ticks is no small task. Using safe, vet-quality products is the best way to prevent flea infestations and keep your pet healthy.


Meet Tracy Isenberg

Tracy Isenberg, LVT is a member of PetFriendly’s in-house vet team. Tracy has over 25 years of experience working in the pet space as a veterinarian technician. She received her degree from Omaha College of Health Careers. Tracy has two dogs, a Bernese Mountain Dog named Bruno and a Yellow Lab Mix named Libby.