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  • Writer's pictureAndy Hemmer

How Long Does Diatomaceous Earth Take to Work?

Updated: Jul 3

Earthworks Health 10lb bag of Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a versatile and natural product that has gained popularity for its effectiveness in various applications, particularly in pest control and animal health. Derived from the fossilized remains of whats called diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae, food grade diatomaceous earth is a fine powder that works through physical rather than chemical means, making it a safe and environmentally friendly option. When looking at types of diatomaceous earth, please avoid using pool grade or filter grade diatomaceous earth. It is toxic and is not recommended for pest control or anything other than filtration purposes. But how long does it take for Diatomaceous Earth to work? This question can be answered by examining its different uses and the factors influencing its effectiveness.

How Long Does it Take Diatomaceous Earth to Work?

1. Pest Control

ants in the household

One of the most common uses of DE is for controlling pests, such as insects and arachnids. DE works by absorbing the oils, fats, and body fluids from the exoskeletons of insects, causing them to dehydrate and die. The sharp edges on DE helps to polish away the waxy coating and exoskeleton of the insect. Here’s a closer look at how it works in various pest control scenarios:

A. Household Pests (e.g., Ants, Cockroaches, Bed Bugs, Fleas)

  • Time frame: After applying diatomaceous earth, it can start to show effects within 24 hours, but it may take up to 7 days for significant results, depending on the infestation level.

  • Application: Dust DE where pests are seen, including cracks, crevices, and along baseboards. Reapply after cleaning or if the powder gets wet, as moisture reduces its effectiveness.

  • Factors Influencing Effectiveness: The type and size of the infestation, environmental conditions, and the thoroughness of the application all impact how quickly DE will work. Consistent application and maintaining a dry environment enhance its effectiveness.

The big pest control company, Orkin, even acknowledges the effectiveness of diatomaceous earth for pest control. They state that diatomaceous earth can take a matter of hours to a few days to be effective. In some cases, insects will die in as little as 4 hours! For more insight into specific infestations please take a look at our blog page and also our how to use diatomaceous earth for pests page!

B. Garden Pests (e.g. Aphids, Slugs, Beetles)

insects on a plant in a garden
  • Time frame: In garden settings, DE can take a few days to a week to start reducing pest populations.

  • Application: Apply DE directly to plants and soil where pests are present. It's best applied in dry weather to prevent it from washing away. If it does get washed away from watering or rain, please reapply when dry. However, it is best to apply this product during a morning dew or later evening dew, so the product sticks to locations where its applied. Be sure to always where a mask when handling diatomaceous earth in an enclosed space or when it is windy. Over inhalation of diatomaceous earth dust or any dust for that matter may be an irritant to the lungs and cause coughing or shortness of breath.

  • Factors Influencing Effectiveness: Weather conditions, frequency of application, and the extent of the infestation play significant roles in how quickly DE works in a garden setting.

2. Animal Health Supplement

DE is also used as an animal health supplement, touted for benefits such as detoxification, improved skin, hair, and nail health, and better digestion.

  • Time frame: The time frame for noticing health benefits from DE can vary widely among individuals. Some people report improvements in their animals or pets within a few days, while for others, it might take several weeks to notice significant changes.

  • Application: DE should be taken according to recommended dosages by a vet, typically starting with a small amount and gradually increasing. It's often mixed with water and consumed on an empty stomach.

  • Factors Influencing Effectiveness: Individual health conditions, consistency in taking the supplement, and lifestyle factors (diet, hydration, etc.) can all affect how quickly DE works.

3. Pet Care

dog with fleas

DE is often used for treating pets for fleas and other parasites.

  • Timeframe: When used on pets, DE can start killing fleas within 4 to 48 hours. However, complete elimination of fleas may take several days to a week or longer depending on the severity of the infestation.

  • Application: DE is applied to the pet’s coat, ensuring it reaches the skin, and can also be used in pet bedding and living areas.

  • Factors Influencing Effectiveness: The extent of the flea infestation, the pet’s coat type, and ensuring consistent application are crucial for effective flea control.

Feel free to browse our page, specific to fleas, diatomaceous earth for fleas, for more information on application methods and a good rundown of the flea and its habits.

4. Food Storage

stored food

DE is used to protect stored grains and food from pests.

  • Time frame: For protecting stored food, DE works as a preventative measure and can kill insects that come into contact with it within a few days or even as fast as 24 hours.

  • Application: Mix DE with grains or sprinkle it in food storage areas.

  • Factors Influencing Effectiveness: Proper mixing and maintaining dry conditions are essential for DE to be effective in food storage.


The effectiveness and time frame for Diatomaceous Earth to work depends significantly on its application and the context in which it is used. For pest control, DE can start showing results within 48 hours but may take up to a week for more noticeable effects. For pet health, the time frame can vary from a few days to several weeks, depending on individual responses. In pet care, DE can kill fleas within a day or two, but full treatment may take longer. For food storage, DE acts as a preventative measure, killing pests within a few days upon contact.

Consistency and proper application are key to maximizing the effectiveness of DE. Whether you're looking to control pests, improve your health, care for your pets, or protect your food storage, understanding how Diatomaceous Earth works and the factors that influence its effectiveness will help you achieve the best results.

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