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Here’s Everything You Need To Know To Get Rid Of Ants

Get rid of ants and keep them away - collage: sprinkling corn meal on a window sill; jar of baking soda and jar of powdered sugar; box of borax and cutting a straw with scissors,

How To Keep Ants Away This Summer

As surely as summer brings warm weather and more daylight, it also brings pests. And while fruit flies, gnats, mosquitoes, and other bugs are undoubtedly annoying, few other insects are quite as tenacious as ants. Ants can appear in your house seemingly out of nowhere (even despite your cleaning efforts), and boy, do they show up in droves!

Related: How To Get Rid Of Fruit Flies

There are as many as 20,000 known species of ant, and some queens can live an impressive 30 years. They’re vital to our ecosystem, but some species (like carpenter ants and fire ants) can cause a lot of damage and harm, not to mention how unhygienic it is to have them scuttling around on your countertops!

Related: How To Get Rid Of Gnats

The best way to get rid of ants is to apply a comprehensive strategy, including cleaning, repelling, and (if necessary) killing. We’ll cover all of that and more in this post, to help you get rid of ants and keep them out for good!

Related: Get Rid Of Silverfish The Right Way

Get rid of ants and keep them away - infestation of black ants around a doorway

4 Causes Of Ant Infestation

A slow trickle of ants can quickly turn into a full-blown infestation, and it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what is attracting them. Here are some of the most common causes of ant infestations that should be addressed ASAP:

Get rid of ants and keep them away - a variety of food storage containers, some closed and some open with food in them.

1. Improperly Stored Food

Ants are always searching for food, and it all starts with scouts who figure out that you left a box of cereal, sugar, grease, or some other tasty treat in a poorly sealed container. The scouts signal the rest of the colony using pheromone trails, and soon worker ants will be lining up to indulge in their newfound food source.

Related: How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants

Get rid of ants and keep them away - a beautifully clean and clutter-free white kitchen counter

2. A Dirty Kitchen

While most of us clean our kitchens on a more of less continual basis, we may not extend our efforts to the areas under or behind our appliances. Crumbs, spills, and other food residues can easily collect in those neglected areas and attract ants from far and wide.

Get rid of ants and keep them away - blond woman on her hands and knees weeding near a sidewalk

3. Plants Growing Near Your House

Plant life provides ants with safety from the elements and predators, and plants growing up against your home can serve as a useful bridge for ants. When possible, create space between plants and your house, especially near doors and windows.

Get rid of ants and keep them away - a bathroom vanity in front of a window with the sun shining through

4. Cracks, Gaps, & Other Entry Points

Ants are so small that they can exploit even the tiniest cracks and gaps to gain entry into your home. Check entry doors and windows to ensure they close all the way and form an airtight seal. Also, follow ants back to the source when you can — you might find a crack in your wall or floor that you can seal up with caulk or putty.

How To Get Rid Of Ants

If they’ve already invaded your home, these measures can help you get rid of ants:

Get rid of ants and keep them away - woman cleaning a shelf with a spray bottle and a cloth

1. Clean Up

As mentioned above, this is the most effective and simplest way to get rid of ants. Ants aren’t complicated — they’re in your house because they’re hungry or thirsty and hope to take advantage of spills, crumbs, garbage, and anything else you might unwittingly have on offer.

For the exterior of your home, sweep up any crumbs, and use your hose to spray down spills. Inside the house, make sure all food is stored in sealed bags and containers. Also, make sure to clean your kitchen regularly, and wipe up any drips or residues on the sides of bottles and containers.

It doesn’t take much for ants to get the scent of food, so be sure to wipe down counters and tabletops daily. Other helpful measures including not allowing dirty dishes to pile up and cleaning behind appliances (both large and small) once in a while too.

Get rid of ants and keep them away - woman's hands holding a bottle of Defend.

2. Use Ant Repellents

Another way to get rid of ants is by to drive them away, and these natural solutions for repelling ants can help:

  1. Essential Oils – Lemon, clove, and peppermint essential oils deter ants, and all three are featured in Defend Essential Oil Blend. Add 5-10 drops of Defend to a small spray bottle of water, then spray it around your baseboards (or wherever you’ve spotted ant activity).
  2. White Vinegar – Ants don’t like the smell of white vinegar, and it masks the scent trails they rely on for directions. To use vinegar as an ant deterrent, just spray it anywhere you’ve spotted ants.
  3. Glass Cleaner, Dish Soap, & Liquid Detergent – All of these will disrupt the scented pheromone trail that ants leave behind to communicate with other ants.
  4. Cayenne Pepper – Cayenne is supposedly a well-kept secret among pest control companies. Ants hate the smell of cayenne and will go elsewhere.
  5. Neem Oil – Neem oil from the Indian neem tree may create an effective barrier against ants at windows and doors.
  6. Coffee Grounds – Instead of throwing your coffee grounds in the trash, use them to keep ants a bay. Personal accounts suggest that brewed coffee grounds have a repellent effect against ants.
  7. Chalk – Natural pest deterrents like chalk are handy to know about, because you never know what you might have on hand! Chalk contains calcium carbonate that can be useful in disrupting ant trails.
  8. Lemons & Lemon Peels – Ants don’t like the smell of lemon juice, and other sour or bitter foods may keep ants away if you don’t have lemon peels or lemon juice available.
  9. Salt – Table salt is one of the cheapest ways to get rid of ants naturally. Boil water and add a large amount of ordinary table salt to it, stir until the salt dissolves, then pour into a spray bottle and spray in areas of ant activity.
  10. Cream Of TartarUse cream of tartar to deter ants from their gathering places on your driveway or sidewalks. All you have to do is sprinkle a bit of the powder around the areas where they congregate.
Get rid of ants and keep them away - a potted plant on a counter

3. Check Indoor Plants For Signs Of Infestation

Look for ant hills, disturbed dirt, or ants moving toward or away from your indoor plants. Indoor plants that show signs of infestation should be disposed of, as repotting them may preserve the queen.

If ants are continually getting into your indoor plants, try putting citrus rinds around the rim — some farmers use this trick to keep pests away from their plants.

Get rid of ants and keep them away: woman raking up leaves

4. Keep Up On Yard Work

When yard debris isn’t cleared away and plants are allowed to grow right up to the outer wall of your home, they can make your home an attractive destination for ants. So cut back ivy and other vines, and move landscaping a foot or so away from your home.

Get rid of ants and keep them away - collage: photo of a big dog food bin,closed; same bin open with dog food and a scoop showing.

5. Cut Off Their Food Source

Check to ensure there aren’t any easily accessible sources of food inviting ants into your home. Check the cabinets and under counters, and ensure all food containers are clean and tightly sealed.

Pet food (as well as pets’ food and water bowls) can also attract ants. An airtight container like this one keeps pet food fresh while keeping pests out.

How To Kill Ants: 7 Natural & DIY Options

No one wants to have to resort to such desperate measures, but you don’t want to let ants have free reign over your home either! If it comes down to it, here are 7 options you can use to kill ants.

Get rid of ants and keep them away - spraying water and essential oils on a shelf to deter ants

1. DIY Surface Cleaner & Ant Killer

Add 1 cup of vinegar, 1/2 cup of water, 2 tablespoons of castile soap, and 5 drops each of lemon essential oil and peppermint essential oil to a spray bottle. Shake to mix, then use the ant spray to clean any surfaces where ants tend to congregate. Castile soap will start to dissolve the waxy exterior of the ants that come into contact with it, eventually killing them. 

It’s important to note that only about 20 percent of a colony actually leaves the ant colony, so there are plenty of reinforcements relaxing at home, waiting to be called up for active duty. That’s one reason solutions like this can take some time to work.

Get rid of ants and keep them away - sprinkling corn meal near a window

2. Cornmeal

Sprinkle cornmeal wherever you’ve spotted ants. They can’t digest cornmeal, so they’ll eventually die off. If you have pets or babies at home, this is an easy and safe solution to use.

Get rid of ants and keep them away - box of borax and scissors cutting a plastic straw into short pieces

3. Borax

Borax is another easy-to-find ingredient that will poison ants. Stir together a spoonful of peanut butter, a tablespoon of sugar, and a teaspoon of borax, then stuff the mixture into a plastic drinking straw and cut the straw into 1/2 inch pieces.

Place the straw pieces near ant trails. The sweet peanut butter will attract the ants, then the borax in the mixture will kill them relatively quickly. With solutions like this, they may also return to their ant nests to kill ants and the queen there.

Get rid of ants and keep them away - large glass jar of baking soda, large glass jar of powdered sugar

4. Baking Soda

Stir together equal parts of powdered sugar and baking soda, and sprinkle the mixture along ant trails or any crevices where ants are coming inside. The ants will be attracted to the sugar, but they’ll eat the baking soda too and die off.

