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10 Non-Toxic Tips to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are among the largest ants in the United States, measuring up to 20 mm—or roughly ¾ of an inch. Most often black but sometimes red or yellow, carpenter ants live both indoors and outdoors, nesting inside moist, decaying wood (like old tree trunks, or rotting wooden boards in human structures). This can make it hard to get rid of carpenter ants. While they burrow and colonize inside wooden materials like termites, unlike termites, they do not consume wood. Instead, their diet is like that of other ants, consisting mostly of sweet foods and meats.

Because they do not eat wood, carpenter ants are not nearly as damaging to homes as termites. However, if given enough time, a highly developed and mature colony can cause extensive damage to nearly any wooden structure. With queens living up to 25 years, it’s not hard to imagine how costly a carpenter ant colony can be to a homeowner. If you’re seeing these little carpenters crawling throughout your home or just looking to prevent an infestation before it takes hold, here are 10 Non-Toxic Tips to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants.


Prevention is always the best form of pest control. Follow these simple guidelines to keep carpenter ants out of your home.

  • Keep your home clean—particularly the kitchen, flooring, windowsills and countertops. Without a food source, ants will have no reason to enter your home.
  • Seal all food in tightly closed containers. Keep all food storage areas free of crumbs and residues (Tip: wipe off all those jam, sauce and honey containers).
  • Never leave food remains or dirty dishes in the sink.
  • Take the trash out regularly, and keep all trash cans clean and sealed.
  • Any spilled food should be cleaned up immediately.
  • Seal any cracks, crevices and holes—all potential ant entrances—with caulk or other sealant.
  • Remove or remedy all sources of unnecessary moisture both inside and outside your home, including: leaky plumbing, basements, crawl spaces, A/C units, hoses, faucets, sprinklers, clogged drainage areas, etc
  • Remove possible nesting spaces from your yard, such as: woodpiles, wooden yard equipment, brush, dead or dying trees & tree strumps, unused dog houses, furniture, and any other possibly  moist, wooden items.
  • Keep tree limbs and branches away from the walls of your home. Carpenter ants use these as bridges to enter your home.
  • Do not store lumber or firewood inside or right outside your home.

The most effective methods for ridding yourself of carpenter ants all involve locating and treating their nests directly. Carpenter ants nest in moist, decaying wood. These nests can be located either inside or outside the home, and unless you actually follow the trailing ants back to their origin, it’s not always easy to determine which. However, in general, if you find carpenter ants inside your home during late winter or early spring, chances are the colony is located indoors. Here’s some tips for locating a carpenter ant colony:

  • Look for frass. Frass is finely ground wood debris that resembles sawdust. It’s the result of carpenter ants boring into wood to build their nests. If you see this in your home, the carpenter ants are somewhere inside.
  • Damaged wood on or within walls, doors, cabinets, and wood beams is a good indicator of an indoor colony. Look specifically for sandpaper-smooth carpenter ant galleries and holes. 
  • Place attractants like dog food, jam or other sweets where you most commonly spot carpenter ants. Using their trail, attempt to find the location of their nest.
  • If you have woodpiles or other wooden debris inside or just outside your home, check them thoroughly—the ant colony could be inside.

If you were able to find the carpenter ant nest (and it was located outdoors), this natural method is a way to attack the ant colony directly. It’s simple: boil a few liters or more of water and then pour it directly into the nest (this can be dangerous, so please exercise extreme caution). Adding a natural and water-soluble insecticideessential oils, or soap to the boiled water will make this approach even more effective. You may have to repeat this process two to three times to completely eliminate the colony.


A simple and natural carpenter ant bait can be made by mixing equal parts baking soda and powdered sugar. Strategically place this mixture in shallow dishes in the locations with the most ant traffic. These can also be placed outside, particularly near doors and windows. The sugar in the mixture attracts the ants, while the baking soda naturally kills them (for chemical reasons, baking soda is deadly to ants).


Like most ants, carpenter ants use pheromone trails for navigation and communication—it’s also how they find food. Essential oils can be used to disrupt these trails, which ultimately disorients and deters ants. Lemongrass, peppermint, clove, cedarwood, tea tree, orange and lemon oil are all effective.

Dampen a cotton ball or kitchen towel with an essential oil of your choosing. Use this to wipe windowsills, baseboards, the perimeters of countertops, door frames, and any potential entry points. Repeat daily until ant population disappears. Your chosen oil can also be diluted with a carrier oil to create a natural ant-killing spray.


A simple mixture of soap and water is toxic to carpenter ants. Mix one part natural dish soap to two parts water in a spray bottle. Spray as needed to kill ants and eliminate their pheromone trails. Continue to treat problem areas until the ants no longer return.


