What are the Differences Between Diatomaceous Earth Grades?

Anna Harrison

Two diatomaceous earth grades are commercially available and have specific differences. The food grade variety has many uses and is safe for both human and animal consumption. The pool grade, also known as garden grade diatomaceous earth, is toxic to people and animals, and should be used only in pools.

Diatomaceous earth can help prevent fleas, which are tiny insects that bite and suck the blood of humans and animals.
Diatomaceous earth can help prevent fleas, which are tiny insects that bite and suck the blood of humans and animals.

Food grade diatomaceous earth grades are the most common and have many applications. They can be mixed with grain that is stored for both animal and human food to repel mealworms as well as other pests and to prevent the grain from caking. They are safe to use as indoor insecticides and are also very effective when used outdoors to repel and kill insects. They work by creating tiny abrasions as the insects crawl over them, which in turn causes loss of body fluids, thereby resulting in dehydration and death.

Diatomaceous Earth may be used to repel cockroaches.
Diatomaceous Earth may be used to repel cockroaches.

Diatomaceous earth is also an effective wormer for livestock and household pets. It can be applied to cats and dogs to repel fleas and ticks; cats are dewormed as they lick and groom themselves and ingest the particles. It also kills flies and their eggs. Indoors, it can be used to repel and kill bedbugs, cockroaches, crickets, silverfish, and many other unwanted insects.

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Although not common, some people do eat this natural product. It contains many trace minerals and is thought to be a cure for just about any ailment. In addition, the substance may have value as a colon cleanser and overall detox agent. It is frequently mixed with juice to improve the taste. Most of us have eaten diatomaceous earth in small amounts without realizing it because it is in many or our grain products.

Pool grade diatomaceous earth can be used to treat pools and as an insecticide in gardens and yards. It is utilized much the same as the food grade type and produces similar results. Pool grade diatomaceous earth, however, often contains other pesticides and poisonous chemicals. It is best to use the food grade for everything except pool filters.

Both diatomaceous earth grades are made from ground skeletal remains of algae that live in both fresh and salt water, but they can be harmful if applied incorrectly. Diatomite forms when this product is ground, which is nearly pure silica. In addition to the chemicals added to the pool grade, the dust from the diatomite in both diatomaceous earth grades can be damaging to the lungs if inhaled. It is also very irritating to the eyes and drying to the skin. Gloves should be worn when using this product.

Diatomaceous earth can be applied to cats and dogs to repel fleas and ticks.
Diatomaceous earth can be applied to cats and dogs to repel fleas and ticks.

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Discussion Comments


It's more complicated than it seems, as there are calcined and non-calcined grades. (calcining is a very high temperature treatment to give the material certain other properties ideal for filtration and similar which is where most of the usage is).

The dood grade is un-calcined, but there is also un- calcined, but not food-approved material which has an industrial use? So what are the differences? The source of the food grade is "checked and approved" to be free of low heavy metal deposit raw materials and the impurities are "checked" in the food grade to have low arsenic /lead etc.

It does not mean that un-calcined material that is not food grade will be poisonous; it just means there is a measure of control for the food grade.


I bought my diatomaceous earth at a feed store in the horse aisle. It seems to be a much larger granule in size than the powdery form I've seen in articles online about the uses. Can I just grind this stuff up, or what?


My boyfriend and I want to try diatomaceous earth so he went to Tractor Supply and bought "Red Lake Diatomaceous earth with Calcium Bentonite-FOOD Chemical Codex Grade." Is this the food grade you are talking about being beneficial? I don't want something that is harmful. I thought should ask before trying it. The product is a grayish brown color. I have read about whitish gray and reddish colors. Thanks for help.


A friend of mine picked up the wrong grade of diatomaceous earth because he had no idea that there are different kinds.

He sprinkled it around his house and garden and vacuumed it several days later. Only after did he find out that he had the wrong kind. He was so worried about his dog and his health as well. He had to take his dog to the vet to make sure that everything was okay.


@simrin-- There is no danger in food grade diatomaceous earth for human consuption. If you're looking to use diatomaceous earth for anything other than the pool, you need food grade.

Be careful about which diatomaceous earth product you buy because sometimes labels can be confusing. If the label doesn't clearly state that it is food grade, then it is not.

The diatomaceous earth product made for pools has silicon in it and it's very dangerous for humans and animals to inhale or eat this. So pay close attention to labels.


So the type of diatomaceous soil that's used on animals and that is consumed by people is the same.

Isn't there any danger in eating food grade diatomaceous soil then?

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