I take pride in my advanced detective skills. They can be applied to almost anything – figuring out who ate a sticky snack on the couch, busting the person who wore muddy shoes into the house, and more importantly, identifying the entry point of an army of ants invading our house.

Get Rid of Ants Naturally

Learn how to get rid of ants naturally

Having ants everywhere outdoors doesn’t bother me – it’s when I see them trailing along my kitchen countertops that I spring into action. For the past two spring/summer seasons we have successfully rid our house of two different types of ants, and decided it was time to show you how to get rid of ants naturally!

Identifying ants

When you’re dealing with ants in your house, detective work is an integral part of eradicating them, but there’s actually much more to it. Finding the most effective treatment for ants depends on the specific type you have invading your house. Each species has different behaviors, preferences in food, and remedies that will be effective in keeping them out of your home.

Some ants are specific to region, so we only have experience dealing with certain types. In this article we’ll cover remedies for odorous house ants and carpenter ants. (Continue reading to the end of the article for tips that may work on other species.)

If you need help identifying, find images here or here.

Odorous House Ants

This type of ant is attracted to sweets, and are commonly found in the kitchen.

Odorous house ants will leave a chemical pheromone trail wherever they travel. If you kill them, other ants will simply follow the trail and show up in the same places. For this reason, the entire colony must be killed.

When you see the first few ants, you can sponge them (and the surrounding area) with soapy water to eliminate the pheromone trail. Immediately work to figure out where they’re getting into your house, and begin placing homemade ant bait at the entry points.

Homemade bait for house ants

Borax will kill odorous house ants, and powdered sugar will attract them. Make a homemade bait by thoroughly mixing one part borax with 3 parts powdered sugar. Fill tiny containers (such as bottle caps) with this homemade bait and place them as close to the place where you suspect ants are entering your house. If you see trails of ants, place small containers of the mixture directly in their path. This prevents most of them from traveling all around your house if they have easy access to this sugary treat.

(Have pets or kids who might get into this powdery mixture? Try this instead: mix one cup warm water with ½ cup sugar and 3 tablespoons borax. Soak it up with cotton balls and place them in shallow dishes near ant trails.)

Resist the urge to kill all the ants you see. They will carry the bait back to the nest, unable to differentiate between the borax and sugar, and the borax particles will eventually kill the entire colony. The more ants that are allowed to find the bait and carry it back, the faster the colony will die off.

More tips for house ants

Spray vinegar near baseboards, in any cracks, and on countertops where they may be traveling. You can allow vinegar to dry on surfaces or wipe with a clean cloth – this eliminates their chemical trail and will deter some of the stragglers. Repeat several times a day. (find white vinegar here)

Practicing good sanitation practices is one of the best ways to make your home less attractive to ants. Keep spills, crumbs, and garbage cleaned up in the kitchen. Make sure all food – especially anything sweet – is stored in tightly sealed containers or zip-top bags. They will get into things like jars of honey that have drips on the side or around the lid, so sealing the jar in a zip-top bag will protect it.

Even if you’re using a natural ant bait, if there is a more desirable snack, like spilled soda or cookie crumbs, they will choose that over bait.

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are commonly found around homes in wooded areas. They don’t carry bait back to their nests, so you have to kill them at the source. This means you have to do a little detective work to find the nest(s). Don’t bother using the borax/sugar bait – they’ll just feed on it like little piggies at a trough.

They will typically live outdoors very close to the house, and eventually enter your house in search of food and water.

How to find the nest

Carpenter ants live in wood and tunnel through it. The best clue to look for is small piles of very fine sawdust – the remains of the wood they have chewed through. You will typically find carpenter ant nests in moist wood in foundations, decks, wood piles near your house, trees, gaps between boards, etc.

If you take some time to figure out where ants are entering the house, you can usually track them back to a nest. It’s easiest if you kill all the ants in sight, then watch for new ants to appear to determine their general entry point. This may give clues to holes that need to be sealed up, rotting foundation where they’re living, or cracks under doors they’re traveling under.