Made from crushed algae fossils, Diatomaceous Earth is a well known natural pesticide. This abrasive material damages the exoskeleton of ants that come into contact with it, eventually killing them. Spread DE throughout ant problem areas and directly on the colony’s nest if possible. Diatomaceous Earth is especially effective for combatting carpenter ants, which regularly die from consuming it.


For carpenter ants, it’s best to treat both outside and inside your home. Kill any ants you see indoors with a quick spray of Cedarcide Original and repel future ants by spraying trouble areas like windowsills, doorways, countertops, and baseboards weekly until the issue improves.

Using PCO Choice, spray your entire lawn monthly, including bases of trees, shrubbery, along fence lines, and your home’s foundation. This will create a repellent barrier that helps keep ants from entering your home.


Vinegar is an extremely effective natural carpenter ant deterrent. It disrupts their pheromone trails and the smell prevents them from returning. Mix a 1-to-1 ratio of water to vinegar in a spray bottle (both apple cider and white vinegar will do). Shake the solution and then spray along baseboards, door frames, window sills, countertops, and directly on the nest if possible. Repeat the process daily or as needed to repel carpenter ants. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and multi-surface cleaner—so feel free to use the spray liberally.


Not unlike the previously mentioned essential oils and vinegar, cinnamon and cinnamon oil deter ants by interfering with their pheromone trails. Dispense the cinnamon in whatever form throughout ant problem areas and directly on the nest if possible. When used around windowsills, baseboards, near doors and alongside countertops, cinnamon helps prevent carpenter ants from entering your home.


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  1. Does vinegar damage cedar? I need to get rid of carpenter ants on my cedar fence.

    1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

      Hi there, Jed!

      If you use typical household vinegar a few times there shouldn’t be an issue, though vinegar could potentially discolor the wood over time. However frequent overuse could possibly cause damage to the wood due to the acidity of the vinegar, which is something to keep in mind.


  2. How long would the
    Vinegar/Apple Vinegar/Cinnamon/Cinnamon Oil etc
    Lasts up to? A Day or 2?
    I have them in my upper unit Back Patio Apartment where there is a tall Tree.

    Thank You

    1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

      Hi there, Tina!

      Outside these solutions would only last a day or so. I’d try PCO, which will last you weeks to a month, instead 😉

      I’m here if you need anything else.

  3. Hello! I’m in desperate need of help!
    I’m a single mom that just renovated a 5th wheel RV into a home. It’s stationary on a piece of property in the country. Last night I came home and there was an electrical issue, so I went to just take a look at the u set compartments and see if there was anything noticeable going on. I was SHOCKED to see hundreds of carpenter ants in the compartments!!! There were several if the winged queen ants and a small formation on the floor that I could only describe as a nest? It was only about 1 – 1 1/2 inch in diameter though…? I’m in these compartments fairly often – so this has to be a fairly new invasion within the last two weeks!

    I had already made up a spray that had peppermint, lemongrass, and cedar wood essential oils in it, so I sprayed that the best I could last night. I need to figure out what my plan of attack will be today though! In this situation there’s not much I can do to actually trace and find their nest…the compartments are too compact and there’s just no way for me to crawl around in there.

    1. How do I effectively treat this issue?
    2. Could these ants have done damage that interferes with electrical issues??

    Thank you for your help!!

    1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

      I’m so sorry to hear this, April.

      Unfortunately it’s somewhat common for ants to enter electrical items and short circuit them. If the affected electrical boxes are outdoors, your best bet is to treat the environment around them, namely what lawn you have your RV on. I would do this with our spray PCO Choice (linked below) twice, two weeks apart and then monthly after that. If the issue is indoors, I would do your very best to check your trailer for potential entry points and seal those ASAP and then spray the inside of your trailer with our All-Purpose Bug Spray (linked below) once weekly or more often as needed until the issue improves. All-Purpose Bug Spray can also be used to kill then on contact, though I would not recommend spraying inside or nearby the electrical items. If any electrical items are still damaged by the ants, I’m afraid you’ll have to call an electrician for that.

      I’m here if you need anything else 🙂

      All-Purpose Bug Spray:

      1. We are having the same issue at our camper. We are getting more and more carpenter ants making their way inside the camper. I have yet to find where they are coming in. So do you recommend not purchasing those two products until we find where the nest is located?

        1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

          Great questions, Tina!

          No, picking up something to kill the ones you see and spraying potential entry points would be a good idea. I would go with Tickshield, our extra strength bug spray. Here’s the link 🙂

          I’m here if you need anything else

  4. I have car decking (2″x6″ tongue and groove planks) as the ceiling/roof. Above the car decking is rigid foam insulation capped with a rubber roof membrane. I’m finding frass on the floor in the house so I know the ants are in the roof assembly. How would you suggest I treat this problem? Thanks in advance for your help!

