How to Get Rid of Ants Naturally

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How to get rid of ants naturally
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Ants, ants, ants, everywhere! Those pesky insects have a way of finding every little crack and opening right into your home. With Spring finally in full swing I have begun to see an ant scout here and there and I want to nip it in the bud before they take over my life!

With kids and pets spending the majority of their day playing, crawling, and somersaulting (well the kids are somersaulting, not the dog) across the floor, I am not about to sprinkle a pesticide around my home that will put them in danger.

But the ants…

Thankfully there are plenty of ways to get rid of ants without putting your family at risk. I have talked before about natural pest control but today I am going to focus specifically on getting rid of ants.

How Do Ants Find Food?

Ant colonies will send out scouts to locate food sources. Those little bugs will zig and zag and probe their way until they find food, which they will bring back to their colony, leaving a trail of pheromones behind them. Other ants will follow the trail leaving their own pheromones making the trail stronger until all the little foragers are marching along, back and forth, taking all your goodies back to their home.

Fascinating and annoying all at once.

How to Get Rid of Ants (Naturally, of Course!)

So what is the answer to naturally get rid of ants? There are several approaches you can take. Repel them from coming into your home in the first place, control and eradicate them once they are in, and finally, kill them at their source.

Repel, Repel, Repel

The first step to get rid of ants is to make sure any sweet ingredients in your home are sealed tightly. Clean up the dribbles down the side of the honey jar and make sure your maple syrup lid is on tight. It is also recommended to keep floors swept and all counters free of any food or drips, but that is not usually practical or possible in a busy home like mine. Just do the best you can with this one.

Here are some more ideas to prevent ants from coming into your home:

  • Create a barrier – Many people have good luck creating a barrier of something ants generally don’t like or won’t cross. Some examples would be drawing a chalk line or sprinkling cinnamon, cayenne pepper, baby powder, or coffee grounds along common entry points.
  • Citrus Peels – Ants are also repelled by citrus. Oranges, lemons, grapefruits, etc. contain D-limonene and it is effective at killing ants. Save your orange or lemon peels and dry them out. Pulse them in a blender or food processor to make a powder and sprinkle this along entry points in your home. You can also sprinkle these around your garden.
  • Essential Oils – I have had good results deterring ants that were determined to come in under my screen door with an essential oil spray. Fill a small spray bottle with water and add about 20 drops of peppermint oil. Shake well and spray along doorways and window sills. It repels the ants and covers the scent of any food and pheromones. You can also put several drops of peppermint, orange, or lemon oil on a cotton ball and place it in cabinets to deter ants from snooping around in search of food.
  • Vinegar – Spraying vinegar along doorways and window sills is another option. This has the same effect as the peppermint oil spray. Mix vinegar 50/50 with water in a spray bottle. Add peppermint oil or a citrus oil like orange or lemon to this mixture to make it even more effective.

What if Ants Are Already In Your Home?

The ants are already in. Now what?

  1. First, find out where they are coming in from and where they are going so that you can figure out the best way to tackle their removal. Something attracted them and that will need to be cleaned up. Then find their entry point so that you can use one of the tips from above.
  2. Once you have found point A and point B, move on to clean up. You will obviously need to remove the ants from your counter, floor, cabinet or wherever they are. You can wipe them up with a cloth (or paper towel if you don’t want to try to remove them from your cloth).
  3. Now on to the important part. You have to remove the pheromone trail. You can use soapy water, a 50/50 water and vinegar mix, or the essential oil spray. If you don’t clean up the trail, other ants will be able to easily find the same food source.

Kill the Ants

I don’t know about you, but my first instinct is to kill any bugs I see in my house (or call for my adventurous daughter to do it for me). However, this may not always be the most effective way to rid your home of ants in the long term.

If you can resist the temptation to kill them immediately, you can make an ant poison they will take back to their colony and feed to all of their friends. It requires a little bit of patience but will pay off in the end.

Option 1: Borax

I learned this trick from Katie of Kitchen Stewardship on a podcast episode. It does not immediately remove the ants from your kitchen (in fact it may seem like it attracts more at first, which is actually a good thing) but it works really well for the long term because it works to eliminate the colony and not just the ants entering your home.

She recommends mixing equal parts Borax (I use this one) and corn syrup and spreading it on an index card. The ants are attracted to the corn syrup and carry it back to their nest. All the ants that feed on the corn syrup mixture will be killed by the Borax. (I cover the safety of using Borax here.)

