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You may be able to keep ants away with common household products, including white vinegar and certain essential oils. But certain items may not be safe to use around pets.

Where there is one ant visible, there are likely thousands more nearby. This knowledge may not bother you so much when you are picnicking in the great outdoors, but if an ant infestation occurs in your home, you’ll want to solve the problem fast.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, there are more than 12,000 species of ants around the world. The vast majority of these ants are harmless to people.

But ants can carry bacteria, making them potential transmitters of disease or infection. For example, a small 2019 animal study showed that Monomorium ants can carry pathogenic bacteria, which can be dangerous to people. An older 2005 study shared that the pharaoh ant, which is a type of Monomorium ant, may be a cause of bronchial asthma and respiratory allergies.

There are many ways to eliminate ants and their colonies in the home. While professional exterminators may be necessary in some cases, some natural solutions can eradicate the problem without adding chemicals or toxins to your environment.

Here are some of the best ways to kill and repel ants naturally using ingredients found in the home or at a local store.

1. Diatomaceous earth (silicon dioxide)

Diatomaceous earth is a type of silica made of fossilized remains of aquatic organisms called diatoms (a type of plankton).

Diatomaceous earth isn’t a poison. It kills ants and other bugs by absorbing the oils in their skeletons, which dries them out. But since it’s an irritant, avoid breathing in diatomaceous earth or getting it on your skin.

You can purchase food-grade diatomaceous earth online. To use it to kill ants, follow package directions, or sprinkle the powder anywhere you see ants.

2. Glass cleaner and liquid detergent

Ants leave a scented pheromone trail behind when they walk, which acts as a map. This method can remove the scent and deter the ants from reentering your home.

Here is how to do it:

  1. Mix glass cleaning spray with liquid detergent (dish soap) into a clean spray bottle.
  2. Spray the mixture on areas where ants seem to enter from or congregate around.
  3. After spraying, wipe down the area leaving a light residue.
  4. Repeat the above steps as often as needed.

Note: If you do not have glass cleaner available, using soapy water of any kind (i.e., hand soap, dish detergent) likely removes the scent of ant pheromones.

3. Ground black or red pepper

Black or red (cayenne) pepper is a natural ant deterrent, as the insects appear to find the smell irritating.

To use this method, sprinkle pepper around baseboards and behind appliances. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this is a safe way to help keep ants at bay.

4. Peppermint

Peppermint is a natural insect repellent that may effectively deter ants and other bugs, such as mosquitoes.

To use peppermint essential oil as an ant deterrent, complete the following steps:

  1. Mix 10 to 20 drops peppermint essential oil with 2 cups water in a clean plastic spray bottle.
  2. Spray the mixture around the baseboards and windows of your home.
  3. Allow the mixture to dry and repeat as needed.

Like most essential oils, keep peppermint oil out of reach of pets, especially cats, which can become very ill if exposed.

You may be able to find peppermint essential oil at your local grocery chain or health food store.

5. Tea tree oil

Like peppermint oil, tea tree oil can be an effective ant deterrent. To use this method, complete the following steps:

  • Mix 5 to 10 drops tea tree essential oil with 2 cups water in a clean plastic spray bottle.
  • Spray the mixture around the house where you typically see ants. Alternatively, you can saturate cotton balls with the mixture and place them around your home.

Note: If the scent is too strong, try making a mixture of tea tree oil, peppermint oil, and water.

Like most essential oils, keep tea tree oil out of reach of pets.

You can purchase tea tree oil at your local grocery store, health food store, or online.

6. Lemon eucalyptus oil

Oil extracted from the lemon eucalyptus tree is another natural insect repellent. It contains citronella, used in candles to repel mosquitoes and other flying bugs. Anecdotal evidence indicates it may also be effective at repelling ants.

To use, complete the following steps:

  1. Saturate cotton balls with the undiluted lemon eucalyptus essential oil.
  2. Place the cotton balls in areas where you usually see ants in the home.
  3. Replace the cotton balls weekly with freshly saturated cotton balls.

