Discovering bed bugs in your home can be frightening, disgusting, and overwhelming. These stubborn and tough bugs are resistant to most insecticides, can survive for longer than a year without food, and they can even survive extreme temperatures. The good news is you can get rid of bed bugs on your own with fast action and a thorough plan that includes at least a few proven treatment strategies.
One effective strategy is using a bed bug powder to treat your carpet, bed, furniture, upholstery, and tiny hiding places around your home. Here’s how to fight back against a bed bug invasion with DE or silica gel powder.
Last update on 2019-03-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Does Bed Bug Powder Really Work?
Yes, a powder can be very effective against bed bugs assuming it’s used correctly and combined with other bed bug control methods. Bed bug powders use one of two primary active ingredients: silica powder or diatomaceous earth (DE). Both ingredients work by stripping away the protective wax on the insects’ exoskeleton which causes rapid dehydration and death.
In controlled environments, exposure to one of these powders can kill adult bed bugs in 24-48 hours but remember that your home is not a controlled environment. Bed bugs will walk around powder if they can and they can replenish bodily fluids with a blood meal fairly easily. Powders will not work against eggs and nymphs which means it takes time for a powder to effectively reduce the population of bed bugs in your home.
With that said, proper use of a powder along with mattress encasement and interceptors will be effective as long as you’re patient and thorough.
How Long Does it Take for Bed Bug Powder to Work?
You should expect very good results from a powder within a few weeks. This is because a bed bug powder will only work on adult bed bugs, not eggs or nymphs. How long it takes to work will depend on how thoroughly you applied the powder and the type of powder you used.
Silica gel is much more potent than diatomaceous earth against bed bugs. Even a few seconds of exposure to barely visible amounts of silica gel kills almost all adult bed bugs within 24 hours. This is true even with very resistant bed bugs that can’t be killed with Temprid. In one study, silica gel only was used to treat an infested apartment. The initial count of bed bugs was 390. After one week, there was an 82% reduction. The greatest drop-off in population was seen after 4 weeks. At the final evaluation, there were 98% fewer bed bugs. 98% of bed bugs die within 24 hours of exposure to silica gel but only 10% will be dead within 24 hours of exposure to diatomaceous earth.
Is Bed Bug Powder Harmful to Humans?
This depends on the type of powder you use. Pure diatomaceous earth is not harmful to humans but you should still use a mask when applying the powder to avoid inhaling it as it can irritate the lungs, nose, and eyes. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is safe enough to eat. Keep in mind many pest control powders have other additives like minerals or chemicals that make the diatomaceous earth or silica gel more effective. To be safe, assume you are dealing with something that is harmful if ingested or inhaled.
How to Use Bed Bug Powder
Bed bug powder is easy to use but time-consuming and tedious. The most important thing you can do is to be thorough. If you miss a spot, you can be sure bed bugs will crawl around the powder instead of through it.
Here’s how to use bed bug powder for best results:
Use a Dry Powder Application
Some powders will have directions telling you to moisten carpet and other surfaces before applying the powder or creating a suspension with water and the powder. CimeXa, for example, recommends mixing 16 ounces of the CimeXa powder per gallon of water to create a milky suspension.
Do not do this. Research shows that while silica gel or DE applied as an aqueous spray can still cause mortality, the fatality rate dramatically declines when the powder is wet. Applying a powder in a solution can cause uneven application and may destroy the abrasive or absorptive properties of the powder.
In the study, CimeXa applied as a dust in an infested apartment reduced the bed bug count by 82% after one week and 98% at the final evaluation. When applied with water, the number of bed bugs only declined by 35% after 1 to 2 weeks.
Use a Brush and Duster to Apply Powder
Most powders come with a duster applicator or a puffer tip to help apply the pesticide powder. The best way to apply the powder around your home is with a combination of a duster and a brush, depending on the surface. In the study cited above, researchers used a soft-bristle paint brush and cosmetic brushes to determine the efficacy of DE and silica gel using common tools a homeowner can access rather than commercial-grade dusting equipment. The researchers found that these simple brushes were an improvement over the squeeze puffer tips bottle dispensers that come with most bed bug duster products.
