What Is Diatomaceous Earth?
You may have heard of Diatomaceous Earth or DE being used as a natural supplement, nontoxic pesticide, filter for the swimming pool, or maybe all three.
But what exactly is diatomaceous earth?
Where does it come from?
What is it used for?
What are its benefits?
Is it safe to use around your family or pets?
Can you consume it?
These are some of the many questions that I answer about diatomaceous earth and its many beneficial uses.
What is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth is a type of powdered earth made from the fossilized cells of diatoms, an ancient type of aquatic algae.
The microscopic shells of the dead diatoms accumulated in freshwater lake beds. Over a period of time, these shells formed huge sediment deposits. These sediment deposits are found around the world. When crushed and powdered, they form diatomaceous earth.
The cells of the diatomic aquatic algae were rich in silica. Diatomaceous earth, which is the dried and powdered sediment of the fossils is also rich in silica. High-quality DE contains about 80%-90% silica. This is what gives diatomaceous earth its many benefits.
The aquatic algae are called “diatoms” because they have a top and a bottom half, much like a capsule or container with a lid that can be opened. They look similar to a seashell on the beach but are microscopic in size.
Some diatoms are free standing, while others latch onto each other like puzzle pieces. The cell wall of a diatom is comprised of hydrated silicon dioxide.
The diatom remains are easily crumbled into a powder, which becomes diatomaceous earth. It is hard, relatively coarse, rich in silica and highly absorbent, which makes it very versatile for a wide range of purposes, including filtration and drying applications.
How does Diatomaceous Earth Work?
After diatoms cease to live, their remains collect at the bottom of the ocean, in riverbeds, and in the soil in or near waterways. The shells or casings that are left behind do not decay. Because these shell-like remains are hollow inside, they draw moisture from their surroundings.
Even as a dried powder it continues to attract water. Each tiny casing acts much like a cell with an intact wall. This makes it ideal for use in drying applications.
Types of Diatomaceous Earth
There several different types of diatomaceous earth, each of which can be used for different purposes. The different types are known as graded. When buying DE, you must make sure you buy the right grade for the purpose you plan on using it for.
The three main types of include:
Food Grade: Food grade diatomaceous earth is the purest form available. It is organic and safe to ingest. It is also safe to use around your home, children, and pets. Food grade DE has several other purposes as well.
Pest Control Grade: Pest control grade diatomaceous earth is a highly effective natural insecticide. It is naturally free of chemicals and works as an insecticide purely on the basis of its mechanical structure. When it comes in contact with any insect, it kills the creature by absorbing the moisture from its body so it gets dehydrated and dies.
Pool Grade: Pool grade DE is superheated. This crystallizes the silica, which works great as a filter aid for swimming pools. However, you cannot use this for any other purpose.
Interesting Facts About Diatomaceous Earth
Toothpaste was first made from diatomaceous earth. The various shaped accumulations of tiny shells formed an abrasive powder that not only remove plaque buildup from the teeth but it also actually wore away the protective enamel. After this, toothpaste companies felt compelled to come with a formula which was more effective at killing germs and removing tooth buildup without compromising the actual tooth.
Limestone and petroleum both originate from diatoms.
Cat litter formulas often contain this powdered sediment, as it is highly absorbent.
DE is present in dynamite sticks, functioning as a stabilizer.
Farmers add it to their harvested grains, as a way of preventing bugs and pests from consuming the grain supply.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to serve as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before using any natural medication or if you experience any unusual symptoms. See Full Disclaimer here.