Red ants, brown ants, black ants — there are over a thousand species of ants in North America alone, and most of them are a serious pain the rear. They eat our crops, bite us, and farm aphid colonies to further wreak havoc on our fruit and vegetables. And if they get in your house, they’re even worse – and they get everywhere. Now, many times, people just turn to dangerous chemicals that are toxic to you, your pets, and your livestock. And they aren’t always particularly effective. However, it is possible to control ants naturally, inside and outside your home. As with many natural remedies, you’ll most likely get the best results from using multiple approaches. We’ve compiled the best ways to get rid of ants naturally to help you avoid nasty chemicals and control or eradicate those pesky ant colonies. And yes, we’ve tried and tested each of these, having moved into a new property that was besieged by multiple ant species, front and back!
Because they hate the smell, cinnamon is a great way to get rid of ants naturally. They hate it so much that they won’t cross it, so even if you’ve got a major ant problem inside your home, cinnamon is a great line of first defence. You have two options – mix cinnamon oil with water or a carrier oil and spray (or wipe with a cotton ball soaked in the solution) any likely entry points outside your home or inside, as long as you avoid any soft furnishings that could be stained. You’ll need to repeat this on a daily basis while the infestation persists. You can then reduce the frequency to once a week once you have it under control.
Your second option is simply to go with cinnamon powder. Sprinkle a thin line around doors and other entry points. If you can, get some inside those little cracks and gaps that ants make their way through. You can use it inside and out. Yes, that means that you have a little line of cinnamon around your home, but this natural ant deterrent is super-effective, and it’s much better than having ants all over the place. It makes your house smell lovely, too. If you’re not comfortable having cinnamon on your flooring, try lifting the edges of the flooring and putting the cinnamon underneath. However, that probably won’t be as effective. I personally prefer to use cinnamon around every door and other obvious entry point inside my home, right on top of the carpets and other flooring – it’s only a thin line, it smells great, it works fabulously as a natural ant repellent, and it vacuums up so easily. I usually replace/refresh it once a week after I’ve cleaned the floors. Cinnamon is high up on my list of eco-friendly pest control for inside the house because it’s pet and kid-safe, too.
2. Sandalwood Essential Oil
Sandalwood essential oil kills and/or repels ants, ticks, mosquitoes, flies, mites, and other common pests. This is a great choice for spraying around the perimeter of your home and garden as a method of effective eco-friendly pest control. Like cinnamon, sandalwood disrupts the pheromone trails insects like ants use to get around. Mix sandalwood oil in a spray bottle with water and spray entry points to your home. Spray all around the perimeter or your garden and the outside of your dwelling, too. Basically, spray wherever you have a problem with ants, ticks, or mites. You’ll need to repeat this one from spring to late fall on a weekly basis for the best effect.
Lemon is another substance that’s brilliant for getting rid of ants naturally. Like other strong scents, lemon destroys ants’ pheromone trails, so they can’t keep following those same pathways into your house. They also dislike the strong scent and cannot tolerate the limonene present in the lemon peel. Therefore, cut a lemon and rub it along ant trails and entry points into your home. Take the lemon peel and place outside your home where ants tend to appear. You can place the peel close to nests, too, to encourage the ants to move on.
4. DE, Yarrow Root, and Neem Leaf Powder
Diatomaceous Earth, yarrow root, and neem leaf powder is probably my favorite on this list and is easily one of the best ways to get rid of ants naturally. It has multiple uses – not only does it repel ants, but also ticks, fleas, mites, flying insects, and a host of other pests. It deters and kills naturally but it’s totally safe for kids and pets. This triple-action mixture works wonders.
The DE kills any insects that come into contact with it or ingest. Simply put, DE is fossilized marine phytoplankton. It looks like a fine white powder to the naked eye, but under a microscope, you can see that it’s super sharp, like tiny shards of glass. It’s totally harmless to humans and pets – we can even eat it – but it kills insects by cutting through their carapaces and drying them out.
Neem is well known for its insect-repellent properties and is extremely potent. It doesn’t kill ants, but they hate it, as do ticks, fleas, mites, and most other common insect pests. It’s also brilliant for soothing red, dry, or itchy skin.
Yarrow has been proven to be more effective than DEET for repelling mosquitoes, and it works just as well against ants, fleas, ticks, and more. Plus, like neem, it’s soothing for the skin.
Why do I keep mentioning soothing the skin in a post about how to control ants naturally? Because this particular mixture is what I also choose to use on my cats and dogs as natural flea and tick repellent. I apply it once every week from spring through to the end of fall, or after it rains, and once a month throughout the winter, and since I started using it, none of them have any problems, even when we’re walking in areas where we know there are ticks. In fact, our garden had a pretty bad tick problem when we moved in, but with regular applications of this powder, the garden is now tick-free.
Simply mix 50% DE with 25% neem leaf powder and 25% yarrow root powder. Mix thoroughly and get yourself something like a flour shaker with fairly fine mesh if you’re planning to apply to your animals or to your garden. This is my go-to solution for getting rid of ants naturally. I apply a line of this mixture around the perimeter of my house, around doorways, sills, and any other entry points where tiny intruders could get in. They loathe the smell, but if any brave enough to try, the DE kills them.
