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6 Effective Home Remedies for Getting Rid of Ants

May 5, 2018
Ant nest in a yard.

During the warm spring and summer months, you may notice an increase in the number of ants inside your home. Homeowners, landlords, and business owners alike often find it difficult to prevent these tiny insects from getting in. Fortunately, however, there are several common home remedies for ants that are quite effective.

Before we discuss the best home remedies for ants, it is essential to understand the different types of ants and how they can get into your home.

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What Types of Ants are in My Home? (Before Making a Ant Killer)

For a creature that monopolizes anywhere from 15 to 25 percent of terrestrial animal biomass at any one time, the average person isn’t well-versed in the different species they might encounter in their homes or yards. In some instances, homeowners confuse ants for termites. However, ants have a much narrower waist-section between the abdomen and thorax, larger heads, and elbowed antennae.

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Ants are social insects and live in nests underground, in mounds at ground-level, and even in trees or shrubs. Queen ants lead these communities and lay thousands of eggs to ensure survival while workers look for food, build the nest, protect the community, and help care for the queen’s offspring. These are typically the only ants that most people ever see.

After determining that the insects in your home are ants and not termites, you can also identify the species of an ant by looking at the number of nodes or humps on its abdomen. Color, size, and even the ant’s proclivity to bite or sting are all factors that can help determine which type of ant species you are dealing with. Some of the most common types found in homes across the United States include:

  • Acrobat ants (Crematogaster) – Commonly found in the Eastern United States, these ants get their name from their appearance to tumble like an acrobat while running. Their colors vary from yellow-brown to brown and even red to black and have two nodes. Typically found outdoors nesting inside damaged wood, they are aggressive and will sting.
  • Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) – This species’ color ranges from light to dark brown and is typically found throughout the Southeastern United States, California, and Hawaii. And while they don’t sting, they emit a musty smell when stepped on. These ants are usually found in wall insulation.
  • Asian needle ant (Pachycondyla chinensis) – With one node and brown-black with dark orange mandibles, this ant is found in the southeast region including Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. They are more active in the summer season and are less aggressive than other species but will sting if held against your skin or trapped in clothing.
  • Carpenter ant (Camponotus) – This type of ant is found all over the United States and is a threat to structures as they tear through the wood to create nests. They can be found in trees or lumber or on roofs near moisture inside your home.
  • Crazy ant (Paratrechina longicornis) – These ants can form colonies in all types of environments and are black-brown with noticeably longer legs and antennae. Outside, they can be found in plants, gardens, mulch, and garbage, and under carpets or in houseplants indoors. Crazy ants are classified as primary home invaders.
  • Dark rover ant (Brachymyrmex patagonicus) – With one node on their bodies and a medium to dark brown color, rover ants are found near people and make their homes in the grass and under objects. They love sweet liquids, and while they don’t sting, their colonies can be vast. They are mostly found in the southeast and occasionally in Texas, Arizona, and Nevada.
  • European fire ant (Myrmica rubra) – Fire ants are red-brown and extremely aggressive, inflicting painful stings when disturbed. This species builds nests in many outdoor areas but will also nest indoors during colder months.
  • Field ant (Formica) – These ants vary in color but have one node on their abdomens. Commonly found in the Northeast and Midwest United States, they nest in open soil and greenery and can sting and spray formic acid when threatened.

There are, of course, thousands of other species of ants in the world, but these are the most common ones found inside your home in the United States. After determining the type of ant, it’s important to understand why ants are in your home in the first place.

The Damage Ants Can Cause to Your Home

Home Remedies for Ants

Ants inside your home can cause a lot of damage. They cause structural damage, and their bites or stings can cause physical harm to you and your family.  As a property owner, it can be daunting to think about fighting off an insect that outnumbers humans one million to one. Fortunately, there are many natural ways you can take action to eliminate ants from your home, yard, and garden, and most of the remedies can be found in your pantry and under your sink.

But before we dive into home remedies for ants, it is important first to identify how they got in, and where they are located in your home.

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Why Do Ants Come Indoors?

Whether it’s a seasonal or year-round issue, finding ants inside your home can be extremely frustrating. In most cases, ants enter your home looking for food or water. If they find a food source, they will keep coming back until it is gone.

