The Easiest Way To Rid Your House Of Ants

They’re a nuisance, but you don’t need harsh chemicals sprays to control these household pests.

April 14, 2017
ant on window frame
Katsunori Imada / EyeEm/getty

Ants are smart, social pests, and if one finds a stray crumb or spilled food in your kitchen (or elsewhere in your house), they can spread like wildfire, resulting in a tiny two-way highway coming to gather and haul the loot back to their nest.

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As much as I value wildlife, I’m not keen on hosting picnics for insects on my kitchen counter, so I do my best to control them from coming inside the house in the first place and, if they do, get rid of them and convince them to go elsewhere without the use of spray chemicals. Here are five of my favorite ways for keeping the house rid of ants.

cleaning up ketchup
Colin Walton/getty
Run A Clean Ship

The easiest way to reduce the chances of small unwanted pests is by wiping or sweeping up spilled edibles in the house immediately, storing food and compost scraps in secure containers, putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher right away, rinsing out recyclables, and emptying the kitchen garbage frequently. This is good advice for the control of many pest problems and makes your kitchen a nicer place to hang out in, too.

Related: How To Spring-Clean Your Kitchen

door at the end of the hall
Troy McCullough/getty
Close The Door

If you are seeing a trail of marching ants in your house, follow it away from the food as they leave your house to find the general area of their nest. Then seal up whatever tiny crevice their colony is using to get into your house. Low VOC water proof silicone caulk is a good and long-lasting option. If the bugs are strolling boldly in and out under a door, sealing the gap with a door “sweep” will work to rid them from your house, but won't kill them. A door sweep is a flexible device that blocks the space between the bottom of the door and the ground while still allowing you to open and close it. Some models install with an adhesive strip or simply snap onto the bottom edge of the door—so installation is quick and easy. Sealing cracks and holes also cuts down on air movement, saving you money on your energy bills.

Related: 7 Ways To Pest-Proof Your House In 15 Minutes

ant in the house
Throw Them Off The Scent

Ants let others know where good food is by leaving a natural chemical pheromone trail that their colony-mates can smell. If you use soapy water or a vinegar solution to spray or wipe down the path the ants are marching along, it will eliminate the trail, and any new arrivals will not be able to follow it, will turn in place, and leave. This will significantly reduce your ant problem, again, without killing them.

Related: 5 Natural Ways To Repel The Ants Marching Across Your Kitchen Floor Right Now

Make Your House Unwelcome

It can be difficult to find and control every tiny entry point to your house. But even if ants haven’t found a way in yet, it never hurts to have a good defensive strategy in place. You can buy safe, commercial ant repellants such as EarthKind’s Stay Away Ant Granules. Or you can just grab something you already have on hand that ants aren’t fond of. Lemon juice works, as do lemon and orange oil, or dried crushed citrus peel, ground cinnamon, cinnamon oil, dried peppermint leaves, peppermint essential oil, peppermint castile soap, cayenne pepper, dried coffee grounds, whole garlic cloves, powder dried garlic, dried lavender, lavender oil, or chili powder. Once more, these will not kill the pests, but they will prevent you from having a bad ant infestation.

Related: DIY Household Cleaners

For best results, sprinkle or spray the solution of your choice in areas ants tend to go. Bugs also don’t like the feel of food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE), powdered chalk, or talc (baby powder). Use one of those to draw a line across a known opening (they work only in dry locations, do not mix with water), and you can be pretty sure no ants will cross it.

ant trap
Christa Neu
Set Out A Trojan Meal

If the other methods have failed to rid your house of an ant problem, you may want to try putting a boric acid-based bait to work, which will kill an entire nest over the course of a few days (or weeks) time, as the foraging worker ants carry it back for all the colony members to eat. Boric acid kills ants but is relatively nontoxic to humans and pets in small quantities. There are many commercial brands, but it’s easy to make ant bait from boric acid powder or borax.

If your ants are attracted to foods full of sugar, mix the borax or boric acid with sugar water or honey, and serve it up in a recycled can bait station. If you’re dealing with ants that seem to be drawn to protein-rich or fatty foods, attract them with a blend of borax or boric acid with peanut butter and sugar. Keep refilling your dispenser until you no longer see any coming by or until the bait no longer disappears.

Related: This Simple DIY Ant Trap Will Solve Your Ant Problem