I’m sure most people want to live in harmony with nature’s creatures, big and small, but ants are often an exception for many of us. Seeing their endless black trails from the smallest of gaps in your flooring, and having muffins (left on the bench for what seems like 2 minutes) engulfed by an army of tiny black soldiers is enough to spark genuine rage! I feel awful killing these guys, and we actively step over ant trails when out walking, but I certainly do not want them in my kitchen!
Did you know that ants are very successful little creatures, with more than 10,000 known species? The ants you see rushing around are the workers; they are wingless females that never reproduce, but instead, forage for food, care for the queen’s offspring, work on the nest, protect the community, and perform many other duties. Doesn’t that make you want to deter them, and not kill them?
Why are ants coming inside?
To survive, of course, as is what motivates all animals. Ants smell food, and in dry biomes, they’re also chasing water. Sometimes their nests get flooded by heavy rain so they look to make their nests elsewhere.
The solution to keep ants out of your house should be relatively simple:
1. Prevent them from coming in, and
2. Not be their MasterChef kitchen.
Here are some tips on handling some of earth’s smallest little creatures
Results will vary depending on so many factors, including the type of ants, how well you actually clean versus how well you think you’re cleaning, whether wind or rain destroys your best efforts at barrier control… If your chosen method doesn’t work first go, don’t give up, try again (or another natural method)! You got this!
Follow ant trails to their source of entry. It will likely be a crack in a wall, loose window frames, or power outlets. Seal the crevices with putty, glue, or plaster. Failing an opportunity to permanently seal off their golden gateway to your home, pour a few drops of peppermint oil onto a piece of cotton wool or cloth and carefully wedge it into the crevice.
It’s a handy fact to know that ants are repelled by cinnamon, black pepper and garlic, so sprinkling these around entrance points may be useful. Peppermint, eucalyptus and tea tree essential oils are natural insect repellents – just add 10 drops of essential oils to 1/4 cup of water/vinegar to a spray bottle, then spray and wipe down surfaces to keep your home smelling fresh and ant-free. You could also diffuse these essential oils.
You could try filling a spray bottle with water, liquid castile soap (½ tsp for every ¼ cup of water) and peppermint essential oil (10 drops of peppermint for every ¼ cup of water) and spray around their entrance.
Apparently, ants don’t like chalk so try drawing (quite thickly) near entrance points (for ants) – I’m sure the kids will love this one!
Coffee grounds, lemon juice and diatomaceous earth have also proven successful for some members of my Facebook discussion group.
Don’t feed them
Like many animals who live in a modern world, ants just love sweet and fatty food, and water! By making the following tips normal practice in your home, you will definitely reduce the temptation for ants to make their way inside.
- Clean your kitchen after mealtimes.
- Eat in one place – crumbs between sofa cushions and between your sheets make your home oh-so-tempting for ants.
- Store food in airtight containers, and ripe fruit in the fridge.
- Clear out lunchboxes straight away after kids return from school (and maybe shake out their school bags too!).
- Wipe down benches, rubbish bins, and the sink with a mixture of half water/half vinegar. Ants can smell vinegar once it’s dry, while we can’t, and they don’t like it.
- Ants can track down leaking taps. Inspect your bathroom pipes and household taps regularly. Don’t leave pools of water around.
- Leaving your pet’s food bowl in the middle of a moat will indeed keep ants out of the bowl, but the smell will still attract them inside your house. Consider feeding your pet then cleaning the bowl straight away afterwards.
Use equal parts borax with equal parts sugar, combine into a paste and place near the cracks where ants are entering. This concoction is delicious to ants and should kill them (no doubt it’s the sugar!). It’s pretty lethal stuff so do keep the borax-sugar mix away from tiny humans.
Pouring boiling water may also be effective at killing ants, but some nests are very deep so you may not be killing them all.
Let’s hear it for the ants
They are wonderful earth companions. They will kill cockroach nymphs, spread the seeds of native plants, and break down waste in your garden. As talk amps up about the need to protect our earth’s biodiversity, ants will certainly be the heroes in this discussion. If you see one or two in your house and it’s a Sunday afternoon and you’re feeling chill, give them a name and thank them for all that they do for our beautiful planet. Then clean all of your surfaces because they came in for a reason.
Author, Advocate & Founder
Krissy wants to see a world where people make conscious, educated decisions that honour both humans and habitat. With a background in education and health promotion, she devotes her time to passionately increase awareness on common and avoidable toxins, in everyday items like washing powder and deodorant, and to educate individuals on how they can easily reduce their daily exposure, through simple and realistic do-it-yourself ideas and recipes.
Krissy has sold over 30,000 copies of her natural DIY recipe books, including her latest, award-winning book, Naturally Inspired - Simple DIY Recipes for Body Care and Cleaning, and offers honest and gentle guidance, education and 100+ natural DIY recipes on her website The Inspired Little Pot.