Curious about home remedies for ants? Ants are annoying household pests. Fortunately, you can eliminate them without using commercial insect repellents. In today’s article, I’m going to give you nine suggestions on how to get rid of ants fast.
The first thing you should consider when thinking of killing ants is to identify the ant species that’s causing you trouble. This is an important step because it will help you determine their food preference, nesting spot, behavior, and the proper management.
There are different types of common household ants, such as the carpenter ants, yellow ants, and cornfield ants.
- Carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.) are considered the biggest species of ants found in the North Central states. They’re usually colored black or a combination of red and black. They love to live in rotting trees or moist parts of your home, like your sink, attic beams, and bathroom tiles.
- Yellow ants are colored, well, yellowish or reddish brown. Interestingly, they give a distinct lemon-like odor when they’re squashed. Their nest is found in soil under concealed locations, such as concrete, bricks, and rocks.
- Cornfield ants (Lasius alienus) don’t normally nest in your home, but are mostly found outdoors creating small holes in your lawn.
Here are a couple of good preventive practices you should keep in mind to control house ants:
- Place foods in air-tight containers and store them in your fridge.
- Wipe your kitchen counters and other surfaces in your home with soapy water.
- Search and seal all cracks in your home.
- Don’t forget to take out the trash every night or as needed.
How to get rid of ants in the house fast and naturally
1. Cinnamon Leaf Oil for Black Ants
Cinnamon spice is apparently a safe and effective way to repel ants. The major component of most native cinnamon species is cinnamaldehyde (79.85 percent), which is a compound that gives their distinct aroma and taste. Studies have shown that it’s an excellent tool for controlling red fire ants, which are small red-brown ant species that are found in South America.
Well, cinnamon is not exactly 100% effective against ants, but most of the time it works. In fact, you can spray diluted cinnamon oil (99-percent distilled water and 1-percent cinnamon oil) on your food and still be able to eat it without worrying about adverse health effects.
What makes cinnamon leaf oil so effective?
Ants are dependent on their sense of smell to track down food and send communication signals to their colony. By squirting diluted cinnamon oil on them, you’re disrupting their communication system. Some say that it’s the eugenol content in cinnamon oil that makes ants avoid it like plague.
Note: You should be systematic when spraying diluted cinnamon oil. If not, they’ll just get confused and crowd together to look for a spot you missed in order for them to escape.
How to get rid of ants in the house using cinnamon oil or powder:
- Follow the trail of the ants to find out their point of entrance to your home. Once you’ve identified it, spray some cinnamon oil or sprinkle cinnamon powder around that spot. Don’t forget to spray or sprinkle some on the other surviving ants to prevent them from warning the rest of the gang.
Tips and Warnings:
- Always dilute a pure cinnamon oil. Undiluted cinnamon oil can cause a skin irritation and dizziness (or even increased heart rate) when smelled. Thus, make sure you wear protective gloves and mask to prevent adverse effects.
- If you’re pregnant, avoid smelling cinnamon because it may lead to premature contractions.
- When your skin comes in contact with a pure cinnamon oil, immediately wash the spot with soap and water.
2. Mint Leaves and Essential Oil
It turns out mint is not only great to use in candies, teas, and mouth fresheners. Catmint, peppermint, and spearmint are all effective repellents for ants.
In one study, researchers tested the efficacy of mint oil granules on worker red fire ants. They found out that the longer the exposure time (30 minutes or more) and the more mint oil granules were used, the greater the repellency of worker red imported fire ants.
When researchers put mint oil granules on opened mounds, ants completely abandoned them five days following treatment. Unfortunately, they relocated to or created other mounds by second day following treatment.
How to get rid of ants in the kitchen and the entire house using mint:
- The easiest way is to sprinkle dried or fresh mint leaves on the affected parts of your home.
- Or, you could plant any mint variety around your home.
You can grow it from seed, but you could also use the root cuttings. Make sure to place it somewhere that receives ample amount of sunlight. Mint seeds should be planted at least 1/8 inches in the ground and evenly covered with soil.
Remember, mint herb tends to spread quickly. To prevent it from choking other plants, take out a small part of the herb, including its roots, and transplant it into a separate container. The right time to collect mint is when it starts to flower.
- You could also make a peppermint essential oil spray.
Add 10 drops of peppermint essential oil to 1 ounce of distilled water. Pour the resulting mixture to a dark-colored spray bottle. Make sure to shake the bottle and spray on an obscure portion of your home to ensure it wouldn’t cause any damage.
Tips and Warnings:
- Do not spray diluted peppermint oil on food and drinks.
- Please avoid this if you have heart problems and G6PD deficiency (favism), a condition caused by an X-chromosome gene abnormality that leads to hemolytic anemia.
3. Garlic Oil and Extract
It’s not just for ants. Garlic can also repel a wide range of other insects. However, it’s still not clear why some insects hate it. It’s believed that the strong odor of garlic is responsible for its ability to repel ants. It over excites an insect’s nervous system, which causes it be disoriented.
