10 Non-Toxic Tips to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants

Cedarcide Blog Post Image, 10 Non-Toxic Tips to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants
Carpenter ants are among the 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). 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 couble be to a homeowner. If you’re seeing these little carpenters crawling throughout your home or looking to prevent an infestation before it takes hold, here’s 10 Non-Toxic Tips to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants.

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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.

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Find The Nest

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.

Boiling Water

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.

Sugar and Baking Soda Bait

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).

Essential Oils

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.

Soap & Water

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.

Diatomaceous Earth

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.

Non-toxic Insecticides—Both Indoor and Outdoor

All natural, over-the-counter insecticides are often the easiest and most effective option for completely eliminating a carpenter ant colony. The best approach is to treat both outside and inside your home. Non-toxic indoor insecticides can be used as both a repellent and a contact killer. Naturally sourced outdoor insecticides also work as both deterrents and spot killers. For best results, apply non-toxic outdoor pesticides alongside fence lines and your home’s foundation; this will create a repellent barrier to keep ants from entering your home. Treating your entire yard will help to eliminate any active outdoor carpenter ant colonies.


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.

Cinnamon & Cinnamon Oil

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.

Thoughts, suggestions, have your own tips to add? Comment below or head over to our Facebook page to let us know what you think!

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  1. Laura on May 1, 2020 at 1:26 PM

    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.

  2. Lauren on April 28, 2020 at 10:23 AM

    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?

  3. Karen on April 25, 2020 at 8:09 PM

    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!


    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on May 16, 2020 at 11:54 AM

      Great question, Karen.

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

  4. Jen on January 11, 2020 at 2:01 AM

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

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on January 24, 2020 at 5:44 PM

      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 🙂

    • Lonnie Sykos on March 4, 2020 at 6:12 PM

      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.

  5. Caren Moody on August 6, 2019 at 12:00 PM

    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!

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on August 7, 2019 at 8:51 AM

      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!

  6. Mike Schnekser on July 25, 2019 at 7:47 AM

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

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 25, 2019 at 10:39 AM

      Great question! Yes, they work in similar ways.

  7. Sandy Atkinson on July 23, 2019 at 11:23 AM

    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.

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 25, 2019 at 10:38 AM

      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 🙂

  8. juli jordan on July 22, 2019 at 10:11 AM

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

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 23, 2019 at 9:25 AM

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

      • Sylvia on November 30, 2019 at 4:23 AM

        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.

        • Jonathan At Cedarcide on December 16, 2019 at 10:48 AM

          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.

  9. Betty Lou on June 3, 2019 at 11:10 AM

    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.

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on June 4, 2019 at 4:23 PM

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

  10. Lynne on May 27, 2019 at 7:24 AM

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

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on June 4, 2019 at 4:34 PM

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

      • Robyn Lopez on September 1, 2019 at 9:32 AM

        R these effective but safe ways around a two year old

        • Jonathan At Cedarcide on September 20, 2019 at 10:07 AM

          Hi there! Great question.

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

  11. Jennifer on April 15, 2019 at 1:53 PM

    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.

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on May 16, 2019 at 2:33 PM

      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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