Dusts are one of the most effective means of getting rid of bed bugs. When can they be better and more effective than sprays? We’ll figure out down to the tiniest detail which products are to be used and how to do this properly and at the end of the article, you will find a comparative review of the five best dusts & powders.
What Do the Scientists Say
Dusts are handy when it is pointless or dangerous to use liquid insecticides. Powdery products have a long-lasting action while liquids lose their properties after drying. Moreover, they are safer than many killer sprays.
As the University of Michigan experts explain, dusts are the best choice for treating cracks where bed bugs like to hide, such as behind headboards, along the bed frame, and under the baseboards. If dust is applied in these areas, the bed bugs will become coated in the dust and won’t be able to escape. Dusts can be puffed in behind electrical outlets and switch plates and used in the empty spaces behind walls to catch bed bugs travelling from one room to another.
They will do not only for local treatment of cracks and crevices. You can also treat large territories with dusts as it is very cost-effective. The only drawback is that everything will be covered in dust and you will have to deal with mess for a while waiting for the results. Sprays, on the other hand, are cleaner and user-friendlier.
Two types of dust, diatomaceous earth and silica gel, are most often against bed bugs.
How Diatomaceous Earth Kills Bugs
Diatomaceous earth is made of diatomaceous algae fossils shredded to a flour-like state. As the University of Florida scientists explain, an insects’ chitinous cover is coated with a thin and waxy protective layer. Once diatomaceous earth comes in contact with said insects, it absorbs wax and damages the chitinous cover with its sharp particles. This leads to dehydration of insects and consequent death. The product is safe for humans and pests unless it get into their eyes, lungs and other mucous membranes. Diatomaceous earth acts quickly enough killing only those individuals with which it has come in direct contact. However, this treatment is absolutely useless against any insect pests in a damp environment as moist diatomaceous earth completely loses its properties.
NB: Use proper diatomaceous earth! Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center specialists warn: “Look for DE for insect control–it is not the same product as diatomaceous earth used in swimming pool filters, which is dangerous to breathe.” We’ll give an example of such proper diatomaceous earth below in our review of the 5 best powders and dusts.
What is the Difference between Silica Gel and Diatomaceous Earth?
Widely retailed silica gel is also considered effective by scientists. This crystal substance can be shredded, if needed. It hits the insect, removes the protective wax layer and dehydrates the chitinous exoskeleton while accumulating. In this way, the impact of diatomaceous earth and silica gel on parasites are nearly identical. Both substances target a variety of pests.
As the same specialists from Texas comments, both of these dusts are low risk to humans, and work by desiccating, or drying out, bed bugs which come in contact with it. Silica aerogel is, in some studies, superior for this purpose. It is sold under various trade names including Tri-Die™ and CimeXa™.
However, there is an important difference between the two.
- Diatomaceous earth is an inert abrasive substance. 100% diatomaceous earth is more active than silica gel. Even if a treatment contains diatomaceous earth only, it will be sufficient for killing parasites.
- Silica gel is an inert non-abrasive substance that comes in granules, meaning that unlike diatomaceous earth, it doesn’t damage the actual chitinous cover. It is often combined with other insecticides like pyrethrins and pyrethroids.
5 Rules of Bed Bug Powder Use
Such products are usually applied under the skirting boards, down the cracks, behind the sockets and in other inaccessible places. Determine the scale of infestation and identify all the places where insects have been seen as well as their routes (for instance, through sockets and wall voids). Then begin the operation.
- Prepare the room for treatment: pack any food and children’s clothes, and don’t let kids and pets inside. Vacuum clean the floor, furniture and carpets.
- Squeeze your bottle containing the dust or a manual powder duster; apply a thin layer of dust down the cracks and holes. You can also use a broad brush or a tampon for this. When carrying out the treatment, make sure you wear gloves and a mask. If using a powder duster seems more convenient, fill it only for two thirds in order not to clog its spout.
