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Homekeeping · Everything You Need to Know to Prevent & Get Rid of Ants
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Everything You Need to Know to Prevent & Get Rid of Ants

These are all my best tips and tricks for preventing, deterring, and killing those annoying ants!

These are all my best tips and tricks for preventing, deterring, and killing those annoying ants!

There are so many things to love about the summertime, like the warm weather, the longer days, and the delicious seasonal produce. But even summer has its drawbacks, and one of the biggest ones (in my opinion) is all of the BUGS! And while fruit flies, gnats, mosquitoes, and other bugs are undoubtedly annoying, no other type of insect can quite compare to the tenacity of ants. Ants can appear in and around your house seemingly out of nowhere, and boy do they come in droves despite your nice cleaning job!

Related: How To Get Rid Of Fruit Flies

There are as many as 20,000 known species of ant, and some queens can live an impressive 30 years. They’re vital to our ecosystem, but some types of ants (like Carpenter Ants) can cause a lot of damage. And it’s never hygienic to have a creature racing across your floors, countertops, bathroom, and who knows where else before trotting across food surfaces. Yuck! Then there are fire ants. I don’t even want to think about those. 

To get rid of ants, apply a comprehensive ant elimination strategy. This includes cleaning, deterring, repelling, and when all else fails, killing. Below we’ll discuss many natural, safe, yet effective ways to get rid of them and keep them from coming back for good.

Related: How To Get Rid Of Gnats

Causes of Ant Infestation

We’ve been lucky enough to avoid significant ant issues at our house, but a couple of years ago, my daughter Britta dealt with an ant problem in her apartment’s only bathroom. On Day 1, it was just a few ants, but by Day 3, it had become a full-on infestation! That just goes to show how quickly ants can infiltrate just about any space. Often it’s hard to know why these pesky critters decided to invade your home.

Related: Get Rid of Silverfish the Right Way

Here are some things to consider.

1. Food Is Not Stored Properly

Ants are always searching for food, and they will build ant colonies nearby to keep sending a fresh supply of gatherers, even if you kill one ant of 20.

It all starts with scouts who figure out that you left a box of cereal, sugar, grease, or some other tasty treat in a poorly sealed container. The scout signals the rest of the colony, using pheromone trails. Now worker ants are lining up for the buffet from the colony to their food source.

 If it takes a while for you to find what they’re eating, you might feed the colony for months.

Related: How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants

2. The Kitchen Isn’t as Clean as it Could Be

For many people, the kitchen is out of sight, out of mind space. Cleaning doesn’t extend beyond where you can see, so all kinds of gunk and food debris can reside for months under your toaster, the stove, or refrigerator.  But you can count on the ants finding it. 

To get rid of ants, you’ll need to face the facts and start cleaning.

3. Plants Have Grown Up To the House

Plantlife provides ants with safety from the elements and predators. And a plant growing next to your home can also become the perfect little bridge for a line of ants.  When possible, create a small space between plants and your house, especially near doors and windows.

4. Your Home Isn’t as Sealed as You Think

Most ants are itty bitty, so colossal entry points with neon arrows saying “this way” are not required. You should check entry doors and windows. Do they close all the way? Do you feel airflow when closed? 

Also, follow any ants back to the source if you can. You might find a crack in your wall or floor that you can seal. Chalk, caulk, or putty may be required.

How To Get Rid Of Ants

They’ve already invaded. What to do? Now, let’s get rid of these ants!

1. Clean Up

As mentioned above, this is the most effective and simplest way to get rid of ants. They’re just hungry, and they think you’re inviting them to dinner. So let’s not do that.

Ants love to take advantage of spills, crumbs, garbage, and pretty much any mess that humans create. So the best way to keep ants away from your house is to practice cleanliness and avoid attracting them in the first place! 

For the exterior of your home, sweep up any crumbs, and use your hose to spray down spills. Inside the house, make sure all your food is stored in sealed bags and containers. Also, make sure to clean your kitchen regularly, and wipe up any drips or residues on the sides of bottles and containers.

It doesn’t take much for ants to get the scent of food, so be sure to wipe down counters and tabletops daily. Also, don’t allow dirty dishes to pile up in the sink. And please pull out appliances large and small once in a while to clean there too.

energizing peppermint

2. Deter The Ants

Another way to get rid of ants is to drive them away. I’ve got the best natural solutions for you.

