During warm weather or rainy seasons, many people discover ants entering their houses and garden areas.
According to the Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Project, ants are social insects and live in colonies that may range in size from hundreds to millions of ants, depending on the species.
There are different types of ants, but the most common house-invading ants include pavement, carpenter, acrobat, pharaoh and odorous house ants.
House-invading ants can get into your food, damage property or cause stinging bites. These tiny creatures can also cause damage to your plants.
Dealing with ants can be very frustrating. Pesticides for ants contain chemicals that are harmful to humans and the environment, but there are some natural, non-toxic ways to control ants. These may take some time and patience, but will provide good results.
Here are the top 10 ways to get rid of ants naturally.
Cinnamon is an effective household ant repellent. Its smell discourages ants from entering your house and scrounging in your kitchen.
According to a 2014 study published in the International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, cinnamon essential oil yields positive results in both repellency and insecticidal activity.
- Add ¼ to ½ teaspoon of cinnamon essential oil in a cup of water. Soak a cotton ball in this solution and wipe down the areas where ants may enter and dwell. Repeat once daily until all the ants are gone.
- You can also put ground cinnamon and whole cloves near entry points.
Note: Use the cinnamon oil spray strategically in places of ant infestation; do not put it all over the place.
2. White Vinegar
White vinegar will also send an eviction notice to ants on your premises. They cannot bear its strong smell. In addition, the smell masks their scent trails, making them lose their direction.
- Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water.
- Pour the solution into a spray bottle.
- Add a few drops of any essential oil and shake the bottle thoroughly.
- Spray this solution around baseboards and other entry points.
- After an hour, wipe up the ants using a damp paper towel and discard them.
- Repeat once daily until the ants are completely gone.
You can also use this vinegar solution to clean floors, windowsills and countertops to prevent ants from crawling over these surfaces.
Borax is toxic to ants and helps rid them from your house and garden. Ants are attracted to it and, when ingested, it ultimately kills them.
- Mix equal amounts of borax and food jelly. Put it on a flat plate in the areas where you have ants.
- Alternatively, mix borax with granulated sugar in a 1:3 ratio. Add enough water to get a syrup-like consistency. Put this paste in the areas where you see ants.
- Another option is to make a paste with equal amounts of borax, cornmeal and a few drops of water. Spread the paste in areas where you tend to see ants.
Note: As borax is toxic, keep it away from pets and small children.
To make your kitchen and other areas of your house ant-proof, try lemon. The smell deters ants and its acidic property masks their scent trails.
- Rub some lemon juice on door thresholds, windowsills and other possible areas where ants are getting in.
- Another option is to put a few drops of lemon essential oil on cotton balls and leave them in cabinets and other areas as needed.
- Scatter small slices of lemon peel around outdoor entrances.
Use these remedies every few days until the ants are completely gone.
Peppermint is a natural insect repellent that can effectively keep ants away. Ants hate its strong smell, which also disrupts their smelling capabilities so they cannot detect food sources.
- Add 10 drops of peppermint essential oil to 1 cup of water. Spray the solution on all areas where ants are present. Repeat twice daily, until the ants are gone completely.
- Sprinkle some dried peppermint around your doors, entryways and garbage areas to repel ants.
- You can even grow peppermint plants in your kitchen garden.
6. Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth
Food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) also works well as an ant repellent. This powder is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton.
The microscopic razor sharp edges of DE can cut through the ants’ exoskeletons, gradually causing their body to dry out.
- Gently sprinkle a thin layer of DE on windowsills, beneath the fridge, under cabinets, in and around garbage cans and any other places where you see ants.
- Repeat once daily until all the ants are gone.
Note: Do not wet the DE or it will not work.
7. Cucumber Peel
Another age-old trick to get rid of ants is cucumber peel. Ants have a natural aversion to cucumber, as they cannot stand its taste. Bitter cucumbers work best, but you can use normal cucumbers, too.
