Expert Reviewed

How to Kill Ants without Pesticides

When you open your cabinets and see ants swarming your spilled sugar, it might be tempting to use strong chemicals to take them all out as soon as possible. However, pesticides are unhealthy for humans, pets, and other beneficial creatures you might want hanging around your property. The good news is that there are so many highly effective ways to kill ants without pesticides that there's really no need to turn to them. You can make your own ant spray and traps, take out a whole nest, and deter ants from coming inside, all without using pesticides.

Method One of Four:
Using Natural Insecticides
Edit

  1. 1
    Use dish soap and water. Fill a water bottle with one part dish soap and two parts water, then shake it up to mix the solution thoroughly. When you see a line of ants (or just one ant, for that matter) spray the mixture over them. They'll immediately halt and suffocate. Wipe up the dead ants with a wet cloth, and keep the spray bottle around for next time.
    • Setting out shallow dishes of soapy water is another good way to kill ants. Lure them in with a trail of something sugary.
    • This method is good for killing groups of ants, but it won't take out the entire nest. If ants keep coming back, you might have to address the source of the problem.
    • Soapy water is a natural insecticide that kills most insects, not just ants. Try it on roaches, too.
  2. 2
    Try white vinegar and water. Ants really hate vinegar, and you can make a cheap, easy pesticide just using vinegar and water. Mix a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray it directly onto the ants to kill them, then wipe up the ants using a damp paper towel and discard them.
    • You can also use vinegar and water as a deterrent; spray it around your windowsills, doorways and other places where you see ants coming inside.
    • Some people have found that using this vinegar solution to clean the floors, windows and countertops makes ants less likely to crawl over these surfaces. White vinegar makes an excellent household cleaner, and you can't smell it once it dries.
  3. 3
    Make a lemon juice solution. If you can't stand the smell of vinegar, spray the ants with a lemon juice solution. They're averse to the citric acid in lemon juice, so you can use this spray as a deterrent as well by spraying it around the perimeter of your house. Mix up a solution of 1 part lemon juice to 3 parts water and use it as an all-purpose spray.[1]
  4. 4
    Sprinkle diatomaceous earth inside the house. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is a very effective insecticide that doesn't harm humans or pets in the least. It's composed of fossilized diatoms that have been ground to a powder. When insects walk over the powder, the tiny fossil shards scratch the waxy outer coating on their exoskeletons, causing their bodies to dry out. Sprinkle the powder along your baseboards, windowsills, and around the perimeter of your house to kill ants. Use an applicator or a dusting bulb to do this.[2]
    • It's recommended that you wear a mask or cloth over your face when handling diatomaceous earth. While the powder isn't harmful when ingested, the tiny particles can be hard on your lungs when you breathe them in.
    • Diatomaceous earth becomes ineffective when it gets wet, or even when the air is damp and humid. It will regain its effectiveness when dry, so if your home's humidity is reducing the potency of your DE consider using a dehumidifier in the problem areas.[3]
  5. 5
    Use boric acid. It's completely natural and it really works against ants. When they ingest boric acid, it poisons their stomachs and they die. Boric acid also damages ants' exoskeletons the same way diatomaceous earth does. It comes in the form of a white or blue powder that you distribute with a dusting bulb in areas where you commonly see ants, like near your baseboards or in your windowsills.[4]
    • Boric acid is not a toxic pesticide, but it should not be consumed by humans or pets. Avoid using it in areas where your children and pets play. Don't use it near food sources or in your kitchen cabinets. While it should not cause harm to your pets, it may be toxic to smaller animals like birds, reptiles, and fish.[5]
    • Boric acid is toxic to beneficial insects as well.
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Method Two of Four:
Laying Traps
Edit