Option 2: Baking Soda

If you are uncomfortable with using Borax, you can try using baking soda. Mix equal parts baking soda and powdered sugar and place it in a lid near where you think the ants are coming in. The powdered sugar will attract them, but since they are unable to differentiate between the sugar and the baking soda, they will carry both back to their nest.

When ants consume baking soda it reacts with the acidic substance in their bodies and is fatal to them. Again, not an immediate fix, but very beneficial in the long term.

Other Ant Killing Tips to Try

Diatomaceous earth (use food grade only) is highly effective at getting rid of ants and other pests that crawl, rather than fly. DE is a fine powder made from the fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of algae. Because it is so fine, it is perfectly safe for humans and animals and is actually beneficial to consume. (It is good for hair and nails, among other things.)

Ants, however, become dehydrated when they come into contact with DE because it damages their waxy coating which will kill them. They will not take it back to their colony but it will stop them from making any progress into your home.

Sprinkle DE along doorways and window sills, and any other points of entry, in trash cans, and along cabinets and baseboards. I have also sprinkled it liberally on my carpet during a particularly bad ant invasion. After a few days the ants were gone and I just vacuumed up the DE.

Use extreme care if you will be using this outside and avoid any areas that may have honey bees. The DE will stick to their legs and they will consume it when they are grooming. DE is sharp to small insects and will kill them. We want to kill the ants and fleas, but NOT the honey bees!

castile soap will also compromise the waxy coating that protects the ants. Make a spray with 1 quart water and 1/4 cup liquid castile soap. Spray along doorways and window sills and anywhere else you see ants coming in. Repeat a couple of times a day until the problem is resolved.

Dealing With More Than Ants?

If you have other pests plaguing you there are other natural pest control options for your home and some organic ideas for your garden.

How do you deal with ants? Did I miss any effective tips that have worked for you?

Sources
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

57 responses to “How to Get Rid of Ants Naturally”

  1. John Hoffman Avatar
    John Hoffman

    I have learned that some ants prefer sugar and some prefer grease. When mixing borax with something you might try it in the sugar water and also try it in bacon grease or peanut butter to see which they are most attracted to. The ones I am dealing with seem to prefer the bacon grease. Mix about 1/2 tsp borax with 1 T hot bacon grease stirring thoroughly. the borax will settle to the bottom so stir well and then refrigerate to solidify. Stir again before putting on a small piece of foil or index card or cracker.

  2. Aileen Avatar

    Used coffee grounds seem to get rid of (@ least MOVE) them. Haven’t used long enough to know if it kills them or just “moves” them elsewhere.

  3. Kelly Avatar

    Ok, I’m trying the Borax/corn syrup method. I have not had ants for years, and suddenly had them in my kitchen. I ran to the store, but it was too late at night to find a store open to get my favorite ant killer, Terro…..I decided to try this as I believe it is similar….I’ll let you know how it works! Thanks for all the great ideas.

  4. Rebecca simpson Avatar
    Rebecca simpson

    I read once that when an ant is squished they release a scent that tells other ants that there is danger here. So for the past 3 years in 2 different homes I squish ants at every point of entry and along the line to whatever they are after. They are gone within 24 hours. I don’t have to use anything so I save my essential oils and diatomaceous earth for other uses and the ants are free to continue living outside. The only exception I make is for fire ants. They are not allowed to live inside or outside. They have caused much pain for my pets my children and myself.

  5. Fal Avatar

    I used straight apple cider vinegar last year and it worked fairly well…but not this year. No matter how much I cleaned and wiped down the counters they still came back. I found out where they were coming from in the house and tried rubbing the counters down in peppermint EO. Worked for a little bit and then stopped. I tried the baking soda and powdered sugar trap at the same time I switched to lavender EO and they just stopped. I don’t know if it was the trap or the lavender that did it, but they’re gone now!

  6. Julia Avatar

    I’ve tried almost all the methods listed on this post and the most important thing to remember is keeping your kids both human and furry types safe. Boiling water poured on a hill ( and up to about 4 feet out) is great and safe, especially for red ants. My top for that is to boil the water on the grill set up nearby so you don’t have to carry the pot or kettle far.
    DE work ok but not as well in a humid climate ( the stuff has to stay dry) and not good with pups who do slot of sniffing. DE works great for ticks and fleas and centipedes.
    I use cinnamon in potted plants and plant hot peppers around the foundation of the house as the oils from hot peppers will irritate and crack their exoskeletons.
    Inside the house baits made up with either borax and any syrup or borax and any fat depending on whether the ants like sweets or fats – again out of reach of kids and pets both, please.

