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How-To: Getting Rid of Household Ants

There's nothing stylish or healthy about having ants marching through your home. But, unfortunately, when the weather warms up, those cold blooded little bodies have a habit of coming to your kitchen to search for food and water to bring back to their queen and growing nest. They tell their fellows in the colony where they're headed by leaving a chemical trail behind, so you may have encountered a swarm infesting your home, rather than just a straggler. Not fun. There are several important tricks to telling the little guys to stay where they belong, outdoors. To hear them,


Indoor Steps

  • Follow their trail to find the food they're after, and clean it up!
  • Then, follow their trail to the hole they used to enter your home, and plug it up!
  • Vacuum up the little dudes on the trail and any stragglers around the house.
  • Then, wash the sites of chemical trails with either soapy water or a solution of vinegar and water. Any new ants coming in will be lost, since they'll have no trail to follow.
  • If the ants return, and you feel the need to use an insecticide, try an organic, nontoxic one first. Bugs'R'Done is one option, which is made of pure orange peel oil, or you can make up your own slurry of orange peel and water. You can also place a bit of Cream of Wheat near the ant nest or on their trail, which when eaten will cause the ants to swell up and poof.
  • If a nontoxic insecticide doesn't work, try an enclosed bait trap with boric acid or abamectin on the label, and make sure the ants are taking the bait (i.e. bringing the "food" back to the queen). These enclosed traps are less toxic to humans and tamper proof (safe for children/pets).
  • In general, don't leave food out and make sure your doors, windows, and walls are properly sealed, so the ants have no reason or way to enter.

Outdoor Steps

  • Plant and tree branches and leaves that touch the house are "ant highways," so trim them!
  • Mulch, wood piles and other debris often house ant nests, so keep them away from the house.
  • If you have no luck locating the colony indoors, pouring hot soapy water on the colony outside will serve as a deterrent.
  • Don't spray a mound or colony; it'll only kill the ones on the top and could cause them to break up and start more colonies. Just use the hot water.
  • Don't sprinkle or spray pesticides around the outside of your home; it may kill other insects or animals, and it's not a good choice for environmental or health reasons.

Most of these tips were compiled from an article by Penn State's College of Agricultural Science, which you can read here.

Around The Web
Join The Conversation
shopsmycardio shopsmycardio 8 years
fantastic - i so needed this! though i have to admit that the thought of ants exploding after eating the cream of wheat gives me a combo of the giggles and the heebiejeebies ;)
emalove emalove 8 years
I had a bad experience with ants when I was a little girl (don't ask), so I REALLY have a strong aversion to them. We had ants in my old apartment during the summertime and I would FREAK out. Thankfully, this isn't an issue for me now in my current home...I couldn't deal.
sfbutterfly24 sfbutterfly24 8 years
I am ok with ants outside of my home BUT one year I cleaned my entire house with a vingear solution and thet STILL came back. My family made me leave the house for awhile because I was going crazy trying to get rid of them!!
apeacefulife apeacefulife 8 years
I've found that salt and shot glasses of vinegar on my window seal is actually working to keep them away.
luvhouse07 luvhouse07 8 years
I have an irrational fear of ants to the point where I will faint upon seeing them in my home... I have to be very careful about food storage.
KatiReilly KatiReilly 8 years
I've heard you can put cornmeal on the ant mound and it'll do the same thing as cream of wheat. The ants eat it, then can't digest it so they die!
bizzybee bizzybee 8 years
Sometimes placing the cat food bowl inside a larger bowl of water will deter the ants from getting to the food. Essentially they drown as they try to cross "the moat" surrounding the food bowl. Be vigilant about washing the ant trails and this should calm down their attack.
raieven raieven 8 years
Our building has a massive ant problem. There are numerous cracks and crevices where they can enter from (like before we moved in the landlord pulled up the carpets so there is a 1/2 inch gap everywhere between wall and floor), we put down ant stakes and I sprinkle cinnamon. Its really annoying. We have no way of knowing where their nest is.
msjean msjean 8 years
thanks for the tips, i just had a recent infestation. already had pest control do an outdoor spray, but i know what (eco) intermediate steps to take if it happens again!
krazykarot krazykarot 8 years
same problem here foxie, for the most part all our people food is well hidden in proper containers, but there's nothing to do about the cat food! Everything we seem to try just doesn't work.
foxie foxie 8 years
They found my cats' food.
foxie foxie 8 years
They found my cats' food.
Hanna1117 Hanna1117 8 years
Perfect timing! I found 4 ants in my kitchen last night, and I'm sure there are more!
mo_ri_ah mo_ri_ah 8 years
I had major issues in the winter, but nothing since.. I hope they don't come back. :( It's a nightmare!
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
I keep having random beetles in my home...
Cocoangel Cocoangel 8 years
The cream of wheat trick is genius!
ALSW ALSW 8 years
ALSW ALSW 8 years
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