  1. 1
    Make boric acid sugar traps. These are easy to put together, inexpensive, and best of all, extremely effective. All you need is a few pieces of cardboard or index cards (one for each trap), a bottle of corn syrup or any type of sticky sugar substance, and boric acid powder. Here's how to make the traps:
    • Mix 2 tablespoons of corn syrup and 2 tablespoons of boric acid in a small bowl.
    • Make sure the texture is paste-like and sticky, not runny. Add more boric acid if it's too wet.
    • Use a spoon to spread the mixture over the surface of your cardboard pieces. Each piece is its own trap.
  2. 2
    Set the traps where you tend to see ants. If they like to collect on your bathroom floor, put one there. Put one under the kitchen sink, and another on your front porch. Set the traps around wherever you see ants gathering.
    • Since the traps contain boric acid, don't put them in your kitchen cabinets or near food sources.
    • You can put the traps outside, too. Place them in your flower beds or near your trash cans.
    • The sugary smell might attract critters other than ants, like your child or dog. Make sure to put the traps out of reach of kids and pets.
  3. 3
    Wait for the traps to attract ants. If you have an infestation, it won't be long before the traps become full of ants who wander onto the cardboard in search of sugary food and feast on the boric acid-tainted syrup. They won't die just yet, but the poison will soon take action in their stomachs. In the meantime, they'll return to their nest to bring some food back for their fellow ants, which will in turn ingest the poison.
    • When you see ants entering and leaving the traps, let them move around freely. If you kill them, they won't get the chance to bring the poison back to the nest, killing dozens more ants.
    • This method won't necessarily kill the entire nest of ants, but it will significantly reduce the population of ants around your home.
  4. 4
    Change out the traps when the syrup dries. After a few days, you'll probably need to set out fresh traps. Mix up a fresh batch of the ant poison, spread it on pieces of cardboard, and set out the traps.
  5. 5
    Keep using the traps until ants no longer come to them. After a week or two, you should see the number of ants coming to feed on the syrup decline dramatically. When you start to see dead ants around the vicinity of the traps, and you no longer witness hordes of ants marching into the house your work is done.
  6. 6
    Use cornmeal borax traps to kill the larvae. Worker ants eat liquids, not solids, but they'll carry cornmeal pieces back to their nest. They'll feed the solid pieces to larvae, which then convert the food into liquid and feed it back to the worker ants.[6] In this way, the boric acid cycles through several generations of ants.
    • Make sure the dishes of cornmeal and borax are low enough to ants to get in and out.
    • You can also make a dry paste with cornmeal, borax, and a few drops of water. Spread the paste in areas where you tend to see ants.
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Method Three of Four:
Taking Out a Nest
Edit