  7. Kelle Avatar

    I used dry cream of wheat cereal 2 summers ago with success in my condo bathroom. I made a little 2×2 tiny tray I sprinkled it into. Have not had any more appear since:)

  8. Greg Krakow Avatar
    Greg Krakow

    A good practice that has worked for me over the years is to go through the kitchen with a caulk gun and fill every crack I can find. Once I did this and some ants still found their way into the kitchen. I traced their line to a small crack in the caulk. I filled it and that was the last I saw of ants in my kitchen, This works for roaches too.

  9. Kari Avatar

    Ants have been a difficult issue to resolve for us because they come in through the crown molding in one spot in our kitchen. If anyone has advice regarding ants that come in from “on high” I’m open to it! I have to constantly spray to deter them or stick a poison trap to the wall, which makes me nervous because I have a young one and the poison trap has fallen on the floor in the past. Hopefully, the peppermint spray will last longer and be more effective than the dish soap spray I’ve used in the past. These ants have been a challenge!

  10. Cred Avatar

    Typically, I avoid killing insects for the most part but have squished a few ants on my counter when I had a bigger problem with them one season. But I dislike the idea of baiting them with something they will return to their nest and destroy their colony. Maybe if we had a problem with fire ants, I would change my mind.
    I had problems, on and off, and a few tricks mentioned above that helped over time. And I’ve left an anthill alone in my garden and we coexisted just fine in that space. Although, I know they will protect aphids in the garden so in that case they may not be welcome. But they are listed as beneficial insects in the garden, controlling other more devasting pests.
    However, to my mind, natural living should also be about coexisting with other critters in the natural world, they are part of the Eco-system and contribute to it in many ways we’re not always aware. Controlling infestation in your home is understandable but complete annihilation outside just isn’t for me.

    1. Serenity Avatar
      Serenity

      Yes, I agree with Cred completely. LIFE. Let’s respect it. I take the time to free the ants by picking them up and putting them outside. Then I clean it all up. I don’t agree with killing them in their homes aka outside.

  11. Barbara Avatar
    Barbara

    Dish soap makes a great barrier while waiting for DE or other options to work. They will not cross a line of soap! This works great if you know where they are coming in at. Mine where using a gas pipe to squeeze in.

    1. Sheridan Avatar
      Sheridan

      I did the same thing 3 days ago…used a paper towel to spread dish soap in a thin layer along my kitchen window sill, and under the lip of the window sill. I haven’t had any more trouble with ants, and I had battled them for weeks!

      1. Sheridan Avatar
        Sheridan

        Just an update to my earlier comment: I had to repeat the application of dish soap one time, about 5 days later, and that did the job. My kitchen has been free of ants since then. (The dish soap was Tea Tree Lavender dish soap from Trader Joe’s.)

  12. Laura Kozak Avatar
    Laura Kozak

    Place slivers of garlic along periphery of entry, ants will not cross line of garlic, they will scurry away from garlic

  13. Freda Avatar

    Have mixed honey and yeast in a pinch and squirted it around in desperation! They eat it and explode! Very gratifying!

  14. Dot Avatar

    If you have access to sea or lake weed put it in the bottom of pot plants when potting. It will keep ants out of the pot. Dot

  15. Carol Avatar

    I have tried almost all of the above, including from readers. it seems that “my” ants live inside my walls. My home was built in 1945, and not well. I can NEVDER find the actual entry, so putting own bait in any form is pretty useless. Would LOVE to be able to surround my home with DE or other repellants to keep them out, but what if they are living UNDER the house, or IN it?? I finally got a bait that the pest company gave my mom for ants. (yes, she does believe in the spray every month stuff…..yuck!) Used it to get rid of the continuous lines of them for the past two or so months. So far, so good! ( about 2 weeks after I put it out) I found out about nutrasweet: (aspartame) it was created as an ant poison, but the makers figured they could make more money selling it as a sugar substitute! (again, yuck!) so opened about 20 packets under my house, hoping that will work. I will try putting it out around the base of the house, too, to help in keeping them from going inside, and help in killing off all the nests and the new babies that hatch after. Good luck everyone!

  16. Alexandra Avatar
    Alexandra

    I use about 1 tablespoon of borax in 2 gallons of water and water a fruit tree in blossom around the drip line of the tree. Our local radio garden show recommended this. Borax is an element that is washed out of the soil here where I live. It rains a lot. More fruit will be set if this nutrient is available.

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