You may be able to exterminate ants without calling in a professional, though more severe infestations will require a stronger approach. Some ant species, like carpenter ants, can cause structural damage to your house if not treated immediately. Other infestations might be harder to eliminate due to a colony resisting natural and chemical extermination solutions.
How to get rid of ants in your home
Take note of where you’re seeing the ants. They may run along your baseboards, emerge from holes under cabinets, or pop out of cracks in your walls or floors, particularly if your house is older. There may be other exterior entry points to your home, including visible ant colonies in your front or back yard or cracks in your driveway.
The key to getting rid of ants in your home is to take out the colony, and finding the colony is easier when you can identify the type of ant invading your space. Here are some common ants, their differentiating characteristics, and where you might locate their colonies:
- Sugar ants—These ants typically feed on sweet or greasy foods and can be found around your kitchen or places where you store food. Once they find food or water, they’ll distribute it to the rest of their colony. Sugar ants have brownish-black bodies with black heads and their nests are typically found in old wood or dark, moist areas.
- Carpenter ants—Carpenter ants are either black or red and typically ½ inch long. They prefer to build colonies in moist wood, such as tree stumps, around bathtubs, showers, or dishwashers, or behind bathroom tiles. They are most easily identified by their thorax, which is rounded and smooth. Carpenter ants will tunnel in wood, creating smooth channels and leaving behind wood shavings, so if you notice wood shavings concentrated in a specific location, the colony may be close by. If you investigate and find tunnels that are dirty and filled with material, the culprit may be termites.
- Pavement ants—Pavement ants are also black or reddish brown with pale legs and antennae and are typically ⅛ inch long. These ants prefer to nest in soil covered by solid material like rocks or pavement and are often found under driveways, sidewalk slabs, or concrete foundations of houses. Pavement ants are most likely to enter your home through cracks in the wall.
- Moisture ants (yellow ants)—These ants are longer and yellow or reddish brown in color. When crushed, moisture ants give off a citronella scent. They tend to build their colonies against the foundation of homes or outdoors under rocks and logs. As their name suggests, they are attracted to high-moisture areas and are often found in bathrooms.
When you locate the colony—the source of your ant infestation—the next step is to eliminate any pheromone trails made by the ants. Pheromone trails are basic scent trails that ants leave behind for other ants to join them in finding food and water. When you identify the source of the ants, you can eliminate the entire ant colony by getting rid of the existing trail.
Natural remedies for ant infestation
Natural methods are safer for your home environment than traditional chemical solutions—especially in highly trafficked areas or family spaces like the kitchen or playroom. Here’s how to get rid of ants naturally.
- Clean the ant trail—This method is a quick fix against any ant species. Once you find where the ants originate, make sure to clean their trail to prevent future ants from traveling along this route. Mix one part apple cider vinegar with one part water to make a cheap and natural solution to get rid of ants. Spray all of the possible entrance paths and the entire duration of each trail. Wipe up the dead ants and discard them once they’ve been sprayed. To maximize your home remedy, spray in the morning or late afternoon when ants are most active.
- Use peppermint and clove essential oils—Peppermint is another natural remedy that can deter ants from entering your home. Mix 35 drops of peppermint essential oil and 35 drops of clove essential oil with four ounces of water in a spray bottle. Spray window sills, baseboards, or door frames to alleviate an infestation. Shake the bottle before each use. You may have to do this for a few days until the ants are completely gone.
- Place used coffee grounds or baby powder near entrances—Ants are repelled by the strong scents given off by used coffee grounds and baby powder. The acidity of the coffee will burn ants’ bodies, causing them to avoid the coffee ground barriers.
- Lay out cinnamon—Place cinnamon sticks or ground cinnamon anywhere you’ve seen ants. To prevent ants from coming into your home, put the cinnamon by doorways and cracks. This creates a barrier that ants refuse to cross. You can also use a solution made with water and cinnamon essential oil if ground cinnamon does not prove effective.
- Draw chalk lines—Standard chalk used on chalkboards is all you need for this method to work. The powder from chalk works similarly to Diatomaceous earth. Ants won’t cross chalk lines because it interferes with their ability to follow scent trails.
Chemical remedies for ant infestation
Chemical remedies will work effectively, though they can prove harmful children or pets. When using chemical solutions, make sure to read instructions carefully and consult a professional if you are covering a large area.
- Liquid ant baits—If a natural solution like vinegar and water is not strong enough for your ant problem, use an ant bait. Solutions like TERRO contain sodium borate—commonly known as borax—a natural ingredient that has a low level of toxicity for humans, yet is detrimental to ants. Ants will digest this product and carry a lethal dose back to the colony, wiping out the rest of them. Keep ant baits away from food prep areas, children, and pets.
- Bifenthrin insecticides—Bifenthrin comes from chrysanthemum flowers and affects an ant’s nervous system. Ortho’s Home Defense MAX is often recommended to get rid of ants both inside and outside of your home.
- Ant control granules—When granules are placed in direct pathways, ants will absorb the granule and carry it back to the colony. This method works similarly to liquid ant baits. Solutions like AMDRO or TERRO Ant Killer Plus work well against an ant problem.
How to keep ants out of your home
Once ants are in your house, they can become a pesky and recurring nuisance. Now that you’ve learned how to get rid of ants in your home, follow these tips to prevent ants from infesting your home in the future:
- Keep your house clean—By putting food away, cleaning off countertops and floors, and emptying the trash daily, you reduce the risk of ants in your home. Try to regularly vacuum, mop, and wipe down counters, especially in areas of your house where you prepare or store food.
- Be vigilant during the hotter months—Ants are more prevalent in warm and humid conditions than they are in colder temperatures. They tend to appear more often during the summer months than they do in the winter months. Keep your house clean, especially during warmer periods.
- Find possible entry points and seal them off—Spray natural pesticides along the perimeter of your home to prevent ants from coming inside.
- Fix leaks in your house—Ants are attracted to food and water sources. By fixing leaky pipes and cleaning up damp areas around your house, you’ll lessen the chance of allowing ants to find a source of water for the whole colony.
- Kill ants in the yard—If you see nests outdoors, spot-treat the area with an insecticide. Spray in the morning and late afternoon when ants are most active. Insecticides that contain bifenthrin work especially well in dismantling ant mounds and getting rid of most ants.
- Call in a professional exterminator—Some colonies are extremely hard to eliminate despite your best effort. In this case, call in a professional to get the job done. Exterminators have tougher chemicals to get rid of the ants and can save you the time from checking every crack and crevice.