Note: Do not ingest lemon eucalyptus oil. Keep it out of reach of children and pets.

You can likely find lemon eucalyptus oil at your local health food store. It’s also available online.

7. Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)

Despite their similar names, the oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) is different from lemon eucalyptus essential oil. OLE comes from the gum eucalyptus tree, which is native to Australia. It contains a chemical called p- Menthane-3,8-diol (PMD), which is an effective insect repellent.

PMD is classified as a biopesticide by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is considered safe to use.

You can find OLE at your local hardware and gardening store or online.

8. White vinegar

White vinegar, available at all grocery stores, is a cheap and effective way to kill and repel ants. It is also a natural cleaning agent.

Try using a 1-to-1 vinegar/water mixture to clean hard surfaces, including floors and countertops, wherever ants are likely to travel. If you see ants, spray the mixture on them or wipe them up with a paper towel.

Ants can smell the vinegar after it dries, but the scent doesn’t remain long for most people.

9. Boiling water

If you notice ant holes near your home, pour boiling water into them. This method will effectively and immediately kill many of the ants inside. Anthills may appear small, but the ant colonies underneath them are vast.

The boiling water won’t be enough to kill off the entire colony. For this reason, make sure to treat every ant hole you see within your home’s proximity.

10. Cornstarch

Cornstarch, available at grocery stores, can be an effective way to smother many ants at one time.

There are two different ways to employ cornstarch to kill ants:

  1. The first method is to liberally pour cornstarch over the entire group of ants and add water on top. The result will be many dead ants encased in cornstarch which you can then clean up.
  2. The second method is to cover the ants with cornstarch and then vacuum them up, taking care to dispose of the sealed vacuum bag outdoors immediately.

11. Cinnamon leaf essential oil

One 2005 study found that compounds in cinnamon leaf essential oil, including trans-cinnamaldehyde, could be effective at killing and repelling ants, including biting red ants.

  1. Saturate cotton balls with the undiluted cinnamon leaf essential oil.
  2. Place the cotton balls in areas where you typically see ants in the home.
  3. Replace the cotton balls weekly with freshly saturated cotton balls.

Health food stores often carry cinnamon leaf essential oil. You can also find it online.

12. Neem oil

Neem oil is a naturally occurring insecticide extracted from the neem tree, native to India.

Gardeners recommend using neem oil around plants, especially where you see aphids or ants. Ants farm aphids (small sap-sucking insects), so poisoning the aphids with neem oil can take care of both types of pests.

Diluted neem and products containing neem extract have been reported to not work nearly as well as full-strength neem oil.

You can find neem oil at many health food stores or online.

13. Coffee grounds

Brewed coffee grounds have been found to detract ants. Try sprinkling the freshly brewed coffee grounds on disposable surfaces (such as index cards) and leaving them in areas where ants congregate, such as pet bowls.

You can also place the grounds on windowsills. The grounds may lose their potency once they’re dry, so make sure to change often.

14. Boric acid

Boric acid is a type of poison that can kill certain types of worker ants and their queen within 3 weeks of exposure, according to an older 2003 animal study. It does this by eroding the ant’s outer shells and stomachs.

It’s vital to keep boric acid away from pets and children as it can be hazardous.

To use boric acid, follow the steps below:

  1. Put on safety gloves.
  2. Make a solution of 1/2 teaspoon boric acid, 8 teaspoons sugar, and 1 cup warm water.
  3. Stir until the sugar and boric acid are dissolved.
  4. Saturate cotton balls and place them around your home in areas where you usually see ants.
  5. After use, wash containers thoroughly or discard.

Note: You can also use boric acid as an ingredient in do-it-yourself (DIY) ant traps. Mix the powder with something sweet that will attract ants, such as maple syrup or corn syrup. Spread on a flat, disposable surface, like cardboard, and place in areas where you see ants.

Find boric acid at your local hardware and gardening store or online.

15. Borax (sodium tetraborate)

Borax and boric acid are not the same chemical compound despite their similar-sounding name. Both may be equally as effective at killing ants in the home.