Another reason could be because it can kill fungus, which is the favorite food of some of the ant species, due to its ajoene component.
The great thing about garlic is that it can be absorbed by other plants. Once it’s in the plant’s vascular system, it causes changes in the plant’s natural scent in order to repel insects. It also affects its enzymes (sap), causing a repelling taste to the plant.
How to kill ants quickly with a garlic spray
- 2 whole garlic bulbs (unpeeled)
- 6 cups of tap water
- Dishwashing liquid
- Fine-meshed strainer or cheesecloth
- Split the garlic bulbs into separate cloves. Don’t remove the skin.
- After chopping (to release its active component, allicin), put the garlic cloves and 1 cup of water into the blender.
- Then add the remaining water and 3 drops of dishwashing liquid. Blend well.
- Strain the resulting mixture using a fine-meshed strainer or cheesecloth.
- After that, mix 1 cup of the garlic concentrate with 2 cups of water, and then pour everything into a spray bottle. Use this to spray on your plants about once per week. Store the remaining concoction in a dark, cool place.
4. Tea Tree Essential Oil
Tea tree essential oil is a great home remedy to get rid of ants. It is one of the few ant-repelling solutions that have been backed up by clinical trials. And results showed that ants avoid it like a plague.
In one of the clinical reports, researchers wanted to find out the repellent and toxicity activity of six essential oils against three pests: the red imported fire ant, German cockroach, and eastern subterranean termite. Out of the six essential oils, there were only two that proved to be lethal for fire ants—geranium oil and tea tree essential oil.
Like other essential oils, tea tree oil needs to be diluted to avoid skin irritation. Some of the solutions you could use to dilute tea tree oil are aloe vera gel, distilled water, and your choice of carrier oil (e.g. virgin coconut oil and sweet almond oil). The only problem with diluting a pure tea tree oil is that it would potentially lower its effects on insects.
- Mix tea tree oil (TTO) with distilled water or carrier oil using a 1:19 ratio. For instance, 1 drop of TTO should be mixed with 19 drops of carrier oil. Before pouring on any surface of your home, make sure to test the formulation on a small and obscured area first.
5. Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) Oil
Geraniums are native to South Africa, Morocco, Madagascar, and Egypt. For centuries, people have planted geraniums to repel bugs from their homes. This plant is an effective ant repellant because of a specific substance it contains called geraniol.
The question is, is it any good?
A report revealed that it is. In fact, after 15 minutes of exposure to geranium oil, fire ants started to die. And after 3 to 4 days, all of the fire ants used in the study died. With that kind of an effect, geranium oil would be great to use on ants’ nesting sites to permanently get rid of the colony.
Bad news: Ordinary folks, like us, don’t have the required tools or knowledge to extract geraniol from geranium plants. You have no choice but to buy geranium essential oil or premixed products containing geraniol.
How to kill ants fast using geranium oil:
- Mix up to 3 drops of geranium oil in every teaspoon of carrier oil. You could also add other bug repellent essential oils, such as lavender, sage, basil, cedarwood, citronella, and orange.
- Since geranium oil is non-irritant and non-toxic, it can be combined with your laundry detergent or body lotion to maximize its benefits. Just make sure you don’t let it touch your mouth, eyes, and nose.
Tips and Warnings:
- While it’s generally safe, it’s best for pregnant women to avoid this oil due to its effects on the hormonal system.
6. Use Ant Bait Traps
These traps are made up of two things: food (bait) and pesticide. This sneaky tactic works by using a desirable ant food as a bait, which scavenging ants take back to their colony. Once every member of their colony consumed enough of the bait, the ultimate result is their extinction.
BUT before you can even dream of doing that, it’s very important that you know what ant species you’re dealing with to determine what bait is best to use. For instance, thief ants (Solenopsis molesta) love munching on oily foods, like meat products and peanut butter, compared to sweets. Pavement ants (Tetramorium caespitum) prefer a wider variety of foods, like pet foods, sweets, insects, and nuts.
Sucrose (table sugar) water is also a good ant bait trap, at least that’s what one of the studies suggested. When researchers studied Argentine ants (Iridomyrmex humilis), they observed these species of ants liked sucrose water or honey water more than brown sugar and protein-rich foods, like tuna.
After 15 days of observation, it was apparent that this ant species has a greater preference for sucrose water than honey water. The ants eventually died because the water bait contained Avermectin, a group of compounds that’s used to expel internal parasites.
Avermectin and boric acid are two of the most popular compounds used in making the ant bait traps. Avermectin is desirable because it doesn’t cause any genetic mutation. In fact, it’s widely used to kill fleas and parasites in dogs. Boric acid, a low toxic pesticide, is the perfect bait to use for both sugar and grease ants.
