How To Naturally Get Rid Of Ants for Good

Saw an ant in your house? Step away from the spray. These natural methods will get rid of ants safely.

Ants swarming around a piece of food

Everyone finds an ant or two in their home on occasion. Sometimes, that’s all it is — a single ant that hitched a ride indoors on a package or the back of the family’s pet. Other times, an ant or two is the sign of a larger problem — an infestation, perhaps, or a sign that an ant colony is moving into your home.

Why Are There Ants In Your Home?

You’ve probably noticed that ants tend to invade your home in Spring or Summer. That’s because ants love warmer weather. As temperatures climb, the colony gets busy, and busy ants need more food. So, they send scouts searching for easy food sources, preferably away from spring rains and the hot sun. That makes your home an ideal target.

There’s a Trail to Your Home

As the scout ant searches for food, it leaves a path of pheromones. This is known as a scent trail. If the scout finds food, it follows the scent trail back to the nest. Then other ants know the path is safe, so they follow it into your home.

Signs of an Ant Infestation

Finding ants in your food or swarming on your kitchen counter and bathroom floor are obvious signs you’ve got an ant problem. Other signs aren’t as obvious, though. Seeing more than an occasional ant, even without a swarm, means there’s probably a scent trail nearby. Sometimes, you can hear ants nesting in your walls, especially larger carpenter ants. Some people can even smell ants, though that’s a pretty rare trait.

Natural Ways to Get Rid of Ants

When you’re certain you’ve got an ant infestation, it’s tempting to reach for a spray can of the strongest ant killer you can find. That approach can kill an ant or two, but it doesn’t deal with the rest of the nest. It also won’t keep more ants from entering your home.

Natural methods of pest control can get rid of ants without exposing your family to toxins. They may take longer than using a pesticide and require a bit more elbow grease, but they work to kill the ants you see and also the ones you don’t, plus they’ll keep more ants from invading.

Vinegar and Peppermint

Distilled white vinegar destroys the scout ant’s scent trail. Spraying straight vinegar can damage many household surfaces over time, so it’s best to mix it with an equal amount of water. If you add peppermint essential oil, you’ll not only destroy the scout’s trail but also deter other ants since they hate the smell of mint. Shake the mixture well before spraying, so the ingredients don’t separate.

Don’t try substituting apple cider vinegar (ACV) to get rid of ants, though. ACV is made from fermented apple peels, so it contains sugars and a form of protein known as pectin. Ants love sugar and protein, so using apple cider vinegar can actually make your problem worse. Stick with distilled white vinegar instead.

Borax and Sugar

Borax is a natural mineral salt that interferes with ants’ ability to digest food, slowly killing them. It’s available in the laundry section of most grocery stores. (One brand name is 20 Mule Team.) There’s nothing about borax that will lure ants, though, so you’ve got to mix it with powdered sugar to make it appealing.

  • Combine 3 tablespoons of powdered (confectioner’s) sugar and 1 tablespoon of borax.
  • Sprinkle this powder where you often see them. The scout ants will consume the mixture and take bits back to the colony, where other ants will eat it. Eventually, the borax will poison the entire colony.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is made from soft sedimentary rocks that contain silica. Although it looks like a fine powder, it actually has really sharp, microscopic edges that cut through insects’ exoskeletons and digestive tracts. You can find DE at garden centers or online.

Since ants don’t like to walk through DE, sprinkling a line of it around your home’s foundation acts as a barrier. You’ll need to replace it every week throughout the warmer months and immediately after each rain. Combining DE with things they like to eat will create a deadly bait for the ants already in your home. That’s exactly what this homemade ant powder does.

Homemade Ant Killer Powder

This homemade ant-killing powder uses sugar and protein to lure ants then feeds them natural ingredients that kill them and their colony.

Closeup of ant killed by natural homemade ant killer powder

Equipment You Need

  • Shallow saucer or tray
  • Small air-tight container

Materials You Need

Instructions

  1. Add equal parts of all ingredients in an air-tight container, leaving about 2″ at the top. Seal the container tightly and shake the ingredients together. Wait until the dust settles (about 5 minutes) before opening.
  2. Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of the powder on a shallow saucer or tray. Place traps away from breezes and where pets and kids can’t reach them, like on top of your refrigerator or cabinets or hidden under your sinks.
  3. Dump the tray and add fresh powder every 2-3 days. Continue until you stop seeing ants.

Other Home Remedies for Ants

Readers have shared a few other common household ingredients they’ve used to deal with ants. Some home remedies for ants work by disrupting the scout’s scent trail, while others repel ants or poison them.

