If you’re looking up how to get rid of ants, odds are you’ve spotted these unwelcome critters around your home. Ants are resilient and persistent pests — where there’s one there’s often hundreds, and it’s surprisingly tricky to eradicate all of them. It’s important that you deal with ants as soon as possible though; these pests reproduce quickly, and a few ants can soon turn into an infestation. While these insects are by no means hygienic to have around the home, they can also cause structural damage in extreme circumstances, so they must be addressed.
Ants are constantly looking for food, water and shelter — three of the 7 things that are attracting ants to your home — so the indoors can make for a great location to nest. There are ways to deter them in the first place, such as by strategically placing 7 ant-repellent plants around entry points. But, unfortunately, ants can still find their way in from time to time, so you need to know how to get rid of them directly too.
There are all kinds of traps and chemicals to get the job done, but natural methods can achieve the same goal without the environmental repercussions. If you’re keen to learn all about it, we’ve listed 7 such methods here, along with how to prevent ants from returning in the future.
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7 natural ways to get rid of ants
1. Use citrus fruits — Citrus fruits such as lemons, limes and oranges are great natural ant repellents. These are toxic to certain types of fungi that ants love to feed on. By placing citrus peel or lemon juice around the home where ants are likely to visit, this will deter them from coming back. If you want to know more about the powers of citrus, check out 9 things you didn’t know you could clean with a lemon and be amazed.
2. Spray white vinegar — Mix a 50:50 solution of white vinegar to water in a spray bottle. Spray your countertops, surfaces or anywhere else you’ve spotted ants frequently. The strong smell of the vinegar should keep ants at bay, and remove the scent trails they leave around the home. In addition, vinegar can do much more than getting rid of ants; here’s what makes baking soda and vinegar so good at cleaning. Just note there are also things you should never clean with white vinegar to avoid damage.
3. Mix glass cleaner and dish soap — Combine glass cleaning spray with dish soap in a clean spray bottle. Spray directly onto surfaces or areas where the ants congregate before wiping down to just leave a light residue. Typically, ants leave a scented pheromone trail behind when they walk, which then leads other ants to follow. By removing this scent, you're deterring ants from coming into the home.
4. Lay down talcum powder — A layer of talcum powder in ant entryways is another safe deterrent, and it will also break down the pheromone trail. In addition, the powder gets absorbed through their skin, clogging up their airways and will banish them for good.
5. Use essential oils — Plant-extracted oils such as peppermint, tea tree, eucalyptus, spearmint and cinnamon oil give off strong scents to repel ants and insects. Place a few drops of your chosen essential oil on some cotton balls. Then, stick them in problem areas where you usually spot ants. You can always replace them as the scent wears off.
What’s more, essential oils are an inexpensive way of leaving your home smelling fresh. Just keep away from pets as essential oils could be harmful if ingested.
6. Sprinkle coffee grounds — If you’re a coffee drinker, don’t throw out your used grounds. The smell of brewed coffee grounds makes an effective ant and pest repellent. Sprinkle some used coffee grounds on a disposable surface such as cardboard, and place in areas prone to ants. These can be used indoors or outdoors, and can also make for a great soil nutrient from the minerals.
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7. Diatomaceous Earth — Diatomaceous Earth, or DE, is a white powdery substance which is formed from the fossilised remains of aquatic organisms, known as diatoms. This natural powder is effective at killing a number of pests, including spiders and roaches — it works by depleting the exoskeleton, eventually dehydrating the host. The ant simply needs to come into contact with the substance for it to stick to the body and take effect.
It’s important that you use food-grade diatomaceous earth to keep it safe around both pets and humans, such as HARRIS Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade ($14, Amazon). While wearing a mask, sprinkle the powder in undisturbed areas where the ants regularly travel. Once your ant problems are solved, you can simply sweep it up or rent a shop vacuum to pick up the excess from carpet. You can use one of the best vacuum cleaners, but you need to make sure you clean the filter regularly.
If you’ve tried all the homemade solutions without any luck, there are some commercial products available such as EcoVenger Ant Killer & Crawling Insect Killer (Citrus Scent) 16 OZ, Natural & Non-Toxic ($12, Amazon) to help with getting rid of ants. If you have an infestation, it’s worth calling in professional exterminators to inspect your home.
Other tips to prevent ants
- Inspect your walls and doors for any cracks or gaps which could act as a potential entrance. Seal up such gaps with caulk to prevent ants from returning.
- Make sure window and door screens are installed and sit flush against the frames. These should be replaced if they show signs of damage.
- Avoid leaving residual food and crumbs around your home, including dirty dishes in the kitchen sink. The scent lures ants into your home — even an overflowing trash can will contribute.
- For the same reason, make sure pantry food is sealed in airtight containers, so ants can’t reach them.
- Keep a clean home, dusting and vacuuming regularly to remove any crumbs which may have spilled on the floor.
- Once your pets have finished their meal, rinse out the bowl immediately so there’s no residual food here too. At floor level, this is very easy to access for ants.
- Don’t leave old or fermenting fruit on your surfaces — throw these out immediately, otherwise ants will come flocking.