Because most kinds of ants typically found in the home do no significant damage, an ant infestation isn’t the worst pest problem in the world.
The good news is that only a few species of ants in North America (about 1,000) are likely to settle in homes, and even fewer are likely to sting or cause harm. Most ant species reside in gardens and do more good than harm by aerating the soil and removing pests such as aphids.
Carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.) are a type of ant that can cause damage to a home by tunneling through wood structural elements.
Table of Contents
Natural ways to eliminate and repel ants
There are various methods for removing ants and their nests from your property. While professional exterminators may be necessary in some cases, several natural alternatives can cure the problem without introducing chemicals or poisons into your house.
Here are some of the most effective natural ways to kill and repel ants that may be found at your house or a local store.
1. Diatomaceous earth (silicon dioxide)
Diatomaceous earth is a silica created from the fossilized remnants of diatoms, small aquatic creatures (a type of plankton).
Diatomaceous earth isn’t harmful to your health. It kills ants and other insects by sucking up the oils in their bones and drying them out. However, because diatomaceous earth is an irritant, avoid inhaling it or putting it on your skin.
Food-grade diatomaceous earth is available for purchase online. Follow the box directions to use it to kill ants, or sprinkle the powder anywhere you notice ants.
2. Glass cleaner and liquid detergent
When ants wander, they leave a fragrant pheromone trail that works as a map. This procedure will eliminate the ant’s odor and prevent them from returning to your home. Here’s how you can do it:
- Combine glass cleaning spray with liquid detergent (dish soap) in a clean spray bottle.
- Spray the solution in areas where ants appear to enter or congregate.
- After spraying, wipe clean the area leaving a faint residue.
- Repeat the previous steps as needed.
If you don’t have any glass cleaner on hand, soapy water (i.e., hand soap, dish detergent) will likely erase the ant pheromones’ fragrance.
3. Ground black or red pepper
Ants seem to dislike the fragrance of black or red (cayenne) pepper. Thus it’s a natural deterrent.
Sprinkle pepper along baseboards and behind appliances to employ this strategy. According to anecdotal evidence, this is a safe technique to help keep ants at bay.
Peppermint is a natural insect repellent that can help repel ants and other insects like mosquitoes.
Follow these instructions to utilize peppermint essential oil as an ant repellent:
- In a clean plastic spray bottle, combine 10 to 20 drops of peppermint essential oil with 2 cups of water.
- Spray the mixture around the baseboards and windows of your home.
- Allow time for the mixture to dry before continuing.
Like most essential oils, peppermint oil should be kept out of reach of pets, especially cats, which can become quite unwell if exposed.
Peppermint essential oil can be found at your local grocery or health food store.
5. Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil, like peppermint oil, can be an efficient ant repellent. To utilize this approach, follow the instructions below:
- In a clean plastic spray container, combine 5 to 10 drops of tea tree essential oil with 2 cups water.
- Spray the mixture in areas of the house where ants are common. Alternatively, soak cotton balls in the mixture and scatter them over your home.
If the aroma is too overpowering, try combining tea tree oil, peppermint oil, and water. Like most essential oils, tea tree oil should be kept out of reach of dogs.
6. Lemon eucalyptus oil
Another natural bug repellant is oil produced from the lemon eucalyptus tree. It contains citronella, used to repel mosquitoes and other flying insects in candles. It may also be effective for repelling ants, according to anecdotal evidence.
Complete the following steps to put it to use:
- Using undiluted lemon eucalyptus essential oil, saturate cotton balls.
- Place cotton balls in parts of the house where you frequently observe ants.
- Weekly, replace the cotton balls with new, saturated cotton balls.
Lemon eucalyptus oil should not be consumed. It should be kept out of the reach of children and pets.
Lemon eucalyptus oils are most likely available at your local health food store. It’s also accessible over the internet.
7. Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
Despite their similar names, the oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) and lemon eucalyptus essential oil is not the same. The gum eucalyptus tree, native to Australia, is the source of OLE. It contains p-Methane-3,8-diol (PMD) and is an excellent insect repellant.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies PMD as a biopesticide that is certified safe to use.
OLE is available in your local hardware and gardening store and online.