A small duster is best for applying the powder to cracks, corners, voids, and hard-to-reach areas. Use a brush to apply a coating of powder to other surfaces to ensure you get an even application while reducing drift and blow-back that can happen when puffing the dry powder on a surface.
You don’t need to cover every surface in your home with powder but you will need to be thorough to get bed bugs where they hide and catch them as they crawl toward their food source: you. One of the most important things to do is carefully treat all cracks and crevices with the powder. This includes:
- Flooring transitions
- Electrical outlets
- Along and under door and window frames
- Joints and interior areas of wood furniture
- Behind picture frames on the wall
- Around air conditioning registers
- Cracks and crevices in furniture, especially in your bedroom. This includes inside your nightstand drawers
You will also want to apply the powder to your floor, especially in your bedroom and around your bed. A good strategy is applying a barrier across the doorway and closet and another barrier around your bed and nightstand. This will help expose adult bed bugs as they try to get to your bed, get out of the closet, or enter the bedroom from another area.
Don’t Use Powders Alone
Bed bug powders are most effective when combined with other natural bed bug treatments. Combine these steps with bed bug powder treatment.
- Isolate and wash all clothing and bedding. Make sure you use the hottest setting on the washer and dryer and keep clothing in a sealed, clean bag once it’s clean to avoid recontamination.
- Vacuum thoroughly and frequently. This helps suck up nymphs and eggs that may be hiding in your carpet.
- Use heat treatment whenever possible. You can run many items through the dryer to kill bed bugs, eggs, and nymphs or use a black plastic bag in the hot sun for a few days to treat luggage.
- High-powered steam cleaners can help treat hiding spots around the house as well as your mattress and furniture.
- Use a mattress encasement to isolate any bed bugs and eggs in your mattress and box spring.
5 of the Best Bed Bug Powders
There are a lot of powder bed bug products on the market. How do you know which is the best bed bug killer with the highest chance of success? While all powder products are best used with other strategies like mattress encasement and careful cleaning, some powders are more effective than others at killing adult bed bugs quickly. Here are the five best bed bug powders and what you should know about each option.
Harris Bed Bug Killer with Silica Powder is the all-around best bed bug killer you can get for your money. It’s one of the cheapest bed bug products but also one of the most effective because it uses silica powder or gel instead of diatomaceous earth. It also includes an applicator brush and puffer tip for easy application to carpet, furniture, and cracks.
While most bed bug products use DE powder, this Harris product uses silica gel which, like diatomaceous earth, is made from silicon dioxide. The two compounds have a different origin, however. While DE is a naturally-occurring compound made up of the fossilized remains of diatoms whose shells are made from silica, silica gel is made synthetically from sand. Silica gel and DE are both desiccants or drying agents that kill insects by stripping away oils that prevent the insect from conserving moisture, eventually causing dehydration and death.
Unfortunately, research has found that bed bugs are more resistant to desiccation than the typical insect, likely because they can replenish fluids by consuming blood frequently. That’s what makes silica powder an interesting alternative. While DE and silica gel work in a similar way, silica gel appears to be more effective against bed bugs than DE. Unlike DE, which works like a very fine sandpaper to abrade away the protective wax on the insect as it crawls over the substance, silica gel is more like a sponge, absorbing the wax from the insect.
In field conditions, multiple studies have found that absorptive dusts like silica gel work better than diatomaceous earth. Most importantly, silica gel was effective even when applied with a barely visible amount of dust. In one important study, 97.5% of bed bugs exposed briefly to silica gel on carpet were dead within 24 hours compared to just 10% of bugs exposed to DE.
- Made with silica powder, a more effective solution than diatomaceous earth
- Includes a puffer tip and a brush for better results and easy application to hard-to-reach areas
- Low cost, especially compared to other powdered bed bug products
- Can be used along with liquid sprays, although research shows that it’s most effective when kept in powder form
- Should be combined with other strategies to kill bed bugs for good
CimeXa insecticide dust contains the same active ingredient as my top pick for the best bed bug killer: Harris silica powder bed bug killer. Silica powder or silica gel has been proven to be more effective than diatomaceous earth at both killing bed bugs faster and killing more bed bugs on exposure because it works like a sponge. Instead of rubbing away the insects’ wax with abrasion, silica gel soaks it up like a sponge with faster desiccation and death.