Natural carpenter ant remedy

The best natural remedy we have found for eradicating carpenter ants is Diatomaceous Earth (DE). DE is completely natural and organic. It is made from tiny skeletal remains of algae-like plants.

DE is a lethal dust for insects. Its microscopic razor sharp edges will cut through the body of insects, drying them out and killing them. If ingested by carpenter ants, it will shred their insides. There are different types of DE, so keep in mind you must get food grade DE for pest control. (You do not want the DE that is sold for swimming pools – it has a different make-up.)

Food grade DE is completely safe to be used around kids and pets and can be sprinkled around the home and yard without posing a threat. Find food grade Diatomaceous Earth here.

In order to get rid of a colony of carpenter ants, DE must be injected directly into the nest. We used a medicine dropper to squirt dry DE into cracks where we found them nesting. You can also use a gadget like this to spray it into cracks or holes. DE must be reapplied after it rains.

The best advice I can give to get the most out of your DE treatments is to stay on top of it! This pesky ant species may relocate their nests and find new ways into your house. If you see a resurgence, put your detective hat back on and find that nest.

Other Tips for Getting Rid of Ants

Here are some remedies DIY Natural readers (thanks y’all!) have used to treat ant problems:

  • Some ants like protein and grease. Mix a spoonful of peanut butter with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of borax. Using a plastic straw, tap the end into the mixture repeatedly until the straw is full of the mixture. Cut the straw into ½ inch pieces and place them next to ant trails.
  • Put a few drops of peppermint essential oil on a cotton ball and place in areas ants are crawling around. (find 100% pure essential oils here)
  • Sprinkle cinnamon (being careful not to get it on things that will stain) near entry points.
  • Some ants dislike baby powder. Sprinkle around perimeter of house or indoors where ants are entering your house.
  • Rub a little Vaseline near the areas they are entering the house.

Do you have other remedies for ants not mentioned here? Share them in the comments below!

(photo credit to Diane Jabs)


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  1. Liz says

    Hi, I use cornmeal. It is safe for pets and children, I just sprinkle it on ant hills or on the kitchen counter, and in a couple of days, no more ants. The ants cannot digest the cornmeal and die.

  2. Rebecca speeding says

    Thanks for this! Do you have any advice for getting rid of fleas naturally please? Thanks

    • Kelly says

      Diatomaceous Earth (DE). DE is completely natural and organic. It is made from tiny skeletal remains of algae-like plants.

      DE is a lethal dust for insects. Its microscopic razor sharp edges will cut through the body of insects, drying them out and killing them. If ingested by carpenter ants, it will shred their insides. There are different types of DE, so keep in mind you must get food grade DE for pest control. (You do not want the DE that is sold for swimming pools – it has a different make-up.)

      Food grade DE is completely safe to be used around kids and pets and can be sprinkled around the home and yard without posing a threat. Find food grade Diatomaceous Earth here… http://www.diynatural.com/go/amazon.php?asin=B003QJ8CSE

  3. Shelia says

    Gold bond medicated powder works really well too. The generic is just as good as the brand name.

  4. Gina says

    We use fresh garlic to re locate them. It took a lot and we had to refresh it ut I didn’t end up killing them as I am a bit soppy. Lol.

    • Nicole says

      I’d like to know more about this method as I don’t like to kill anything either! Cleaning my kitchen with straight vinegar has worked well so far. Also stuffing fresh mint leaves in the cracks where I find them coming in!

  5. Abigail says

    Use plain white chalk around any place that might be an entry point. i have done little experiments with this, and they will not cross over that chalk line.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Come to think of it, I have heard that one too! So cool…I’ll have to dig around and see if I have any chalk to experiment with. :)

  6. Jess O. says

    Great timing again! We have had a ton of rain lately and now the ants are going crazy in my kitchen. I’ve tried several different things with little success, I’m hoping this will be the winner!

  7. Terri says

    Great remedies! I’ll share with friends.
    What about Crazy Ants? I just learned about them. My sister who lives in Texas says they have them really bad out there. Crazy ants come from South America. They do not bite, but they destroy electronics; ie computers and iphones, etc. and cause transformers to blow. A quick google search “crazy ant invasion” will show all major news sources reports on them. Does anyone know anything that might kill or control them?