  • Peppermint Oil – Ants find the smell of peppermint overpowering, so use peppermint essential oil to deter ants. Add 5-10 drops of peppermint oil to a small spray bottle of water, then spray it around your baseboards (or anywhere you’ve spotted ants in the past).
  • White Vinegar – Ants don’t like the smell of white vinegar. Plus, it masks the scent trails they use as signposts for other ants to follow. To use vinegar as an ant deterrent, just spray it anywhere you’ve spotted ants.
  • Glass Cleaner + Liquid Detergent – This removes the scented pheromone trail that they release behind them. Without pheromone trails leading the way, ants can’t communicate. Hand soap has the same effect as a glass cleaner and a liquid detergent like laundry or dish soap.
  • Pepper/Cayenne – Cayenne is a well-kept secret among pest control companies. Shhh. Don’t tell them I told you. Ants hate the smell and will go elsewhere.
  • Tea Tree OilTea tree oil kills ants when applied directly. And it repels them if left in the area.
  • Lemon Eucalyptus Oil – Lemon Eucalyptus Oil contains citronella that comes from an insect-repelling grass and is also found in candles to repel flying bugs, such as mosquitoes. Personal accounts suggest it might also repel ants.
  • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE) – OLE and lemon eucalyptus oil may sound the same, but they’re very different. The gum of the Australian eucalyptus tree produces OLE. It contains a chemical called PMD, which repels insects.
  • Cinnamon Leaf Essential Oil – Cinnamon leaf essential oil contains trans-cinnamaldehyde. This substance has been found effective at repelling and killing all kinds of ants.
  • Neem Oil – The Indian neem tree produces neem oil. Full strength neem oil may create an effective barrier at windows and doors.
  • Coffee Grounds – I don’t know about you. But I’d feel terrible if I threw coffee grounds in the trash. The essential oils in coffee, along with the gritty texture, have so many uses from exfoliant to pet cleanser to ant deterrent. If they’re not going into your compost, here’s one more way to use them. Personal accounts suggest that brewed coffee grounds can repel ants.
  • Chalk – I’m going to keep the natural pest deterrents coming because you never know what you might have on-hand. Chalk contains calcium carbonate, which helps in keeping ants away. Take a thick piece and draw a chalk line across the ant path, extending out, so they don’t go around. It will thoroughly confuse them.
  • Lemons/Lemon Peels – Ants don’t like the smell of lemon juice, so they will keep away. Anything sour and bitter may keep the ants away when lemon juice is not available.
  • Salt – Table salt is one of the best and cheapest ways to get rid of ants naturally. Use ordinary table salt, not health-boosting rock salt. All you need to do is boil water and add a large amount of salt to it, stirring it until dissolves. Pour into a spray bottle and spray where you think ants tend to enter from.

3. Check for Indoor Plants Infestation

Look for ant hills, disturbed dirt, or actual ants moving to and from the plant. Infested house plants will die, so it’s best to just dispose of it. If you re-pot, you may preserve the queen. If this is a big problem at your home, try citrus rinds around the rim. Lemon or orange works great! Small organic farmers often use this trick to keep pests off their plants.

Late Summer Gardening

4. Keep Up with the Yard Work

When yard debris isn’t addressed, or plants grow right up to the outer wall of your home, ants consider it a permanent living space and make their home there. So cut back the ivy and other vines. Move landscaping a foot or so away from your home.

Bulk Storage

5. Cut Off Their Food Source

Make sure you have no sources of food just sitting there inviting ants inside. Check the cabinets and under counters. Make sure containers are clean and tightly sealed.

The pet food and pet bowl can also attract ants, so check them as well. A container like this one keeps food fresh while keeping pests out.

Killing the Ants The Most Natural DIY Way Possible

I know none of us want it to come to this. I don’t want to see harm come to any living creature. But you’ll probably agree that there are times when you have to choose to protect your health, family, comfort, and sanity through more drastic ant control. Still, I like to keep it as natural as possible.

#1: Homemade Multi-Purpose Cleaner & Ant Killer

Add 1 cup of vinegar, 1/2 cup of water, 2 tablespoons of castile soap, and 5 drops each of lemon essential oil and peppermint essential oil to a spray bottle. Shake to mix, then use the ant spray to clean any surfaces where ants tend to congregate. Castile soap will start to dissolve the waxy exterior of the ants that come into contact with it, eventually killing them. 

While some ants will die, this doesn’t take out the queen, so we’re keeping casualties to a minimum. And I’m not an entomologist, but I’d expect that after a while the ants will move to an easier target outdoors. 

It’s important to note that only about 20% of a colony leaves the colony, so there are plenty of reinforcements relaxing at home, waiting to be called up for active duty. That’s one reason solutions like this can take some time to work. So be patient.

#2: Cornmeal

Sprinkle cornmeal wherever you’ve spotted ants. They can’t digest cornmeal, so they’ll eventually die off. If you have pets or babies at home, this is an easy and safe solution to use.

#3: Borax

Borax is another easy-to-find ingredient that will poison ants. In a small bowl, stir together a spoonful of peanut butter, a tablespoon of sugar, and a teaspoon of borax. Stuff the mixture into a plastic drinking straw, then cut the straw into 1/2″ pieces. Place the straw pieces near ant trails. The sweet peanut butter will attract the ants, then the borax in the mixture will kill them relatively quickly. With solutions like this, they may also return to their ant nests to kill ants and the queen there.

#4: Baking Soda

Stir together equal parts of powdered sugar and baking soda, and sprinkle the mixture along ant trails or any crevices where ants are coming inside. The ants will be attracted to the sugar, but they’ll eat the baking soda too and die off.

#5: Diatomaceous Earth

You can also use food-grade diatomaceous earth to get rid of ants. It compromises the ants’ exoskeletons, so they will ultimately die of dehydration after coming into contact with it. Sprinkle it along known ant trails, and along windowsills, baseboards, and other ant hideouts. I encourage you to learn more about diatomaceous earth and ways to use it.

#6: Cornstarch

Liberally pour cornstarch over the entire group of ants, and add water on top. This will be messy, but the result will be lots of dead ants encased in cornstarch.

#7: Ant Baits

Ant baits come in gels, granules, liquid ant baits, or stations. The active ingredients in these baits may be sugar-based or protein/grease-based, to lure a variety of ant species and target dietary needs because each type of ant has a different diet.

Hire an Exterminator

The above options are very effective, but sometimes you will need professional help. Find an exterminator who uses as safe and natural products as possible. And please share if you have pets, kids, or breathing challenges.

The Bottom Line

Getting rid of ants is a tough job. You don’t need to try all of these solutions, but taking a comprehensive approach allows you to get rid of ants most naturally and humanely.

Many natural repellents can help eradicate ants over time, so be patient, and don’t go spraying some toxic ant spray all over your home out of frustration. Keeping your home clean and free of foods that attract them can also help. If all else fails, professional exterminators can remove ants from home.

How To Get Rid Of Ants

Jill Nystul
They've already invaded. What to do? Now, let's get rid of these ants!
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 30 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 5 drops peppermint essential oil There are other deterents listed below that you can use as well.

Instructions
 

  • Clean Up – Ants love to take advantage of spills, crumbs, garbage, and pretty much any mess that humans create. So the best way to keep ants away from your house is to practice cleanliness and avoid attracting them in the first place!
  • Deter The Ants – Another way to get rid of ants is to drive them away.
  • Check for Indoor Plants Infestation – Look for ant hills, disturbed dirt, or actual ants moving to and from the plant. Infested house plants will die, so it's best to just dispose of it. If you re-pot, you may preserve the queen. If this is a big problem at your home, try citrus rinds around the rim. Lemon or orange works great! Small organic farmers often use this trick to keep pests off their plants.
  • Keep Up with the Yard Work – When yard debris isn't addressed, or plants grow right up to the outer wall of your home, ants consider it a permanent living space and make their home there. So cut back the ivy and other vines. Move landscaping a foot or so away from your home.
  • Cut Off Their Food Source – Make sure you have no sources of food just sitting there inviting ants inside. Check the cabinets and under counters. Make sure containers are clean and tightly sealed. The pet food and pet bowl can also attract ants, so check them as well.

Notes

How To Deter Ants
  • Peppermint Oil
  • White Vinegar
  • Glass Cleaner + Liquid Detergent
  • Pepper/Cayenne
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
  • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE)
  • Cinnamon Leaf Essential Oil
  • Neem Oil
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Chalk
  • Lemon/Lemon Peels
  • Salt
Keyword ants
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    Hi, I’m Jillee!

    I believe we should all love the place we call home and the life we live there. Since 2011, I’ve been dedicated to making One Good Thing by Jillee a reliable and trustworthy resource for modern homemakers navigating the everyday challenges of running a household. Join me as I share homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make life easier so you can enjoy it more!

    Every day I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

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