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While ants probably aren’t the most panic-inducing household pests, they’re certainly among the most persistent—and, in many cases, the most numerous. If you’re battling an ant problem, there are a range of ant killers that can help you claim victory.
Some ant killers, like spray pesticides, offer immediate gratification; they can kill insects on contact but don’t necessarily offer long-lasting effects. Others, like ant baits, gels, and some kinds of granules require a bit more patience as ants have to bring enough of the poison back to the colony for you to see results. Of course, it’s also important to note that almost any ant killer will pose a risk if swallowed, so make sure any pesticides are kept away from pets and small children. If you’re afraid little fingers or paws will find these products, or you just want a greener option, there are also eco-friendly options on the market that are safer to use in busy family households.
Below, the best ant killers out there.
When you want a no-fail way to get rid of pesky household ants, reviewers say TERRO T300 Liquid Ant Baits are their go-to solution. Made with Borax and other ingredients, they are pre-filled and easy to use: You simply cut the top off each bait with a pair of scissors and place it in a spot where you’ve seen a lot of ants. The baits come in packs of six, and should be kept away from pets or small children.
It’s important to note that while ant baits are generally very effective, they need time to interfere with an ant’s digestive system; users may even initially see more ants before enough of the bait makes its way back to the colony. The manufacturer says the process can take up to two weeks, and it’s important to make sure they have nothing else to feast on, too. The vast majority of reviewers say these baits drastically reduced or eliminated their ant problem, and they love that there’s no smell or mess to deal with. Some do say that their ants ignored the bait, however, while a few others say the baits kept attracting ants but never actually stopped the onslaught.
"After setting these ant baits out in our kitchen and bathroom, we noticed an almost immediate uptick in ant activity. Don’t worry—that’s what’s supposed to happen. We saw the most visitors in the first few days, and then a steady stream continued for over a week, eventually trickling down in number until no ants were visible by two weeks."—Sarah Vanbuskirk, Product Tester
If you’d rather try to kill ants outdoors before using pesticides inside the house, consider giving TERRO Outdoor Liquid Ant Baits a shot. Like their indoor counterparts, these outdoor baits use Borax as the active ingredient and come pre-filled and ready to use. They should also be kept away from pets and small children.
TERRO Outdoor baits come with small stakes that let users secure them in the ground where they’ve observed ants, preferably close to where they’re entering a home. The baits are also weather-proof, so no need to worry about rain, wind, or other interference. Like other slow-kill methods, these baits don’t provide immediate relief: It could take up to a couple of weeks for most ants to die. As with all baits, a minority of reviewers say they don’t work for their particular ants, and some also complain that the bait containers are flimsy.
"In the past, we have just used the indoor traps, which work well in the short term but don’t provide long-lasting ant relief. However, when used in combination with the TERRO Outdoor Liquid Ant Baits, we noticed a significant absence of ants."—Sarah Vanbuskirk, Product Tester
If you’ve got a wide-ranging ant problem or you’re just not sure where your ants are coming from, spreading some granules like Amdro Ant Block Home Perimeter Ant Bait Granules around your house can help get the problem under control. The active ingredient is hydramethylnon, a chemical pesticide that shouldn’t be used around children, pets, livestock, or gardens where food is grown. The granules kill 15 different ant species, including carpenter and fire ants.
Amdro Ant Block can simply be spread directly from the container, though the granules shouldn’t be used on wet ground, if rain is in the forecast, or if it’s below 50 degrees outside. A 24-ounce container can cover about 1,080 linear feet. Since the granules are bait, Amdro may take up to two weeks to kill the majority of an ant colony. Reviewers love the easy application and lack of smell or residue, but some say ants ignored the granules.
"In my experience, after a day or two, I noticed a drastic decrease in ants inside the home, a respite that I continue to enjoy two months post-treatment. A few weeks in, I did start to see an ant or two, suggesting that the entire colony has not yet collapsed—but the frequency has decreased significantly."—Sarah Vanbuskirk, Product Tester
Ant baits can be an effective solution against ants long-term, but they require some patience. If you don’t have any, or just want the satisfaction of killing ants on contact, it’s hard to go wrong with a classic can of Raid Ant & Roach Killer. The active ingredients are imiprothrin and cypermethrin, two common chemical pesticides. Raid recommends spraying away from people, pets, food, and dishes; washing hands after use; and of course, making sure the product isn’t ingested.
Raid is super-simple to use: Shake the can, hold it upright, and spray it about 18 inches from the surface where you’ve seen insects. It kills on contact, and residual effects can kill bugs as long as four weeks after spraying, Raid says. Users agree that this spray does a great job immediately killing bugs, and they like that the smell is minimal and quick to fade. However, some grouse that the lingering effects are minimal, and nowhere near the four weeks Raid claims, so it might not be the best long-term solution.
If you have a serious ant infestation, it might be time to spend a little more money on a professional-grade solution like Advion Ant Gel. This insecticide is effective on almost all kinds of ants and the active ingredient is Indoxacarb, a chemical pesticide developed by DuPont. Like most pesticides, it should be kept away from children and pets who may try to ingest it, and users should avoid contact with skin, eyes, or clothing.
The gel comes preloaded in an applicator tube, and reviewers say most users won’t need to use the entire tube since the gel is quite strong. As with the TERRO baits, Advion gel should be applied near any ant trails and won’t work immediately – ants need time to swarm the gel and take it back to the colony. Reviewers like that it’s easy to squeeze into cracks where ants come into a house, and they say it won’t drip when applied vertically. They also say there’s minimal smell. However some say it simply didn’t attract their ants, or it attracted more ants but didn’t kill them.
Whether you have a crawling baby or a curious canine, in some households, potentially poisonous insecticides are a no-go. In those cases, a more eco-friendly solution like Orange Guard Home Pest Control is a must. This is a water-based spray that uses orange peel extract to ward off insects including ants, and it’s safe to use around food, kids, and pets.
It’s simple to use Orange Guard: Just spray it on surfaces where you’ve seen ants. Insects are killed on contact and can stay away for up to several weeks (though reviewers are divided on how long—some say they need to reapply every few days). Many users like the citrus scent, but some say they feel it is too strong. Some also warn that it can leave a slightly sticky residue, and while it’s easy enough to wipe up, that might reduce its effectiveness against insects.
If you have a fire ant colony in your yard, it's not just a nuisance, it's potentially dangerous. In order to get rid of it, the best option is to go to the source—the mound itself. This granulated ant killer is applied straight to the mound, which makes the mound itself uninhabitable and kills the ants inside.
In order to truly get rid of your fire ant problem, sprinkle the granules on and around the mound, then lightly mist the area with water. It's important not to disturb the colony as you do this to avoid getting bitten or having a few ants escape. Within 15 minutes, the colony, including the queen, will be dead.
Type Different species of ants are attracted to different things — namely sugar or grease. To determine what type of ants you have and what kind of ant killer you need, place both items in a room and see where the ants go. If they’re attracted to the sweet stuff, pick an ant killer suitable for sugar ants; If the ants are attracted to grime, pick one suitable for grease ants.
Indoor vs. outdoor Many ant killers can be used both inside and outdoors. Always check the label, though — some stronger ant killers may be too potent for indoor use while some household products may not hold up to the elements outside.
Safety If you have pets or young children, opt for ant traps because they’re more contained than sprays and granules.