  8. says

    Thanks for this! I have found whole cloves to be excellent for getting rid of ants. I’ve placed them outdoors around the foundation, inside of cabinets and sprinkled in areas where ants have been or may try to enter. It worked even better than vinegar!

    • Susi Matthews says

      I killed fire ant hills by pouring lamp oil down it and dropping a match. Stand back, though, ’cause they come pouring out of there like it’s Armageddon. Because it is. You just don’t want to be in their path. And it’s not earth friendly: I was just really angry and well, taking out my aggression which is not good but hey, I’m a redhead and was going through a divorce.

      What does work and is natural is spinosad:

      • Ginger says

        What are the measurements your sister uses. We are inundated with fire ants in Texas.

        • Betsy Jabs says

          I think she just sprinkled baking soda on them and poured vinegar over top. Don’t mix the two ingredients beforehand…just arm yourself with a box of soda and a jug of vinegar. :)

    • Deb says

      My daughter had about 6 mounds in her backyard. I had just heard the idea of using a shovel to put some of the ants from one mound onto another mound. I tried it and it worked! A couple of days later they were all gone.

    • Dallas Williams says

      Grits poured on the fire ant mound will get rid of them. They eat the grits and carry them into the nest as well for others to eat. It kills them for sure and is much cheaper and safer for animals than the “fire ant killer’ sold at the big box stores.
      One word of caution, don’t disturb the nest since they will just move and reappear elsewhere in the yard. The nest on these pest can be as much as four feet under the ground and the pile as high as a foot or more.

  9. Susi Matthews says

    Yes, talcum powder. Plain ‘ol baby powder; just make sure it has actual talc in it. It’s more than simply disliking it, they carry it back to the next and it stops the eggs from opening. And ants crossing it stop to clean themselves to death; it clogs their antennae.

  10. amber says

    I don’t know if it kills them, but I have found cayenne pepper will deter them. Just sprinkle it where the entry point is (inside & outside). If you clean, it naturally will disappear so just do it again. I have a two year old & a one year old (with a puppy) they appear to be fine around it. I’m just waiting for one of them to decide they want to try it like candy. I just need to find a deterrent for little black beetles.

  11. Terry says

    Thanks soooo much for stating the difference in diotomaceous earths. One being food grade and the other for swimming pools. On another website I looked at months ago, it did not say anything about a difference. I went to a local swimming pool place and asked the gentleman for diotomaceous earth. He had the smarts to ask me what I was going to use it for. When I told him it was for insect control he told me the type he sells would be very bad for that application as it is highly toxic to children and pets. I was very relieved he had told me the difference. How dangerous that could have been! Great job, Betsy!

  12. Karen says

    Our food grade DE arrives today. We recently moved to the Mojave Desert area in Cali and there are more friggin ants here then back in TX! Every size and shape! White vinegar and instant grits used to do the job back in TX. Never had problems. Here, they laugh at it. I was using peppermint oil all around the inside and outside of the house, daily mind you! I ran out so while I ordered, I used some lemongrass oil. Big mistake! It actually attracted them in droves! I totally wigged out! I did full force 4 Thieves cleaner all over and that helped big time. I was spraying it every 30 minutes, that’s how bad it was. The peppermint oil finally arrived and it’s been keeping them at bay. The DE arrives today. Now, my Mr has treated both the front and back yards with Amdro. Once again, in TX, worked great. Here, meh. So I got online and the DE arrives today. None of the neighbors are into treating their yards and that is where all these creepy crawlers are coming from. So he is lining the entire perimeter of the yard, house, greenhouse (they’ve attacked that!) and the garage. We can’t get to their nests so this is what we have to do. Maybe I’m freaking out too much but I don’t want to walk outside in boots all the time. I’d like to wear flip flops and not get bit. So that’s my story.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Yikes Karen! That sounds awful! I suppose we’re blessed to only have a few colonies of carpenter ants and odorous house ants around here…lol. I hope for your sanity’s sake (and for the sake of flip-flop wearing) that you get rid of those suckers with the DE! Good luck!