It’s imperative to keep borax away from pets and children as it may be harmful.

To use borax, follow these steps:

  1. Put on safety gloves.
  2. Make a solution of 1/2 teaspoon borax, 8 teaspoons sugar, and 1 cup warm water.
  3. Stir until the sugar and borax are dissolved.
  4. Saturate cotton balls and place them around your home in areas where you commonly see ants.
  5. After use, wash containers thoroughly or discard.

Find borax at your local hardware and gardening store or online.

16. Lemons

You can spray or wipe lemon juice to detract ants by removing pheromone trails and masking the scent of food.

In addition, putting lemon rinds in your cupboard may also detract ants from taking up residence in your kitchen.

17. Check your houseplants

Check your houseplants for swarms of ants, which might indicate nests underneath the soil. Discard any plants that appear to be infested.

To stop ants from making homes in your plants, surround the soil with citrus rinds from lemons or oranges.

18. Keep the outdoors outside

Keep your yard clean of debris. Cut off any vines or vegetation that touches or leans onto the exterior walls of your house and windows that can make it easier for ants to enter your home.

19. Cut off sources of food

Ants are attracted to sweet and starchy foods like sugar, honey, and cornmeal. Therefore, one of the best ways to deter ants is to ensure that no food sources are readily available for them to eat.

Keep food tightly sealed in containers or plastic bags. Wash all plates and cooking utensils immediately after eating.

Clean up crumbs from your home every day using a broom or vacuum. Places that may accumulate crumbs include:

  • under and around standing appliances in your kitchen
  • in couch cushions
  • in garbage pails
  • areas of the home where your family eats or prepares food

Pet food can also attract ants. Remove pet bowls as soon as your pet has finished eating. Clean the bowls immediately to eliminate the scent of the food.

20. Eliminate ant entrances

Figuring out how ants are entering your home can help you eliminate an ant infestation and prevent a future one.

Check your home for cracks in the walls and holes near floorboards and radiators. You can seal cracks or treat them with ant repellent. Also, check for rips in window screens that require mending.

How to stop kitchen ants

The kitchen, offering proximity to an ample food supply, is often the place that most often attracts ants and other pests. To discourage ants from being in the kitchen:

  • Clean kitchen surfaces and floors every day.
  • Wash dishes immediately after using them.
  • Rinse pet food bowls after your dog or cat eats.
  • Use natural repellents (see examples above) to detract ants and remove the pheromone scent.
  • Store food properly in sealed containers or bags that lock.

If natural options aren’t enough, you can use pesticides and commercially prepared products to eradicate ants.

Bait traps

Bait traps that contain pesticides in an enclosed form may be preferable for some people over sprays. Bait traps work by attracting ants to them. The ants eat the bait and bring some of it back to their nests, killing off other ants.

Some bait traps contain boric acid or borax. Others contain hydramethylnon, a dangerous chemical compound for children, pets, and growing food, such as tomato plants.

You can find ant traps at many hardware and gardening stores and online. If you are avoiding toxins, it’s a good idea to check the ingredients before you buy.

Commercial repellents

There are also nontoxic commercial repellant sprays that can work on ant control.

Raid is a chemical spray that can be very effective on ants. It’s long-lasting and does contain imiprothrin and cypermethrin, two chemical compounds that shouldn’t be inhaled or ingested.


If all else fails, hiring an exterminator can help. Look for one who’s committed to using the least toxic products possible. Let them know if you have children, pets, or other concerns, such as a respiratory health condition.

Some professional exterminators use green, organic, or eco-friendly words in their titles. If you are concerned about chemicals, ask the exterminator what substances they typically use in ant treatments before you hire them.

Ants are common invaders of homes across the United States and are mostly harmless. They can be hard to get rid of, but it is possible to repel and eradicate ants over time using the natural methods described above. Commercial products are also available to help kill or detract these pests.

Keeping your home clean and removing possible places for ants to enter and hide can prevent future infestations.

If all else fails, professional exterminators can remove ants from your home.