    1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

      That’s a tricky one, Les. I would contact a professional for how to isolate the individual parts of your roof, but our product Cedarcide Original can be used to kill the ants and our wood treatment Cedarshield can be applied to any wood type, old or new, to kill any ants hidden inside and the protect it from future bugs, in addition to rot, decay, warping and splintering, too. I’ve linked both products below:

  5. Diane Kistner

    Is the sugar/baking soda trick, used outdoors, safe for bees?

    1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

      It sure is 🙂

  6. Not sure If anyone is still responding to comments but I’m going to give. A shot. We have carpenter ants that I’m finding crawling on our house, they are all over a tree outside, all over in our rocks, I’m finding one or two here or there in our house, they crawl all over my car and I even found a few in my car. All of my plants are starting to get holes in them and I’ve seen some ants crawling around in the plants (not sure if they eat plant leaves????). I believe we have a major problem amping up, my husband doesn’t Seem to think so. 1) are these signs of a problem and 2) if so, how do we tackle one this large when we have dogs?

    1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

      Great question, Amy.

      It certainly sounds to us like you have a problem or a soon-to-be problem on your hands. Our Lawn & Garden Kit, however, can knock out an ant problem like that fairly quickly. And no need to worry, it’s non-toxic, plant-based and safe for families and pets. No downtime required, you and your family and pets can enjoy the lawn immediately after application.

    2. Use the suggestion of equal part of baking soda and powder sugar and make bait traps. Put some in the trees and areas around where you see them. Good luck. I just found a bunch in one of my out building. They are truly awful.

    3. I just tried the 1 part dish soap and 2 parts water trick in a squirt bottle. Dropping like flies. 😃

  7. Donald F. Bey

    Sorry I didn’t find your column before I signed a contract for the year. I will not,however , renew next year. Years ago we had an ant problem at the base of a large Hickory tree. The tree was obviously dying as it was almost bare in July. I used a mixture of Cedarwood oil and Denatured alcohol, as a spray, and the tree recovered completely the following year, completely devoid of Ants. Age and the passage of time made me forget.

    1. Mo'AntsMo'Problems

      Congrats, u r a tree hero!

    2. I wish I would have known about this combination to try. I just had to have a tree cut down earlier this year due to carpenter ants taking it’s over. The only thing is, I wonder if mixture would have harmed any of my shade plants, such as hostas. Do you know if cedarwood oil & denatured alcohol harms perennials or annuals? Thank you!

  8. Carol Hazelwood

    We are having these black flying ants around and in our pool. Today they were swarming as bad as I have seen. So many in our pool!! We had our yard treated last week and don’t know how to get rid of them. They fly in to the concrete and then into the pool! We can’t even enjoy. We have had them for over a month. Any advice?

    1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

      So sorry to hear about that, Carol.

      I’d definitely recommend our Lawn & Garden Kit, and spraying your lawn twice the first month with the family-safe lawn spray PCO Choice that comes with that kit, and then moving on to monthly treatments after that. If you still need help solving this issue, we can help you figure it out, just give us a call at 800-842-1464 🙂

  9. So we live in the woods….noticed these little pests. These one day 2 or 3 turned to like 40-50…omg the walls in our kitchen were moving! We sprayed ant killer everywhere and they were gone. 2 weeks later….saw 2 or 3, by that night there were like 30 all over our ceiling! Gross! Found your site. My whole house smells delightfully of applecider vinegar! We sprayed everywhere inside and out….in cabinets all over the walls and ceiling and floor! Everywhere! Lit cinnamon candle (only had one) and now have like 10 little caps full of powder sugar and baking soda through out the kitchen (only place we have seen them). Fingers crossed! We will be spraying every day and mopping floors with vinegar. Any other suggestions? I am not a fan of these things!

  10. I can attest that cinnamon oil works! I’ve also plugged holes in rotted wood outside the home with cinnamon scented candle wax until they can be replaced by the landlord. Voila, ant-free. Also check any potted plants inside the home for colonies, you many need to drown the colony or repot your plants.

  11. Hello, Very glad I found this site. Last fall I used a chemical that seemed to work at the time but now the little stinkers are back. Going to try the vinegar and water and sugar/baking soda. I’m also very intrigued by the diatomaceous earth. Will probably sprinkle that around the outside of my house. I see these posts are rather old, any new news on how these items worked for previous posters?

    1. we tried all of the same tonight….how did it work for you? Any luck?

  12. If I block the entrance the ants are using to get in my wall, if there is a nest-will it die off?

    I’d really like to avoid drilling holes in the outside of my house or through a kitchen cabinet to maybe find the satellite best.

    Thank you!


    1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

      Great question, Karen.

      Typically blocking up their entrances is not sufficient, simply because they’ll find another way in or out.