- Peel a cucumber.
- Place pieces of the peel in all areas where you have seen ant activity.
- Replace them with fresh peels daily.
- Repeat as needed until the ants are gone.
8. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper also works as an effective ant repellent. The strong nature of cayenne pepper destroys the chemical signals that ants rely on to navigate toward food, their nest and other places. Without a proper signal, ants will not able to survive and will thus look for new places to go.
- Sprinkle cayenne pepper powder in areas where you notice ants.
- You can also mix equal amounts of cayenne pepper and turmeric powder and sprinkle it across the access points to make an unpleasant barrier for ants.
9. Liquid Dish Soap
Dish soap also works as an effective ant repellent. It can help suffocate the ants, causing them to die. You can try this tip on cockroaches, too.
- Mix 1 teaspoon each of liquid dish soap and baking soda in a cup of water. Spread this solution along areas where ants are coming in.
- Fill a spray bottle with one part dish soap and two parts water, then shake it thoroughly. Spray the mixture over the areas where ants are present. After a few hours, wipe up the dead ants with a wet cloth.
10. Keep Your House Clean
To deter ants from entering your house, you must take extra care to keep it clean.
- Do your best to keep your floors, countertops and cabinets clean and free of clutter.
- Keep food containers tightly sealed, especially those used for storing sugar, honey, syrup and other foods that can attract ants.
- Clean up food spills right away, especially fruit juice or sugary foods.
- Make sure to properly cover any food that you leave out on the kitchen counter. You can even place bowls of food on plates containing a little water to prevent ants from reaching the food.
- Clean furniture surfaces and windowsills regularly.
- Never leave dirty dishes in the sink.
- Do not allow moisture to accumulate on kitchen counters and other surfaces.
- Ensure that your garbage cans have tightly sealed lids.
- Look for little cracks and crevices around doors and windows and seal them with caulk, petroleum jelly or any over-the-counter sealants.
You've found ants trailing across your kitchen floor again! Although it may seem impossible to keep ants out of your house, there are things you can do. To get ants out -- and keep them out, follow the nine simple steps below.
How To Get Rid of Ants
1. First, understand the ant colony and its queen.
To solve an ant problem, you need to first eliminate the ones you don’t see to get rid of the ones you do see.
It sounds strange, but it's true. This is because the queen -- the one who lays all the eggs -- never leaves her nest. She just stays there, being fed by the workers (the ones you see) and continuing to reproduce more ants. So you can spray and spray the ants you see, and she'll just keep making more to take their place.
2. Watch the trailing ants.
So, although it may sound silly, the first step in controlling ants is simply watching the ones that enter your home to see where they are coming from and going to. An ant will seek food, but once it finds food, the ant will return to its nest with the crumb, leaving a scent trail behind it. By doing so, the ant leaves a trail for its fellow worker ants to help in gathering the food.
3. Don't spray the ants!
As discussed in #1, the ants that you see are worker ants. Their job is to find food and take it back to feed the queen and her young, who are being groomed as the next generation of worker ants.
Because of this, these worker ants are your ticket into the colony. If you spray and kill these ants, the colony will simply send out more workers, and you'll never reach the queen. So what do you do? See #4:
4. Set out ant bait.
Instead of eliminating the worker ants, use them! Following all label directions, place ant bait stations along the trail you identified (in #2).
The workers will find the bait, carry it back to the nest, and feed the queen, eventually killing her and eliminating future populations.
5. Hold off on cleaning
Although it is good to eliminate other food sources, you don't want to mop away the ant's odor trail yet. The trail will now lead the workers to your bait instead.
6. Be patient.
The ants will carry the insecticide bait back to the nest, but it can take several days to eliminate the colony, or even a few weeks if the colony is very large or it has several queens. (Some ant species do.) You may even need to replace the bait station if they empty the food or liquid bait.
