Saw an ant in your house? Step away from the spray. These natural methods will get rid of ants safely.
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 (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.
Equipment You Need
- Shallow saucer or tray
- Small air-tight container
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.