  13. Are these safe to use on log homes? Inside and out? Thanks!

    1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

      Hi there Jen! The inside suggestions here should be fine for inside a log cabin, just as the outdoor tips should work great for outside your log cabin. Let us know if you need anything else, always here to help 🙂

      1. The 1:1 ratio of baking soda and powdered sugar is it a dry mix ir does it need h2o? These ants are horrible in Michigan this year!!!!! Many homes have never seen this many ants ever let alone insider our homes!!!!!! I am open to the best tactics that work. We just had an exterminator spray around the outside of our home. He said it could take 3 weeks before we really notice the difference and many times it isn’t necessary to spray again. We just repainted our entire kitchen so I am hoping not to leave a nasty residue on everything but these things have to go!!!!!!! We are killing 50-100 Daily from out entryway just inside the kitchen!!!!! Yet, as I let homemade gummy bears dry they are never near them but all over the walls, garbage can, ect. We now have 20 little poison traps and it seems the walk over and around it but not in them. I don’t know but I am having literally ant nightmares!!!!!!!

        1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

          Sonja, we’re so sorry to hear that, sounds terrible,

          We hav quick, easy-to-use solutions for treating ants. Cedarcide Original for indoors, and our Lawn & Garden Kit for outdoors. If you need any more help, pls give us a call and we’ll help you give these ants the boot, 800-842-1464

    2. Lonnie Sykos

      move bed away from walls & linens well above floor….put foot of bed posts inside metal container w/ treated water or oil moat to prevent insects crawling up bed posts.

  14. Caren Moody

    I’m in the same boat as Jennifer. I live in an apartment (brand spanking new and already have ant problems) and they are not treating the whole building just certain units that complain (great strategy there, right?) and no matter how much I vacuum, leave borac acid traps (where kids and cats cannot reach or find), no matter how clean I keep my house they still invade- mainly in my 4 year old’s room so she’s been getting eaten alive in her bed at night. I will try all of these ideas and see if it helps since nothing else is working. Thank you!

    1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

      Caren, so sorry to hear about your ant problem 🙁

      If you cannot get the ants under control using Cedarcide Original and the strategies mentioned above, please reach out to us at 800-842-1464 and we’ll help you get this problem solved. Best of luck!

  15. Mike Schnekser

    I donut see a boric acid with sugar solution mentioned. Does the baking soda provide the same results?

    1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

      Great question! Yes, they work in similar ways.

  16. Sandy Atkinson

    Just paid $210 for ONE treatment from a pest control company, so I typed into Google for home treatments. Thank you! I will use several of these, as they told me I will need three treatments. Then they tried to sell me a package for next year! Thank heavens I found you. I only lost $210.

    1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

      We think natural, do-it-yourself approaches are almost always the way to go! Let us know if we can be of any more help 🙂

  17. juli jordan

    This is great information….just what I was looking for! I will use a combo of Cedarcide and essential oil spray (for indoors)

    1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

      Thanks for the positive words! Let us know if we can be of any more help 🙂

      1. So glad I found this site. I live in an apt also and we are being invaded by ants. I’ve had the terminx guy come out and spray didn’t work. It has been cold where I live so I’m seeing alot more of them come out of every where. There coming out of my walls bath tubs. Sinks faucets I mean there every where. I am gonna start trying some of these methods hope they work.

        1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

          Hi, Sylvia, we’re do glad you found us, too! 🙂

          Let us know if you need any more help. As a suggestion, our most popular product, Cedarcide Original, is our go-to choice for spot killing any ants you’re seeing around the home.

      2. Thank you!! Just found some of these guys in railing of my deck. I tried the boiling water with cedar wood essential oil and poured it into the 1 piece of damaged railing, Fingers crossed! Thank you. 😊

  18. Betty Lou

    Thank you for your advice on getting rid of carpenter ants. My son in law is renovating their garage into a mother in law unit and the carpenter ants have made a mess of some of the wood. He has to replace the wood that is damaged, but we want to put something down when we are ready to drywall to keep them out. So the cinnamon and cinnamon oil sounds good also the baking soda and sugar. Appreciate your information. Thank you.

    1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

      Our pleasure! Let us know if you ever need more advice 🙂

  19. Can’t wait to try many of these solutions and spread the word to others who want natural solutions! Namaste- LB

    1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

      Thanks so much! Let us know if you need help or have any questions 🙂

      1. R these effective but safe ways around a two year old

        1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

          Hi there! Great question.

          Our products are safe for kiddos but we would avoid using boiling water around children 🙂

  20. Thank you for this great post and all these methods. I’m in an apartment and have no control over the rest of the building, nor do I want to bomb my place since I have cats. The ant problem is getting worse.

    1. Jonathan At Cedarcide

      Thanks so much for your positive words, Jennifer. If you ever need advice regarding your ant problem, feel free to give us a call at 800-842-1464

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