7. Know when to spray.
If the trailing ants have led you to an outdoor, below-ground nest -- now can be the time to spray. Drenching the nest with an approved insecticide spray (following all label directions) can be effective.
8. Keep it clean.
Sanitation is critical for the prevention and control of any pest. Like all living creatures, ants need water, food, and shelter for survival. Ants will leave the shelter of their colony to seek food and water. Don't make it easy for them! Keep foods sealed, floors swept, and all surfaces cleaned.
9. Keep ants out.
Ants are tiny creatures and can enter homes and buildings through minute cracks and crevices.
To minimize this, seal around windows and doors, and all cable, pipe, and wire entry points.
A brief summary of the 9 steps:
The ants you see trailing in your kitchen are workers looking for any crumbs you've left behind. When they find the crumbs, they carry them back to the nest leaving a trail for other worker ants to follow. These ants feed the queen who makes the baby ants - and never leaves the nest. So ... to get rid of ants, you need to get rid of crumbs the ants want, then put down ant bait so they carry it back to the nest instead; feed the queen, and eliminate the entire colony.
Get Rid of Ants Cheaply and Naturally
Search online for "ways to get rid of ants", and you're likely to turn up page after page of results, but which ones work and which ones don't? It's not so easy to decide. Save yourself the hassle of sifting through the lore, and give these cheap, natural and science-based ant remedies a try:
Wipe down your countertops, cupboards and any other places where you've spotted ants with a 50-50 mixture of white vinegar and water. Repeat throughout the day to maintain the efficacy.
Why This Works: Two reasons, really: ants hate the smell of vinegar, and it removes the scent trails that they use to get around. Observe ants for a little while, and you'll see that they all follow the same path in and out of your house. If you eliminate their scent trails, it will give you a serious leg up in the battle.
Warning: Vinegar is not safe for natural stone countertops. If you have granite, marble, quartz or some other type of stone countertop, use your regular spray cleaner to wipe down your counters instead. It'll still help with the ants.
Chalk/ Baby Powder
Draw a line of chalk in front of the spot where the ants are entering your home. It'll act as a barrier that they won't cross. Refresh your chalk line periodically to maintain the efficacy.
Why This Works: No one is really sure. Some people think it's because ants don't like the calcium carbonate in the chalk. Others think it's because the chalk line interrupts their scent trails. Whatever the reason, it seems to do the trick. Try it, and see for yourself.
Mix together equal parts borax and either syrup or jelly (borax and sugar also works). Then, place the mixture where the ants will find it. If you have small kids or pets, be sure to put it out of their reach.
Why This Works: Once consumed, borax damages both the ants' digestive systems and their outer skeletons, resulting in death.
Herbs/Spices and Essential Oils
Sprinkle cinnamon, mint, chili pepper, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cloves or garlic in the area where you've seen the ants. Then, treat your home's foundation in the same manner. Placing bay leaves in cabinets, drawers and containers can also help to deter ants.
Certain essential oils are also effective against ants. Place a few drops of peppermint, citrus, eucalyptus or cinnamon oil on some cottons balls. Then, stick them in problem areas.
Why This Works: Many plants – including the ones listed – give off a strong scent to repel ants and other insects in the wild, and they work just as well in your home. Use something other than peppers, if you have pets or small children. The capsaicin in the peppers can irritate mucus membranes. Essential oils should also be kept out of the reach of children and pets.
Sprinkle your used coffee grounds in the garden and around the outside of your house.
Why This Works: Ants are repelled by the scent given off by the grounds; and incidentally, so are cats.
Tip: Starbucks will give you grounds for free
Leave cucumber or citrus peels in areas of known ant activity to send them on their way.
Why This Works: Cucumber and citrus peels are toxic to the types of fungi that ants feed on, so ants do their best to avoid them. If you're battling ants in your kitchen or bathroom, switch to cucumber or citrus-scented cleaners. Look for products that are scented with actual citrus or cucumber oils. Synthetic fragrances won't have the effect you're after.