No one likes pesky little ants marching in a line around their kitchen or scurrying along the floorboards. And we like ant bites even less, but when summer hits, the ants come out! We all know the struggle of dealing with house ant invasions, but what can we do to keep the ants at bay while avoiding problems associated withchemical pesticides? Well, we’ve got good news. You probably have a whole kitchen cabinet full of natural alternatives to protect yourself from ant raids and you don’t even know it.
Ants are actually pretty sensitive to scents. In fact, that’s how they communicate — they’re constantly using their antennae to search their environments for food and pheromones from other ants. Ants leave little scent trails so they can follow each other. When you disrupt or overwhelm their scent paths, you get a step closer to kicking them out of your kitchen.
Using strong scents to confuse and derail ants, including essential oils, might not be the first natural remedy to come to mind, but it should be, because they are non-toxic and can be very effective. Melaleuca or tea tree, peppermint, citronella and citrus oils should be on the top of your list. If you don’t have pets in the house, there’s no need to dilute the oils prior to spreading these great scents around. If you do have animals, it’s best to dilute the oils in water before using them. Grab a spray bottle and add about ¼ cup of water with 40-50 drops of oil. You can combine oils or stick to one scent at a time. Make sure your animals steer clear of the area you spray until the scent is not as potent. We know that your house will smell great, but remember that essential oils can be potentially toxic to animals.
Fresh out of citrus oil? No problem. Since ants are repelled by citrus, why not try spreading some citrus peels around? Not only will your house smell like refreshing summer fruits, you’ll be waging war on your uninvited pests. Rather than tossing out leftover lemon peels from that summer lemonade, try squeezing the citrus rinds (orange rinds work well) to extract the oil and rub it where ants are known to explore in your house. You may also leave rinds in areas you find high concentrations of ants — if you don’t mind the brightly-colored bits lingering around the house. You can also make your own ant spray by filling an empty spray bottle with distilled white vinegar and citrus rinds. Let the rinds sit in the vinegar for at least a few hours before spraying (helpful hint: this also makes a wonderfulnatural cleaning spray). Not a huge fan of the temporary smell of vinegar in your house? Try blending the rinds with water for a minute and strain the solution into a bottle.
Distilled White Vinegar
If you don’t have citrus rinds or oil, you can still make use of the distilled white vinegar. The citrus and vinegar blend adds an extra ant-fighting element to the solution, but using vinegar on its own is effective in repelling ants. Simply dilute the vinegar with water 50/50, spray, and wipe. This works by both killing and repelling ants. Many people already use diluted vinegar as a natural cleaning spray, too. So you can have a clean and ant-free house. It’s a win-win!
Baking soda is a real gem in the kitchen too. It’s usually tucked away in refrigerators, baking cupboards, and in utility rooms with cleaning supplies. This multipurpose powder may also be effective in killing ants. Combine one-part powdered sugar and one-part baking soda in a shallow dish. The ants will swarm, pick up both types of granules, and take it back to their nest. Many people have had good luck eliminating ants with this technique, so it doesn’t hurt to give it a try — especially if you’re running short on other options.
You can also reach into your spice cabinet for some cinnamon to repel ants. Ideally you’d use a strong cinnamon essential oil instead of sticks or powder. The same rules apply here for animals though — make sure they’re not near the areas you treat with oil until the strong scent clears (usually after several days). The good news about using cinnamon to repel ants is that your kitchen will smell like Christmas in July. Your family might even think you’ve been baking cinnamon treats. Try mixing cinnamon oil with water for a potent repellant spray.
Look no further than your laundry room for the next natural ant killer. Borax, a detergent booster, is toxic to ants and can be combined with sugar or honey to make an effective ant bait. Because dry sugar isn’t as sticky as honey, it’s likely a bit easier for ants to grab their share and carry it on to their queen and others in their colony. The idea here is that their entire colony will be wiped out by tricking them into sharing the borax. Sounds harsh, but when you’re dealing with an ant infestation, a little espionage may be warranted.
Diatomaceous earth has made the list of effective natural pesticides as well. This white powder is made up of tiny (long dead) microscopic creatures called diatoms. They are a type of microalgae from the ocean and are made up of silica. While they’re alive, these tiny animals actually help create about half of the oxygen on Earth. Diatomaceous earth behaves like absorbent glass that cuts the exoskeleton of many insects, like ants and fleas. It’s natural and safe for humans and animals as long as you don’t inhale it! Always make sure you grab the diatomaceous earth labeledfood grade while you’re at the store.
You can also use a box of leftover cornmeal to eliminate an ant infestation. Cornmeal attracts ants, and though opinions differ on this subject, the theory is that cornmeal expands in their stomachs and kills them. The one thing we know for sure is that theyare attracted by it, so people use it as bait and pair it with other natural pesticides like borax.
If you have an obvious anthill near your house, you can boil water and pour it on the hill. The water works its way down the tunnel and into the deep passageways. This trick works well for larger hills. If you don’t mind making a muddy mess in your yard, try this out. Always make sure you’re careful while handling hot pots and boiling water!
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
The best way to get rid of ants is to prevent them from entering your home in the first place! This can be tricky, but learning how they behave is important to prevention. Ants usually make their way to your kitchen first, and enter through small cracks and holes. Keeping your house clean and clutter free reduces the places ants can hide and feast. Wipe down kitchen counters, store food in the refrigerator or in airtight containers, and regularly clean floors. Keep an eye out for ants who are flying solo through your house — those little guys are on a mission to scope out what goodies you have for the rest of the colony! If you notice where ants are entering your space, try sealing the area and/or treat with a few drops of the essential oils mentioned above.
There you have it. There’s no need to poison your environment to keep these critters out of your space. You can have a great-smelling, ant-free home this summer.