Nematodes are pretty great. These tiny little parasitic worms are so effective, they are one of the best ways to kill ants naturally. Some may say that they’re too effective. Nematodes generally come in a sachet, suspended in a paste that you mix with water. You apply the solution to the problem areas and the nematodes move through the soil looking for victims. They infect passing ants and kill them from the inside-out. Ants won’t cope with having ant-killing nematodes near their nests, so they’ll move their entire colony to try and escape, so the nematodes both kill and deter ants. This is a completely natural way to kill ants, but it’s essential that you keep your garden moist for 14 days to ensure the nematodes stay healthy and agile while killing the ants. Many growers love nematodes – you can use different species to kill a variety of insect pests, including slugs and leather jackets. Some people argue that, because these nematodes are so effective, they disrupt the ecosystem of your growing space. Nematodes are natural predators of ants. You have a high ant population. You release millions of nematodes that kill all the ants. But without the ants, you lose other natural predators of ants, such as horned lizards, spiders, shrews, and predatory wasps, who would have also been eating lots of other insect pests. And, of course, ants are predators of many other insect pests, and these creatures will thrive and multiply without ants to control them. So it’s a difficult balance. If you have a pretty major ant problem and other methods aren’t working effectively enough, nematodes are a good option, but they’re temporary. They can be used to eradicate a big ant infestation, and then other control methods can be employed to keep numbers to a manageable level.
6. Cucumber Peel
Ants dislike cucumber peel, so placing it along ant trails, near entry points, and in the vicinity of nests is an effective way of getting rid of ants naturally. It doesn’t kill them, but it will deter them. Ants don’t like the taste or smell, and the more bitter the cucumber, the more effective. You do have to replace the peels every other day, though, to keep things fresh.
7. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper is an effective natural ant repellant. Those all-too-common pests are confounded by cayenne. The strong compounds in this pepper destroy the ants’ pheromone trails, leaving them confused and unable to navigate. Sprinkle it along any entry points, anywhere you see ants following their trails, or around the nest. You can also mix cayenne with turmeric for an extra-strong barrier powder that ants won’t traverse.
8. White Vinegar
Good old white vinegar. Ants hate the strong scent. It also gets rid of their pheromone trails. Mix half vinegar, half water, and spray around entry points, along known and likely ant trails, and all around and over any nests you find. It’s inexpensive and effective. It’s also anti-bacterial and makes a great household cleaner and, if you mix a few drops of essential oils in, like something citrusy, peppermint, cinnamon, or similar, it’ll smell beautiful and you’ll boost both the anti-bacterial quality and the effectiveness against ants.
9. Baking Soda
Ah, baking soda. Ants can’t tolerate it. They don’t like to cross it. Supposedly, if you mix equal parts powdered sugar and baking soda, the ants will feast on it and carry it back to their colonies, where they’ll eventually explode from the gases released with the baking soda interacts with the ants’ internal chemistry. We tried this natural ant killer, and it’s hard to say conclusively either way. The ants did take it all. And it did seem to substantially reduce their numbers, but we didn’t repeat/refresh the homemade bait station, because we were so busy with other things, so it didn’t destroy the whole colony.
10. Diatomaceous Earth
DE is a great choice for killing ants naturally. As noted above, it essentially slices them up, which sounds pretty brutal, but it’s really effective. This powder is pet and child safe and can be applied across doorways, along window sills, and near entry points. It can also be mixed with powdered sugar and used as natural ant killer in a bait station that you position close to nests or known scent trails. As they feast on the sugar, they get coated in the Diatomaceous Earth which they carry back to the nest and pass on to others. You’ll likely need several applications, but it will work to rid your garden of ant colonies. If you find that you’ve got protein ants, not sugar ants, mix the DE with a little bacon grease of peanut butter instead.
Ants loathe peppermint. Like many common insect pests, they can’t stand the smell, so it acts as a fantastic multi-purpose natural arachnid and insect repellent. In the garden, plant peppermint in your borders and around the perimeter of your home. Place crushed peppermint leaves anywhere ants might use to gain access. You can also purchase peppermint essential oil, mix a few drops with a cup of water, and spray doorways, window sills, and entry points to make your home far less inviting. You’ll also notice far fewer spiders seeking refuge indoors when you’re spraying with peppermint oil. You’ll need to refresh/respray once a week.
All in all, you’ve got a lot of options when it comes to getting rid of ants naturally. Whether you’re happy to kill the little blighters or you just want to deter them, we’ve got you covered with a variety of solutions. Repelling ants naturally is effective and inexpensive, and it’s better for you, your family, your pets, beneficial insects, and the planet as a whole. So before you reach for that can of nasty chemical spray, try one or two of these homemade, natural ant remedies.
Bonus Tips to Get Rid of Ants Naturally…
- Keep counter tops, cupboards, and floors free of debris and grime. Always pick up anything you drop and wipe the surface clean once you’ve finished.
- Make sure all food, and in particular, sweet stuff, is tightly sealed away.
- Don’t leave food waste laying around, and make sure your garbage cans have tightly sealed lids.
- Look for tiny gaps, holes, cracks, and crevices, particularly around doors and windows, where ants could potentially squeeze in. Fill the gaps with caulk or similar sealant.
Don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter to get your free copy of One Week to a Greener You, plus you’ll get all the latest posts, tips, advice, and deals right to your inbox.
Here are our product recommendations