It’s estimated that there are over 20,000 species of ants on the planet. Living in colonies whose populations sometimes number in the millions, ants can be found on every continent but Antarctica. Their unmatched success is often attributed to their carefully organized social structure—which includes division of labor and a highly evolved hierarchy. Because of their wide variety and large distribution, ants and humans commonly cross paths. In fact, ants are arguably the most common insect found in the home. The next time you see these intruders in your home, don’t resort to another can of toxic bug spray. Try some of these ten natural alternatives instead.
Please note: The efficacy of these natural treatments can vary from species to species, but for the most part these approaches should work well on the majority of common household ants.
Prevention is always the best form of pest control. Follow these simple guidelines to keep ants out of your home.
- Keep your home clean, particularly the kitchen, flooring, windowsills and countertops. Without a source of food, 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 food residues (Tip: wipe off all jam, sauce and honey containers, too).
- Never leave food or dirty dishes in the sink.
- Take out the trash regularly, and keep all trash cans clean and sealed.
- Clean up food spills immediately.
- Seal potential entry points—like cracks, crevices and holes—with caulk or another sealant.
Ants use pheromone trails for navigation, communication, and to 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; then, simply wipe down window sills, baseboards, countertops, door frames, and other potential entry points to repel ants. Repeat daily until the issue improves.
Vinegar is an extremely effective natural ant deterrent. It disrupts their pheromone trails and the smell helps prevent 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 and countertops. Repeat daily or as needed. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and multi-surface cleaner—so feel free to use this spray liberally.
Non-toxic Insecticides—Both Indoor and Outdoor
Start by treating your entire lawn with a non-toxic outdoor pesticide like PCO Choice (cedar granules can also be used for additional protection). Then, spray entry points and any ants you see inside with a naturally sourced insecticide, such as Cedarcide Original. Repeat monthly or more as needed.
Sugar and Baking Soda Trap
A simple and natural ant trap can be made by mixing equal parts baking soda and powdered sugar. The sugar attracts the ants, the baking soda naturally kills them.
Using shallow dishes, strategically place this mixture in the areas where you experience the most ant traffic. These traps can also be placed outside, particularly near doors and windows.
Cinnamon & Cinnamon Oil
Not unlike the aforementioned essential oils and vinegar, cinnamon and cinnamon oil work to deter ants by interfering with their pheromone trails. Dispense the cinnamon in whatever form throughout ant problem areas. When used around window sills, baseboards, near doors and alongside countertops, cinnamon helps prevent ants from entering your home.
Like baking soda, cornmeal is a natural ant killer. Broadcast cornmeal near possible ant entry points, including windowsills, doorways, and other locations ants commonly frequent. This method can take some time, but it’s quite effective in the long run.
This is a natural way to attack the ant colony directly. It’s simple: boil a few liters or more of water and then pour it directly onto the ants’ mound (this can be dangerous, so please exercise extreme caution). Adding a water-soluble insecticide, essential oils, or soap to the boiled water will serve to make this method even more effective. You may have to repeat this process two to three times to completely eliminate the colony.
Made from crushed algae fossils, Diatomaceous Earth is a well known natural pesticide. This abrasive material damages the exoskeleton of insects that come into contact with it, eventually killing them. Spread DE throughout ant problem areas and directly on the colony’s mound if possible. Diatomaceous Earth is also one of the most effective methods for combating carpenter ants, who will regularly die from consuming it.
Used much like cinnamon, coffee grounds can be used both inside and outside to repel ants. Sprinkle the grounds along entry points to prevent ants from entering your home, and outside on the ant colony directly. Sometimes blanketing an ant mound with coffee grounds is enough to get the entire colony to relocate.