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Pest control expert shares the surprising way to keep harmful insects out of your yard: '[It's] very safe, especially with pets and children'

Up to 75% of households use harmful chemicals at least once during the year.

Garden Pest Control

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A surprising, natural remedy is winning praise for its work at drying out problem pests, including fleas and roaches. Diatomaceous earth (DE) is made of ancient algae skeletons with mummifying properties. 

Better yet, the readily available pest control is a natural, smell-free powder that won't poison the planet. 

"[It's] very safe, especially with pets and children," Jesse Scaravella, who owns a New York City pest control business, said to Insider.

Where does it come from? 

DE is made of tiny algae remains that are found around the planet. The ancient, fossilized rocks can help out in the house when it is ground into a powder of fine white grains that resemble talc. 

There are two types: One is used for water filtration, and the other type is food-grade, which bugs hate. It is also used in toothpaste and other common products.  

How does it work? 

Under a microscope, the grains look sort of like abstract art, resembling porous cylinders and other shapes. 

The dust is scratchy. DE cuts through the bugs' exoskeletons, absorbing the oils and fats from the pests — essentially mummifying them.

It targets common problem critters, including ants, roaches, and fleas. The powder also works against slugs and tomato hornworms.

"Insects require a certain level of humidity or moisture to thrive," Scaravella told Insider.

By drying out the places the bugs like to live, the powder is taking down the welcome sign, making your home and garden inhospitable to them. 

How do you use it? 

For best use, Insider suggests finding the source of the infestation and putting the powder inside and around nests. It can be applied near the base of houseplants, as well. 

The dust can be irritating to the skin and eyes, so wear a mask when using large amounts, the Farmers' Almanac suggests.

When used inside the house, clean and dry the area where you plan to sprinkle the powder. Experts recommend using a duster with a nozzle to get an even spread. 

It can be put at the base of outdoor plants. 

"[O]r use it to create a barrier [bugs] won't cross," the Almanac notes

And be sure to reapply the powder after it rains. 

Where do I get it? 

DE can be bought online for around $15, depending on the size. Harris, one company that sells DE, sources it from Nevada. It can be part of a more planet-friendly garden, utilizing natural ways to eliminate pests.  

Up to 75% of households use harmful chemicals at least once during the year, creating an increased risk of cancer and other health concerns, the Environmental Protection Agency found. 

DE, however, "is prized" for its effectiveness and safety, Insider wrote.

It can also be a household science lesson. 

"Tell your kids it's 'skeleton powder.' Or that it slashes and dehydrates bugs to death! If you have boys, especially, they may look at your natural pantry with a whole new respect," Wellness Mama blogger Katie Wells wrote

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