- Treat the bottom of the carpet, behind the skirting boards, closet walls, doors, sockets, places behind paintings and any other spots where insects can hide. Treat the inside of the furniture by applying dust through holes, armrests and edges. We recommend that you leave the diatomaceous earth for as long as possible. A fortnight will be ideal. Move on to point 4 after that.
- Wash any open spaces after treatment with water and soap. Vacuum clean the exterior of the furniture, floors and carpets. Wash your hands and face with soap. If your vacuum cleaner is equipped with bags, get rid of the used ones.
- Don’t despair if the insects are still visible after this clean-up. Just repeat the treatment.
When Powders Are Better Than Sprays
Dusts are more effective thanks to their long-lasting effect, which is essential when eliminating multiplying insects. Several weeks will be required for getting rid of bed bugs, including the individuals that will hatch later. Liquid insecticides cease to work once they dry up.
As we have mentioned above, dusts are great for use in cracks and inaccessible spaces, especially on furniture that should not be drenched. You can also use them if the infestation covers a large territory. The only issue is that it will create a lot of mess as the dust will be everywhere.
Comparative Chart of Bed Bug Powder and Spray Effectiveness
Loses its properties in moist environments (powder with deltamethrin does not)
Is convenient for treating both inaccessible places (behind the skirting boards, down the cracks) and large territories.
Is suitable for both local treatment, large territories and vast spaces.
|Dries and loses its killing properties quickly.||Treat bed, furniture, luggage and large territories if required.|
Find the best sprays in our review of 5 best bed bug killer sprays.
Both pure dusts and dusts with added insecticides are sold. First, we will review three 100% organic products based on diatomaceous earth and silica gel. After that, we will take a separate look at two insecticides.
Diatomaceous Earth is sold in both large packs (Safer) and smaller bottles (Harris) with a convenient fine spout that allows spraying down the narrowest cracks. Which one is best for you? That will depend on the area of infestation. Go for a large pack if that area is large. Have the parasites just appeared? Then a small tube will do. Both products promise to kill larvae and adults within 48 hours.
Safer DE – For Large-Scale Infestations
A 4 lb Safer pack is available for ~$9.47. This is a very popular and 100% natural product which you have often encountered in our reviews. It is used for getting rid of cockroaches, fleas, earwigs, silverfish, crickets, millipedes and centipedes. Its main advantage is that insects cannot develop a resistance to it since there are no chemicals to build immunity from. Read all customer reviews on Amazon.com to learn more.
No convenient application devices are supplied, so you will have to make a separate investment for such a device. The good old Pest Pistol powder duster for ~$10.95.
Price: Safer (4lb): ~$9.47 Check the current price
Harris DE - For Smaller-Scale Infestations
8 ounces of Harris Diatomaceous Earth Powder is available for $5.97 in a bottle with a narrow spout for convenient use. It has enough positive feedback on Amazon.com and a rating of 4 stars out of 5, The manufacturer claims that it acts for a few weeks as long as it is dry.
Price: Harris (8 oz): ~$5.97 Check the current price
Unlike diatomaceous earth, silica gel does not damage the chitinous cover. Instead, it sticks to the insect and thus dehydrates and kills it.
CimeXa Organic Insecticide
This insecticide consists of 100% amorphous silica gel and is more expensive than previous products. It is sold for ~$21.55 for 4 ounces. Just like diatomaceous earth, it targets a variety of pests: bed bugs, fleas, ticks, lice, roaches, ants, firebrats, silverfish, spiders, mites and drywood termites. It can be used both dry and dissolved in water for spraying. It is not yet very popular on Amazon.com, but 75% of reviews are accompanied by the highest mark.
Price: ~$21.55 Check the current price
Why are Deltamethrin or Pyrethrins Added To Silica Gel-Based Dusts?
Some dusts are mixed with insecticides for enforcing and accelerating their lethal action:
- A dust combined with pyrethrins or pyrethroids has a dual action: physical (dehydration) and impact on the nervous system (it paralyses the insect), as the University of Michigan specialists observe.
