21 Ways To Get Rid of Ants Without Toxic Chemicals
We’ve put together a list of 21 natural solutions to resolve annoying ant invasions without the use of harsh chemicals! Check it out!
In spring, summer, and fall, the insect world is alive and well and busy invading your home. And the most active of them all are ants. Ants can build mounds in your yard, making their way into potted plants, and your kitchen and garage. So what can you do to get rid of these pesky critters? We’ve put together a list of 21 natural solutions to resolve annoying ant invasions—of any variety—without the use of harsh chemicals!
Natural Ant Deterrents
- Cornmeal Deterrent: To keep ants from crawling up the pole of the hummingbird feeder, sprinkle cornmeal around the base of the pole, post, or tree. Reapply as needed.
- Keep Shrubs In Check: Don’t plant trees or shrubs close to the house. Clip any tree branches or bushes that are touching the house to prevent ants from crawling up the trees and into your home. This is a common way that carpenter ants enter. They can cause structural damage to your home, as they make tunnels through the wood.
- Fahrenheit 212º: To eradicate an ant colony, carefully pour hot boiling water directly on an ant mound. Hot water is also one of our weed and grass-killing remedies, so avoid pouring it onto the lawn where grass and plants are growing.
- DE to the Rescue: Are ants making a trail across your deck or porch? Use food-grade diatomaceous earth, a fine silica powder that provides a natural abrasive barrier to crawling insects. While the tiny crystals aren’t harmful to humans (Important: wear a mask when applying, and don’t breathe it in, especially if you have asthma or other breathing issues) it kills insects, including ants. Sprinkle the powder directly onto an ant trail. It also works in flower beds: cover any ant mounds with the powder. Stir with a long stick and apply more diatomaceous earth. If the powder does not come in contact with all of the ants in the colony, you may need to apply it more than once. Be careful not to apply diatomaceous to flower petals, or anywhere bees may land.
- Baking Soda Remedy: To destroy an ant colony, dust the ant mound with baking soda and then spray with full-strength white vinegar.
- A-Peel-ing Advice: Ants don’t like the smell of citrus. Save and dry peels from oranges, lemons, and grapefruit. Grind them and spread near entry points, in flower beds and potted plants to deter ants.
- The Mini Moat Trick: To prevent ants from getting in your pet’s food bowl, build a mini moat around it. Select a lid or tray that is larger than the bowl and fill it with water. Place the bowl in the center to form a barrier ants will not swim across. Refill/change water as needed.
- Better Than Hopscotch: Ants will not cross a chalk line. Draw a chalk line in front of exterior doors, to prevent ants from coming into the house. You can also draw a chalk line around tables on the porch or patio, to keep pesky ants away while dining outdoors. Get the kids involved!
- Save Those Coffee Grounds: To create a barrier that ants won’t cross, sprinkle used coffee grounds along the edge of a flower or raised garden bed, at the base of your house and entry points.
- Minty Fresh Cure: To repel ants in the kitchen and bathroom, place several drops of peppermint essential oil on cotton balls and place them on countertops, in cabinets and pantry, near the garbage container, and other places that attract ants.
- DIY Ant Spray: Mix 4 oz. water, 2 tablespoons vodka along with 15 drops of peppermint essential oil and 5 drops of cinnamon essential oil in a spray bottle. Shake and spray as needed, indoors or out. Doubles as a room freshener!
- Clean and Repel: To a cup measure, add 2 tablespoons of Dr. Bonner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap, 15 drops of peppermint essential oil, and 5 drops of fir needle or Tea Tree essential oil. Stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a bucket containing one gallon of hot water. Stir, and use to mop washable floors.
- Bait ‘Em With Borax: Combine equal parts of powdered Borax laundry booster, and powdered sugar. Add several tablespoons onto a jar lid and set out for ants to find. The sugar will attract the ants, they’ll take the mixture back to their colony and ingest the fatal borax. Keep out of reach of pets or children. Works against roaches, too.
- Borax-Free Bait: No Borax? No problem. Try mixing equal parts of baking soda and powdered sugar together. Follow the steps above.
- Cinnamon Stick Trick: Place cinnamon sticks near window sills to discourage ants from creeping in. To amp up the fragrance, add a few drops of cinnamon oil to the cinnamon sticks.
- Ants-Be-Gone Spray: Mix equal amounts of white vinegar and lemon juice in a spray bottle, and gently shake. Spray around windows and door frames to stop ants from entering. Spray ants spotted in the home to eradicate them. This gets rid of their scent trail which other ants follow.
- Ants In Your Plants? To keep ants from making a home in your houseplants or potted plants on the porch, place the containers on a tray filled with water to create a protective barrier. Or, sprinkle cinnamon powder around the plant container.
- Check For Leaks: Inspect your house to make sure it is sealed tightly around plumbing and any openings with weather stripping to prevent ants from entering your home.
- Wood Culprit: Don’t stack firewood near the house, or store firewood indoors except when ready to burn. Also, remove rotting trees and limbs from your yard where ants like to build homes.
- Lemon Repels: Spray sinks, counters, and tabletops daily with lemon-scented cleaner to remove food particles, residue, and lingering odors that ants find attractive.
- Tansy To the Rescue: Ants hate tansy! Grow tansy, the pretty yellow flowering herb outdoors near the entrance of your home, and as a companion, plant to keep ants out of your garden. Place dried tansy near window sills to repel ants.
Do you have any great ideas to keep ants out? Share them with us and our readers in the comments section, below!
Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Pearls of Garden Wisdom: Time-Saving Tips and Techniques from a Country Home, Pearls of Country Wisdom: Hints from a Small Town on Keeping Garden and Home, and Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. Tukua has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.
DO NOT USE TEA TREE OIL/MELALEUCA OIL IF YOU HAVE CATS!
It is a neuro toxin to them that causes seizures /paralysis and even death.
Thanks for great ways to prevent and deter ant infestations rather than resorting immediately to killing them. The pet food bowls are the biggest attraction so I’m implementing placing them on lids or plates of water. I’ve successfully done the techniques of using lemon or other scented oils, (not cinnamon as it does kill them), to eliminate their trails but you must be diligent when they become active. Avoid killing at all costs as we know anything that kills ants also kills any and all other insects and bugs, including using DE, supposedly organic it does kill all including beneficial insects and our endangered pollinators like the Monarch Butterflies .
That’s what lead me here and to other resources, and when I began using the deterrents. Also note it’s important to prevent and maintain clean kitchens, even making sure sinks and the dishwasher don’t hold food particles. Of course be diligently protecting food containers, trash and recycling. Best to all! Stay well.
I use a face mask with extra water to kill them then ring out the face mask and rinse it ring it out again and wipe the surface no down with it.
The moat of water really works for pet food bowls!
ants are eating my strawberries. what can i use to rid them
Hmm no one answered you so I’m suggesting maybe trying contacting your local state/county home extension offices. Universities that have horticulture and agriculture departments are a great online resource, as well. Best of luck!
I used some old “Terro” outdoor ant traps. After cleaning them out I filled the traps with a mixture of honey and roach powder (I.e., borax) and set them across ant trails. Like the granulated sugar/borax mix the ants carry it back to the nest while also acting as a sort of “La Brea Tar Pits” as well. In no time our ant problem was gone, gone, gone .
All ants want is food, so I made a plastic dish, covered by a wire basket (so no other critters could get into it) and put honey or applesauce in there for them to eat. It keeps ’em out of my house every year.
Excellent idea! It’s like when I discover them indoors in a pet food bowl I follow the same trick as I had read about putting it or just the contents outside on the ground in the nearby garden along the patio. I’m going to try your preventative technique today, thanks.
When using Borax for my ant infestation in my home do I have to mix it with sugar to take back to the queen and the colony? I’d like not to kill the whole ant colony off because I do know that they serve a purpose to this world. I’d just would like them to stay outside of my home and not be trying to bed with me at night or have dinner with the family and I.. Lol
I get it! It just seemed like they are everywhere in our bedrooms, too! Still I have a feeling they will always come back from somewhere so the preventative and deterring techniques endure here. Best of luck!
I am so grateful to have found this! I couldn’t for the lice of me remember the portions of the essential oils. Now I have a few other tricks to try too.
Remember folks, ants do have a purpose in life besides invading our homes. They are good for the soil and are food for other insects and animals. BUT, THE WAR IS ON once they invade the house. I have been using Borax but not finding much luck with it this year, (not sure why) so I will definitely try some of the ideas people have listed. Thanks everyone for your input!
