How to Kill and Repel Ants Safely 🐜

June 14, 2021

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Where there’s one ant, there’s thousands more. This may not bother you so much if you’re picnicking in the great outdoors, but if an ant infestation is occurring in your home, you’ll want to remove the problem fast.

There are many ways to eliminate ants and their colonies in the home. Some of these are natural solutions that won’t add chemicals or toxins to your environment.

Here are some of the best ways to kill and repel ants naturally and safely.

20 natural ways to eliminate ants 

  1. Diatomaceous earth (silicon dioxide)

Diatomaceous earth is a type of silica. It comprises fossilized remains of aquatic organisms called diatoms.

Diatomaceous earth isn’t a poison. It kills ants and other bugs by absorbing the oils in their skeletons, which dries them out. Since it’s an irritant, avoid breathing in diatomaceous earth or getting it on your skin.

You can purchase food-grade diatomaceous earth online. To use it as an ant killer, follow package directions, or sprinkle the powder anywhere you see ants.

  1. Glass cleaner and liquid detergent

Combining spray-on glass cleaner with liquid detergent or dish soap can help deter ants from entering your home. It does this by removing the scented pheromone trail they leave behind when they walk.

Mix together and spray on areas where ants seem to congregate or originate from. Wipe down the area after spraying, leaving a light residue.

While there are no studies to support this remedy, anecdotal evidence suggests it’s enough to keep ants away.

  1. Hand soap

If the scent of glass cleaner bothers you, using hand soap may be enough to remove ants. Soapy water of any kind removes the scent of ant pheromones. Use it on ant trails and points of entry in your home.

Without pheromone trails to follow, ants are unable to communicate with each other.

  1. Pepper

Since ants seem to find the smell of pepper irritating, you can try black or red (cayenne) pepper as an ant deterrent.

This remedy to ant infestation is completely natural and safe. Anecdotal evidence suggests that sprinkling pepper around baseboards and behind appliances may help keep ants at bay.

  1. Peppermint

Peppermint is a natural insect repellent that may be very effective at repelling ants and other bugs, such as mosquitoes.

Mix 10 to 20 drops of peppermint essential oil with 2 cups of water. Spray the mixture around the baseboards and windows of your home. Let dry.

Like most essential oils, keep peppermint oil out of reach of pets, especially cats, who can become very ill if exposed.

You can likely find peppermint essential oil at your local grocery store. It’s also available online.

  1. Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil repels and kills ants. Mix 5 to 10 drops of tea tree oil with 2 cups of water and use as a spray. You can also saturate cotton balls and place them around your home where you’ve seen ants.

If the scent is too strong, try making a mixture that combines tea tree oil with peppermint oil and water.

Like most essential oils, keep tea tree oil out of reach of pets, especially cats, who can become very ill if exposed.

You can find tea tree oil at your local grocery store or online.

  1. Lemon eucalyptus oil

Oil extracted from the lemon eucalyptus tree is another natural bug repellent. It contains citronella, which is used in candles to repel flying bugs, such as mosquitoes. Anecdotal evidence indicates it’s also effective at repelling ants.

Don’t ingest lemon eucalyptus oil. Keep it out of reach of children and pets.

To use, saturate cotton balls with the undiluted oil. Place in areas where ants have been seen. Change weekly.

You can likely find lemon eucalyptus oil at your local health food store. It’s also available online.

  1. Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)

OLE isn’t the same substance as lemon eucalyptus oil. OLE comes from the gum eucalyptus tree, which is native to Australia. It contains a chemical called PMD, which has been found to be an effective insect repellent.

PMD is classified as a bio-pesticide by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is considered safe to use. Some people report OLE is able to kill and repel ants. People also use it to repel mosquitoes.

You can find OLE at your local hardware and gardening store or online.

  1. White vinegar

If you see ants, wipe them up with a solution of 50-50 vinegar and water, or straight vinegar.

White vinegar kills ants and also repels them. If you have an ant problem, try using diluted vinegar to clean hard surfaces, including floors and countertops, throughout your home.

Ants can smell the vinegar after it dries, but the scent doesn’t remain discernible for long to most people.

  1. Boiling water

If you notice ant holes near your home, pour boiling water into them. This will effectively and immediately kill many of the ants inside. Ant hills may appear small, but the ant colonies underneath them are wide.

The boiling water won’t be enough to kill off the entire colony. For this reason, make sure to treat every ant hole you see within your home’s proximity.

  1. Cornstarch

If you happen upon a large number of ants, you can use cornstarch to smother them.

Liberally pour cornstarch over the entire group of ants, and add water on top. This will be messy, but the result will be lots of dead ants encased in cornstarch.

You can also cover the ants with cornstarch and then vacuum them up instead of using water.

Make sure to dispose of the sealed vacuum bag outdoors immediately.

  1. Cinnamon leaf essential oil

Compounds in cinnamon leaf essential oil, including trans-cinnamaldehyde, have been found effectiveTrusted Source at killing and repelling ants, including biting red ants.

Anecdotal evidence indicates powdered cinnamon is also effective at repelling ants. Try saturating cotton balls with the oil and leaving them where you’ve seen ants, or sprinkling the powder around on windowsills and baseboards.

Health food stores often carry cinnamon leaf essential oil. You can also find it online.

  1. Neem oil

Neem oil is extracted from the neem tree, which is native to India. When used at full strength, some people find neem oil repels ants from entering a home.

Diluted neem and products containing neem extract have been reported to not work nearly as well as full-strength neem.

You can find neem oil at many health food stores or online.

  1. Coffee grounds

This anecdotal ant repellant requires you to brew the coffee first. Brewed coffee grounds have been found to keep ants away.

Try sprinkling the coffee grounds on disposable surfaces, such as index cards, and leaving them near areas that attract ants, such as pet bowls and plants.

You can also place the grounds on windowsills. They may lose their potency once they’re dry, so make sure to change often.

  1. Boric acid

Boric acid is a type of poison, which has been proven Trusted Source to kill worker ants and their queen within 3 weeks of exposure. It does this by eroding their outer shells and stomachs.

It’s very important to keep boric acid away from pets and children and to wear gloves while you’re working with it. Most basic boric acid recipes to treat ants include the following directions:

  1. Make a solution of 1/2 teaspoon boric acid, 8 teaspoons sugar, and 1 cup of warm water.
  2. Stir until the sugar and boric acid are completely dissolved. Saturate cotton balls and place around your home in areas where you’ve seen ants.
  3. You can also leave the mixture out in containers. After use, wash containers thoroughly or discard.

You can also use boric acid as an ingredient in DIY ant traps. Mix the powder with something sweet that will attract ants, such as maple syrup or corn syrup. Spread on a flat, disposable surface, like cardboard, and place in areas where you see ants.

Find boric acid at your local hardware and gardening store or online.

  1. Borax (sodium tetraborate)

Contrary to common belief, borax and boric acid aren’t the same chemical compound. Anecdotally, both may be equally as effective at killing ants in the home.

Like boric acid, don’t use baits prepared with borax where children or pets can reach them.

Make a solution of borax, sugar, and warm water, using the same procedure as you would with boric acid.

Find borax at your local hardware and gardening store or online.

  1. Give your houseplants an anti-ant advantage

Check your houseplants for swarms of ants, which might indicate nests under the soil. Discard any plants that appear to be infested.

Stop ants from making homes in your plants by surrounding them with citrus rinds from either lemons or oranges.

  1. Keep the outdoors out

Keep your yard clean of debris. Cut off any vines or vegetation that touches or leans onto the exterior walls of your house and windows. These can make it easier for ants to enter your home.

  1. Cut off their food source

Eliminating the problem before it starts is the best way to get rid of ants. You can do this by making sure you have no food sources readily available for them.

This will entail keeping food tightly sealed in containers or plastic bags. Keep in mind that ants are attracted to sweet and starchy things like sugar, honey, and cornmeal.

You’ll also have to be vigilant about cleaning up crumbs from your home. Don’t forget to clean:

  • under and around standing appliances in your kitchen
  • in couch cushions
  • in garbage pails
  • areas of the home where your family eats or prepares food

Pet food can also attract ants. Remove pet bowls as soon as your pet has finished eating. Give the bowls a rinse to eliminate the scent of the food.

  1. Determine how they’re getting in

It can be next to impossible to seal every nook and cranny, but check your home for cracks in the walls and holes near floorboards and in radiators. You can fill these up or treat with repellent. Also check for rips in window screens, which you can mend.

If nothing works

If natural options aren’t enough, you can use pesticides and commercially prepared products to eradicate ants.

Bait traps that contain pesticides in an enclosed form may be preferable for some people over sprays. Bait traps work by attracting ants to them. The ants eat the bait and bring some of it back to their nests, killing off other ants.

Ants also eat dead ants and absorb the pesticide that way. Some bait traps contain boric acid or borax. Others contain hydramethylnon, a chemical compound that’s dangerous for children, pets, and growing food, such as tomato plants.

You can find ant traps at many hardware and gardening stores as well as online. Check the ingredients if you’re avoiding toxins before you buy.

There are also nontoxic commercial repellant sprays that are all-natural and work on ant control.

Raid is a chemical spray that can be very effective on ants. It’s long-lasting, but does contain imiprothrin and cypermethrin, two chemical compounds that shouldn’t be inhaled or ingested.

If all else fails, hiring an exterminator can help. Look for one who’s committed to using the least toxic products possible. Let them know if you have children, pets, or other concerns, such as a respiratory health condition.

Some professional exterminators use words like green, organic, or eco-friendly in their titles. That’s not enough to ensure that they’re truly green. Ask them what substances they typically use in ant treatments and which ones they avoid before you hire them.

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