What is Diatomite?
Diatomite refers to the light-colored sedimentary rock that is composed of the remains of one-celled algae known as diatoms. Diatomite is highly siliceous, has a low specific gravity, and is very porous. These properties are what make diatomite useful as a filter, as an absorbent, and as a filler for rubber, paint, and plastics. When diatomite is crushed into a powder, it is normally referred to as diatomaceous earth, sometimes abbreviated as DE.
What are Diatoms?
Diatoms are members of a large group of algae that float freely in the waters of oceans and lakes. Most diatoms are microscopic and unicellular, but some diatoms can reach up to two millimeters in length.
As a group, diatoms are highly unique because they are single-celled organisms that produce an external cell wall composed almost entirely of silica, normally referred to as a frustule.
Almost all diatoms are photosynthetic and live in water less than thirty feet deep because sunlight can still penetrate the water. Some experts believe diatoms can produce nearly half of the organic mass in the world’s oceans. Due to their abundance and small size, diatoms are at the bottom of the food chain.
Properties of Diatomite
In 2013, diatomite was used primarily as a filter agent, cement additive, filler, and an absorbent. There are many properties of diatomite that make it useful for these industries, like these:
• Small particle size
• High porosity
• High surface area
• Relatively inert siliceous composition
• Low specific gravity
Expanding on what we previously just discussed, let’s look at how diatomite can actually be used:
As a Filter
The small particle size of diatomite and the open structure of the frustules enable it to work very effectively as a filter. The pores within each diatomite molecule are small enough to trap bacteria, particles, and other suspended solids. This is why it diatomite is commonly used in breweries, wineries, chemical plants, and other industries that require filtering.
Most spills can be cleaned up with diatomite. When diatomaceous earth is applied on a liquid spill, it effectively absorbs and holds the same amount of liquid equal to its’ weight. Many products in the beauty industry use diatomaceous earth now to absorb excess skin oils. It is also sometimes added into kitty litters as well.
Diatomaceous earth is lightweight filler in many manufactured products. It is added to paint, plastics, asphalt shingles, and many more products. It is often used to improve adhesion resistance in many rubber products as well.
Diatomaceous earth is sometimes used in toothpastes, facial scrubs, and metal polishes. This is primarily because its’ silica particles are friable, small, and have a high surface area. These properties enable it to work effectively as a mild abrasive. It is frequently used in cleaning products as well as the products mentioned above.
Diatomaceous earth can be added to soil in the garden so that the soil can retain moisture, ensuring plants have adequate water. It can also be applied directly on plants to repel pests like insects and slugs.
The process behind this is simple: Diatomite molecules have sharp edges that slice open the exoskeletons of pests and insects. It then works as a natural drying agent, killing pests in their tracts before they can damage your plants.
Diatomaceous earth can also help repel ticks and fleas from your dog or cat. It works in the same manner that it does for garden pests. Most experts recommend applying diatomaceous earth directly on your pet’s fur once every few weeks. You can use an applicator or simply a brush and want a light coat all over your pet’s fur. This is normally enough to kill pests.
As a Supplement
Diatomite is increasingly being used a supplement by humans. Diatomite has several uses for humans, including use for internal cleansing, heavy metal detoxification, joint and bone support, weight loss, digestive support, and much more. Of course much of this is now known as food grade diatomaceous earth.
Where to Buy Diatomite?
Diatomite can be purchased online or in local retailers, however online retailers tend to offer better quality diatomite. In addition, it is important you understand that there are two types of diatomite, and which type you should purchase depends on your use.
For home/personal use, you should only ever use “food grade diatomaceous earth.” So if you plan on using DE as a supplement, or for garden/pest control, you’ll want to by that form of diatomaceous earth.
Industrial grade DE can obviously be used for manufacturing. This includes for spill cleanup, for filtering, or for an additive. However, for the most part – the average individual is still going to only ever need food grade DE for their every day life.