CimeXa only ranks as the second-best product because of its cost. Harris is a much more affordable option with the same active ingredient and Harris includes a brush applicator instead of just the puffer tip like CimeXa. Still, you can be sure that CimeXa will deliver excellent and reliable results when used properly.
- Silica gel is the active ingredient. Silica gel is the most lethal substance to bed bugs.
- Puffer tip included to help with application
- Higher cost than other silica gel powders
- Best when used with other bed bug control methods
Harris is the maker of the most affordable and effective powdered bed bug product with silica gel. They also make a natural version that uses diatomaceous earth if you prefer a more eco-friendly solution to pest control. Unfortunately, studies have shown that silica gel is significantly more effective at killing bed bugs than DE but diatomaceous earth can still be part of an effective bed bug control strategy.
Harris’s DE bed bug killer is a low-cost product that beats most powders in terms of price and it includes a powder duster that works better than the puffer tip you will find with other products.
- Made with diatomaceous earth
- Easy application with an included powder duster
- Long-lasting product does not need to be replaced as long as it stays dry
- Low cost solution beats out most DE powders in terms of price
- EPA registered for use in homes with people and pets
- Silica powder is more effective than DE at killing and controlling bed bugs
JT Eaton’s bed bug products are among the most popular on the market. The JT Eaton Crawling Insect Powder uses a special formula based mostly on diatomaceous earth with extra elemental oxides to speed up desiccation once bed bugs are exposed to the powder.
The powder itself is long-lasting; once you apply it, you don’t need to replace it every couple of weeks like other products as long as it stays dry. As with other powders, it must be applied evenly and thoroughly to be effective. While JT Eaton’s powder can be a good choice, keep in mind DE powders take time to work and there are more effective options.
- Made with diatomaceous earth which can reduce a bed bug population
- Includes other elemental oxides to speed up the dehydration process after exposure
- Long-lasting formula doesn’t need to be replaced as long as it stays dry and your home doesn’t have high humidity
- More expensive than other powders
- Does not include an applicator
- Not food-grade DE
Hot Shot’s bed bug killer dust is a fairly effective choice when combating bed bugs in your home. The product comes in a bottle with a puffer, although keep in mind this isn’t the only application strategy you should use as a brush is more effective for applying DE powder to carpets and hard surfaces.
Unlike some products, Hot Shot does not appear to include other ingredients that may make DE more effective. If you want to use only DE powder to treat bed bugs, you are better off getting food-grade DE powder at a lower cost with less risk if inhaled.
Does Hot Shot Powder kill bed bugs? Yes, but slowly. It should be used as a first line of defense and part of a multi-faceted strategy to conquer bed bugs.
- Diatomaceous earth is the active ingredient
- Does not need to be reapplied as long as it stays dry
- Effective barrier against bed bugs and reduces bed bug populations
- Puffer application tip
- Not food-grade DE; do not inhale Hot Shot powder
- Not the most affordable product
When you’re dealing with bed bugs, you can’t afford to use half measures. Bed bugs can multiply quickly and spread throughout your home without fast intervention and a multi-pronged approach.
The Harris Bed Bug Killer with Silica Powder is the best bed bug powder you’ll find with a winning combination of affordability and high toxicity to bed bugs. This powder uses silica powder, not diatomaceous earth, because studies have shown it’s far more lethal to bed bugs and capable of killing more than 97% of exposed bed bugs within a day.
To 5 Benefits of Harris Bed Bug Killer with Silica Powder
- Comprehensive: The powder is great for thorough treatment, as it’s able to effectively treat hard to reach areas.
- Easy application: The puffer tip makes application simple and allows the product to be used right away.
- Long residual: Continues to kill bed bugs for weeks after application as long as it’s kept dry.
- Fast acting: Insects coming into contact with the powder will die within 48 hours of initial contact.
- Non-toxic: Silica powder is made of naturally occurring diatoms and works to dry bugs out, leading to dehydration and death.