How To Naturally Get Rid Of Ants for Good

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Ants can be persistent and even infuriating pests. Here are five steps that get rid of them naturally, and other non-toxic ways to keep ants out of your home and yard.

Overhead view of four ants eating a piece of food on a white background

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, ants hitch their way inside on packages or even our pets. But when you see several or keep finding them in the same place, it’s time to get serious about getting rid of ants.

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 ant infestations, although that’s a rare trait. Other more serious signs include sugar ants in your food and discarded ant 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 if you listen. Carpenter ants leave small trails of sawdust near baseboards and window ledges. In the long term, these ants will hollow out beams and destroy your home’s wooden structures. 

5 Non-Toxic Steps that Get Rid of Ants Indoors

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 worker ants or scouts without harming the queen. If you want to get rid of ants for good, you need to destroy the colony. You can accomplish this with the following five steps.

  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.

  2. Attack the Ant 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 other ants know the path is safe and use it to enter your home. You can destroy the ants’ scent trail with soapy water, glass cleaner, or a mixture of vinegar and water. Spray wherever you’ve seen ants.

  3. Use Homemade Ant Killers

    When ants in your home eat this homemade ant killer, it dehydrates them within 24 hours. Meanwhile, they carry some of the powder to their colony where it kills ants you don’t see. 

    Homemade 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. Shake and then wait a few minutes for the contents to settle.

    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 where you’ve seen ants. (For example, gaps near baseboards and beneath appliances.) Reapply every other day for 2 weeks.

    Homemade Liquid Ant Killer

    To make a 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 ants. They’ll nibble at the bait for the honey and the borax will do its damage when they reach the colony. Reapply daily, shaking the bottle well before use.

  4. How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Kitchen

    Properly storing other food and cleaning up your kitchen will deprive ants of other sources of food, making the homemade ant killers that much more attractive to them.

    Transfer cereal, grains, flours, and pet food to air-tight containers so ants can’t get into them. During peak ant season, wash dishes immediately after use and wipe counters often. (Try this homemade all-purpose cleaning spray.) 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 ants from crawling inside.

  5. How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Bathroom

    In hot weather, ants entering your bathroom are looking for moisture and a place to cool off. Inspect under sinks at least once a month and fix any leaks if you find them. Clean the floor regularly to remove dead hair and skin, which are also food sources for ants. Then, apply the homemade ant powder or liquid to baseboards and beneath sinks throughout spring and summer.

Other Natural Ways to Eliminate Ants

Along with the above steps to get rid of ants, these home remedies can speed up the process and help keep them away for good.

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 longer. Apply indoors or out to non-metal surfaces, avoiding plants. Do not use vinegar on 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 ants.

2. Essential Oils

Adding essential oils to vinegar water can make an effective ant repellent that also eliminates ant 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. It’s important to know that all of these except for lavender are dangerous essential oils to use around pets

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3. Citrus Peels

Using citrus peels is a cost-effective way to repel ants in your home and garden. 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.

4. Borax

Not to be confused with boric acid, borax is a natural mineral salt that destroys ants’ digestive systems. You can find it in the laundry section of most grocery stores since it’s also a useful cleaning booster. (Or get it online.) Use it in the powdered homemade ant killer above, or make the liquid version that follows.

5. Pepper

Cayenne pepper, ground black pepper, and dried chile peppers are all effective ant repellents. Pour pepper on the soil of houseplants or near entryways to help repel ants. On their own, however, peppers do not kill ants. 

6. Coffee Grounds

Damp coffee grounds are another effective non-toxic ant repellent. Leave a shallow bowl of them on your kitchen counter or add them to your plant’s soil. You can also sprinkle damp coffee grounds in your garden or around your home’s foundation. Do not use coffee grounds where your pets might eat them.

7. Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is made from soft sedimentary rocks that contain silica. It tears up insects’ digestive tracts and exoskeletons. Before long, they die of dehydration. You can find DE at garden centers or online. If you plan to use it indoors, look for a food grade one. (I use this brand which comes with a dust applicator.) Food-grade DE is nontoxic for humans and pets.

8. Neem Oil

Neem oil is toxic to ants and will kill them if you spray it on them. When eaten, neem disrupts ants’ reproductive and hormonal systems, so they don’t breed or grow. Neem is nontoxic for humans and pets, but you should know that it has a strong and lingering scent. It is best used outdoors.

9. Boiling Water

The fastest way to eliminate an ant nest is by pouring boiling water on it. This method kills ants near the surface. It also drives out ants below the surface, including the queen, which can be killed with more boiling water. Do not use it with fire ants. (For pest control of fire ants, call professional exterminators.) 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 ants 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.

How to Get Rid of Ants Outdoors

To locate ant 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. Then use any or all of the following methods to eliminate colonies in your yard.


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25 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.

  4. 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

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

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

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  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.

  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

  15. Colleen P says:

    WE used an ant powder on floorboards and laminate that have killed the ants. How do I safely get rid of powder on floor? My 2 yr old grandson is coming over tonite.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Follow the directions on the container of ant powder you bought.

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