Ants are frustrating little critters that can perpetrate some not-so-little damage. They get in from every tiny nook and cranny to find food in your home. Though not all ants are harmful, fire ants can sting, and carpenter ants can do structural damage to wood and other building materials. Non-harmful species that you typically find in the home include odorous, pharaoh, and Argentine ants.
When infestations become apparent, many people head straight for chemicals to kill off the annoying insects. Using harmful sprays and bug bombs are hazardous and should only be used by professionals. Albeit, hiring someone to do the job can quickly add up to an expensive bill. Before you dial an exterminator, try these five ways to get rid of ants naturally.
1. Essential Oils
Among the many incredible uses for essential oils, distracting ants is an important benefit that is often overlooked. Ants live in colonies and depend on smelling each other’s scents to find a trail. Using essential oil helps by covering the scent and throwing them off track.
To use essential oil as an ant distracter, put a few drops on a cotton ball and rub it around baseboards, entryways, and the backs of counters where the ants are seen. Here are a few that work especially well because of their pungency:
- Tea Tree Oil
- Clove Oil
- Peppermint Oil
2. Citrus Spray
Like essential oils, the strong smell of citrus will deter ants away from their conga line for food. This also works because the oils in citrus peels contain d-limonene, which is poisonous to ants. Lemon, orange, and grapefruit are the most effective.
Check out this recipe from MommyPotamus for a citrus peel “Ant Away Spray.” To use the spray, simply mix the ingredients in a clean bottle and spray around entryways and baseboards. The blogger advises swapping the tea tree oil for peppermint if you plan to use it on surfaces that come in contact with food.
3. Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth
This is an effective and safe alternative to using toxic borax, especially if you have pets or children around. Diatomaceous earth is made up of fossilized remains from aquatic organisms called diatoms. These tiny plankton have skeletons that are made of silica.
Silica has amazing health benefits for humans and is totally safe for mammals. For ants, however, silica is fatal. The exfoliating particles in the powdery substance remove the exoskeleton from bugs upon contact. The critters then dry out and die.
To use, sprinkle the powder anywhere that you see ants. Be sure to purchase food grade diatomaceous earth so you can rest easy if you catch your pet licking up some remains. Filter grade versions are not safe for consumption or inhalation.
Like essential oils, vinegar is another distraction method used to disorient ants from their food trail. Ants release pheromones when they walk to communicate with the rest of the herd. This is why you see a long line of them going back and forth between the same spots.
Strong, irritating smells like spicy essential oils and vinegar overpower their pheromone traces, so they lose track of where to go. This is especially useful if you can track the ants back to their ant hill. Spray a mix of half vinegar and half water along their entry line to deter them from coming back in.
5. Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap
For a quick fix that you don’t have to make yourself, buy some of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap. Castile soap is an old-time remedy that also washes away the scent trail that ants use to find their way back to a sweet spot. Dr. Bronner’s formula contains peppermint essential oils, making it even more effective.
To prevent ants from coming back, study the areas in and around your home that they favor. Popular spots include trash cans, pet food bowls, fruit bowls, plant pots, and pantry shelves. Wash them thoroughly with your minty soap to remove any pheromones that the critters have left behind for their colony. This will also help by removing any food particles or sticky temptations that ants feast on.
When to Seek a Professional
Large numbers of ants can get in tiny crevices all over any building. They can fill walls and potentially cause damage. If there are multiple colonies, or if you have cracks in the walls and foundation of your home, they will soon communicate with one another and come marching.
If you’ve tried every natural remedy on the market to no avail, it’s probably time to consult the experts. While these options are effective for just a few ants coming through your main entryways and windows, or if you have seemingly found an ant hill, you’ll need to hire an exterminator to eliminate these large infestations.