  13. PhoenixPJS says

    Something else to look for when preventing ants: water! I replaced a dishwasher recently and discovered the previous installation had a small leak. We cleaned up the dampness and replaced the dripping hose. Two days later I was telling my dad about how all of a sudden the ants were just gone. He told me that while they will go after sugars and such, what generally attracts those small ants into the home is moisture. Who knew!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Yeah, great point. Some species will come looking for food AND water in your house, and others (like carpenter ants) actually like to nest in moist places. Thanks for bringing this up!

  14. Deb says

    Aspartame will kill them and the ants that take it back to the nest will take care of the whole colony. Get a few packets at the next restaurant you visit. Free!

  15. Val says

    Fantastic! Ants in my kitchen are the reason I came DIY Natural today and before I can even do a search there is a link to the blog post I’m looking for right on the front page. Getting ready to try your suggestions and those from the comments. You are a continual and unfailing resource for me! Thanks!!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Wow! “Continual and unfailing resource…” – that’s such a nice compliment! We thank YOU for following our blog and letting us know how much you appreciate it! :)

  16. Lisa says

    Anyone have any thoughts about how to prevent the American Cockroaches, (aka Water Bugs, aka Palmetto bugs)from taking refuge from the heat in my home? They are beyond disgusting!

    • says

      Lisa, I use Ortho Home Pest Defense. I have found that if I spray the baseboards all the way around the inside of my house first, wait a few days to spray the base of the house outside, it pretty much takes care of the pests. If you spray the outside of the house first, you will run all the pests inside, and, that would be defeating the purpose. Wal-Mart has the best price on the Ortho. I like the new containers that has a continuos spray wand, with carpul tunnel, I can’t use the one with the spray nozzle, and the continuos spray lets you direct the spray right where it needs to go. I also spray it on the carpets to help with the fleas. I found a great website called http://www.earthclinic.com, there are some great remedies for just about anything, everything is natural remedies. One of the best remedies is for a natural flea killer and repellent for fleas on your pets, both inside and outside, using borax, peroxide, and water. I know it works, I’ve used it and I am still using it.

  17. Heath says

    I use Splenda. It kills them also. Since I learned this trick I don’t put that stuff in my body!

  18. kathy says

    I use original skin so soft bath oil from AVON, it really works good combine two caps of skin so soft bath oil in any small spray bottle ,fill the rest with tap water and shake every time you use it spray counters anywhere you see Ants!

  19. Carol Ann says

    Many years ago I had trouble with ants in the house, nothing I tried worked, so one day in frustration I poured boiling water on the nest. don’t remember how many kettles of water I used but it was a lot. The next day my daughter left for school then turned around and came back in. Mum you have to see this. On the patio the ants were placing the dead ones in blocks. I can’t remember how many rows of ants were in each block, maybe 20 or 30, each block was separated by a couple of inches from the next about 25 blocks. She made me promise not to do it again, she was really upset. Fortunately I’ve never had to as I have never seen an ant in the house since! Wished I’d had film in my camera as I didn’t think anyone would believe it.

  20. Erin Ripley says

    My mother used to have a hard time with them and she started using powdered ginger around the perimeter. They do not like the ginger at all.

  21. Jeanne says

    I used a couple of gallons of soapy water (2-3 gallons of water mixed with about 1/4 cup Dawn dish soap) to eliminate the ant hill next to my house. It took a couple of applications but the ants are gone!

  22. Faye says

    To keep ants out of pet bowls I use aluminum foil pans (k-mart $3.99 for 3). I line the outside of pan under the rim ledge with thick petroleum jelly, put the cat food bowls in the foil pan; no ants.

    • says

      Faye, I also coat the hanger that suspends my hummingbird feeders with petroleum jelly, it keeps the ants off. Until I tried it, the ants thought I was putting the necter out for them. It stays on there all year.