In this article I’ll show you 11 house hold products you can use to deter and kill specifically ants. All the examples will work just as well indoors and outdoors.
Not only that, I’ll give you a totally free downloadable info graphic at the end that will highlight the information in the article in graphical form so you can use it as a quick reference when needed.
For each house hold product, you’ll learn:
- Why this product is effective on ants
- Where you can purchase it if you don’t have it already
- How to set up an effective DIY trap for both indoors and outdoors
But for those in a rush, I’ve surmised the main points for each of the 11 products in the table below.
That being said, I recommend reading the entire article as I’ll show you exactly how to setup the traps in more detail (no one else does this) and what pitfalls and gotchas to avoid.
|Product||Why It Works||Trap Options|
|Peppermint or |
|strong smell |
|Cayenne Pepper||similar to peppermint|
strong smell repelent
|Coffee Grounds|| similar to peppermint|
strong smell repelent
|Barrier type trap|
|Salt||dehydrating agent||sprinkled around|
area or mixture with
|Boiling Water||pretty obvious 🙂||best poured near source|
|Dish Soap||Soap blocks ants|
ability to function
| best poured near source|
|Talcum Powder||dehydrating agent||Barrier type trap|
|Chalk||dehydrating agent||Barrier type trap|
|Strong smells – citrus, |
copper, garlic, oils
| strong smell |
|Boric Acid||extremely effective||Best mixed with bait|
So, you have an ant infestation in your home. Those pesky critters are all over the place.
Lines after lines, trailing up and down your sideboards, under your kitchen sink, coming in through door and window cracks. Some of those suckers can bite. What do you do?
Before you panic and call an exterminator, or use some really foul-smelling toxic stuff, consider a couple of options. First, clean your house. Make sure that food is not lying around the kitchen, dining area, garbage pails, behind or around appliances or anywhere else.
All food should be kept in sealed containers. Pet food bowls should be cleaned regularly. If you have damp, moldy spots within the house, air them out – they will attract all kinds of pests. Houseplant pots are another place where ants can nest.
Once you have noticed where the ant problem may have started, try and spot the routes that the ants are taking. Ants have a strong sense of smell, they spread pheromones along their route which other ants follow to food sources and back to their nests.
Check windowsills, doorjambs, backboards – those may be places where the ants come in from outdoors.
Once you have a plan of attack, consider using a few DIY tricks using common objects you probably have lying around the house. Some of these are effective ant repellents, others can actually kill them.
Sometimes, a repellent can be used in conjunction with a deadly killer. Make your pick based on how bad the situation is. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
1. Peppermint or Peppermint Oil
Ants hate the strong smell of peppermint, it’s a natural insect repellent that kills their pheromone trails. Best way to utilize this remedy is to use 10-20 drops of peppermint essential oil in 2 cups of water, spray the mixture around the windowsills, doors and backboards or wherever you see ant routes.
One of the major advantages of peppermint oil is that its non-toxic and safe, unless you decide to mix it in with something toxic, such as tea tree oil. If you take the latter route, you should be careful to keep it away from pets.
Lavender oil has a similar effect in terms of being an insect repellent.
Does Baking Soda Work?
Baking soda is sometimes mixed in with peppermint oil (and perhaps an ant-killing oil). While baking soda is a great way to clean all the surfaces of your kitchen, windowsills etc., there is not much scientific evidence to support that it actually kills ants.
2. Cayenne Pepper
Just like peppermint, the strong smell of pepper (especially cayenne pepper) will repel ants strongly if you can douse their trails and routes. Cayenne pepper can be sprinkled behind backboards and appliances esp. for effective ant control.
Use caution not to use too much in exposed areas, since pets sniffing or licking up pepper may have adverse reactions. However, it’s totally safe health wise, just an irritant.
3. Coffee Grounds
Like Cayenne pepper or peppermint oil, coffee powder or used coffee grounds have a strong scent which completely overwhelms their senses of smell and obliterates their pheromone trails.