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The situation can get much worse, however, when ants decide to build nests indoors and become your newest roommates. If you have ants inside your home, you may notice most congregate around food and moisture sources or in areas they feel protected like under appliances or floors. That’s because ants eat a lot of the same things humans eat including sugars, starches, and even some meat. In most cases, the food ants are after is a crumb or two left behind on your cutting board or stove. That’s why keeping your home clean is so crucial in eliminating indoor ants. So, before utilizing any natural remedies for ant removal, you should first do the following:

  • Identify the species of ant – Because not all ants behave the same, correctly identifying the ant is one of the most important pieces of information you have in treating the infestation.
  • Find the trail and follow it – Ants don’t enter your home through the front door like other houseguests. Finding the trail will help you determine where they are coming in, so you can look for holes and cracks. Seal up anywhere wires or pipes enter your home. Once you find the trail, you’ll know where to set traps and bait.
  • Eliminate excess moisture – All living things need water and ants are no different. Eliminating as much moisture as possible from the kitchen and bathroom by fixing leaks or cleaning spills will deter ants from coming inside.
  • Regularly mop your floors – Dirty floors are breeding grounds for ants. Regularly sweep up crumbs and mop the floor to get rid of any residual sugars or food that could attract an army of ants.
  • Keep everything clean – After a long day of work and cooking dinner, it’s easy to leave the sink full of dirty dishes, but they are prime targets for many species of ants. Along with cleaning dishes right away, regularly clean the dishwasher, microwave, and oven and take out the trash. You should also make sure to keep leftovers and other food products in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Apply these cleaning techniques to outdoor eating and grilling areas as well as anywhere else you may eat or drink.
  • Vacuum – Carpet can trap a lot of crumbs and other materials, so make sure to vacuum on a regular basis.
  • Don’t forget the outside of your home – To go in and out of your home, ants need a safe environment to return to after finding food and water. Move items such as mulch, fallen logs, tree limbs, or anything else that provides protection or moisture to ants away from your home’s foundation. You should also trim all tree limbs to make sure they aren’t overlapping or touching your home. Additionally, do not store firewood inside your home unless it has been thoroughly inspected for ants.

By being proactive about cleaning your home, you can control the factors that brought ants into your home in the first place. After eliminating the source of ants, you can then take appropriate action to eliminate them and ensure they never come inside again.

Natural Home Remedies for Ant Removal

After doing everything possible to eliminate an ant’s source of food and moisture in and surrounding your home, it’s time to start killing them.Home remedies will allow you to get rid of ants and do so with products that are in most people’s home. Hardware stores are full of ant poison but applying poison inside the home isn’t always ideal, especially if you have small children or pets. Fortunately, there are a number of natural remedies that are equally as effective as poison including:

1. Lemon Juice

Close up of a bowl of lemon juice on white background.

While it doesn’t kill the ants in their track, it will act as a natural repellent and keep ants away. That’s because the acidity and smell of lemon affect an ant’s ability to smell and find its original path.
How to Apply:
Put lemon juice in a spray bottle and spray the entry points to your home. Apply this solution daily to any spot that you’ve seen ants entering and exiting your home.

2. Cinnamon

It’s hard to imagine anyone not liking cinnamon, but it’s an effective way of keeping ants out of your home for good. Just sprinkle some ground cinnamon or spray cinnamon oil around doors, window sills, floors, and anywhere else the ants are coming in. You can also mix cinnamon with cloves for an even more effective treatment method. Not only is it an effective way of deterring ants but it’s easy to clean up and leaves your home smelling great!
How to apply:
Simply take a cup of water and add ¼ to ½ of a teaspoon of cinnamon essential oil to it. You can soak a rag or a cotton ball in this natural home remedy for ants and apply it to any surface where you have seen ants in your home. Continue to use this solution on a daily basis until you no longer see ants inside.

3. Borax and Sugar Mixture

While the above treatments work mostly to keep ants away this solution is an ant-killer. You can find borax at your local hardware or grocery store or online. This solution is attractive to ants and is extremely toxic to them. It can be used in the home or your garden to significant effect.
How to apply:
Simply mix borax in a bowl with sugar and water and put the paste in ants’ path or set it out on a countertop. You can do this directly on the ground or spread it across a piece of wood or cardboard. Worker ants will take the mixture back to the queen, which will kill her and any other ant that touches it. This method is useful but does require some patience and may take weeks to see results.
Warning: Of all the home remedies for ants listed on this page, this mixture is the most dangerous to children and pets. Make sure not to leave any mixture containing borax out where kids or pets can come into contact with it.

