Get Rid of House Ants and Carpenter Ants Naturally

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How to Get Rid of Ants Naturally Ant Bait

We know how to get rid of ants naturally because we’ve done it for years! We’ll show you how to make and use homemade ant bait, diatomaceous earth, & more.

I take pride in my advanced detective skills, and I apply them to almost everything! For example, figuring out who ate a sticky snack on the couch, who wore muddy shoes in the house, and most importantly, where is the entry point of the army of ants invading our house?

When the ants invaded, I figured out how to get rid of ants naturally. And here’s how we did it!

How to Get Rid of Ants Naturally

Having ants everywhere outdoors doesn’t bother me. But when I see them treading upon the kitchen countertops I spring into action. Therefore, the past two spring/summer seasons we have successfully rid our house of two different types of ants. Also, we decided it was time to show you how to get rid of ants naturally!

Identifying Ants

When learning how to get rid of ants naturally, detective work is an integral part of eradicating them. Furthermore, finding the most effective treatment for ants depends on the specific type you have invading your house. To explain, each species has different behaviors, preferences in food, and eradication solutions.

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

Finally, for help identifying these ants, see the images here or here.

Odorous House Ants

You will find these ants anywhere you have sweets laying around.

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, kill the entire colony.

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.

How to Get Rid of House Ants

Homemade Ant Bait

Borax will kill odorous house ants, and powdered sugar will attract them.

Make a homemade ant bait by thoroughly mixing one part borax with 3 parts powdered sugar.

Fill tiny containers (such as bottle caps) with this homemade ant 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 homemade ant bait carried back to the colony, the fewer ants you will have.

More Tips for House Ants

Spray vinegar near baseboards, in any cracks, and on countertops where they may be traveling. You can allow the 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. Be sure to store all food – especially sweets – 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.

The ants will choose more desirable bait (like spilled soda or cookie crumbs) over this natural bait, so learning how to get rid of ants naturally means keeping your place clean!

Carpenter Ants

You will find Carpenter ants around homes in wooded areas. They don’t carry the homemade ant 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 Carpenter Ants 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, woodpiles 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.

How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants Naturally

Diatomaceous Earth

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 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.

How to Apply the DE

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 bulb duster gadget to spray it into cracks or holes. And remember, DE must be reapplied after it rains.

You can also mix the Diatomaceous Earth powder with water and apply using a spray bottle (either a small bottle or the pump-action yard sprayers). Simply mix 2 Tbsp of powder per quart of water and spray wherever you have ant problems.

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.

How to Get Rid of Ants Naturally: Other Tips

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 it 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 the perimeter of the house or indoors where ants are entering your house.
  • Rub a little Vaseline near the areas they are entering the house.

Note: we also have a great article on how to get rid of aphids naturally.

(photo credit to Diane Jabs)


About Betsy Jabs

Betsy holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's degree in Counseling, and for nearly a decade worked as an elementary counselor. In 2011 she left her counseling career to pursue healthy living. She loves using DIY Natural as a way to educate people to depend on themselves to nourish their bodies and live happier healthier lives. Connect with Betsy on Facebook, Twitter, and her +Betsy Jabs Google profile.

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DISCLAIMER: Information on DIY Natural™ is not reviewed or endorsed by the FDA and is NOT intended to be substituted for the advice of your health care professional. If you rely solely upon this advice you do so at your own risk. Read full Disclaimer & Disclosure statements here.


  1. Dianne L. Springer says

    Thank you so much for all the great ideas! I have been fighting itty bitty ants and carpenter ants since moving here 5 years ago. Having house pets and grandchildren, I prefer NOT to use chemicals. I will definitely be putting some of your ideas to use and will update my post afterwards.

    Have a great day!

  2. Denis says

    Excellent tips here. Thank you very much. We have ants up here in Southern Ontario too. They emerge after the frost is out of the ground. I will definitely use one or two of these remedies.

  3. Jade Brunet says

    We have noticed an insect problem in our kitchen. It is good to know that a first step in extermination is identifying which kind of ants the intruders are. We will be focusing on keeping our doors shut and food away to prevent increased problems.

  4. Nancy L says

    Regarding the rat problem. Years ago I read to put out little dishes of cola so they drink it. They don’t have gastrointestinal system like a human, so they can’t burp. It is supposed to “explode” inside them causing them to die. No, not natural deterrent, but you need to get rid of the dirty rodent.

    • The exucutioner says

      Hi jamal! My ancestors used this technique for many centuries, much easy and cheap technique, it can also destroy the civilization of ants but beware of the super ants they are everywhere. We call this technique S.M.A.S.H smash them with anything hard.

      • jamal says

        I think u can’t neutralize them by just smashing their colony, u need to try those natural ways to save time and money, I used borax with sugar and baby powder. If you want to get rid of them, especially inside your house, CLEAN your house

  5. Ashlynn says

    Someone please please help , I just moved to Oregon and the ants decided to move their way into out home, originally it started in the bathroom almost like they were attracted to the water , they are super tiny black ants and super annoying . Recently we have minimized them in the bathroom with Terro bait and it seems they have moved a bit to the bedroom, i placed Terro out yesterday but have not yet noticed any change I can’t sleep because I have woke up and found them crawling on me 🙁 please help

    • Gemma says

      I just had the tiny ants move in. I mixed 50/50 cream of wheat and sugar, then sprinkled ginger along the baseboards. They left within 24 hours. I have used the cream of wheat and sugar before, but I think the ginger repelled them this time. A few of them snacked on some ginger and died.

