Diatomaceous Earth vs Boric Acid – Which One Do You Need?

Updated on by Jared Belson | Please note that there may be affiliate links on this page.

A pest invasion can be very frustrating! Whether it’s roaches, ants, or bed bugs, the goal is to get rid of them as quickly as possible! Diatomaceous earth and boric acid are both effective solutions for a pest problem.

Which of these solutions works best? What are the pros and cons of diatomaceous earth and boric acid? Keep reading to find out which of these choices is best for you!

What is Diatomaceous Earth?

Diatomaceous earth is an all-natural powder made from fossilized diatoms. Diatoms are tiny, aquatic creatures. Their skeletons are made from silica. Silica deposits from these diatoms can be found in freshwater and saltwater.

Diatomaceous earth is a natural, non-toxic pesticide that is safe to use around pets and children.

How Does Diatomaceous Earth Work on Pests?

Diatomaceous earth is not poisonous. Pests do not need to eat it in order for it to work. Even though the powder may feel soft to the touch, it actually has microscopic jagged edges. These edges pierce the exoskeleton of insects.

Diatomaceous earth causes insects to dehydrate. The powder sticks to the waxy coating on the shell and absorbs moisture.

Check out these articles for more information about diatomaceous earth and how to use it effectively against ants and bed bugs.


Diatomaceous earth is easy to apply. Use a powder duster to spread the earth around the edges of your home, or areas with known insect activity. Leave it for a few days, then vacuum up the powder. Repeat as needed.


  • Non-toxic, and safe for use around pets and children.
  • Effectively kills many kinds of insects, including roaches, bed bugs, fleas, ticks, earwigs, slugs, and beetles.
  • Kills pests within 7 days.
  • Only needs to have contact with the insect to work.
  • FDA approved.
  • Provides great results over a large area.
  • Readily available.


  • Does not work if it gets wet.
  • Creates a mess.
  • Degrades over time.

What Is Boric Acid?

Boric acid, also known as hydrogen borate, has many uses including insect control. It’s a naturally occurring compound composed of oxygen, boron, and hydrogen. Its natural form can be found in seawater and plants. Boric acid can also be chemically produced by refining borax.

Boric acid has a low toxicity level, but it still may be harmful in large doses. There is some evidence that long-term exposure may cause health issues, like kidney damage, abdominal pain, or allergic reactions. If you think you or someone in your household has ingested boric acid, contact a medical professional.

How Does Boric Acid Work on Pests?

Boric acid is toxic to insects! The insects will not be attracted to it by themselves, however. You will need some bait! Once the pests eat the baited boric acid, they will also bring it back to their nests where it will poison the rest of the insects.

The boric acid damages the insects’ digestive system and nervous system. When they come into contact with the powder, it may also damage their exoskeletons. It is particularly effective on cockroaches. The other cockroaches will usually eat the dead roach, poison and all.


Baited boric acid tablets are available. These are simple to use! These tablets include a bait that is irresistible to roaches. Just place them wherever you have seen roaches. Replace the tablets as necessary.

Pure boric acid can also be used as an insecticide. It can be sprinkled, or applied with a duster to counters, cabinets, floors, and other insect traffic areas.

As the insects walk through the boric acid, it will stick to their feet. In the case of cockroaches, they are very particular about their feet! After they carry the boric acid back to their nest, they will lick, or preen, the powder off of their feet and ingest the poison.

If you are using boric acid to kill ants, you will need to mix it with a bait. The easiest way to do this is to create a mixture of boric acid, sugar, and water. Set the baited boric acid in dishes along ant trails in or outside the home. The ants will be attracted to the sugar, and ingest the boric acid.

To read more about ants and boric acid, check out this article.


  • Easily available.
  • Works even when it gets wet or moist.
  • Effective in liquid, powder, or bait.
  • Typically not harmful to people or pets, unless a large amount is ingested.
  • Does not degrade over time.


  • Slow-acting.
  • May be harmful to family and pets, if a large amount is ingested or inhaled.
  • Works best if it is ingested, though contact may cause some harm to the insect.

Which Is More Effective: Diatomaceous Earth or Boric Acid?

If you are still undecided, think about your insect situation. Are you applying the insecticide outdoors? If so, boric acid may be your best solution! After all, diatomaceous earth is ineffective once it gets wet.

Are you in a hurry? Are your insects multiplying rapidly? Diatomaceous earth kills insects faster than boric acid.

What kind of insect are you dealing with? Typically, boric acid has been shown to be particularly effective in the fight against cockroaches. This may be due to the roaches’ fastidious habits and constant preening.

Or, it could be due to their cannibalistic nature. Either way, many homeowners have had success with boric acid for their cockroach problem.

Bed bugs, on the other hand, will not ingest boric acid. Diatomaceous earth just needs to come in contact with the bed bugs to be effective.

Are you interested in nontoxic, all-natural solutions? Diatomaceous earth is organic, non-toxic, and all-natural. It is great to use in a home with pets and children. It can also be spread over a large area without any ill effects.

Are you bothered by mess? Diatomaceous earth can be messy and dusty. On the other hand, boric acid can be contained in a baited tablet or a dish. If you are not prepared to do a lot of vacuuming, you may want to choose boric acid over diatomaceous earth.

Final Thoughts

No matter who you are, or what kind of pest you are dealing with, there is a pest solution for you! Evaluate your situation and your options. Be consistent with application and cleaning, and your pest problem should be solved soon!

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