  1. 1
    Follow ants to track down the nest. If ants keep swarming your house no matter what sprays and traps you employ, you'll need to attack them at their source: the nest. When you see a trail of ants marching inside, follow it as far as you can to find the anthill. Depending on the species of ant you're dealing with, the nest may be out in the open, hidden carefully in rocks or hedges, or inside your house.
    • Little black ants are one of the most common home invaders. These ants walk in long, slow lines, giving away their nest sites to anyone with the good sense to follow them outside. You'll find their nests in sheltered spots around the yard.
    • Odorous house ants (known for the rotten coconut smell they emit when you crush them) build nests inside the house in window frames or inside the walls. They also build nest outdoors in woodpiles, mulch piles, under rocks, and in other outdoor crevices.[7]
    • Pavement ants tend to nest in cracks in the sidewalk or driveway. You might not be able to see the nest itself, since it could be hidden under the pavement, but you should be able to find the ants' entryway.
    • Fire ants usually don't come inside the house, but you might have a nest on your property that's preventing you from walking around your yard in bare feet. Look for a large mound raised above the ground and composed of sand-like granules.
  2. 2
    Prepare a pot of boiling water. Fill a large pot halfway to the top with water. Bring it to a rolling boil over high heat. As soon as the water comes to a boil, and while it's still piping hot, you'll need to be able to get it from the kitchen to the nest you found.
  3. 3
    Pour the water over the nest. Try to pour it into the entry hole you found. The boiling water will kill hundreds of ants on contact, and it will also cause the nest to collapse. If the nest is quite large, you might want to pour more than one pot of water over it.
    • If the nest you're dealing with is indoors, the boiling water trick might damage your house. Instead of using water, douse the nest with a bowl of soapy water. You can also put on a pair of long rubber gloves and scrape the nest into a bucket, then drown the ants.
    • If you're dealing with fire ants, make sure you approach the nest wearing long pants tucked into socks and long sleeves. The ants are sure to get angry, and they may swarm out of the nest and attempt to climb into your clothes.
  4. 4
    Check for ants over the next few days. If the boiling water effectively killed them, your ant-enduring days should be over. If you see a slow trickle coming back, give the nest another boiling water treatment. Sometimes it takes more than one application to effectively kill all of the ants.
    • If the boiling water doesn't seem to be doing the trick, take a stake and stab it down into the nest. Wiggle it around until you have a fair-sized crater. Fill the crater with baking soda about halfway up and pour vinegar over it.
    • If you're trying to kill red ants, you can also try what is known as "bucketing." Wearing pants tucked into long socks for protection, take a shovel and quickly shovel the fire ant mound into a large bucket that has been sprinkled with baking soda, which keeps the ants from climbing out. Keep going until the whole nest has been shoveled out. Drown the ants in vinegar and water or with boiling water.[8]
  5. 5
    Plug the entrance holes if you can't get to the nest. Sometimes it's difficult to access the entire nest, but you can usually find an entrance hole. You can pour boiling water into the entrance hole, but it's often just as effective to simply plug the hole. Fill it up with dirt or rocks, and sprinkle some boric acid around the site for good measure. The ants will likely relocate their nest.
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Method Four of Four:
Trying Natural Deterrents
Edit

  1. 1
    Make a line that ants won't cross. There are several natural substances that ants abhor so much, they won't go near them. If you use one of these substances to create lines around your windowsills, around the perimeter of your house, and in any spots where ants are getting inside, you can keep ants from coming inside. Freshen up the lines every few days, since ants will be able to get through once the lines are broken. Here are substances that work for this purpose:[9]
    • Cinnamon
    • Cayenne pepper
    • Ground orange or lemon peels
    • Coffee grounds
  2. 2
    Squirt lemon juice along outdoor edges. This will keep the inside of your house from getting sticky, but the ants will be deterred by a strong citrus smell. You can also squirt a solution of half lemon juice, half water around the outside of your house.
  3. 3
    Use essential oils to keep ants away. They hate the smell of a variety of essential oils, many of which smell very pleasant to humans. Add 10 drops of essential oil to 1 cup of water, then spray the solution both indoors and outdoors to keep ants away. Here are the oils you can try:
    • Lemon oil
    • Peppermint oil
    • Eucalyptus oil (don't use this near cats! It's toxic to them, but not to dogs)
    • Lavender oil
    • Cedar oil
  4. 4
    Keep your surfaces clean so ants aren't interested in coming in. During the spring months, when ants are most likely to come inside the house, do your best to keep your floors, countertops, and cabinets spotless. This goes a long way toward keeping ants out. If they don't smell food, they won't be interested in invading your house.
    • Keep food containers tightly sealed, too. This is especially important for sugar, honey, syrup and other foods that ants like to eat.
    • Clean up spills right away, especially fruit juice or syrup spills.
  5. 5
    Seal your house to keep them out. If you don't give ants a door inside, they'll be more likely to stick to outdoor areas. Find all the little cracks and crevices where they could be getting in, like under the door, around the windowsills, and in other little cracks in the foundation. Fill the holes with caulk or other sealants to keep your house airtight. Spritz the areas with lavender or lemon water for good measure.
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Community Q&A

