Ants are smart, social critters, and if one finds a stray crumb or spilled food in your kitchen, they can spread like wildfire, resulting in a tiny two-way highway coming to gather and haul away the loot.
As much as I value wildlife, I’m not keen on hosting picnics for insects on my kitchen counter, so I do my best to keep them from coming inside in the first place and, if they do, to convince them to go elsewhere. Here are my five favorite methods for keeping the house ant-free.
Run A Clean Ship
The easiest way to reduce the chances of small unwanted visitors is by wiping or sweeping up spilled edibles immediately, storing food and compost scraps in secure containers, putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher right away, rinsing out recyclables, and emptying the kitchen garbage frequently. This is good advice for preventing many pest problems and makes your kitchen a nicer place to hang out in, too.
Close The Door
If you see a line of marching ants indoors, follow it away from the food to find where they are coming from. Then seal up whatever tiny crevice they’re using to get into your home. Low VOC silicone caulk is a good and long-lasting option. If the ants are strolling boldly in and out under a door, you can seal the gap with a door “sweep,” a flexible device that blocks the space between the bottom of the door and the ground while still allowing you to open and close it. Some models install with an adhesive strip or simply snap onto the bottom edge of the door—so installation is quick and easy. Sealing cracks and holes also cuts down on air movement, saving you money on your energy bills.
Throw Them Off The Scent
Ants let others know where good food is by leaving a chemical trail that their colony-mates can smell. If you use soapy water or vinegar to spray or wipe down the path the ants are marching along, it will eliminate the trail, and any new arrivals will not be able to follow it.
Make Your Home Unwelcome
It can be difficult to find and block every tiny entrance to your home. But even if ants haven’t found a way in yet, it never hurts to have a good defensive strategy in place. You can buy safe, commercial ant repellants such as Intellegent Nurtrient’s Organic Bug Repellent Perfume Serum and EarthKind’s Stay Away Ant Granules. Or you can just grab something you already have on hand that ants aren’t fond of. Lemon juice works, as do lemon and orange oil, or dried crushed citrus peel, ground cinnamon, cinnamon oil, dried peppermint leaves, peppermint oil, peppermint castile soap, dried coffee grounds, whole garlic cloves, powder dried garlic, dried lavender, lavender oil, or chili powder.
For best results, sprinkle or spray the repellent of your choice in areas ants tend to come through. Ants also don’t like the feel of food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE), powdered chalk, or talc (baby powder). Use one of those to draw a line across a known opening (they work only in dry locations), and you can be pretty sure no ants will cross it.
Set Out A Trojan Meal
If the other methods have failed, you may want to try putting out a boric acid-based bait, which will kill an entire colony over the course of a few days or weeks as the foraging worker ants carry it back for all the members to eat. Boric acid kills ants but is relatively nontoxic to humans and pets in small quantities. There are many commercial brands, but it’s easy to make ant bait from boric acid powder or borax.
If your ants are attracted to sweet foods, mix the borax or boric acid with sugar water or honey, and serve it up in a recycled can bait station. If you’re dealing with ants that seem to be drawn to protein-rich or fatty foods, blend the borax or boric acid with peanut butter and sugar. Keep refilling your dispenser until you no longer see any coming by or until the bait no longer disappears.