8. White vinegar
White vinegar, found in most shops, is a cheap and effective way to kill and repel ants. It also cleans naturally.
Wherever ants are likely to congregate, clean hard surfaces such as floors and worktops with a 1-1 vinegar/water solution. Spray the mixture whenever ants are prone to go. Spray the mixture on ants or wipe them away with a paper towel if you see them. After the vinegar dries, ants can smell it, but most humans can’t smell it for long.
9. Boiling water
Fill any ant holes you find on your property with hot water. Using this method, many of the ants inside will be exterminated fast and effectively.
Anthills may appear insignificant, yet they conceal vast ant colonies beneath them.
The boiling water alone will not be enough to eradicate the colony. As a result, handle any ant holes you find near your home with caution.
Cornstarch, which is available in supermarkets, can be used to suffocate a huge number of ants at once. Cornstarch can be used to kill ants in two separate ways:
The first approach involves liberally applying cornstarch to the entire colony of ants and then sprinkling water on top. Many dead ants will be encased in cornstarch, and vacuum them up, making sure to dispose of the vacuum bag outside as soon as possible.
11. Cinnamon leaf essential oil
Compounds in the cinnamon leaf essential oil, such as trans-cinnamaldehyde, were found to be effective at killing and repelling ants, especially biting red ants, in a 2005 study.
Using pure cinnamon leaf essential oil, saturate cotton balls.
Place the cotton balls in parts of the house where you frequently observe ants. Weekly, replace the cotton balls with new, saturated cotton balls.
Cinnamon leaf essential oil is widely available in health food stores. It’s also available on the internet.
12. Neem oil
The insecticide neem oil is made from the neem tree, which is native to India. Neem oil is recommended for use around plants, especially if aphids or ants are present. Because ants raise aphids (small sap-sucking insects), eradicating the aphids with neem oil will eliminate both types of pests.
Diluted neem and products containing neem extract are said to be less effective than full-strength neem oil.
Neem oil is available in many health food stores and on the internet.
13. Coffee grounds
The smell of brewed coffee grounds has been found to attract ants. Freshly brewed coffee grounds should be sprinkled on disposable surfaces (such as index cards) and placed in ant-infested places (such as pet bowls). Window sills can also be used to display the grounds. If the grounds grow dry, they will lose their effectiveness, so change them periodically.
14. Boric acid
Boric acid is a sort of toxin that, according to an older 2003 animal research, can kill certain species of worker ants and their queen after three weeks of exposure. It achieves this by dissolving the ants’ external shells and stomachs.
Because boric acid is harmful, it must be kept out of reach of dogs and children.
Follow the instructions below to use boric acid:
- Put your safety gloves on
- To prepare a solution, combine ½ teaspoon boric acid, 8 teaspoons sugar, and 1 cup warm water.
- In a mixing basin, combine the sugar and boric acid and whisk until completely dissolved.
- Soak cotton balls in water and scatter them throughout your property in ant-prone locations.
- Containers should be washed completely and cleaned after each use or discarded.
Boric acid can also build do-it-yourself (DIY) and traps. Mix the powder with a sweetener like a maple or corn syrup to attract ants. Place on a flat, disposable surface, such as cardboard, in ant-infested regions and spread out.
Boric acid can be found in your local hardware and gardening store and on the internet.
15. Borax (sodium tetraborate)
Despite their similar names, borax and boric acid are not the same chemical compound. Both of these ways could be equally effective at getting rid of ants in your house. Borax must be kept away from pets and children since it might be dangerous.
Follow these instructions to utilize borax:
- Put on your protective gloves
- Combine ½ teaspoon borax, 8 tablespoons sugar, and 1 cup warm water to make a solution.
- Stir in the sugar and borax until they are completely dissolved.
- Soak cotton balls in water and scatter them throughout your property in ant-prone locations.
- After use, containers should be properly cleaned or disposed of.
Lemon juice can repel ants by eliminating pheromone trails and concealing the smell of food.
Furthermore, putting lemon rinds in your cabinet may deter ants from settling in your kitchen.