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Add New Question
  • Will peppermint kill ants and ticks?
    Answered by Andrew Carberry
    • Peppermint oil acts as a deterrent to ants. However, it is not a pesticide as it won't kill them.
    Thanks! 27 15
  • What can I use to kill ants on my carpet?
    Answered by Andrew Carberry
    • I recommend that you apply diatomaceous earth to the carpet wherever you see ants.
    Thanks! 25 20
  • Will putting vinegar on ant hills in your lawn kill the grass?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Yes. Vinegar or baking soda changes the pH of the soil and will make the area difficult to grow anything in until the pH is restored with enough water to dilute it.
    Thanks! 51 14
  • Will cucumbers deter ants?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • No.
    Thanks! 34 11
  • Does talcum powder work on ants?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • It should. Lots of people have found it to be very effective, especially when sprinkled on ant trails.
    Thanks! 52 22
  • I have big black ants on my window sills. I have tried using coffee grinds and cinnamon to get rid of them, but they just walk right over it. What should I be using instead?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Try cayenne pepper, or a cotton ball with an essential oil such as peppermint or lemon oil. Diatomaceous earth will kill them after they walk over it (it takes a few days to kill them), but it has to be enough that they have to crawl over/through it, as it needs to hit their undersides.
    Thanks! 35 15
  • Will apple cider vinegar kill ants better than ordinary vinegar?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • No. The active ingredient is acidic acid. Both have 5%, so there is no difference.
    Thanks! 25 11
  • I saw carpenter ants piling into my bed room and sprayed spider and ant killer galore, inside and out? What should I do next time?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • There are many things you can do. If you have essential oils you can use peppermint, or you can use the leaves of the plant. If you don't have that you can use substances to deter the bugs, such as cayenne pepper or vinegar.
    Thanks! 28 18
  • Does washing your floors with bleach water kill ants?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • If the ants are on the floor when you're washing the floor, most likely it will kill them. If not, the most it will do is erase the trail the ants had been following, and they'll just find another way to whatever they were after.
    Thanks! 36 25
  • How do I get rid of carpenter ants?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Hire an exterminator. Carpenter ants are highly social ants. The brood nest can be up to a football field away. They will also establish several satellite nests. The problem is you can kill the majority of a nest and they can go to the brood nest or satellite nest and be accepted by that colony. They will regroup, reproduce and return. They can live in wall voids, wood piles, studs, plywood, and dead parts of trees. They find weak parts in wood like rot and then can work into sounder wood. They do not consume the wood but nest in it. Carpenter ants are also polymorphic ants, which means that they are born into many different sizes. So don't think that you can judge them merely by size.
    Thanks! 2 0
Show more answers
  • Does the soap and water method work on aphids too?
  • Will grits or corn meal kill carpenter ants after they eat them?
  • I brought a planter with some dirt into the house, I noticed it has real tiny ants in the dirt, how can I get rid of these 'tiny' ants?
  • How do I kill leaf cutter ants that are outside on a tree without hurting my pets?
  • What do I do if there are ants all over my house?
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Quick Summary

To kill ants without pesticides, keep a spray bottle filled with diluted vinegar or dish soap and water and use it to spray the ants whenever you see them. You can also sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth around the areas where the ants congregate. This powder isn’t harmful to pets or children, but the fine particles can irritate your lungs, so wear a mask when you’re distributing it. To destroy a whole nest, pour a pot of boiling water into one of the entrances used by the ants.