So, how do you know if ants in your home love to consume sweets or protein-based foods? The only way to know is to do a taste test. For instance, you can put a small sample of honey on a piece of wax paper and peanut butter on another wax paper, and then place them strategically in your home.
Sucrose Water Recipe
- 5 grams of table sugar
- ½ teaspoon boric acid powder (or Avermectin)
- 35 ounces water
- Simply combine the table sugar, boric acid, and water. Stir until the sugar is fully dissolved.
- Pour everything in a clean container with lid. This solution is good for 14 days if stored in your fridge.
If you want to kill grease ants, you can replace sugar with peanut butter, tuna, or any meat, and then skip the water. Sprinkle ¼ or ½ teaspoon boric acid powder on the bait.
7. White Vinegar or Apple Cider Vinegar
Vinegar is not really an ant killer. As I’ve previously mentioned, ants rely heavily on their sense of smell. They find their way back to their colony by following a chemical path left behind by other worker ants. By cleaning certain spots in the house with vinegar, you eliminate this chemical path. Thus, it won’t be so easy for them to find their way back inside your home.
Using vinegar for this purpose is pretty straightforward. Simply combine equal amounts of water and white vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
Use a sponge or cloth to wipe surfaces in your home. Spray on key areas of your home, windowsills, doors, and all cracks. Make sure to test the solution first before applying on your furniture and other spots to avoid damage.
Drown the ants with vinegar solution. Leave it alone for 30 minutes to an hour, and then come back to remove the dead ants.
8. Sprinkle Baby Powder on Every Entry Point in Your Home
Many swear by the effectiveness of a baby powder as an ant repellent, but it’s still not clear why this works. Some say that ants breathe through their skin. When they pass through a pile of baby powder, it clogs up their skin. Also, the scent confuses ants, they are unable to find their way back to their colony and eventually die.
It’s really a no-brainer to use. Simply sprinkle some baby powder around the ants or to the specific spots where they enter your home.
Interestingly, researchers also use this to collect fire ant colonies from the field. They use a cotton pad to spread the baby powder to the inner surface of a 5-gallon bucket. This prevents the fire ants from climbing out, as long as the surface doesn’t get wet.
Of course, I don’t advocate you to do this, especially when it comes to fire ants. But if you want to address the root cause of your problem, destroying the colony is the only permanent solution.
Before you approach an ant colony, wear the proper protective clothing, such as gloves, rubber boots, pants, and long-sleeved shirt. Dust your gloves and rubber boots with baby powder to prevent ants from crawling on you.
9. Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.)
Diatomaceous earth is made from an organic material taken from the remains of a certain species of algae, microscopic aquatic plant-like living things. DE is used mainly as a filter.
Anyone who’s into organic gardening loves to use DE to control pests, such as ants, cockroaches, and centipedes, because it’s not poisonous for the environment and humans. That’s probably why it’s also widely used to protect the stored products, such as grains. It’s easily separated by washing.
There are various theories regarding how this works. But most believe that any kind of dust don’t kill insects by suffocating or poisoning them. Their main mechanism of action is by causing extreme dryness (desiccation).
Once ants pass through DE, the wax material that covers their body either becomes dry or scraped off. Whichever it is, they become instantly vulnerable to dehydration, which leads to their eventual death.
How to eliminate ants using food grade diatomaceous earth:
- Diatomaceous earth can be used inside and outside of your home. For outdoor use, simply spread it on the problem areas or around the colony mound. For indoor use, spread it on the areas that they usually gather or enter your home.
Tips and Warnings:
- Buy only food grade diatomaceous earth (DE). To know if you’re buying the right kind, keep the following things in mind:
- Food grade DE is unheated, naturally milled, and non-crystalline silicon dioxide.
- Search for EPA-approved labels, like Inert Carrier, Trace Mineral Supplement for humans, Animal Feed Additive, and Grain Storage Protectant.
- Purchase only a diatomaceous earth product that’s color white or beige.
Should You Go For Pesticides That Are Natural or Chemical-Based?
Chemical-based ant poison can be very effective. Personally, however, I would use them as a last resort, especially when I plan to use them inside or outside the house. It’s just too risky—both for Mother Nature and your loved ones, especially for your kids and babies.
These artificial pesticides may cause minor to serious side effects when ingested, inhaled, or come in contact with your skin. Examples of possible adverse reactions are dizziness, headaches, skin irritations, vomiting, and weakness. The ingredients used in these products may even contribute to the development of cancer and developmental or reproductive abnormalities.
If you suspect poisoning, please…
Call 911 immediately.
Don’t try to make the person vomit the ingested poison. Make the person take sips of water instead until help arrives.
Try to remove the contaminated clothing and bring the person outside to allow him to breathe in fresh air.
Don’t throw away the pesticide package because it will leave the vital clues for the responding emergency team.
Generally, natural ant repellents and pesticides cause minor or zero side effects on humans. I’m not saying they’re totally harmless. It’s important for you to read the label details about the ingredients that kill those pesky ants.