  • Lemon juice can be used like vinegar to disrupt the scent trail. It is highly acidic, though, so don’t use it on natural stone or other easily damaged surfaces.
  • Cinnamon is an unpleasant scent for ants. Tuck sticks of it near windowsills or in cupboards where you see them.
  • Lavender is a scent that can help keep ants away. Try using it in your homemade cleaning sprays.
  • Peppers are effective. Use ground pepper, whole peppercorns, or dried chile peppers.
  • Damp coffee grounds disrupt scent trails. Leave a shallow bowl of them on your kitchen counter, and keep it moist. Or sprinkle used grounds around the base of your home to keep ants from coming indoors.
  • Cornmeal, cornstarch, or baking powder. All three of these can damage ants’ exoskeletons, so they will not walk through them. Sprinkle them where needed and reapply if they get moist.
  • Chalk. Powdered chalk works a lot like DE on ants. Use a rolled piece of paper as a funnel to get powdered chalk into cracks. Or use a stick of chalk and draw a thick line on your windowsills, door thresholds, and other places where ants enter your home.

Steps to Keep Ants Away for Good

While killing the ants already in your home, you also need to avoid attracting new ones. If you’ve found an ant infestation already, it’s a sign that your home is vulnerable to future infestations as well. You can keep ants out of your house if you’re diligent about a few home maintenance steps.

Keep Your Home Clean

Food left sitting out is an open invitation to ants and other household pests. Those aren’t the only things that ants find inviting, though.

  • Toss or recycle any stacks of newspapers that have piled up in your home — ants love to hide in them.
  • Keep pet food in air-tight containers, and wash your pet’s food and water bowls daily. A thin coat of Vaseline around the base of the bowls keeps ants from climbing into them.
  • Keep dirty laundry and towels off of the floor. Ants are attracted to the proteins in sweat and the moisture in damp towels.

Deal with Damp Spots

In hot weather, ants come indoors looking for moisture and a place to cool off. So, make sure you don’t have any hidden leaks or puddles of condensation that could attract them. Inspect pipes under your sinks, behind appliances, and in your basements at least once a month and fix any leaks when you find them.

Kill Ant Colonies Near Your Home

Look in your yard and along your home’s foundation. You can recognize black ant colonies by the soft, fresh soil on top of it. Carpenter ants build nests in damaged or moist wood. So, inspect your home’s siding, woodpiles, damaged trees, and rotting stumps.

Try Boiling Water

You can destroy the ants’ colony or nest by pouring boiling water on it. You’ll need enough water to soak the area. The easiest way to do this is by moving a beverage cooler next to the ant colony. Fill it with pots of boiling water, closing the lid between trips. Once you’ve accumulated enough water, open the cooler and tip it onto the ant colony.

Keep New Ant Colonies from Forming

Once you’ve eliminated colonies, you can keep ants from forming new ones with some basic lawn-maintenance tasks.

  • Mow at least once a week during the growing season.
  • Water your lawn regularly, especially on hot days, so ants don’t enter your home looking for moisture.
  • Keep shrubs trimmed and rake leaves away from your foundation walls so they don’t have a shady spot to nest.
  • Pick up fallen wood and pull tree stumps to avoid attracting carpenter ant nests.
  • Don’t grow ant-attracting flowers (like peonies, clematis, lilies) or vegetables (artichokes) near your home’s foundations.
  • Use caulk to seal gaps around windows and pipes and replace worn weatherstripping.

Be Prepared

If you know your home gets invaded by ants every Spring, start searching your yard for signs of the colony as soon as the temperatures warm. Also, stock up then on the ingredients you need for natural ant control methods, so you can tackle the problem as soon as it starts. Then, continue to replace homemade ant killer powder and outdoor powder barriers weekly throughout the summer, and you’ll naturally keep ants out of your home for good.

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37 Comments

  1. Great info about the lavender scent that ants don’t like! Ants always make me just a little twitchy (I have been known to cry about ant invasions) and while I have found something that works to get rid of them once they have arrived, knowing what repels them is super!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Ants make me twitchy, too. Ever notice how, once you see them, every little itch makes you jump around because you’re certain they’re crawling on you? Ugh!

    2. I have also found that peppermint is good to keep spiders away. We had a problem with them and our bug man told us what to use add peppermint to a little water and spray everywhere that spiders go and it really works well.

  2. Cornmeal is also a good way to get rid of ants. They can’t digest it once they eat it, and they take it home to their nests to share! In the Spring we had a lot on the front walk and a nest in the yard. I sprinkled cornmeal and then they were gone. It’s good because it’s not poison and won’t harm the birds or squirrels.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I hadn’t heard that one. Thanks!

    2. aajayunlimited says:

      It will not work on the TINY black ants that we have been faced with. They seem to be immune to the natural or clement remedies that work for medium and large sized ant species. Admittedly, cornmeal has worked in the past. It just will not work for these. These are some very, very “determined” TINY ants. Bleach and/or mop cleaner don’t even destroy their scent trail/thwart them. Once it dries, they are back as if you did nothing at all. I don’t know if they are protein or sweet ants, because they seem to have no presence at all. Anything made of liquid(including water itself) kills them on contact instantly–far more quickly than larger ants, but larger ants are far, far easier to get rid of. Am trying cologne now; maybe that will work.

    3. The peppermint works on the little ones. I tried it once and have used it every year since then. If I don’t use it then we are infested with these little nuisances around our home. I take the oil and mix with a small amount of water and wipe down all surfaces then I mix a small amount with water in a spray bottle and spray around windows, doors and appliances every day, sometimes several times daily and pretty soon the ants are gone. Not to mention this makes your house smell amazing!

