Ants can be a particularly persistent problem in the house, because they leave scent trails for others to follow. Here are some “natural” home remedies you can try the next time you see these little aggravating pests.
A recipe for ant-controlling success? Three parts vinegar and one part water. Spray under doorways, in the yard or even around your picnic blanket. The pungent liquid helps cover up ant scent trails, messing with their tracking abilities. Next time you mop the floor, pour a bit of vinegar into the bucket for good measure.
Borax, a mineral used in many cleaning products, is lethal to ants, interfering with their digestive system. Create a syrupy paste with borax, confectioner’s sugar and water. Put the mixture inside shallow containers with narrow, ant-sized openings and place them near ant mounds or wherever you see ants. Enticed workers carry the sweet substance back to the nest to share with their friends.
Note: Although borax has a low toxicity rate for humans, home expert and CEO of Pest Strategies Ed Spicer recommends keeping borax-laced bait away from children and pets.
To be clear: Pepper doesn’t kill ants, but the strong odor will chase them away. Pour the ground black or cayenne version onto ant scent trails. Or mix pepper and water in a spray bottle and spritz your home’s entry points.
The best spice for getting rid of ants in your kitchen? Cinnamon. Natural and non-toxic, cinnamon not only kills ants, but its strong smell makes it shine as a repellent, too. According to Spicer, Saigon cinnamon can be especially effective when sprinkled around anthills, across their paths, on kitchen countertops and along floorboards. And cinnamon essential oil can effectively repel and exterminate ants, too.
Ants don’t like the smell of fresh mint, so planting it in vegetable patches and flower beds deters ants and other insects while giving your garden a lovely aroma. Minty essential oils from peppermint, wintergreen, geranium, thyme, clove and rosemary work, too!
Cornmeal & Boric Acid
Contrary to popular belief, cornmeal does not kill ants, by exploding them or otherwise. “Ants are pretty keen on cornmeal,” Spicer says, “so spreading too much of it around might worsen your infestation.” You can, however, weaponize cornmeal in your fight against ants by mixing it with boric acid, a cousin to Borax that’s available online and at home improvement stores. Mix nine parts cornmeal with one-part boric acid, adding a generous helping of soybean oil or peanut butter to create a paste. Place the homemade bait near gaps and crevices, anywhere ants are on the march.
Like borax (above), any bait containing boric acid should be kept away from kids and animals.
Stop ants in their tracks. Scatter all-purpose flour liberally at door thresholds, on window sills and across foundations. Or use a sifter to apply a dusting of flour directly along their path to disrupt their pheromone trail.
The natural acids in tangy citrus, such as lemon, orange, lime and grapefruit, work wonders at keeping ants at bay by masking their scent trails — at least temporarily. Squeeze lemons into a spray bottle, or rub a pureed blend of orange peel and water on window sills and doors jambs to discourage the itsy-bitsy insects from crossing over.
Bonus: Toss the leftover rinds in the garden as an organic disincentive.
This popular ant-repelling tactic has been around for years: Sprinkle coffee grounds around the stems of indoor and outdoor plants and flowers. Some say it’s the smell that repels them; others claim ants don’t like the feeling of the grounds under their feet. Either way, it works!
If you can’t beat ’em, divert ’em! Extend a sugar trail from your house to your outdoor compost pile. Ants can feast to their hearts’ content and needn’t darken your door again. (Pat’s note: this seems counterproductive to me, but I’m no expert.)
Ant-Repellent Myth: Baking Soda
You see it all over the internet: Baking soda kills ants by drying them up or exploding them. Not true. According to Spicer, “There’s virtually no scientific evidence that supports the theory that baking soda can kill ants.” Best to save your baking soda for baking.