Get rid of ants and keep them away - bag of food grade diatomaceous earth; diatomaceous earth sprinkled along window sill.

5. Diatomaceous Earth

You can also use food-grade diatomaceous earth to get rid of ants. It compromises the ants’ exoskeletons, so they will ultimately die of dehydration after coming into contact with it. Sprinkle it along known ant trails, and along windowsills, baseboards, and other ant hideouts. Learn more about diatomaceous earth.

Get rid of ants and keep them away - box of corn starch

6. Cornstarch

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.

Get rid of ants and keep them away - holding a box of Terro Ant Killer; putting drops of Terro Ant Killer on a paper.

7. Ant Baits

Not all insecticides are created equal, but many ant baits use borax or other natural ingredients (typically sugar-based or protein-based) to attract and kill a variety of ant species.

The Bottom Line

The tips for getting rid of ants (as well as killing ants) mentioned throughout this post can be very effective, but if an ant infestation is severe enough, you may need the help of a professional exterminator in order to overcome it!

Also, keep in mind that many of the methods that naturally get rid of ants take some time to work, so be patient, and keep your home clean and free of crumbs and food particles in the meantime.

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Have you ever had to fight ants in your house?

How to get rid of ants naturally

How To Get Rid Of Ants

Jill Nystul
They've already invaded, so let's get rid of those ants!
Active Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Cost $13

Instructions
 

  • Clean Up – Ants love to take advantage of spills, crumbs, garbage, and pretty much any mess that humans create. So the best way to keep ants away from your house is to practice cleanliness and avoid attracting them in the first place!
  • Use Ant Repellents – Another way to get rid of ants is to drive them away. (See the notes section below for options!)
  • Check Indoor Plants – Look for ant hills, disturbed dirt, or actual ants moving to and from the plant. Infested house plants will die, so it's best to just dispose of it. If you re-pot, you may preserve the queen. If this is a big problem at your home, try citrus rinds around the rim. Lemon or orange works great! Small organic farmers often use this trick to keep pests off their plants.
  • Keep Up On Yard Work – When yard debris isn't addressed, or plants grow right up to the outer wall of your home, ants consider it a permanent living space and make their home there. So cut back the ivy and other vines. Move landscaping a foot or so away from your home.
  • Cut Off Their Food Source – Make sure you have no sources of food just sitting there inviting ants inside. Check the cabinets and under counters. Make sure containers are clean and tightly sealed. The pet food and pet bowl can also attract ants, so check them as well.

Notes

How To Deter Ants
  • Essential Oils
  • White Vinegar
  • Glass Cleaner, Dish Soap, & Liquid Detergent
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Neem Oil
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Chalk
  • Lemons & Lemon Peels
  • Salt

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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Homekeeping Tips

  • I keep my coffee pot and toaster in large ziplock bags because of this reason. When I do see them I spray them with a solution I made with dish liquid and water.

  • Anytime we have a lot of rain, it forces ants in the flower bed outside our kitchen inside our home. We take a cup of boiling water and dissolve a heaping spoonful of borax and powdered sugar. When the solution cools, we take a piece of thin gauze and put it at the back of the counter and pour just enough of the solution to saturate the gauze but not run all over the counter. Maybe a teaspoon. And get ready! Ants come in droves. They eat the solution because of the sweet powdered sugar, but the borax kills them. And they take it back to the nest. So we put up with a lot of an activity in an isolated area for 1 to 2 days. But then it stops. We sanitize everything and don’t see any ants again until it rains a ton.

  • GREAT article about ants! I had 2 large ant hills by my garage I rented; one the small black ant (sugar ants?) and the average sized red ants…right next to each other! EEach hill was about 12 inches high and 2.5 to 3 feet in diameter!
    Iused 2 containers of table salt to feed the hills over a 2 week period. Thy go into a hyper drive when they find pure salt!
    This dried them up, killing the whole colony! BOTH types!
    So a quick and cheap poison for the job, if it comes to that!

    • Hi Sharon,

      I read the warning and understand what she is pointing out… but it is not a dangerous combination and I still really love to use the combination in many of my recipes. Even if it does leave a film, it still does a great job in getting rid of ants. If you don’t want to use this method, I do offer other methods in my post. Good luck with getting rid of your ants! :-)

  • Hi there, Jillee. I bought some food grade diatomaceous earth to get rid of the ants in my house, and it didn’t seem to affect them at all. I’m so disappointed! I sprinkled it on my livingroom carpet one morning and left it overnight before vaccuming. I tried it again one week later. No results. Guess I’ll try the cornmeal next.