TipsEdit

  • Try creating a spray mix with dish soap, vinegar, and other household items to spray. Works every time!
    1 Helpful?  0
  • Always check doorways and window ledges; one ant can lead to thousands. Ants leave an invisible scent trail that only other ants can smell, so use cleaning materials designed for ants to get rid of the line.
    0 Helpful?  1
  • Ants don't like peppermint toothpaste. Just smear it around where you see them, and presto, they are gone!
    0 Helpful?  0
  • Take a piece of paper and spread glue or some sort of other sticky solution onto the paper and place it where you see the ants. They will come to it and stick to it, then once it's full, just throw it away!
    0 Helpful?  0
  • If you can't bear to kill them, leave a jar of honey up a tree in the garden at the start of summer. The ants will be happy to stay out of your kitchen.
    1 Helpful?  0
  • The best way to keep ants out is to keep your home clean. Wipe counter tops often and don't leave crumbs.
    1 Helpful?  0
  • Chalk and salt barriers are said to keep ants out, but many find them to be ineffective.
    0 Helpful?  1
  • Arm yourself with sticky tape. When you see an ant, place the sticky tape over it and use your fingers to squash it beneath the tape. The ant's carcass will be stuck on the sticky tape, so it will be clean. Repeat until tape is no longer sticky.
    1 Helpful?  0
  • Squash ants with your fingers. Be sure to wash your hands afterwards, especially since many ants stink.
    1 Helpful?  1
  • If you are using the boiling water method to take out the nest, you might want to do it more than once. If some survive, you could find millions of dead ants all over the place! This is because some ant species bring their dead up to the surface, which will leave a huge mess.
    0 Helpful?  0
Add

WarningsEdit

  • Always keep ant baits and traps away from children and pets. Put these where only ants can reach the bait.
    99 Helpful?  60
  • The ants will come back in time; be prepared to do this again.
    98 Helpful?  72
  • Remember: ants are an important part of the food chain. Don't try to kill all the ants in your neighborhood, only the ones in your house.
    124 Helpful?  108

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Expert Review By:

AC
Professional Gardener

This version of How to Kill Ants without Pesticides was reviewed by Andrew Carberry on January 27, 2017.

7 votes - 100%
Co-authors: 122
Updated:
Views: 4,621,111

Reader Success Stories

  • A

    Anonymous

    May 5

    "Used the soap water, turned my room into a slaughterhouse."
  • A

    Anonymous

    Apr 27

    "My friend had dropped her lollipop and left it there, so when I came back to my room I saw just a whole bunch of ants crawling around! I hate all bugs, so I ended up using the water and soap mixture; it was amazing."..." more
  • A

    Anonymous

    Apr 24

    "I used a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water in a spray bottle."
  • A

    Anonymous

    Apr 18

    "Diatomaceous earth in areas, boiling water on a nest."
  • DB

    Darlene Blower

    Jul 2, 2016

    "My friend starts with the battle of the ants every spring. She and her husband have had numerous exterminators try to eliminate the ants over the years to no avail. I am excited to share this article with her! You have covered the entire life cycle of the ant to include taking poisoned food all the way back to the nest and even finding and destroying the nest itself. I am going to help her do it! Thank YOU! "..." more
  • DG

    Dee Galbreath

    Apr 11, 2016

    "Detailed and easy-to-follow instructions. Great suggestions on how to kill ants in the home without using ant poison. I have three cats and didn't want to spray poison around where my cats or I would be exposed to it. I plan to try several of these suggestions!"..." more
  • A

    Anonymous

    Aug 17, 2016

    "I needed a natural remedy to get rid of ants due to my children's allergy & asthma. I didn't have vinegar on hand. Instead, I used the vinegar base window cleaner like "Windex." It worked instantly. I'll repeat the spraying every night for a week.Thanks!"..." more
  • A

    Anonymous

    Jul 21, 2016

    "I used two bottles of kitchen cleanser last night. I probably wouldn't have used as much as I did, but I was completely freaking out, due to the fact I never get ants. Well, I ran out of my cleaning supplies. I can't believe I can use Dawn. Thank you."..." more
  • JT

    Jean Tolar

    Jul 10, 2017

    "When I used boiling water the ants moved the nest to another place in the yard but when I fry anything I take the HOT oil and pour in on the ant hill. This kills the queen too. Fries her. No more ant hills in my yard. I swear this works!"..." more
  • SM

    Sylvia Murphy

    Nov 5, 2017

    "I like the vinegar & water spray. I'm going to try the boric acid paste on an index card to put around the inside of my house. Plus I had no idea about the boiling water trick for my driveway next season. Thanks, can't wait to try."..." more
  • EM

