If you’ve ever had to deal with an invasion of ants, you may know the meaning of exasperation. While the kids think ants are so cute the way they march in formation, stop to help one another, and work hard to prepare for their own life challenges ahead, it’s better to study these amazing creatures than to wake up to find a million or so feasting on that last piece of pie someone left out on the counter last night. While commercial ant sprays work well, most brands are expensive if not toxic.
Of course, there are dozens of homemade remedies for dealing with ants—from poisoning them with boric acid, borax, or ammonia, but even those ingredients can create toxic situations for crawling babies, pets, and that salad you’re about to make on the counter where you just dealt with an ant attack.
Other methods, like one that promises to blow up their digestive systems with cornmeal—while perhaps better to use than harsh chemicals—can create a new challenge when the solution turns out to be messier than the problem.
All natural option
Today, I want to tell you about an effective recipe for an all-natural DIY ant spray made from ingredients that are toxic to ants but perfectly safe for pets* and people.
This recipe is safe, quick, natural (did I say that already?) and highly effective. And so handy. Just grab and go whenever you see a problem. You are going to love it.
Compared to the cost of an annual visit from an exterminator (around $200 depending on where you live and the severity of the problem), gathering the supplies to make this ant spray (initially about $20 depending on your source and what you have already) becomes a true bargain.
The ingredients in this ant spray are sensitive to light, which degrades its effectiveness in a big hurry. Keeping your ant spray in a dark glass container stored in a dark cupboard will extend its effectiveness for many months. Still, you want to make up this spray in small batches of no more than about 2 cups (16 oz.) at a time.
Never store pure essential oils in plastic bottles as the essential oil will eat at the plastic, and the essential oil will become ruined and ineffective in a short period of time.
Amber glass spray bottle
Because this ant spray has a bit of sediment to it, a regular household sprayer will quickly get clogged up and that’s so annoying. You will want to use a sprayer that is fitted with a small filter to prevent it from becoming clogged. This one is perfect.
Ground Cayenne Pepper
This is in your spice cupboard or the spices aisle of any grocery store. It’s the exact same thing you use in the kitchen to make foods and drinks delightfully spicy.
Tea Tree Oil
You’re going to find a plethora of choices here, but make sure it is 100% natural therapeutic grade undiluted tea tree essential oil. This one has all the qualities you need to make this effective ant spray.
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Essential oils come in all kinds of varieties and a wide range of strengths. Some are highly diluted, laced with perfume and or other additives. For this ant spray, you want pure, high-quality 100% pure peppermint oil with no pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, or other additives, like this one.
You’re on your own here.
Fill a 16-ounce amber spray bottle to about 1-inch from the top with tap water. Add 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 20 drops pure tea tree essential oil, and 20 drops pure peppermint essential oil. Add more water if needed to fill the bottle. Apply the sprayer, shake well to mix. Label the bottle and store it in a dark place.
To use this ant spray indoors
This spray will kill ants on contact. That’s how much they loathe and cannot tolerate these ingredients. If it does not kill on contact, that’s your sign that your spray has lost its effectiveness because it’s old. Make a new batch.
Do not hesitate to use this ant spray any place in your home. The beauty of this spray is that it can be used on any surface without fear of harm—on appliances, fixtures, granite, quartz; on painted surfaces and plastic; wood and laminate floors.
This ant spray is a powerful deterrent when sprayed along ant trails and inside cracks where ants are entering your home.
To use this ant spray outdoors
You can spray this along outside walls and other places you see ants congregating in their little planning sessions. However, your most effective use of this recipe will be in the anthill or nest if you can locate it. Here is how to make and then deliver the mother of all ant bombs.
Using a stake or other such device, drive it deep into the nest with a hammer or just use your brute strength (you have that, right?)—at least 18-inches into the ground to create a hole. Remove the stake slowly so the hole doesn’t refill itself with dirt.
Carefully pour the contents of the tea kettle into the hole—not all around it. It’s very hot, so be careful. The heat from boiling water alone will kill ants on contact. But the pepper and oils in this cocktail will leach into the areas surrounding that deep hole making it totally unsuitable for an ant colony for the rest of this season for sure, and possibly for another season as well.
Should the boiling water appear to have also killed any surrounding grass, don’t worry. It should grow back quickly.
*If you have cats, please do your own independent research.
First published: 4-24-17; Revised & Updated 7-15-19