Finding natural ways to get rid of household ants goes a long way to getting on with solving the problem before reaching critical stages of house ant infestation.
Before we talk about discouraging or killing the little critters, take a moment to appreciate a few ant facts to justify our doing so:
- There are more than 12,000 species of ants around the world. The vast majority of these are relatively harmless to people, but their presence in a house is usually unwelcome.
- Monomorium ants carry pathogenic bacteria, which can be dangerous to people and is a highly infesting species in the urban indoor environment.
- Red Ants, native to certain parts of Africa, have invaded other countries. These ants bite and are capable of swarming and killing small animals, such as chickens.
- Ants need water, so even when there is no food around, household ants may turn up in search of moisture in the house. High humidity in a house is an ant attraction.
Discouraging ants in the house is not as difficult as we may assume and with a world focus on all things ‘green and eco-friendly’ let’s explore fifteen natural ways to keep household ants out of the house.
If ants are swarming around houseplants it may indicate that they’re nesting in the soil. It is best to discard plants that appear infested. Prevention of a repeat episode is simply to surround your plants with citrus rind.
If you’re a plunger coffee fan or own your own coffee machine, you’ll have access to plenty of fresh coffee grounds, which while still damp, can be placed on window sills or on removable paper around pet bowls or wherever household ants seem to want to gain access. Refresh regularly as efficacy fades when the grounds become dry.
As long as the neem – extracted from India’s Neem tree, is not diluted, it will naturally repel household ants. Use pure neem oil or neem soap. It’s quite fun to draw a circle using a bar of neem soap around an ant. It will not cross the line to escape but will just walk in circles all day avoiding the neem!
Soapy water washes away pheromone trails of household ants. Without these trails, ants cannot communicate with each other. The bonus of hand soaps is that they leave a more pleasant perfume than some of the other remedies.
Detergent & Glass Cleaner
Detergents and glass cleaners effectively remove the scented pheromone trail they leave behind when they walk, which the rest of the colony use as guides to follow suit. Spraying areas favoured by household ants works as does wiping surfaces down, making sure you leave a residue on the surface.
The active ingredient in cinnamon leaf essential oil is trans-cinnamaldehyde repels even the ferocious Red Ant variety and therefore a quick fix for any household ant problem. Saturate cotton balls with the oil and leave them where you’ve seen ants. Try powdered cinnamon too, which is also effective. Sprinkle the powder around on windowsills and baseboards.
Tea Tree Oil
This is a very potent oil that both kills and repels household ants. Mix with water or peppermint oil if it is too strong. Remember to keep Tea Tree oil out of reach of pets, especially cats, who can actually become quite ill when exposed to it. Mix 5 – 10 drops in 2 cups of water and use it as a spray for the most efficacy.
Oil extracted from the lemon eucalyptus tree contains citronella, which is used in candles to repel flying bugs, such as mosquitoes but it’s also effective at repelling household ants.
Extracted from the gum eucalyptus tree Eucalyptus oil contains a chemical called PMD, which is an effective flying insect and crawling insect repellent. PMD is classified as a bio-pesticide by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and is considered safe to use.
Mixing 10 to 20 drops of peppermint essential oil with 2 cups of water into a spray to use around the baseboards and windows works to contain household ant infestations. Let it dry and repeat when needed. (Like most essential oils, keep peppermint oil out of reach of pets, cats, in particular, can become very ill if exposed.)
Any ground pepper, white, black, or red, irritates the best of household ants and no they can’t sneeze! Sprinkle freely in problem areas, especially behind appliances to deter the ants.
Corn starch & Baby Powder
Either of these is especially effective in getting rid of a large number of ants as it smothers them. Then wash the lot away with water – messy but astoundingly effective for a household ant invasion. If this is within a carpeted area, vacuum up the corn starch or baby powder with the dead ants – remember to dispose of the vacuum bag outdoors immediately though.
To remove a trail of ant pheromones, make a scrubbing paste with water and baking soda and apply it along the trail they’ve made to where you don’t want them to be. Sprinkling it dry along the trail as well as in tiny cracks and crevices they use works too.
This may sound vicious but if you have big colonies and can see the anthills, pouring boiling water onto the hill and into the hole kills household ants instantly – of course. Remember though that while ant hills may appear small, the colony underneath occupies a wide area. Treat every ant hole in the vicinity of your home.
Even after it dries, ants can smell white vinegar, which effectively repels unwanted household ants. Wiping all surfaces in places like the kitchen keeps countertops clean and free of wandering ants.
Common Sense Solutions to Household Ant infestations
It makes sense to see if we can determine how the household ants are getting in. Often, just fixing cracks in walls and floorboards sorts out an infestation. Cutting off their food source is another sensible approach. Household ants are likely to go for sweet and sticky things and love all manner of crumbs. If nothing else, their presence teaches us to upgrade our level of cleanliness in the home. Use pet dishes that have a moat for water – which household ants will not cross, or some other mechanism that discourages ants getting into pet food.
If all else fails, then call in the professionals.
We can make use of non-toxic repellents that pose no danger to children or household pets or those suffering respiratory health conditions, which would clearly be preferable in eradicating household ants. If you have questions, please feel free to give us a call.