7 Effective Methods to Get Rid of Ants Naturally

Try these easy home remedies to keep ants at bay

illustration of 10 products that get rid of ants

The Spruce / Katie Kerpel

Ants can quickly invade a home and will continue to show up in large numbers if they find a food source. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to get rid of ants without calling an exterminator.

Here are 7 easy and natural methods for getting rid of ants in your home or yard.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get Rid of Ants?

It's understandable that you'd want to get rid of ants fast, and the internet is in no short supply of all-natural ant control methods. The problem? These solutions aren't backed by results. With natural pest control, speed shouldn't be the primary goal; efficacy should be. Reader expectations are set high when website after website is plastered with claims that vinegar, essential oils, herbs, spices, and other strong-smelling substances will repel ants in your home.

While some homeowners may have success with methods like these, overall they could make your ant problem much worse and waste precious time, energy and money. Natural pest control doesn't always involve spraying solutions or applying homemade concoctions. In fact, sometimes the most effective pest control solutions are also the most simple.

Tip

Depending on what type of ant you're dealing with, repellant products could make your problem much worse. Sugar ants (known to the pros as odorous house ants) are an example of this. Sugar ants are a budding ant, meaning the colony will fracture if repellants are used (even if they're natural repellants). The ant activity you're seeing may die down for a few weeks, but once the new colony (or colonies) are established, the activity can come back worse than ever.

  • 01 of 07

    Clean Up Food Messes

    Red ants eating sugar over messy table

    RHJ / Getty Images

    If ants are able to find a verified food source inside, controlling them and getting them to move back outside could be tricky. Ants have one mission: collect resources, feed the queen, protect the colony. If there are crumbs under your sofa or food residue on your counters (even in your couch cushions), this might be the source of your indoor ant issue. No food source is too small for an ant—even a few crumbs are enough.

    Why this works: If ants are not able to find a verified food source inside your home, they're likely to move on with their day. Their primary interest is collecting food and signaling other ants where to find it, too. By removing potential food sources, you're eliminating an ant buffet!

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  • 02 of 07

    Seal Entry Points

    Ants crawling on baseboards and wall in house

    Cherkas / Getty Images

    There are a number of ways to approach this step. Start by considering where you see ants entering your home, then:

    1. Make sure window screens are hole free and in good, functioning order
    2. Seal cracks around windows and doorframes, as well as cracks in your tile
    3. If ants are a repeated issue inside your home and they come up from behind the baseboards, it may be time to caulk your baseboards to seal out ants (and other pests like spiders!).

    Why this works: If ants can't get it, they won't be able to find food, and if they can't find food, they're not likely to become an established problem inside.

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  • 03 of 07

    Landscape Around Your Home

    Woman cutting off wilted flowers on lilac bush with pruners and gloves

    Valeriy_G / Getty Images

    Make sure that the plants in your yard are well kept and trimmed back, especially up against the house. Plants should be cleared at least 18" around the foundation. Also, make sure that any shrub or tree limbs hanging onto the roofline or along the gutters are trimmed back, too.

    Why this works: Ants are a worldwide problem, and keeping them out of your yard entirely is impossible. The main goal is to keep them outside where they belong, and plants and limbs against the home can become highways for ants hoping to get inside your home to look for food.

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  • 04 of 07

    Keep Pet Food Away

    Dry cat food in white ceramic bowl and scattered pellets on concrete floor

    OlekStock / Getty Images

    Ants love pet food, especially ants like the pavement ant. Pavement ants love greasy, protein-rich foods and will happily feast on your pet's breakfast, lunch or dinner. When your furry friend isn't enjoying their meal, put the food away, keep stray pieces swept up, and don't leave food oustide!

    Why this works: Pet food is a commonly overlooked ant food source. Leaving pet food around for ants can be asking for ant trouble, and if you're leaving it outside (especially at night) you might be attracting other animals, too, like raccoons.

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  • 05 of 07

    Address Moisture Issues

    Water on laminated wood floor in living room

    Nadya So / Getty Images

    Carpenter ants, moisture ants, termites, and other wood-damaging pests look for moisture-damaged wood to nest in. By staying on top of your home's maintenance needs and ensuring that leaks and water damage are repaired quickly, you'll avoid creating an ideal breeding ground for an ant problem.

    Why this works: Leaving an unattended leak to damage the wood in your home is, in a way asking for ant trouble. Moisture-damaged wood can lead to all kinds of problems for your home, including inside ant nests—and that's definitely not something you want to deal with. Address leaks quickly and replace any moisture-damaged wood to protect your home.

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  • 06 of 07

    Vinegar or Essential Oil Based Cleaning Sprays

    person spraying vinegar into a corner

    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija

    While vinegar and essential oils shouldn't be used as repellant products in an ant situation, there is still a place for them in an all-natural ant control plan. This won't work as well if inside numbers are large, but if you're seeing ants here and there inside, spritz them down with your cleaning product and wipe them up with a towel. Easy peasy.

    Why this works: Not only will your cleaning product spot kill the ants you're seeing, but it will also wipe up the pheromone trails the ants leave behind to signal food to their buddies. If they can't invite their friends, they won't want to come back and they'll move on to find other food sources.

    Warning

    Due to its acidity, vinegar is often too harsh for natural stone countertops. If you have granite, marble, quartz, or some other type of stone countertop, use your regular spray cleaner to wipe down your counters instead. It'll still help with the ants by eliminating scent trails.

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  • 07 of 07

    Borax

    person mixing borax and syrup

    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija

    Warning

    Borax may be natural, but it's still toxic. Borax contains boric acid, which is toxic to people, animals, and ants. To protect your loved ones (especially pets and children), make sure to place your borax bait where it can't easily be accessed by anyone but ants.

    To use borax to make ant bait, you'll need to mix it with something that appeals to ants as a food source. This will entice them to eat it. Identification is the first and most important step in pest control. What you use for bait depends on the species of ants you're dealing with:

    • For sugar ants and other sweet-seeking ants: use something sweet like jelly, syrup, or honey
    • For pavement ants and other ants that like protein and grease: use something like peanut butter or Nutella

    Mix together 3/4 teaspoon of borax with about 1/4 cup of the sweet or savory base of your choice. Then, place the mixture where the ants will find it. If you have small kids or pets, be sure to put it out of their reach. It may be natural, but borax is still toxic.

    Why this works: Once consumed, borax is a slow-acting poison. The ants that consume it will be poisoned, but not before leaving scent trails that guide other ants to this new "food source". The hope is to give them a food source so fantastic they feel the need to take it back to the queen. No queen, no eggs, no colony.

    Tip

    Consider making a miniature ant bait station using an old match box. Mix up your bait and place it inside the box, leaving the box cracked open and up on its side, This will allow ants to access the bait easily while containing any mess and making your trap more discreet.

Ultimately, natural and DIY ant control is easier than it sounds. Rather than choosing one natural ant control method, it's best to consider using more than one simultaneously. A multi-faceted plan of attack is what you need to keep ants away from your home for good.

Originally written by
Erin Huffstetler
Erin Huffstetler is a frugal living expert who has been writing for over 10 years about easy ways to save money at home. She's covered money-saving advice and tricks for numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Forbes, among others. She is the owner of "My Frugal Home," a money-saving, frugal living how-to guide.
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  6. Ant Baits: A Least-Toxic Control. University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension.