Diatomaceous Earth History, Uses & Applications

Diatomaceous earth, or DE, was “discovered” in Germany in the 1830s by a farmer who was digging a well. One accidental benefit at the time was the farmer mistaking it for limestone. He applied it to his crops and fields and enjoyed the natural insecticide properties of DE. That was no fluke though because DE is still used today for gardens and agricultural fields. And very many additional uses have been found for DE since then.

Non Food Grade & Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth Uses

One of the most widespread industrial uses, or applications, for DE is for filtering. And there are thousands of reasons filtering is important. Swimming pools and maintenance is a huge industry especially in the US. Diatomaceous earth filtering systems are an excellent way to remove particulate matter from swimming pools. The reason why DE is so effective is the microscopic porous quality it possesses. The almost subatomic pores, or holes, in the fossil remains of the algae impart this quality. In fact, you can filter out particles down to 3 to 5 microns.

Diatomite has mild abrasive qualities which lends itself to many uses such as toothpaste. Another more industrial purpose is for polishing various surfaces. You can find metal polishers that contain this useful substance. Just about anything that needs to be finely scrubbed is a candidate for a DE application.

Consider the very short history example mentioned above. Today, DE is widely used a natural insecticide which makes it very popular. People are more concerned than ever about using toxic chemicals in their gardens. Some farmers have the same concern and use it in their agricultural crops. The reason DE works so well is the very fine dust kills insects of any kind. Several things happen when insects are exposed to this dust.

The dust is highly abrasive to very small organisms such as bacteria, fungus, parasites, and insects. The particles actually cut the organisms because it’s just like broken glass to them. Also, the dust can effectively clog their bodily openings and interfere with breathing. So the DE dust can smother them in addition to causing physical injuries.

Diatomaceous earth has tremendous absorbent capabilities and this has thousands of uses in industry. If you have ever bought a bottle of vitamins, maybe you’ve seen the small bag inside the bottle. That is called desiccant and is used to absorb moisture. Desiccant material is also used all throughout industries in various systems that require a very dry atmosphere. Other absorbent applications are for containing large spills but this requires large amounts of DE. Some cat litters use silica due to the strong absorbing qualities, although this type of DE is not from marine sources.

Diatomaceous Earth & Silica Health Benefits

Silica diatomaceous earth, and various derivatives of organic silica have a multitude of uses in science. From genetic engineering to common scientific analysis in which gelatin (silica based) is used. There are simply too many applications to list which attests to the extreme diversity of uses for DE.

You always want to be sure to use food grade DE for internal use. Never assume that silica or diatomaceous earth is food grade. And some uses are ideally suited for either marine DE or fresh water. So you need to be mindful of what you’re buying and how you use it.