ants building a house

15 Ways to Get Rid of Ants Quick and Easy Using Ordinary Stuff In Your Pantry

Knowing how to get rid of ants around the house is important. But it’s also fun to learn just how fascinating these creatures are. They’re industrious and super smart as insects go. Some ants can support up to 50 times their own weight while upside down on glass.

ants building a house

More Fun Facts

  • There are more than 12,000 species of ants all over the world.
  • An ant can lift 20 times its own body weight. If a second-grader was as strong as an ant, he or she would be able to pick up a car.
  • Most of the ants we see are workers. They are female, but they cannot reproduce—that is the queen ant’s job.
  • Some queen ants can live for many years and have millions of babies
  • Ants don’t have ears. Ants “hear” by feeling vibrations in the ground through their feet.
  • When ants fight, it is usually to death.
  • When foraging, ants leave a pheromone trail so that they know where they’ve been.
  • Queen ants have wings, which they shed when they start a new nest.
  • Ants don’t have lungs. Oxygen enters through tiny holes all over the body and carbon dioxide leaves through the same holes.
  • Queen ants, sometimes living for up to 30 years, give birth to millions of babies.
  • Male ants’ only job is to mate with the queen. (You’re chuckling).
  • Ants are found almost everywhere on Earth. The largest ant colony ever found was over 3,750 miles wide. And you think you’ve got problems?

Control and management

Despite how fascinating ants may be, control and management around the home are important for both health and safety reasons. If you suspect you have a serious ant infestation, consider calling a pest control professional. However, most ant problems—especially those teeny tiny sugar ants*—are generally annoying and a problem you can solve quickly with ordinary items you may have on hand around in the house and garage.

*Sugar ants are a common name that many people use to describe any small ant that is attracted to sweets.

Effective Ways to Get Rid of Ants

Think of what follows as a buffet of methods to get rid of ants in your home, on your property, and perhaps even in the garage. Choose the solution that meets your immediate need using items you have.

1. Mop and vacuum

To get rid of ants, start by mopping the floor at least once a day. Mopping and vacuuming help to remove the ants’ pheromone trails. Cleaning and mopping will also rid your home of the food and crumbs that attract the ants. Make sure you don’t leave any dirty dishes in the sink and empty the trash bin regularly.

2. Soap and water

If you have ants or other bugs around the house, pour a 50/50 mixture of Blue Dawn dish soap and water into an empty spray bottle and keep it handy. When you see the insects, spray them with the mixture. Provided you really saturate those little critters, the soap actually breaks down their exoskeletons, and they die almost immediately. Cheap and easy cleanup, too.

3. Diatomaceous Earth

This is my personal favorite way to get rid of ants because it is natural, quick, and sure. Diatomaceous earth is non-toxic, harmless for pets and kids. Important: Make sure you are using food-grade diatomaceous earthNOT swimming pool DE, which has been chemically altered and will be completely ineffective to kill ants and other bugs.

Sprinkle the food-grade DE outside around the perimeter of your home. You can also safely sprinkle it inside where you see the ants—along baseboards especially. Do not wet the DE or it will not work. If it should get wet, reapply with new dry food-grade DE.

Once the ants walk in the fine powder they’ll die because the DE quietly destroys their exoskeletons.

4. Black pepper

Another pantry staple is gound black pepper. To deter sugar ants, sprinkle ground black pepper around the home’s entry points to keep the ants from coming inside.

5. All-Natural Outdoor Bug Spray

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Pour the water, garlic, and onion into a 1-quart jar. Allow steeping for 1 hour.
  2. Next mix in the liquid soap.
  3. Then strain through a sieve.
  4. Finally, pour into a spray bottle.

Notes:  This all-purpose insect spray remains potent for only 1 week, so use it up.

PRINT RECIPE

6. Vinegar

A 50/50 ratio of water and plain white vinegar can also deter ants. Use this mixture to spray on countertops, window sills, and high traffic areas.

7. WD-40

Spray any areas where ants are feeding or accessing your house with WD-40. The spray will kill ants and also serve as a deterrent from further access as long as residue from the spray remains. Not sure where they’re coming in? Spray WD-40 along the outside perimeter of the house. They will not cross it because ants hate the smell of WD-40. (So do rabbits!) Repeat as necessary.

8. Chalk

Get rid of ants by drawing a line around your home’s entry points using ordinary blackboard or sidewalk chalk. The calcium carbonate repels ants.

9. Borax

You can deter ants and roaches with a 50/50 mix of powdered sugar and borax. Sprinkle it any place you suspect those pests may be entering your home.

Borax is also known to be highly effective in killing fleas. It is odorless and non-toxic to human skin. But when fleas come in contact with it, they get severely dehydrated. Using borax for flea control is a popular method for fighting flea infestations.