  6. KaCee says

    I use DE also for pest control. Mostly slugs!! Ugh they have tormented my garden. BUT be careful because it will also kill the good pest too such as earth worms, the man at the local greenhouse I go to told me that. So do not sprinkle all over your yard if you want nice green grass. The earthworms aid in aeration in your yard and garden. I just make a perimeter around my house and garden beds.

  7. Dawn says

    OK I have become a new beekeeper and was told to place an old rug under hive stand to deter weeds from growing and covering the hive entrance. I have noticed ant attracted to the sugar water fed to the bees. The other say I lifted the rug and the ground was moving. I see black ants as well as winged ants and now exposed tunnels. I tried sprinkling cornmeal but that does not seem to be working. I am afraid to use DE for fear of harming the bees. Any ideas?

    • KaCee says

      I’m not a 100% but I don’t think it will hurt bees, I have boring bees very bad and try DE in desperation and it didn’t seem to stop them. But defiantly do research. Effort taking my advice. I’d feel horrible to harm your hive with bad information.

  8. Carol says

    I have had ants for months in my kitchen and bath. Yes, they come in for water as well as food. These looked like tiny sugar ants, and I have yet to figure out WHERE they are entering. (House was built poorly in 1945, and there are MANY ways to get in with bad foundation and entry areas everywhere). I finally found what I hope is a solution: borax and aspartame (originally created as a pesticide, but the makers figured they could make more money using it as a sugar substitute!) mixed to a watery paste. It seems to have helped the situation, but I’m certain that I have numerous nests under the house. We’ll see how long this works until another nest finds its way in.
    Also, I read recently that ant queens are smart: if they see their colony dying off, she will split the nest and raise another queen to ‘rule’ it.

  9. Jean says

    I had ants running round my kitchen and had tried everything to get rid of them. A friend told me to just throw a lemon behind the kitchen baseboard and leave it. I thought he was having a joke on me but I was desperate so I did what he said. This was 7 years ago and I’ve never had another ant in my kitchen.

    • Louise says

      Get you a spray bottle and fill it with white vinegar. Spray your windowsills(not around the window, just the sills). The scent will evaporate in about an hour. Also spray around the pipe openings under your sink, bathroom included, if there is a place to spray. You can also spray around the baseboards throughout your kitchen, to include your doors. The vinegar will not harm your floors or your pets. I also use the vinegar to keep spiders away. I have done this for years. I only have to spray maybe once a month. It works!!!!!

  10. Kay says

    I need to get rid of rats. We live in the desert and rats are a constant problem. For whatever reason, the neighborhood rat population seems to have taken up residence at our house. We even have a cat (outside cat-I’m allergic) and the rats still come in our house. Any suggestions.

    • Ellen says

      Cats are good ratters and mousers ONLY if they’re hungry.
      A fat pet cat may catch a rodent for play if bored, but won’t solve a ‘rat problem’. Rats are very clever, too. If the cat isn’t a threat, they’ll walk right past, without a blink!

    • louise says

      If you have a Wal_Mart store near, if all the Wal-Marts are setup the same, go into the garden center where the bug sprays are, there is a product made by Bell and Howell. You plug it into your receptacle, it emits a sonic frequency wave, inaudible to human ears. It will help keep rats and roaches out of the house. I know, because I have been using them for years in my storage building, and in my husband’s shop, and he keeps grain in there for the horses. Recently I was able to find them again at Wal-Mart, so I bought a pkg. for the house. You get 3 to a pack, plug one in your receptacles in each room of your choice. The sound doesn’t affect dogs or cats, but it will affect guinea pigs, or small pets like that. They come in 4 to a pk. also, these have a plugin on them in case you don’t have any free places to plug stuff in. Price ranges from 16.88 to 19.88 at our wm.

  11. MiTmite9 says

    Why is DIY printing advice that advocates killing? This is extremely disturbing. Ants become a problem in the home because there is an attraction of some kind. Remove the attraction, don’t foul your home with use of pesticides. Use vinegar, mint, whatever NATURAL methods work to disrupt the pheromone trail(s), but don’t kill creatures just because you can. I am VERY disappointed in you, DIY.

    • Norma says

      MiTmite9: Good grief, they are mean little insects that bite you. I have them in my front yard, & have walked throuh a bunch of them. A few seconds later I had them all over my legs, biting me & it hurt like the devil. No way am I going to let them stay there. I am going to try to kill every one of them. Those bites really hurt. I poured vinegar all over my legs. Had them on my arms, too. That didn’t work really well, so poured alcohol all over me. Atfer awhile the bites stopped hurting.

      • Jeanne Acosta-Caipe says

        I use a little dab of Ichthammol _labeled as “drawing salve” for horses_ obtained at a feed store_ on each fire ant, spider, bee, hornet, even mosquito bite for the past 70 years. It IMMEDIATELY stops the pain, itching and helps the healing. It draws out splinters and boils also. Labeled for vet use.

  12. Ellen Ribolla says

    I’m concerned about your recommendation for food grade diatomaceous earth’ because it’s safe around children and pets’. Yes, it is safe to us who don’t have exo-skeletons, but my understanding has always been that it still needs to be used with caution, since the abrasive quality (which ultimately kills the insects) is unsafe to breathe in or get into eyes, children and pets not withstanding. Once it has been misted with water, it is a non-issue.
    Please correct me if I’m misinformed.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Hi Ellen,
      Yes, you should still be careful when handling DE so as not to breathe it in or get it in your eyes. We are recommending it as a much safer alternative to other ant traps, which could be extremely harmful if swallowed or handled by children and pets. 🙂

  13. 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.

    • Louise 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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!