Follow these steps to get rid of ants naturally using non-toxic methods including household ingredients and essential oils. Then, keep them from returning by addressing the things in your home that are attracting them.
Natural Ingredients that Get Rid of Ants
Ants are highly organized insects. They send scouts to enter your home in search of food. The scout 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. Others then follow the path and make their way into your home.
So, the best way to keep ants out of your house once you’ve seen one is to destroy its scent trail. There are several non-toxic, natural household products you can use to do this.
Vinegar and Peppermint
A vinegar-based cleaner disrupts the scent trail. It works even better if you add peppermint essential oil, which is a natural insect deterrent that’s effective against a variety of household pests. Here is a homemade all-purpose cleaner recipe to use.
Borax and Sugar
Borax is a natural mineral salt that has a variety of household uses. It’s available in the laundry section of most grocery stores. One brand name is 20 Mule Team. Borax is non-toxic for humans but may not be safe for use around pets.
To kill ants with borax, you need to mix it with sugar to attract them.
- 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 also take bits back to the colony where other ants will eat it, too. Eventually, the borax will poison the entire colony.
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is made from soft sedimentary rocks that contain silica. Although it looks like a fine powder, it actually has sharp, microscopic edges that cut through insects’ exoskeletons and digestive tracts. You can find Diatomaceous Earth online or at garden centers.
Ants won’t walk through diatomaceous earth since it tears up their exoskeletons. So, sprinkling a light line of DE on windowsills and near entryways is an excellent way to keep them out of your home.
Like diatomaceous earth, chalk is a sedimentary rock that contains minerals — in this case, calcite. It also has a similar structure to diatomaceous earth and a similar effect on many insects.
You can purchase powdered chalk or grind it into powder yourself then sprinkle it in cracks or around windowsills. A rolled piece of paper used as a funnel makes it easy to get the chalk into tight spots.
Or simply use a stick of chalk and draw a thick line on your windowsills, door thresholds, and other places where ants enter your home.
Other Foods That Get Rid of Ants
A few other common household ingredients can also help deter ants, though not necessarily kill them. Some work by disrupting the scent trail, while others they just don’t like and will avoid.
Lemon juice can be used like vinegar to disrupt the scent trail. It is highly acidic, though, so do not 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.
Pepper — black pepper, chili peppers, or cayenne — is 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.
How to Keep Ants Away for Good
In addition to using home remedies to get rid of ants described above, you also need to avoid attracting new ones.
Clear out Their Hiding Places
- 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 petroleum around the base of the bowls will keep ants from climbing into them.
- Keep dirty laundry and towels off of the floor.
- Inspect pipes under sinks, behind appliances, and in your basement for leaks or condensation that may be attracting ants indoors.
Get Rid of Ants in the Kitchen
Everyone gets an ant in their kitchen now and then, but seeing several is a sign that something is attracting them.
Since ants are continually foraging for food and water, finding an infestation in your kitchen means it’s time to do a deep cleaning. Try using this weekly kitchen cleaning checklist, so you don’t miss a spot.
Then take some daily steps to keep them out of your kitchen in the future.
- Don’t allow dirty dishes to accumulate.
- Scrub your sink and run the garbage disposal to eliminate food residue. (Here’s how to clean a garbage disposal.)
- Never leave food out. Store dry-goods in airtight containers in your cupboards, and wipe sticky messes on jars.
- Wash the kitchen trash can weekly.
- Sweep and mop the floor at least once a week. (You can add peppermint, lemon, or orange essential oils to this homemade floor cleaner recipe to help keep them away from your kitchen, too.)
Get Rid of Ants in the Bathroom
Ants in the bathroom are primarily searching for moisture, but they may also be attracted to various odors and other less-obvious food sources like soap grime and dead skin cells.
To get rid of ants in your bathroom, you need to clean thoroughly. Try this homemade bathroom disinfectant recipe which combines borax, vinegar, and essential oils for powerful ant-control that also leaves your bathroom surfaces clean.
Once you’ve eliminated what’s attracting them to your bathroom, here are a few additional steps to keep them away for good.
- Clean your bathroom drains to remove biofilm and other residues that attract ants. (Here are tips on how to clean stinky drains.)
- Wash the bathroom trashcan weekly.
- Hang up damp towels and bathmats so they can dry.
How to Get Rid of Ants in the Yard
You may notice ants in your home more often during periods of heavy rainfall. In some areas, invasions during March and April are predictable due to heavy rains.
They may also invade your home during especially dry, hot months like July and August, because the ground is too hot for their comfort, and they’re in search of water.
Locate and Destroy their Nest
You can’t completely eliminate ants in your yard — nor should you want to. Ants help improve soil structure and prey on other pests like termites and ticks.
But when a colony in your yard is leading to an invasion of your home, you need to do something or you may wind up with an infestation too big to control on your own.
Signs of Colonies
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.
Use Boiling Water to Destroy It
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.
Use Diatomaceous Earth
Sprinkle diatomaceous earth on top of and around ant nests to kill them. Add a heavy line of it around your home’s foundations to act as a barrier to ants. Reapply after heavy rain.
Use Other Home Remedies
Other things you can apply to outdoor ant colonies include powdered chalk, coffee grounds, and borax.
You can also try sprinkling the colony with baking soda then pouring white vinegar on top of it. This can kill plants, though, so save its use for areas where the soil is bare.
Keep New 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.
Stay Prepared to Get Rid of Ants Naturally
Remember, if you know your home is prone to invasions certain times of the year, it’s a good idea to have a ready supply of the household ingredients that kill ants.
Combine their use with preventative cleaning to keep ants out of the kitchen and bathroom, then hunt down and destroy any nests you see outdoors.