Sprinkle borax directly on pet beds, carpets, and other places you suspect fleas are laying their eggs. Allow to sit for an hour or two and then vacuum up.

10. Boiling water

If fire ants plague your yard or patio and you’re tired of getting stung by those tiny attackers, a flowerpot can help you quench the problem. Place the pot upside down over the anthill. Carefully pour boiling water through the drain hole and you’ll be burning them and their house for good.

11. Citrus

To ant-proof your kitchen you don’t need insecticides or ant traps. Just give it the lemon treatment. First, squirt some lemon juice on door thresholds and windowsills. Then squeeze the lemon juice into any holes or cracks where the ants are getting in. Finally, scatter small slices of lemon peel around the outdoor entrance.

12. Coffee

Scatter your used coffee grounds in the garden and around the outside of your house. Ants are repelled by the scent given off by the grounds. Bonus: Coffee grounds are good for your soil and plants.

13. Household ammonia

A 50/50 mixture of household ammonia and water in a spray bottle is an effective ant control. Saturate the ants, then wipe it up. HINT: Windex with Ammonia works the same.

14. Fine powder

One EC reader reports that cheap baby powder in a plastic can works to get rid of ants. Drown them in it. They can’t make it back to the nest because they can’t run and they’ll dry out before they can summon help. You will need to vacuum up the powder, but it doesn’t stink.

15. Spearmint Gum

Another reader puts a stick of spearmint gum, opened slightly on each shelf and drawer in areas frequented by ants and other pantry-prone bugs. “Since doing this I have not seen a single bug. I am away for about 4 months a year, and always come home to bugless cupboards/kitchen.”

Updated: 4-4-22


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10 replies
  1. Kristin says:

    Hi, I recently discovered a few tiny ants in my mailbox, when I looked closer I could see a mass of them clumped on the inside curved top of it…yuck. I Googled the problem and someone mentioned dryer sheets, ants not liking the scent. I put some in the mailbox last night and this morning no ants! I pushed the dryer sheets to the back of the mailbox so the scent can keep deterring them.

    Reply
  2. Sandra C Wegmann says:

    For outdoor windows I use Windex that comes in a sprayer bottle that you screw onto your hose — it sprays up to two stories on my house and you should see the dirt running off the windows and screens! You switch the lever to rinse, and you are done! Indoor windows, I do with your homemade mixture!!

    Reply
  3. Tracy says:

    Just wanted to make a comment about the spearmint gum. Make sure there isn’t XYLITOL in the gum. Extremely toxic to dogs!!! It lowers their blood sugar and will kill them if not caught in time. Please look this information up and/or talk to your vet. I’m not sure if it is toxic to other pets or animals. I also am not sure if there might be another name for xylitol on gum packaging.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Of course pet owners need to be cautious with items that might be toxic in the same way parents are careful to keep such things where children cannot reach them.

      Reply
  4. Sue says:

    Hi Mary, I love your column. Please mention that using coffee grounds, they are very toxic to dogs!
    Thank you.
    Sue

    Reply
  5. Donna Bosink says:

    I found a ton of ants in the dog’s food dish in the dining room near the back door. Sprinkling cinnamon over the area took care of the problem. Ants can’t seem to deal with fine powder. Don’t use turmeric, though. It will leave a yellowish stain.

    Reply
  6. Judith Rettich says:

    I’m surprised that the easy and effortless solution was not listed first! I’m in Amish Country and learned from the Amish to mix 1/2 Borax and 1/2 regular sugar (not powdered sugar!)
    and put it in any areas where ants have been seen. Ants take it to their nest and it kills the whole colony. Usually within two days. No need to vaccum, no need to wipe up with vinegar, no need to use black pepper which could irritate the eyes and noses of curious cats or dogs. Just put down this mix and problem solved! I use this one time successfully every spring and sometimes need to do this again one time in late July or August. Why list all the other time consuming and fussy things? I’ve helped many neighbors who try other things for weeks and this eliminates their ant problem in several days. Keep it Simple!

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      You would not want to spread borax and leave it if you have pets, especially when laced with sugar. In that case you would definitely want to vacuum it up. And not everyone has borax on hand in the face of an unexpected ant invasion. That is the reason there are 15 options, not only one.

      Reply
  7. Suzanne J Schulz says:

    I have a problem with geckos. They get in the attic and leave poop everywhere. I have to vacuum before I can walk in. Do you have a solution to deter them?

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      My first defense would be food-grade diatomaceous earth. It is a marvelous option as it is not harmful to pets, children. Easy to use and very effective. I don’t have specific info regarding geckos (except those that sell insurance) but I’d give that a try.

      Reply

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