4. Powdered Sugar and Baking Soda

Similar to the borax mixture, this combination will slowly kill the ants over time. Ant species that are attracted to sugar will ingest it with the baking soda. Ants have a naturally-occurring acidic substance in their bodies that will react with the baking soda and will die. This home remedy ant-killer is extremely effective because the ants will often carry this food source back to the colony to be consumed by the queen and other ants.
How to Apply:
Mix baking soda and powdered sugar in a container and place it near the ants’ entry points in your home.

5. Coffee Grounds

Coffee beans and grounds Home Remedies ants

The good thing about this remedy is it is readily available in most homes across the United States, and it’s a great way to use your old, used grounds after making coffee in the morning.
How to Apply:
Let the coffee grounds dry out and place them in cracks where you see the ants entering your home. You can also spread the grounds in your garden, other areas of your yard, and even around the perimeter of your home. While coffee grounds won’t kill the ants, it will act as a natural repellent.

6. Boiling Water and Soap

Home Remedies ants

These two ultra-common household ingredients can be used to significant effect against an ant mound in your yard. If you know the location of the nest or mound, merely apply this mixture and instantly kill the ants inside.
How to Apply:
Boil a pot of water and add dish soap to it. Remove the pot from the stove (using an oven-mitt) and take the water outside to the mound. Carefully pour the water and soap mixture directly onto the hill, making sure not to splash yourself and scald yourself during the process. This is a simple-yet-effective way to kill the ants in your yard immediately.


The Benefits of Getting Rid of Ants Using Home Remedies

If you are a homeowner who is struggling with an ant infestation in your home, rest assured that you are not alone. Fortunately, there are many solutions for eradicating these insects from your home, lawn, or garden. While expensive and sometimes harmful pesticides and poisons are effective, they may not be the best solution for you.

For homeowners who are looking for an inexpensive and natural remedy for ant removal, there are fortunately many options (as listed above). The benefits of using baking soda, cinnamon, coffee grounds, lemon juice, and other common household substances are clear. You can:

  • Create homemade ant-repellant or ant-killer without spending a lot of money on expensive pesticides
  • Can quickly address the ant-infestation problem without having to go to the store
  • Use all-natural ingredients that are not harmful to the environment
  • Keep your kids and pets safe from accidental ingestion of a toxic substance (please note: the remedy that suggests using borax could be harmful to children and pets)

Some of the best and most effective remedies for killing ants can be found in your own kitchen. By following the steps listed above, you can effectively kill them or at least disrupt their path into your house.

After You’ve Applied Your Home Ant Remedies

Once your home remedies have effectively killed the ants in your home, it is time to make sure that they do not return. There are a few practices that you should adopt that will hopefully prevent the pesky insects from returning. These best-practices are:

  • Routinely clean your kitchen and workspaces with lemon juice or vinegar to make sure that ants do not return to those areas.
  • Do not leave pet food out overnight. Instead, store pet food in the refrigerator overnight to keep ants from getting to it.
  • Clean up spills immediately, and don’t leave sticky or sweet substances on floors, tables, or countertops. Ants are attracted to sweet products like soda, jams, honey, and other food, so make sure to clean up spills thoroughly.
  • Inspect your home regularly for cracks, worn weather-stripping, and windows and doors that are not aligned properly. Ants can fit through tiny spaces, so any visible holes or entry points should be repaired immediately. Several of the home remedies listed above are incredibly useful for repelling ants, so be sure to apply these mixtures as needed.

Ultimately, the goal is to make your home as uninviting as possible for ants. By keeping surfaces clean and applying the home remedies for ants listed above, you have at least a fighting chance against these all-too-common invaders. Once ants get into a home, there is practically no chance that they’ll choose to go away on their own, so it will be up to you to figure out a natural solution for removing them. Hopefully by using some common household ingredients, you can safely remove the ants in your home and keep them from ever coming back.

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