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How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Home Including Safe, Natural Methods

Updated on October 19, 2015
Common household products can help keep ants away
Common household products can help keep ants away | Source

When Ants Invade Your House: Safe Ways to Kill Ants

Ants have their place, but it's not in my house. When they invade, I am a little like Donald Duck going after Chip and Dale.

If its summer and there's a drought, they come in seeking water. If it's winter and rainy, ants come indoors for food and shelter. There is no time of year that is safe from an ant invasion.

Chemical sprays are only minimally effective. Sure, they kill the ants on the surface, but there are thousands more underground waiting to hatch. That doesn't even address the issue when the ants are coming over from the neighbor's property. You'd be surprised how far they can travel to get some of that coffee you left on the counter overnight.

I wouldn't mind so much if it was only one ant. No, it's usually hundreds at a time. They get into your pantry and ruin your perfectly good food. One year, they came out of the heater vent and attacked the Christmas candy. It was gross!

We will never be rid of ants entirely. But, there are ways to minimize their invasions. Many items in your pantry are very effective.

Ants looking for water are attracted to faucets.  Black pepper keeps them away.
Ants looking for water are attracted to faucets. Black pepper keeps them away. | Source

Natural Ant Killing Solutions: Common Items Found in Your Pantry

There are several items you can use that you might have in your pantry. These are handy in keeping ants off you counters and out of your cupboards/closets.

Baking Soda—The small granules make it hard for them to breath. Sprinkle it where they are coming in and they won't cross it. It works well as a barrier at door thresholds and up against walls.

Cinnamon—They hate the smell. You can either sprinkle it or use it as a paste. To use as a paste, just mix with a small amount of water and stir. Then, spread it with a butter knife or popsicle stick. Cinnamon can stain, so test on a small part of the surface before applying to a wide area.

Tip: An easy way to remove cinnamon that has been sitting for several days is to wet it with water, then let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Wipe off with a paper towel or rag.

Black Pepper—This works the same as cinnamon. They will avoid the strong odor. Use it in places that might get damp such as around sinks and faucets.

Natural Products That Kill Ants

I don't really like to use chemical bug killer especially around my dog. It just doesn't seem like a smart thing to do. Plus you have that nasty smell to deal with indoors.

I'd much rather use a natural spray. EcoSmart is one brand that makes environmentally, pet safe products. They are made from a combination of plant sources, usually herbal. They kill on contact just like their chemical counterparts. I've used the EcoSmart Organic Home Pest Control. It is effective and leaves behind the smell reminiscent of rosemary.

Another product worth having on hand is diatomaceous earth. It comes in powder form. You can use it inside as you would baking soda. Sprinkle it in the back of cupboards, under the sink, etc. It works by clogging their breathing passages. This product is safe around humans and pets as long as you buy the type that is food grade (it is clearly marked on the label).

If you decide to use one of these products, be sure to read labels. Even when something is natural it can come with warnings. Some products are safe around people, but not pets. Some are made for outdoor use only. Some might be okay for most but a hazard for someone with asthma or COPD. Always be aware of the ingredients in products and choose wisely.,

A small crack in the corner is covered with baking soda.
A small crack in the corner is covered with baking soda. | Source

Have You Tried These Solutions?

See results

Safe Way to Keep Ants Out of Hard to Reach Places

The items above work great on flat surfaces, but what if the ants are coming out from underneath a cupboard? You can't really sprinkle baking soda upside down. This is where vinegar comes in handy.

The first method is to wipe down the wall and cupboard edge with vinegar. The odor will last roughly 4-6 hours. So, do this right before bedtime.

The second method involves using a plastic bag that keeps the vinegar right at the entry point.a repellent. It's really easy to make. You only need vinegar (not apple cider vinegar which attracts ants), a paper towel, a plastic bag, and masking tape. Here's how you do it:

  1. Take a paper towel and soak it in vinegar.
  2. Stick the wet paper towel in a small plastic bag. Make sure the paper towel is poking out of the bag a little. Leave the bag open.
  3. Masking tape the bag to the edge of the cupboard or other hard to get to place as close to where the ants are coming in as you can get. The strong odor will keep the ants from coming out.

Be sure to refresh the vinegar every 48 hours. If the smell wears off, they'll be back.

