How to Get Rid of Ants

By: Francisco Guzman  | 
Ants on a pink doughnut
Ants love sweet things so a good bait should have something sweet on it. Artur Debat/Getty Images

For as long as there have been homes, there have been homeowners wondering how to get rid of ants for good. Fortunately, there are a ton of affordable and effective ways to treat all sorts of ant problems. But, you can't truly treat a problem until you fully understand it.


The Anatomy of an Ant Problem

Few things attract ants quite like food. Whether you left crumbs on the kitchen table or forgot to take the trash out, where there's food, there's probably ants.

Ants aren't all bad. They help to clean up dead animals and naturally create topsoil as they burrow into the ground. But they can also pose a danger to you and your home.


There are ant bites, which are more than just a nuisance. Ant bites have been known to trigger allergic reactions, in addition to pain and discomfort. people.

Not all ant bites are created equally. For example, bites from fire ants can lead to difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, nausea and even dizziness [source: Sullivan]. While fire ants pack a big sting, other ants can do a different type of damage.

Carpenter ants, similar to termites, can cause damage to your home's walls, decks, doorframes and other wooden materials. This type creates ant colonies in wooden areas that are moist and starting to decay, and cause structural damage to your home by tunnelling through the wood [source: Copeland Exterminating Services].

All of that is to say that ant problems must be addressed at the first sight of scout ants. Read more to learn how to eliminate ants permanently and reliably.


A Beginner's Guide to DIY Ant Removal

But if you're dealing with an ant infestation, don't worry. Getting rid of them is fast, easy and cheap. Most of our suggestions below use ingredients that are safe to use around babies and pets. Here are some home remedies to quickly and successfully rid your house of ants.

  • White vinegar: Mix a solution of one part white vinegar to one part water or just use straight vinegar [source: Rentokill]. Wipe your counters, tables, appliances and jars with the solution to kill ants and prevent them from returning. Although you won't be able to smell the scent after a while, ants will.
  • Hand soap: Fill a spray bottle with a soapy water solution and spray into holes and crevices that may be the entry point for ants in your home. Soap is an effective remedy for preventing ants from entering your home, because it removes the scent of ant pheromones, which ants use to communicate with each other [source: Durairaj].
  • Lemon juice: Similar to vinegar and hand soap, lemon can remove an ant's scent trail. Mix one part lemon juice with three parts water and spray the solution on entryways or around your home.
  • Baking soda: Mix one part baking soda with one part powdered sugar (ants love sweet things) and place it in an area where you see ants [source: Forney]. Once they eat the baking soda mix, it will react with an acidic material in their stomachs and usually kills them.
  • Cinnamon: You can use two different types of cinnamon to either kill or repel ants. Mix cinnamon essential oil with water to use as a spray on ant trails and around cracks in your home. You can also sprinkle powdered cinnamon around openings, which will suffocate ants when they inhale it.
  • Mint: Ants are not fans of mint, especially peppermint. Mix 10 to 20 drops of peppermint essential oil with 2 cups of water and spray the mixture in places where you find ants. Make sure to keep the mixture away from pets.
  • Black pepper/cayenne pepper: If you find an anthill in or near your home, sprinkle black pepper or cayenne pepper into their nest. The spicy powder will prevent them from coming back but won't kill them.
  • Borax: Although this is not child-friendly, borax is considered a very effective way to kill household ants. That's because borax kills ants slowly so they have time to take the bait back to the colony for other ants to eat [source:]. Sprinkle it in powder form or mix 1.5 tablespoons of borax with a half-cup of sugar and 1.5 cups of warm water. Spray the liquid into ant nests or set it in a small container as bait. (You can also make a paste of borax and honey or corn syrup and set it out). Make sure to keep borax away from babies and young children, because it can cause skin irritations and headaches.


Consumer Grade Ant Solutions

If you've already tried a few DIY solutions without any luck, you can pay a visit to your local hardware store for some consumer grade extermination products. Here are a few

  • Ant traps: Pet and child friendly, ant traps are designed to attract ants using specially formulated ant poison. Place them wherever you notice ants in your home, and watch as they take the bait, transfer it to other workers, and effectively eliminate the entire colony [source: Terminix].
  • Diatomaceous earth: Those looking for an all-natural solution can opt for diatomaceous earth. The popular insect killer is designed to dry out and kill all ants that come into contact with it. Use it to prevent ants from entering your home by creating an exterior barrier [source: NPIC].

If all else fails, you can always call a professional exterminator.