The best way to utilize coffee grounds is to create a circle or barrier, which creates both a physical and a scent obliteration problem for ants. Surround their nests or create a barrier around areas and boundaries in your house which you want the ants to stay away from.
Coffee grounds are mostly harmless but take care to keep away from areas where pests may ingest them in large quantities since they could experience gastrointestinal distress.
Table salt has been posited as something that penetrates the ants’ exoskeleton and corrodes their innards. Salt is also a dehydrating agent which sucks moisture out of its environment, which will not be pleasant for ants doused in salt.
Dry salt can also be sprinkled in areas where you find ants. The best way to administer table salt is by mixing a heavy 60%+ concentration of table salt in boiling water till it dissolves, then pour the saline solution in ant nests, or where ants are known to congregate.
One great advantage of table salt is that it’s totally harmless to humans and pests. Be sure to use normal salt, not rock salt any of the other types used to enhance flavor. Another remedy that is suggested is to use Epsom salt.
Here only a cup of Epsom salt should be mixed in with 5 gallons of water to create a spraying solution, which can then be used the same way as a saline solution.
In any of these cases, salt may need to be re-administered every few days till the ant infestation abates.
5. Boiling Water
Boiling water is effective if you can discover ant nests. While the surface opening may be small, there is usually a vast nest with thousands of ants in the colony under the ground.
Flooding the nests with boiling water will get rid of most of that particular colony of ants. Be cautious about its use though, don’t scald yourself or small children and pets.
Also, pouring boiling water at the base of houseplants (should you discover a nest there) will kill your plants along with the ants, so be careful about doing that – other methods may be called for. Boiling water may be most effective to get rid of outdoor nests.
6. Dish Soap
Common dish soap or detergent, mixed in with water (and perhaps another toxic agent like vinegar, mentioned below) will kill ants if administered.
Ants have a natural water-repellent mechanism, but dish soaps create a foam that disrupts the “stickiness” of water. So, when soapy water gets into the capillaries of ants, it prevents them from breathing and simultaneously desiccates them.
The soapy water can be made exactly the way you would create a soap or detergent solution (no special proportion is necessary but put in enough soap to make the water feel “greasy” on your fingers) and then spray around areas you find ants.
Soapy water is effective for a while even when dry, since ants will ingest the flakes and face problems later when they come in contact with water.
Dish soap should not be ingested in large quantities but is otherwise safe for children and pets. Windex also works in this regard, though it is less safe to use liberally.
A 50-50 mixture of white vinegar and water is effective at both repelling and killing ants. The main component of vinegar is acetic acid. While it’s too weak to cause any harm to humans or pets, the quantities present are sufficient to corrode the insides of small pests such as ants.
Use it to clean up surfaces, backboards, kitchen counters and ant routes. One advantage of vinegar is that ants can smell it long after its dried and humans cannot detect the smell. If you see ants, wiping them directly with vinegar will also work. The other reason to use vinegar that its totally safe for humans and pets.
Will White Wine Work?
While white wine has some of the same properties of vinegar (in terms of being acidic), its probably better to use white vinegar solutions to tackle your ant problems.
8. Talcum Powder
Talcum powder, such as baby powder, is an extremely effective way to repel and kill ants. Talcum powder is an intense desiccating agent – that’s why we use it in diapers, for example.
That works to suffocate ants who breathe in through their exoskeletons, it clogs up the pores and dehydrates their insides.
The best way to administer talcum powder is to create a � inch to 2 inches wide line around areas where you spot ants or around food areas. The ants will not cross the line (talcum powder also has a smell unpleasant to ants) and if they do, they will die.
Talcum powder is generally safe to use, except if pets ingest in large quantities.
Chalk works in ways similar to talcum powder, though a tiny bit differently. Chalk has a strong smell produced by its main ingredient, calcium carbonate, that nullifies the ants’ abilities to trace where others have gone. Chalk does also have a desiccating effect that can smother ants and cause them to die – but the repellent factor is probably more important.