  3. Jamie @ Medium Sized Family says:

    It’s so tough to get rid of those things once they find their way in! Last year I found that Borax was really the only thing that would do it for us.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Borax is wonderful stuff!

  4. Ants are brilliant, industrious, little workers. That’s about the only thing admirable about them. Your tips are excellent as well. I have two more that you might like to add to your post later on. Bay leaves and cinnamon are deplorable to ants. My grandmother used to lay bay leaves out when the ants began coming inside. She kept bay leaves tucked around inside of the kitchen cabinets and sprinkled ground raw cinnamon on the paths that the ants marched one by one. I think the bay leaves work a little better than cinnamon.

    Thank you for sharing with us at Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop

    Olivia, co-hostess

    Reinvented Collection

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Excellent tips. Thank you for sharing them!

  5. Jessy @ The Life Jolie says:

    Thank you for sharing this- every spring we have a week or two where no matter how clean I keep our home, the ants come in. It drives me nuts! I’ll be pinning this for that time!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Our ants seem to show up in the first two weeks of March, year after year. I try to go through this list at the end of February for that very reason. 🙂

    2. I just noticed some today in my pantry….. I wanted to cry….. I am a clean freak!…..Will use some of these wonderful tips… Thanks!

    3. Katie Berry says:

      You’re welcome! It’s that time of year when even clean freaks are likely to see ants, so don’t get down on yourself. 🙂

  6. Peppermint and lavender scents is not something I realized would help. I will definitely have to give this a try this summer. Thanks for the suggestion. #TTT

    1. Katie Berry says:

      They really help!

  7. I do have this ant issue every so often. Finding out how they are getting in is key. You had some great tips. Thanks

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Thank you for visiting!

  8. What great hints – I’m especially liking the lavender and peppermint since they’re wonderful scents. 🙂 Your post was also voted most on Inspire Me Monday today! Congrats! 🙂

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Thank you! I love those scents, too. 🙂

  9. where do I get the lavender scented item? and is it peppermint scented extract?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Both are essential oils, not extracts. You can find them at Target or Walmart sometimes, along with hobby stores (Michael’s, Hobby Lobby). I buy mine on Amazon.

  10. A 50/50 mixture of sugar and borax works great at killing ants. The ants carry it back to the nest too. I’ve used it succesfully on those tiny black ants. For years my parents had tons of ants crawling in and out of the foundation of their sun porch. I mixed up a batch and sprinkled it all along the perimeter outside and they were gone. If ants are dying at the site of the mixture, cut back on the borax. And since this has sugar in it, please be sure to keep it out of reach of children and pets!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Thanks for the tip!

    2. I used left over coffee grounds and leftover coffee, outside, when I see a mound. They seemed to move on. I poured the left over coffee along sidewalk cracks, perimeter and along the foundations. I could not begin to tell you if you have to keep on doing it, since I did it whenever I had them. I was doing it in Michigan, have since moved to Tennesse and this will be the first year here. I also had my sister try it on the giant (at least a foot tall) mounds at her house in Florida. Worked like a charm. The big plus for me was that the coffee and grounds acted as a soil amendment.

    3. Katie Berry says:

      Great tip, Debra, and like you said it’s a great soil amendment, too!

    4. The borax mixture works great, except I use maple syrup instead of the sugar because they can’t resist the sweet smell, then I soak the mixture up with cotton balls & place them in the problem areas

    5. Katie Berry says:

      Thanks for sharing that tip!

  11. NEVER HAD ANTS IN MY HOME/ HAD A NEW CERAMIC FLOOR PUT IN AND AFTER A FEW WEEKS I SAW SOME TINY ANTS/ SPRAYED AND THEY WERE GONE. JUST HAD A NEW CERAMIC TILE FLOOR INSTALLED IN MY KITCHEN A FEW WEEKS AGO AND CAME HOME TO TINY ANTS ON MY COUNTER???? WHATS UP? IS IT THE CEMENT BOARD UNDER THE TILE DRAWING THEM IN???

    1. Katie Berry says:

      It’s probably not the cement board but the time of year. Ants like to invade our homes in the spring and autumn. Give your floors and counters a thorough cleaning then try the peppermint spray.

  12. Sharon Snyder says:

    I have a large cement planter outside on my patio full of dirt. The planter has only dirt in it. I was going to put in a plant, started to shovel and discovered a full blown nest of tiny black ? and eggs. How do I get rid of these without ruining my planter?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Sharon,
      I’d just dig in some diatomaceous earth. It’s an organic pesticide that is safe for plants and should kill those ants in about 48 hours. Happy gardening!

  13. Thank you for your advice, borax and sugar mixture is wonderful, ants are my difficult problem every year in warm weather. For years, I tried different natural stuff and chemicals, but no way , thanks.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Laila,
      I’m happy to have helped!

  14. Thank you I will try these I never noticed ants in my house before just got back from a week away to find ants invading my bathroom. I will try these

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