I use Windex when they are on floors and stovetop and counters. It kills them instantly and breaks off their trails. This is only good to eliminate them immediately. We also set catfood bowls in a larger plastic lid with diatomaceous earth on lid. The ants won’t fill the bowl of catfood. Wash bowls daily. The Windex is good to spray on your ankles if you get flea bites or mosquito bites as it stops the itching.
Hi I have millions of ants and nests on my allotment – I turned over slabs to see if they would go on holiday somewhere – the earth looks so good where they’d been – can anyone tell me how to keep them away for a while so I can plant in this soil?
I mix 3 parts water to 1 part rubbing alcohol 2 DROPS liquid dish detergent. Mix well in a good direct spray bottle and the ant will stop in 2 seconds. This does not kill the colony but it will take care of your immediate infestation that has made it inside.
I use borax and cornmeal, it works. Never tried the sugar
The baking soda in the baking soda and vinegar remedy is unnecessary. All it does is produce fizzing and a foam when it comes in contact with the vinegar. You get the same result from vinegar alone, maybe better because you don’t have part of the vinegar making a useless show.
Chili powder works great. We put it around our door entrances. Works great for other pests as well.
What is wrong with you guys? Posting about pouring boiling water on their mounds and using chemicals? Gross. There are tons and tons of natural ways to keep them out of the house that don’t poison or harm them. Have a heart, be a good human. Geez.
If you had ants coming into your bedroom, invading every part of your home, getting into clean dishes in the dishwasher, and living inside your walls, you might change your tune!
Cucumber peelings all arond the house or outside. Or just where they enter.
Baby powder worked for me. I sprinkled it in the doorway where they were entering.
Bay leaves also work decently.. Put a couple on cupboard shelves, window sills, or where ever you may see them.. Replace every few weeks…
I am having problems with gnats..
When ants invaded the house through a bathroom window, we put copper pennies in the window. Problem solved!
I am interested in other natural ways to prevent water bugs, etc. in my home. I have cats and do not want to harm them.
Hi Karen, we don’t have a lot of experience with water bugs but we did a quick search and it looks like good ol’ diatomaceous earth is also effective at getting rid of waterbugs. Follow the instructions as you would for roaches, here: https://www.farmersalmanac.com/what-is-diatomaceous-earth-27832
Hi Bill, We found a bit about earwigs here, which should offer up some help. https://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/how-to-control-earwigs/slide/4
Nothing coming up about earwigs using that link
I like these ant solutions but what if your bigger problem is earwigs?
My wife made some air freshener using peppermint oil (didn’t know it also repelled ants), sprayed it all through the house. Smelled wonderful. Took three days to clean the sticky residue from our hardwood floors and everywhere else. Maybe she used too much?
I’ve always liked the Farmer’s Almanac
I found ants in my home for years. From rummaging in my trash, to getting into my cereal boxes and sealed sugar container. At first I tried sprays which killed them instantly but they’d come back. Then I’d place some sugary food/s in a bowl under the tap in my kitchen sink, turn off the lights and go to sleep. When I’d wake up, I held one hand on the faucet and the other on the light switch. When I turned the lights on, they’d always try running but I just turned on the water and rinsed them down the drain. I finally got smart and used a plastic bag between the seal of my sugar container. I also put the cereal boxes on top of the refrigerator or a table. I would sometimes keep my plastic trash bag outside if they were rummaging through it and I believe this was the single most important process of them all. For I believe I split the colony, as I put the trash on the opposite side of the house from where they were coming in. I saw them trail in and out of that trash many times over and like clockwork, the trash bags were taken away every week along with my any problem. I don’t have to use any chemicals, any mixtures, just a little sugary leftovers in a bowl, in the sink and keep the rest of the kitchen clean. They won’t come if you don’t have anything for them to eat.
That’s not true. They have invaded our home and they are in my bedroom closet. No food in there!
I’ve found them in our upstairs bathroom! Likewise no food there…..
Ammonia works. And it cleans at the same time. Spray on a line of ants and in 30 seconds all but 1 or 2 will be gone. Then just take a paper towel and wipe them up! I keep a spray bottle of straight ammonia under the sink, both for ants and for cleaning and degreasing.
I use Johnson’s baby powder in doors anywere the aunts just go away!
Cloves if you have ants going thru cracks in your windows plug the hole with a clove or two. Also just lay them along their trail works awesome Learned that from my great aunt.