    • Hi Shirine! DE needs to be left out to work – you can’t vacuum it up! I would suggest placing thick lines around entrance points :-)

  • What about roaches! I Hate Hate Hate those things! I scream and my male Boxer comes in for the “kill!” We got them real bad after the flooding that occurred after Hurricane Harvey last year. We are on a limited income this year and I just wondered is there a natural bug killer for them? They are in my kitchen

  • If you take common sidewalk chalk and draw a circle around your dogs feed and water dishes the ants will not cross it. There is something about this chalk that they hate.

  • It worked! I went to the store to get peppermint oil & castile soap and found Dr Bronners Castile Soap with Peppermint. I put the bar of soap on the shelf and the ants were gone in a flash. They haven’t come back. I am going to cut the bar in half and put one in another cupboard to be sure. BTW, the soap has a very strong peppermint smell.

  • I have been plagued with ants in the kitchen. I have been using straight vinegar spray. Works well and after killing them off a few times, they all disappeared.

  • Hi, one other trick is to put your pet food bowl within another bowl/tray of water. Doesn’t need to be deep but have water surrounding it.
    Our favorite purchased ant killer is Terro ant killer. Once they find it, it becomes a super highway and you must
    resist the urge to wipe/kill them up. Let them take it back to the nest. The queen must die also…a few days is all it takes. Realize this isn’t a DIY but it works! Mic

  • I am allergic to so many chemicals that I try to go with the easiest and less chemical methods. When I have a “conga line” of ants somewhere like my kitchen and bathroom I grab a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol. They die on contact! I have also used it on a pesky fly. Took a few more shots but it works. I can’t wait to try your hints.

  • I am glad to know cornmeal works as well as the borax and powdered sugar. I have used the borax mixture outside, and it works wonderful. But now I have some small black ants by my plants in the living room. Since we watch dogs, I don’t want to use anything that might harm them. I have cornmeal and will put that out. If it doesn’t work, I will have to try the borax, but this would be a much safer solutions. Thank you.

    • With animals around, diatomaceous earth is a great option. Buy food grade, and if they eat it, no problem. However, inhalation of dust when you put it down can be a serious issue for your pets and you. That may mostly pose a problem for farmers that are using it on a larger scale, but I’m still always really careful with it.

  • I rented a garage with TWO ant hill, each 3-4 Foot across, right outside the wall. I fed them TABLE SALT. Since there were thousands of them (one black and one red ant hill), I went through 2 of the Morton Salt containers.
    They acted like they were in hyper drive, carrying it inside. 2 weeks later..NO ANTS! They crave salt, and overeat it it which kills them. I like the fact small amounts can be put near trails, side walls, etc. and is relatively safe for kids and pets….not to mention No fuss and super Cheap!

  • Seconding Virginia Flynn’s comment to RESIST the urge to kill the ants! Most of these recipes are ant bait. They take the “food” back to the nest and kill the colony. If you kill the ants, they’ll just keep coming back. They leave a pheromone trail to invite their ant friends to the party! Cleaning the area with vinegar & water spray will destroy the trail.

  • I saw those things also! And yes, I am not Jillee, but I would want you to be so helpful were it my blog! I think it’s nice that you cared enough to respectfully point things out. Rock on, you!

  • I’ve used Windex for an instant kill for years. I always have a bottle under the sink anyway so it’s easy peasy. Love your suggestions! Will be trying them when the next tribe appears!

    • Peppermint keeps spiders and ants away! I would suggest dropping a few drops of peppermint essential oil on a cotton ball and placing them around the car :-)

  • Spraying ants with soapy water kills them instantly. i keep a spray bottle with several drops of my usual dish soap in water in my kitchen – don’t have to buy anything and it kills them DEAD!

  • After having no luck with a borax and powdered sugar mixture (the ants completely ignored it) I found out that some species of ants aren’t attracted to sugar, but to meaty smells instead. So I mixed borax with chicken grease, and they converged on it immediately. They were completely gone in a couple of days, and didn’t return. Give it a try it sugar doesn’t work for your ants.