Chalk should be easy to administer. You can sprinkle it around areas that ants are frequenting, as well as backboards, windowsills and doorjambs, plus entryways to your house.
You can also simply draw lines of chalk around those areas – many households have boardwalk chalk lying around, especially if there are small children.
Chalk is safe to use, though it’s probably not good for your pet to ingest large quantities of it.
10. Citrus Rinds, Citrus Essential Oils, Garlic, Bay Leaves, Copper Sulphate
Strong smells, such as from citrus rinds, garlic, clove and bay leaves will help keep ants away, but at least three of these are deadly toxins to ants.
Citrus contains d-limonene, which is toxic to ants and also wipes away traces of their scents. Clove oil contains eugenol, which is a powerful toxin. Bay leaves are also toxic to ants.
The methods of administering the remedies vary. Cloves, garlic or citrus rinds can be chopped and left in areas where ants are spotted and along essential entry and exit routes. Bay leaves ground into powder can be sprinkled around ant nests and/or along common routes.
For best use with citrus essential oils or clove oil, create a solution. A powerful citrus solution can be made with 2 parts peppermint oil, 1-part citrus oil in water – for example, 15 drops of peppermint oil and 7-8 drops of lemon oil in 2 cups of water.
A clove oil solution can be made with 5-10 drops each of clove oil and peppermint oil in 2 cups of water. Once the solution is prepared, you can spray it around backboards, windowsills, doorjambs, storage areas and behind appliances.
Alternatively, you can soak cotton balls in the solution, allow them to dry and place them close to areas of ant infestation. These form potent toxins to kill ants.
Copper sulphate is also known to be a strong deterrent, especially when mixed in with lemon and water, with 5-6 drops of peppermint oil. This can either be used in spray form or used to soak cotton balls and put out near ant routes and next.
Most of these remedies are natural substances that are not toxic or harmful to human beings or pets, with the possible exception of the copper sulphate solution.
11. Boric Acid – Possibly the #1 DIY Home Remedy
Boric acid, with perhaps borax powder spread around ant routes, is a powerful antidote that will kill ants by corroding their stomachs and outer shells – usually within three weeks of the ants carrying it back to their colonies.
To attract ants, boric acid can be mixed with sugar and warm water. Be cautious to wear gloves when handling boric acid.
The resultant solution should not necessarily be sprayed, since its toxic and harmful to pets and children. Instead, soak cotton balls, wait till they dry and place them at strategic locations, including windowsills and doorjambs.
You can also place the mixture in small open containers, such as bottle caps, and place them where ants will find them. Clean such containers thoroughly after use or discard them in places where household pets or children will not come across them.
Incidently we have an entire article dedicated to setting up borax powder traps. It’s focused on cockroaches but will work just fine for ants too. Check it out here:
Does Cereal Work?
Cereal has food value and sugars, qualities that will attract an ant. However, cereal cannot repel or kill ants. The best way to utilize cereal as part of a DIY kit is to use it instead of sugar when you put in a toxic substance that will kill ants.
For example, you can mix cereal paste with boric acid. Be very careful, though, that small children or pets don’t mistakenly ingest the sugary treat – otherwise they will suffer grievous harm.
As promised, here’s the link to the free ant diy trap guide – click here.
In Conclusion …
The home remedies outlined above are easy to use and for the most part use materials that are lying around the house. They are also not harmful to humans or pets, with a few exceptions such as boric acid.
All in all, they may be better for you, your family and the environment if your home can be kept free of ants with such simple DIY tools. So try them out before you go in for more heavy duty solutions.
If you want to learn more about various insects, then checkout our site categories, we have a bunch of articles there that are totally worth reading:
That’s it for this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it and if you think it might be useful for someone else then please share it on social media, email or your own website! It really encourages us to write more content and grow the site!
All the best
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