Bed bug powders are among the most commonly used tools in bed bug treatments. Diatomaceous earth in particular is well-known for its natural composition and for being relatively safe to humans. However, there is a lot of misinformation online about how bed bug powders work, and how you should use them. In this brief overview, we’re going to set the record straight and offer some simple instruction on how to use bed bug powders in your home.
Diatomaceous earth is a fine white natural powder made from fossilized diatoms, a major group of algae that have existed for over 180 million years. Residual powders work by clinging to the bed bugs’ waxy exoskeleton, absorbing the nutrient-rich lipids on their shells and causing them to dehydrate. The beautiful thing about using diatomaceous earth is that it works indefinitely as long as it stays dry; if exposed to water, it loses the abrasive quality that makes it an effective bed bug killer.
How NOT to Use Bed Bug Powders
First off, let’s cover where you should and should not be applying the powder. A lot of tutorials and discussions online suggest that you should scatter diatomaceous earth all over your bedroom. Some people pack piles of powder around their bed legs, hoping to stop the bugs from reaching them in their bed. Don’t do this. You’re just making a mess that’s going to be an enormous pain to clean up later.
The idea to scatter powder all over the place comes from the false notion that diatomaceous earth will kill bed bugs really quickly, or wills top them from reaching you and feeding on you. Unfortunately, diatomaceous earth actually takes about a day or two to kill bed bugs once they come in contact with it. The powder is also shown to be less effective in open areas than it is when applied into tight cracks and crevices that bed bugs are slipping in and out of. With powder in those cracks, we ensure that more of the powder will get the chance to stick to the bed bugs’ waxy shells.
Instructions on how to apply a powder are always included on its label. A really important step before you use any type of insecticide, including powders, is to read over the product label and MSDS. These documents are included with any insecticide that’s registered with the EPA, and they outline some very important safety guidelines and instructions on using the powder. People talk about powders like diatomaceous earth as something that’s harmless to humans, but that simply isn’t true. There is still a risk of harmful skin and lung exposure if you don’t apply it properly, so do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to study the label before you use the powder.
Crack and Crevice Treatment
As discussed before, your powder application should be focused on cracks and crevices in the room that bed bugs are likely to be hiding in or traveling through. Places like baseboards, floorboards, and where the carpet meets the floors are great examples: they are easy hiding and transit spots for bed bugs, and powder is well suited there since it can settle deep down into those spaces in a way that sprays can’t.
Some powder products, like our 7-ounce bottle of JT Eaton diatomaceous earth powder, have an applicator built in. All you have to do is cut off the plastic cover from the tip of the applicator so that this little opening is exposed. Then just turn the bottle over, get the tip of that nozzle close to where you want to apply the powder, and give the bottle a very gentle squeeze. We don’t want to overdo this, as a lot of powder comes out with each puff. We can repeat this in short spaced out intervals so that we end up with a fairly even application.
While you could do your powder treatment with that built-in nozzle, our preferred method is with a professional powder applicator. This simple and affordable device gives us a couple of advantages over puffing powder straight out of the bottle: it has a long straw that allows us to get deep into cracks, crevices, and wall voids, and it emits smaller, more even amounts of powder with each puff. To use the applicator, we simply pop off the rubber cap on top, fill the bell about halfway with powder, and put the cap back on to seal the bell. Flip the applicator over so the bell is underneath the straw, take off the cover on the tip of the straw, and give the bell a gentle pump to start applying powder.
Wall Voids and Other Places
Once you’ve treated the cracks and crevices along the edges of your floors, you can move on to other key spots in the room. You can apply most bed bug powders along door frames, underneath appliances, under the edges of rugs, and the joints and interior areas of wooden furniture. Again, be sure to double-check the product label to see where you should be applying the product.
To better reach the insides of the walls, you can apply many powders behind the faceplates of electrical outlets and light switches. Simply unscrew the face plates and puff some powder into the wall through the openings between the exposed hardware. Be sure not to put any powder into the electrical outlet itself. This is a handy way to reach bed bugs that have managed to get into the wall to hide or to travel between rooms.
This overview covers the basics on how to use an insecticide powder in a bed bug treatment. Remember that this does not represent a complete treatment solution, as bed bug powders will not eliminate an infestation on their own. You need to treat the powder as part of a combined treatment process that involves a number of other tools. Also, keep in mind that this overview does not replace the need to study the product label and MSDS that comes with your powder.