17. Check your houseplants
Check your houseplants for ant swarms, which could suggest the presence of nests beneath the soil. Any plants that look to be affected should be discarded. Surround the soil with citrus rinds from lemons or oranges to keep ants away from your plants.
18. Keep the outdoors outside
Maintain a debris-free yard. Remove any vines or vegetation that come into contact with or leans against your house’s external walls or windows, making it easier for ants to enter.
19. Cut off sources of food
Sweet and starchy foods like sugar, honey, and cornmeal attract ants. As a result, one of the greatest ways to keep ants away is to ensure no food sources are nearby.
Food should be kept in containers or plastic bags that are properly sealed. After each meal, immediately wash all plates and cooking equipment.
Using a broom or vacuum, clean up crumbs from your home daily. Crumbs can collect under and around standing equipment in your kitchen, couch cushions, garbage pails, and other parts of your home where your family eats or prepares food.
Ants are attracted to pet food. When your pet has done eating, remove the pet bowls. To get rid of the food odor, clean the dishes right away.
20. Eliminate ant entrances
Understanding how ants enter your home can aid in the removal of an existing ant infestation as well as the prevention of future infestations.
Look for cracks in the walls and holes near the flooring and radiators in your home. Cracks can be sealed or treated.
What if nothing works to getting rid of ants?
Insecticides and professionally created treatments can be used to get rid of ants if natural solutions aren’t enough.
Identifying the pathways followed by worker ants to travel to and from the nest is an important first step in eliminating ants from the house. Any visible ants crawling within your home are looking for food, and once they find it, the worker returns it to the colony. Therefore, the ant creates a chemical trail for its fellow worker ants to follow to obtain additional food.
This behavior allows you to fight ants since you can now trick the worker ants into carrying poisoned food (ant bait) back to the colony.
Use ant baits indoors
Avoid spraying visible ants traveling along trails inside your home with insecticides. Pesticide sprays may kill a few visible ants, but others will immediately replace them, and the infestation will never be completely eradicated. Instead, place ant killers for these worker ants to carry back to the secret nest and utilize them as a ticket inside the colony.
Ant baits are made up of delicious components, mainly sweet, sugary carbohydrates and toxins lethal to ants but not to animals or humans. Boric acid, a natural material non-toxic to humans when handled appropriately, is utilized in some ant baits.
Use spray pesticides outdoors
If you follow ant trails and find the colony’s outdoor nest, a big dosage of liquid insecticide that can soak down to reach the queen might be a good idea. It may be effective to saturate the nest with an approved insecticide spray (following all package guidelines).
Check to ensure this is the colony generating your inside infestation. Wide varieties of ants are beneficial garden insects that should not be killed.
Warning: If you apply a general-purpose pesticide to eliminate ants, keep in mind that these chemicals can kill both beneficial and unwanted species, such as honeybees and predatory insects. Wherever possible, it’s ideal to use a selective pesticide that exclusively kills ants.
If all else fails, the professional exterminator may be able to help. Look for a company committed to using as few dangerous products as possible. Tell them if you have children, pets, or other health problems, such as a respiratory infection.
In their titles, some professional exterminators include words like “green,” “organic,” and “environmentally friendly.” If you’re concerned about chemicals, ask an exterminator about the ingredients they typically use in ant treatments before hiring them.
Keep things clean
For the prevention and control of any pest, sanitation is essential. Like all living things, ants require water, food, and shelter to survive. Ants leave their colony’s protection in search of food and water.
Making things difficult for them. Maintain a clean environment by keeping foods sealed, floors swept, and all surfaces clean. Keep everything clean while targeting the nest, as the sweet and bait will be the only item available to the ants.
But don’t clean up the ant trails until the infestation is gone because they’ll help the ants find your bait and transport it back to the colony. After getting rid of the ants, clean up and maintain the path surfaces.
When should I call a pro?
If you suspect carpenter ants are burrowing in your walls, you should get advice and treatment from a professional pest control company. Most other ant infestations may be handled by a homeowner, though it may take weeks or months of diligent effort.
However, if an ant infestation persists despite your best efforts, you should seek the advice of an exterminator. If you suspect termite damage, get professional help immediately, as well as have any structural wood that has been harmed replaced.