Ants can be persistent and even infuriating pests. Here are easy steps to get rid of them naturally, and keep them out of your home and yard.
Everyone finds an ant in their home sooner or later. Seeing one now and then doesn’t mean your home is dirty or that you’re bad at cleaning. Sometimes, they hitch their way inside on packages or even on pets. But when you see several or keep finding them in the same place, it’s time to get serious about getting rid of them.
Signs of an Ant Infestation
Finding a line of ants on your kitchen counter or a swarm of them in your pet’s food bowl are two obvious signs of a problem. Some people can smell infestations, although that’s a rare trait. Other more serious signs include sugar ants in your food and discarded alate wings on your windowsills.
Some types of ants eat wood and will establish colonies in your walls. You may see them coming out of electric outlets or light switches, or even hear rustling sounds. Carpenter ants leave small trails of sawdust near baseboards and window ledges. In the long term, they will hollow out beams and destroy your home’s wooden structures.
To locate colonies outdoors, look in your yard and along your home’s foundation. You can recognize black ant colonies by the soft, fresh soil on top. Carpenter ants build nests in damaged or moist wood and under mulch. So, inspect your home’s siding, shrubs, woodpiles, damaged trees, and rotting stumps for signs of infestations. You can eliminate outdoor colonies with several of the methods below, too.
Steps to Get Rid of Ants naturally
If you’re certain you’re dealing with an ant infestation, don’t reach for the can of insecticide or bug poison. Most will only kill the workers or scouts without harming the queen. If you want to get rid of them, you need these steps to destroy the colony.
Step 1. Seal Entry Points
You need to find the entry points that ants are using to enter your home. Fill gaps near utility lines and pipes with flexible caulk. Do the same with gaps near windows and doors, and check their weatherstripping seals, too. Use epoxy sealer on hairline cracks in your foundation and call professionals if you find larger cracks.
Step 2. Attack the Trail
As the scout ant searches for food, it leaves a path of pheromones to create a scent trail. If the scout finds food, it follows the scent trail back to the nest. Then others know the path is safe and use it to enter your home. You can destroy the scent trail with soapy water, glass cleaner, or a mixture of vinegar and water.
Step 3. Use DIY Ant Powder
In a container with a tight-fitting lid, combine 1/4 cup each of diatomaceous earth, borax, and powdered (confectioner’s) sugar or whey protein powder. To use, put a spoonful on a small plate and set it where kids and pets can’t reach it, like on the top of your cabinets and under sinks. Or, use a dusting applicator to get the bait into tight spots. (For example, gaps near baseboards and beneath appliances.) Reapply every other day for 2 weeks. When ants eat the powder, it dehydrates them within 24 hours. Meanwhile, they carry some of it to their colony, where it kills ones you don’t see.
Step 4. Homemade Liquid Ant Killer
Dissolve 1 tablespoon of borax and 1/4 cup of honey in 2 cups of hot water. Pour this into a spray bottle and mist it on a cotton pad or folded paper towel. Put the cotton on a small plate in a spot where you’ve seen activity. Reapply daily, shaking the bottle well before use. They’ll nibble at the bait for the honey and the borax will do its damage when they reach the colony.
in Your Kitchen
Transfer dry goods like cereal, grains, flours, and pet food to air-tight containers so ants can’t get into them. Sweep or vacuum your kitchen floor nightly to keep it free of crumbs and spills. Also, pick up pet bowls at night or apply a thin layer of Vaseline to their base to keep insects from crawling inside. These efforts deprive the pests of food, so they consume the homemade ant control powder or liquid, which destroys their nest.
in Your Bathroom
In hot weather, ants enter your bathroom looking for moisture and a place to cool off. To stop them, combine cleaning weekly to remove dead hair and skin, which are also food sources for pests. Also, inspect beneath your bathroom sinks monthly to ensure there are no leaks or moisture attracting them and seal any gaps around the pipes that you find.
Other Natural things to try
These home remedies can also help get rid of ants and work well in combination with the steps above.
1. White Vinegar
Distilled white vinegar destroys the scout ant’s scent trail. On its own, vinegar is very acidic, so mix it in a spray bottle with an equal amount of water and add a drop or two of dish soap to help it cling to surfaces. Apply indoors or outside, avoiding plants. Do not use vinegar on metal or natural stone surfaces like granite or marble. Also, don’t substitute apple cider vinegar (ACV) — it’s made from fermented apple peels, so it contains sugars and proteins that will actually attract more pests.
2. Essential Oils
Adding essential oils to vinegar water can make an effective ant repellent that also eliminates their scent trails. Some essential oils double as natural pesticides. Citrus oils like orange and lemon, clove, cinnamon, peppermint oil, and lavender are all toxic to ants but are not safe around pets.
3. Citrus Peels
Scatter torn or shredded bits of orange, lemon, or lime peels around the base of plants, or leave whole peels drying on the counter. You can also make a citrus-scented vinegar to use as a spray by soaking citrus peels in white vinegar for two weeks. Do not apply it to your pet’s bedding or food areas.
Borax is a natural mineral salt that destroys insects’ digestive systems. You can find it in the laundry section of most grocery stores since it’s also a useful cleaning booster. Sprinkle it along window sills, in cracks, and on top of cabinets. Borax is not toxic for adults, but if you have pets or young children use it in places where they cannot reach.
Cayenne pepper, ground black pepper, and dried chile peppers are all effective ant repellents. Pour them on the soil of houseplants or near entryways to help repel ants. Replace weekly or immediately after heavy rains.
6. Coffee Grounds
Damp coffee grounds are another effective nontoxic ant repellent. Leave a shallow bowl of them on your kitchen counter. You can also sprinkle damp coffee grounds in your garden or around your home’s foundation.
7. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is made from soft sedimentary rocks that contain silica. It tears up insects’ digestive tracts and exoskeletons so they perish from dehydration. You can find DE at garden centers or online. If you plan to use it indoors, look for a food grade one.
8. Neem Oil
Neem oil is toxic to ants and will kill them if you spray it on them. When eaten, neem disrupts their reproductive and hormonal systems, so they don’t breed or grow. Neem is nontoxic for humans and pets, but it has a strong and lingering scent, so is best used outdoors.
9. Boiling Water
The fastest way to eliminate an outdoor ant nest is by pouring boiling water on it. This method kills ants near the surface. It also drives out ones below the surface, including the queen. Exercise caution when using this method and keep children and pets away.
10. Other Powders
Cornstarch, talc, baking soda, and chalk have microscopic edges that can damage ant exoskeletons. They are not as effective at killing insects as diatomaceous earth, but you can use them to create a barrier. Draw or sprinkle a line of chalk or talcum powder on windowsills and near doors. Reapply as needed.