Make a Vinegar Repellent Bag: Step by Step

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Vinegar is all you need.  We've got the jumbo size for this purpose.Grab a paper towel.Soak the paper towel in vinegar and put in a plastic bag.Use masking tape or other sturdy tape and attach the bag to the edge of the cabinet or other surface near where ants are entering.The open bag will emit the vinegar odor which is too strong for them.
Vinegar is all you need.  We've got the jumbo size for this purpose.
Vinegar is all you need. We've got the jumbo size for this purpose. | Source
Grab a paper towel.
Grab a paper towel. | Source
Soak the paper towel in vinegar and put in a plastic bag.
Soak the paper towel in vinegar and put in a plastic bag. | Source
Use masking tape or other sturdy tape and attach the bag to the edge of the cabinet or other surface near where ants are entering.
Use masking tape or other sturdy tape and attach the bag to the edge of the cabinet or other surface near where ants are entering. | Source
The open bag will emit the vinegar odor which is too strong for them.
The open bag will emit the vinegar odor which is too strong for them. | Source

Block Their Access: Fill Those Holes

You've done what you can to keep them from coming out of the walls. Now you need to stop them from entering in the first place.

First, do a survey around the outside of the house. Follow the ant lines and see where they are entering. Look for small holes and cracks along the foundation and steps. Check vents to see if they might be getting in through them.

If you find holes, fill them with putty or caulk. When you close the entry holes, they will move on.

Use Ant Traps Outside to Thin the Colony

Next, get some ant traps. I've bought several brands over the years. I've had some success with Hot Shot and Terro, though Terro works the best. Ants can't get enough of it. Terro uses Borax to kill ants, so it is a bit safer than some of the other similar products on the market. Use caution with these products. While one may be less dangerous to handle than another, it would not be good for a child or pet to ingest.

One of the things I like about the Terro ant bait stations is that they are made of clear plastic. You can see if the ants are actually going inside. Most of the other brands are dark plastic. You never know if the ants are using them or not.

After you snip off the top edge, place them right on top of the ant lines near the entry point. You should see ants inspecting them within 2-3 hours and start seeing ants inside within 5 hours.

You can use these inside as well. However, it may be a bit gross. You'll suddenly have hundreds and hundreds of ants swarming around the thing. Many will die in or around the container. That sounds like a messy clean up job to me.


Know What's in Those Ant Stakes and Bait Stations

(click column header to sort results)
Bait Station  
Ingredient that Kills Ants  
Attractant  
Raid
Abemectin
Peanut Butter, Sugar, and Vegetable Oil
Terro
Borax
Sugar
Grant's
Hydramethylnon
Unknown
Amdro
Hydramethylnon, other ingredients considered trade secrets
Unknown
Hot Shot
Dinotefuran
Peanut Butter
Terro's clear containers make it easy to see if you're getting the ants or not.
Terro's clear containers make it easy to see if you're getting the ants or not. | Source

Your Can Get Rid of Ants

I've discussed the different methods I have used to control ants and to limit invasions. In this video, 4 natural methods are discussed. One method shows how to kill ants right at the anthill.

You may find that some methods but not others are effective. I've found that ants in one area might be susceptible to some products but not others. Probably a form of evolution going on. Don't give up! You just have to find the one that works on your ants.

And, keep in mind that you will never be fully rid of the critters. I'm not sure we'd want that anyway. They do provide important functions within the ecosystem. Just think of all the dead insects you'd see if there weren't any ants.

So, work on keeping them out of the house...then, we'll all be a little less like Donald Duck with those pesky chipmunks!

© 2014 Melody Lassalle

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    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 23 months ago from California

      Stella, thanks for your comments and question! Give the baking soda a shot. I've used it at door thresholds and on counters to make a barrier. We've having great success this year with the vinegar in a bag. The house smells like a salad but the ants sure don't like it.

      We don't have fire ants around here that I know of. The ants are bad this year in California because of the drought. They keep seeking new sources of water.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 23 months ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      I will try the baking soda and see how it works. We have not had the ants as bad this year as the mosquitoes. I was just wondering if you get fire ants? Great hub. Stella

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Glenn, thanks for your comments! I'd be curious how the homemade ant killer works. It will probably be just as effective as long as the sugar attracts the ants. A few years ago, we had wasps in a false ceiling in our kitchen. The exterminator used Borax to kill them, so it has its uses!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I have problems with ants, especially in the garage. And they eventually work their way into the house sometimes. You gave me some useful tips. I'll try making my own version of Terro by mixing Borax and some Sugar. I never thought of mixing sugar in as bait before, but I can see how that will help get them to come to the Borax and carry it to their nest.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 2 years ago from Fresno CA

      I've used powdered borax before but the cinnamon and pepper were a revelation. Great to know! Thanks.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
      Author

      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Randall, thanks! I also prefer natural ways to do stuff. In the long run it usually better than anything you can buy.