  • I didn’t have any luck with the peppermint oil and water solution. I even soaked cotton balls in the mixture and placed around my counter tops. They just found another way around.

  • 3/1 water and original Dawn liquid dish soap. If you see them around a crumb make a circle with the mixture and in 2 to 3 minutes they will all be dead no matter the species of ants. You can put it in a spray bottle or in a used Dawn bottle for the bigger job. Clean up is a breeze. I spray with white vinegar for the soap residue and any invisible ant trails. All safe for children and pets around.
    Happy, happy, joy, joy!

    • I have the concentrated dawn and it is doing absolutely nothing to the ants. Also the problem with killing them on site is that there is always more. I prefer some mix of borax because they take it back and feed it to all the other ants, even the queen. Then it kills off the whole colony.

    • Get an empty water or soda pop bottle, put in about 1 tbsp of borax, about 3 tbsp of sugar and about 1 tsp of honey. Add enough water to make it gooey (if you add too much water don’t worry. Instead of taking crystals back to their nest, they will just die on the spot). Shake to mix. Cut a small hole on the shoulder of the bottle, and lay it on its side close to your plant, with the hole easily accessible to the ants. I did this in a garden bed, and I could sit and watch the ants march to and through the hole and never leave (yes, I added too much water). Also kills earwigs. The hole must be big enough for the ants, but too small for bees and beneficial insects to enter. Good hunting!

    • I have used the equal parts of borax and powdered sugar on mounds outside. Every quickly there not only no ants, but also no mounds. Ants can’t digest the borax.

  • Great post! Every few years we wiil get ants- now I know what to do.
    I love the sprayer that you show next to the vinegar jar- where did you find it?
    Many thanks for great ides.

  • Great ideas. We are just going nuts at our house dealing with the ants. My mom will just spray and then they’re back. Our other big problem right now and every Summer is fruit flies..Anyone have any tried and true solutions ?

    • Fruit flies are usually a problem with your sink. Many bars suffer from them because of the liquor bottkes.Try putting vinegar down your drain at night. Another thing would be lemons. Bananas are a n reason for them also. Hope this helps

      • Thanks. We’ll give this idea a try. We are getting ready to travel and don’t want to come home to a big mess.

    • We found this works wonders for fruitflies: using a very small glass, put about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in the bottom, then stretch plastic wrap over the top (secure with a rubber band) and poke just a few small holes in the plastic wrap with a toothpick.
      Leave this contraption wherever fruit flies congregate. They should fly in (attracted by the ACV) and then be unable to fly out. You have to get the holes the correct size, though; too small and they can’t get in, too large and they can get back out. When you get a collection of corpses (yuck), remove the plastic, and rinse the critters down the loo (or you could probably compost the lot, but I haven’t tried that).

      • I don’t think it helped much with ours. We just kept getting more. Do you add anything to the apple cider vinegar mixture.? Ours didn’t seem to fly into the mixture.

      • I use a small empty jar, to which I add about 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar and a few drops of Dawn. Stir to combine. Then – using a plastic sandwich or storage bag – cut a very small hole in a corner & then put the cut corner into the jar (in the shape of a funnel – point down). Shape the excess baggie over & around the edge of the jar and put a rubber band around the jar opening to secure the baggie. The fruit flies can get in but they are not smart enough to get out.

    • I heard that giving your fruits and vegetables that you keep out on the counter a quick wash helps clean off any larvae that can hatch. I’ve been doing this and not getting fruit flies anymore!

  • Hi Jillee! I love your tips and recipes. They’ve are so simple and very effective.
    When inundated by our annual small generic black ant invasion this spring, I found a great ant killing recipe: 1 cup warm water, 1/2 cup white sugar, and 3 tablespoons of Borax. Mix together then soak a cotton ball with the mixture. Place it on an bottle cap (1 gallon water jug caps work great) and place them near their trail. Resist the urge to kill the ants as they take the “food” back to the nest. Within hours *POOF* they are gone! You may have to repeat this as new colonies appear but eventually they will be gone. I keep a jar of the mixture along with a baggie of cotton balls and caps under the sink ready for the next visit. By the way, I placed a store bought R**d ant trap next to my bait. They didn’t even go near the trap.
    Thank you and keep up the amazing work.

  • I never miss reading, digesting, memorizing, passing on to friends your wonderful hints. I don’t have ants but I may run out and get some, just to test out . . . well, never mind, I just love your site!!! Thanks so much!!!

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