How to buy diatomaceous earth

Written by paul dohrman
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Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a chalk-like powder composed of the fossilised remains of diatoms, or plankton. DE's main uses are to filter pools and to kill insects. Different grades are used for these two tasks.

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    As an Insecticide

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    Buy DE that is marked agricultural-grade, horticultural-grade or food-grade for use as an insecticide. Pool-grade DE has been heat-treated, so some of the silica content has crystallised, creating a breathing hazard, according to Golden Harvest Organics.

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    Look specifically for 100 per cent pure DE (food grade) if a child will be able to play with it or a pet can lick it up; other grades may contain additives that are unsafe for them. Food-grade DE is available at health food stores. If you don't have pets and are using the DE externally only, agricultural- or horticultural-grade DE should suffice.

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    Try your local garden and hardware stores, but their DE may not be sufficiently pure. If you cannot find food-grade DE locally, try online at one of the links listed in the Resources section of this article.

    For a Pool Filter

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    Buy pool-grade DE if you have a diatomaceous pool filter. Find it at pool supply stores, of course, as well as online. Hardware stores may carry it as well.

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    Avoid other grades of DE, such at horticultural grade, since pool-grade DE has been heat-treated to make it a more compact filtering material, and is much cheaper per pound than food-grade.

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    Try wholesalers, since they can get you the best price if your pool is large. Five- to 10-gallon pails are the size needed for a pool.

Tips and warnings

  • Food-grade DE can also be used as a de-wormer, to be taken internally. See the Earth Works link for proper proportions to add to feed.

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