    • Randall Guinn profile image

      Randall Guinn 2 years ago from Pinellas Park, Florida

      A great hub Mel, I have used some of these methods. I like natural ways of doing things.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
      Author

      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Thank for your comments, Nadine May, Dahoglund, and Rebeccamealey! I hope these solutions work for you.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 2 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      So glad to have found your post. I'm gong to try the Baking Soda, cinnamon, or black pepper treatment. its natural and save for house pats. Voted up!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 2 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      We have been bothered by very small ants that get mostly around the cubboards in the spring. They seem to be attracted by sugar. Commecial ant trps seem ineffective. Somebody mentioned a vinegar spray which I intend to try next year. Your hub also has some ideas I will try next year.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I was glad to find out about the baking soda, cinnamon and pepper. Great Hub, voted useful. Thanks!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      This is near the faucet; so maybe so! The mosquitoes have plenty of moisture outside though to multiply! lol Wish they would share with the ants.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
      Author

      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Jackie, thank you for your comment! It's frustrating, isn't it? They are so persistent and just when you think you have them licked, they'll pop out somewhere else. Sometimes you don't know why they are coming in. I was baffled this summer until it dawn on me they were trying to get to the faucet in the kitchen sink for water. I hope the baking soda does the trick for you!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I was told in Q&A here that cornmeal and grits either would kill them all. I have been sprinkling it around but don't really notice them taking any interest in it. I will leave some of each out though and try your baking soda. They have one spot in the kitchen they love to gather and I have no idea why and clean it and them up often every day! So baking soda goes there tomorrow. Thanks!

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Handymanbill, I have never heard of anyone using Cream of Wheat! I may have to add that to my list of natural solutions. Thanks for the suggestion!

    • handymanbill profile image

      Bill 2 years ago from western pennsylvania

      I use Cream of Wheat cereal. Just sprinkle it around they take it back and eat it swell up and blow up. End of ants.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
      Author

      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Mary, thanks for your comment. Isn't that the worst time? Just what you want to find, an army of ants when you return home.

    • Mary Crowther profile image

      Mary Crowther 2 years ago from Havre de Grace

      We always have at least one ant invasion a year and unfortunately while we're on vacation. Thanks for the great tips!

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Teaches12345, thanks for your comment! I try to go as green as possible. There are so many products to take care of ants and other creatures, like baking soda, that it makes more sense to try these approaches first.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      LisaMarieGabriel, I did not realize that ants bite. We've ended up putting out Terro bait stations every other week this summer. Though, it doesn't seem like we're making progress, the ants aren't getting into the house and the traps are full when we empty them. I think ants are like fleas. We're in a severe drought and I don't think it's made one bit of difference to them.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      I recently used Ecosmart and find it really does the job and I like the idea that it is "green". I did not know baking soda would prevent them from entering. Good idea. Love your natural approach to solving pest problems in and out of the home.

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile image

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      As I am allergic to ant bites this is of great interest personally. Fortunately the ants here are not so invasive. I tried ant traps at the last house without much success because there were simply too many of them outside.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
      Author

      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Thanks for your comment, Paula! Not only are they tiny but they bring ten thousand of their closest friends.

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 2 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      This is very useful information. We get ants each spring and they go everywhere because they are tiny.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
      Author

      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Ann, thanks for your comment! I've never tried Borax as we don't normally have it on hand. That must be why the Terro works so well, since it is made from Borax.

      As you know, we're in a drought. The ants in this part of California seem particularly persistent this year. They kept coming out of one of those impossible places under the end of the cupboard. Ever since I figured out how to hang a bag of vinegar under the spot, we haven't had any. Of course, our house smells like salad dressing, but it does work.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      BritFlorida, thanks for your comment! We get them in spurts, several times a year. The funny thing is the one line comes from our neighbor's yard. Now if we could only figure out how to make them stay over there.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Goat Fury and Kathy, thank you for your comments! I suspect Comet would kill almost anything. My dog gets into stuff so I always have to keep that in mind what I use.

    • goatfury profile image

      Andrew Smith 2 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Very nice. Sharing this with my girlfriend!

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 2 years ago from California

      I detest the days when ants find their way into my kitchen, or the small ants that get into one of the bedrooms. In the kitchen I use comet (the cleaner) and they really don't like that. When I am ready to clean it up, all I need to do is add just a bit of water and it cleans up nicely. I didn't know about cinnamon, might try that one. I did know about the others.

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 2 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      This is really useful. We get completely invaded by those tiny ants from time to time. I don't like using chemicals, but because there are no pets in the house, I use that chemical goo that attracts the ants who then take it back to the nest.

      That keeps them at bay but I'm going to try the methods you mentioned next time - thanks for the info!

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 2 years ago from So Cal

      There are some ideas here that I hadn't thought of like cinnamon. I use borax and just sprinkle it around my cabinets and brush it into the cracks. This year has not been as bad as some but they come out in force when they do. I think we live on the ant hill!

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