    Eva Mitchell

    May 11, 2016

    "I had ants in a big nest outside and they were really disturbing my guinea pigs. I needed to get rid of them in a way that wouldn't poison my guinea pigs. The ways shown work and the ants are gone. :)"..." more
  • A

    Anonymous

    Apr 28, 2017

    "I consecutively poured 5 gallons of boiling water into a large anthill. I had all four burners boiling water so that I could take each gallon out one at a time. It was successful in killing the ants."..." more
  • DS

    Dee Swann, RN

    Apr 9, 2016

    "I always try to use safe, non-toxic methods to clean or to get rid of any insects, whether in my home or my garden. I was specifically looking for boric acid applications and here it was. Thank you."..." more
  • A

    Anonymous

    Jul 8, 2016

    "The multiple options and mindfulness of each step helped significantly. It's well thought out. One-stop info shop. The article lessened the need to continue other/further research. Thank you!"..." more
  • SD

    Skeeter De Mattia

    May 29, 2016

    "I don't have an experience...yet! But your article is fabulous, thank you, I will try all the suggestions. We do have ants, all different kinds, tiny, big, and in between."..." more
  • BP

    Barbara Phifer

    Jun 9, 2016

    "Used the cinnamon, and wonders of wonders it worked. I also had to keep using a combo including the hot water with salt. Ants are bound and determined creatures!"..." more
  • RO

    Rachael Olmstead

    Jan 18, 2017

    "I was glad to find out that vinegar kills ants. The soapy water was a surprise, too, as I had often heard that you had to add oil to it to be effective."..." more
  • AD

    Anthony D.

    Jul 3, 2016

    "So many good ideas. I'll try the boiling water, vinegar and dish soap because it's all in the house now. I've used soap water on aphids with success. "..." more
  • JS

    Jeanne Samson

    Jun 24, 2017

    "Just followed the natural method with vinegar and baking soda. It seems to help so far, maybe a few more applications would be a good idea. Thanks!"..." more
  • A

    Anonymous

    Jul 2, 2016

    "I tried the water dish soap thing, it worked like magic I tell ya! So great. Kills them on the spot and totally works. Thanks so much!"..." more
  • A

    Anonymous

    Sep 24, 2017

    "Helpful with good level of explanation, various methods and objectives (e.g. killing line of ant, trapping them, or killing the nest)."..." more
  • BB

    Barbara Been

    Apr 29, 2017

    "Boiling water is best. Love all essential oils. And been using DE for many years. Thanks for putting so many together in one article!"..." more
  • MK

    Momo Kuma

    Apr 27, 2016

    "It's very informative and provides numerous options. You can select one or a few types of methods to deal with the problem."..." more
  • D

    D.

    Jun 30, 2016

    "Made a bathtub cleanser of vinegar and soap. Worked great without a lot of elbow grease. Going to try same on flying ants. "..." more
  • SE

    Susan Elliott

    Mar 16, 2016

    "Very clear directions, easy to understand images, many alternative solutions to address the problem. Thanks for your help."..." more
  • A

    Anonymous

    Oct 23, 2017

    "I needed help with an anthill at a school in the front garden bed, so this is perfect for remedying it, thanks!"
  • VS

    Venkat Sarabu

    Sep 24, 2016

    "This is very effective. As soon as you spray vinegar with water, the ants don't live for more than 30 seconds."
  • C

    Carly

    Jun 5, 2016

    "Needed to know how to get rid of a red ants nest without using chemicals. This was a good answer, thanks."
  • A

    Anonymous

    Apr 22, 2017

    "Boiling water treatment and the boric acid method helped. Grits poured onto the nest works great as well."
  • AD

    Alex Dye

    Mar 5, 2017

    "Love the baking soda and vinegar idea, turning the ant nest into a volcano. Very useful. Thanks."
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