- Deltamethrin (pyrethroid) allows a product to act even in an extremely damp environment as it is a waterproof active ingredient.
Silica Gel-Based Dusts Containing Insecticides
Unlike 100% natural diatomaceous earth and silica gel, such insecticides may be used only in non-food areas.
Delta Dust Multi Use Pest Control – Is Effective Even in Moist Environment
This dust supplied in a 1 lb tube for ~$21.77 has great Amazon.com reviews in comparison with similar products and a high rating of 4.4 stars out of 5. Its target pest list includes 30 various species including many household and garden pests. Its active ingredient is 0.05 deltamethrin which lets it act even in moist environments. A single pound will cover an area of 2 000 square feet. According to the manufacturer, the killing effect is retained for up to eight months.
Price: ~$21.77 Check the current price
Drione Pest Insecticide Dust – Dual Effect
Amorphous silica gel-based dust with pyrethrins by Drione has been awarded an Amazon.com user rating of 4.6 stars out of 5. It contains 1% pyrethrins and 40% silica gel. This ~$59.73 combo-set includes a 1 lb tube with the actual substance and a duster. The product will deal not only with bed bugs, but also with ants, cockroaches and a dozen other pest insects. It promises that the long-lasting effect will last over 6 months.
Amazon.com customers comment: “Bedbugs hate Drione! Hate, hate, hate. It works primarily by drying them out and it is a slow process. They will avoid it like it is painful for them to touch. I made a blockade in every bedroom doorway to prevent them from moving from 1 room to another.” The product can kill individual insects quickly enough, but removal of a full-scale invasion will take a couple of weeks. Read all the reviews to find more helpful tips about using Drione.
The manufacturer warns that Drione should not be used inside or around ventilation and heating. Don’t spray it inside an AC!
Price: ~$59.73 (dust + powder duster) Check the current price
Best Bed Bug Powders and Dusts Comparative Chart
|DE||Damages the chitinous cover and causes death by dehydration.||Highly effective. Initial results will be visible within 48 hours if used properly in a dry place.|| |
~$9.47 (4 lb)
Harris Diatomaceous Earth Powder
|DE||Damages the chitinous cover and causes death by dehydration.|| |
~$5.97 (8 oz)
|Silica gel||Causes death by dehydration.||Quick paralysing, slow killing.|| |
~$21.55 (4 oz)
Delta Dust Multi Use Pest Control
|Silica gel + deltamethrin||Paralyses and causes death by dehydration.|| |
~$21.77 (1 lb)
Drione Pest Insecticide
|Silica gel + pyrethrins||Paralyses and causes death by dehydration.|| |
~$59.73 (dust + powder duster)
Bed Bug Powders FAQ
Can you use flea powder to kill bed bugs?
Yes, you can, because such powder usually contains diatomaceous earth or silica gel. Both are effective against fleas and bed bugs.
Does baby powder kill bed bugs?
There is much irrelevant information about baby powder or talc on the Internet. Talc is said to repel bedbugs. Some conclude that baby powder can kill them just like silica gel. The scientists do not confirm this idea, but they note that baby powder can also be used against bed bugs as a supplementary treatment.
As Michael Merchant from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service clarifies, some devices, like the Climbup Interceptor, require redusting with a very small amount of talcum powder to make them slippery again and reduce the bed bug’s chance of escape. Note that talc is not toxic to bed bugs, but simply makes it harder for them to climb out of the cup. The talc should be barely visible, and more is definitely not better.
Can you get rid of bed bugs by using powders only?
No, getting rid of parasites requires a complex approach, meaning that a mattress cover should be used and washing clothes and cleaning of all the infected areas is required along with powder treatment. Your bed and mattress are the breeding ground for the bed bugs. Begin treatment with these places. We have systematized all the important tips in a single article. Read our guide about how to get rid of bed bugs.