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How to Get Rid of Ants from Your House

By Mary Smith. Updated: July 31, 2018
How to Get Rid of Ants from Your House

Having ants in your house can be incredibly frustrating. Every time you dip the spoon in the marmalade or uncover the butter dish those little interlopers are scurrying around. The type of nuisance they cause depends on the type of ant, but even if they are friendly and not causing structural damage to your house, they can cause problems. Getting rid of ants in your house isn't always easy. It can be difficult to know where they are coming from. Even if you do know where they are, some of the chemicals used can be hazardous to you and your family's health. That's why oneHOWTO helps you understand all the ways how to get rid of ants from your house so that you can find the best solution for your infestation.

You may also be interested in: Natural Repellents for Ants

Boric acid

Boric acid has been used as an insecticide on different types of insect pests for a long time. It has been described as an "effective alternative to conventional neurotoxic insecticides"[1]. While safe enough for use in the house, it should never be ingested so keep it away from food. It can also have a toxic effect on plants, so do not use it in the garden or on your indoor plants.

While you may think that the more boric acid (also known as orthoboric acid) the better, this is no the case. A strong concentration is bad to have in your house and will also not attract ants. This is why you have to make up a solution and set it in a bait trap. According to Texas A&M University, a good way to make this bait is to add the boric acid to a sugar solution (1 part water to ¼ part sugar).

However, the amount of boric acid you add depends on the type of ant you are trying to kill. "Concentrations of 0.5 to 3.7 percent are most attractive to Argentine ants"[2]. If there is too much acid, the ants will stay away from it.

If you have an ant like the pharaoh ant, then the concentration should be a 1% solution mixed into the bait food. Appropriate bait will be something you can easily mix the boric acid into, such as jams or peanut butter. Sweet is good as the ants will be attracted to the sugar. Mix 1 teaspoon or boric acid with 2 cups of your chosen foodstuff. This should be enough to kill this type of ant. Boric acid should be available in most pharmacies, but you may have to ask for advice from the pharmacist.

Make sure no pets or children have access to the ant baits as the boric acid can do them harm. You need to replace the bait regularly and it make take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks to kill the ants in the colony.

How to Get Rid of Ants from Your House - Boric acid

Find out where the ant colony is

If you find that the boric acid trap isn't enough to kill the ants, it may be because you have an ant nest somewhere in your home. While most ant nests will be outdoors, it is certainly possible that they have established one in your house. Some common ant nest hideouts include:

  • Rotting wood - this could be a door or window frame or even some furniture you didn't know was rotting. The ants can enter into cavities which are inside the wood itself. For many reasons, you shouldn't have rotting wood in your home in the first place.
  • Ceiling and wall cavities - ants are industrious little fellas, so finding nooks and crevices to live in your house is not hard for them. They might even find their way into the insulation between your walls, so be careful. An acute infestation may require breaking into the plaster, so take care of the ants as soon as you discover their presence.
  • Foundations - ants might not only be above and around, they could be lurking below. Ant nests can be in the foundations of your house which might require special access to get to.
  • Under flooring and concrete - concrete slabs are a great place for ants to hide under, especially if there is more of a crevice below it.

If you can't find ant nests in any of these places, but are sure there is one in your house, you will need to track the ants. You can do this by setting out some sugar cubes near where you think the ant nest may be. Leave it for a couple of hours and you should see the ants congregating around it.

Once the ants have collected, you should see a pretty steady stream of ants coming and going. Follow this stream and see where they are taking the sugar back to. If there are not many ants it can be difficult to follow them. One way to make this easier is to blow or breath on the ants while they are on the sugar (not too hard). They will take this as a threat and retreat to the nest.

It can be difficult to follow the ants, especially if you track them on a trail which leads into something hollow. Carpenter ants can gnaw through wood, so even if you don't think the wood is rotting, they might use it as a conduit to get to the nest. Follow the wood and see if they come out the other end.

You may successfully track the ants back to their nest and spray it with insecticide to kill them. Even at this, you can find there are still ants. This means it is possible there is more than one nest. Repeat the previous process until you find and destroy all the ant nests in your home.

Type of ants to look for

Different types of ant will affect your home in different ways, so be careful with working out the type of ant infestation you have.

  • Pharaoh ant - if you have ever seen a person annoyed at someone and referring to them as a "pissant", you have these pesky ants to blame. They are very small and are rust colored. Because of their size, they can get into many types of holes and crevices. Workers can live for up to 70 days, while queen's may last a year[3]. They are particularly well known for infesting buildings, such as homes or hospitals.
  • Carpenter ant - carpenters build thing out of wood. Carpenter ants destroy them. They do not feed on the wood like termites, but bore into them to make a home for their nest. They have a main nest, but can make satellite nests throughout your house. This is why tracking them is so important.
  • Pavement ant - predominant in Europe, but do exist in North America. Are known for burrowing under pavements (hence the name), but can often be recognized by the disturbed dirt and gravel they leave behind.
  • Big headed ant - are often recognized because the workers appear in two different sizes. Can often be found in foundations and walls of houses.
  • Odorous house ant - this one is pretty self-explanatory as it is an ant which can life in houses and, you guessed it, it can smell. The smell occurs when they are crushed, so stomping them out is not a good idea. They are resilient and can even survive after injury. They are attracted to sweets and moisture, making them particularly fond of kitchens. This means, don't leave standing water out if you have an infestation.

These are just some of the many ant species which can infest a home, so be on a lookout and call an exterminator if you are unsure. Other species include tramp ants, fire ants, little black ants and crazy ants. These last ones are particularly fond of apartment complexes, but, despite their name, are relatively easy to remove.

Another reason to know the type of ant you are looking at is so that you can understand what they feed on. Ants tend to be protein feeding ants, like fire ants, or the sweet ant, like the carpenter ant. Knowing this will be able to help you set the appropriate bait.

How to Get Rid of Ants from Your House - Type of ants to look for

Cover the holes where they emerge

Once you have discovered where their trail leads, you can try covering up the holes. They will have other borrows and escape holes to get out of, but you might be able to see these better also to stem their flow. You shouldn't simply cover up the holes as this means you will have all these ants in your walls or ceiling which will be hard to get rid of. Spray them with an insecticide or one of our ideas below, then close up the holes.

You can use different types of material to close up the holes. Plaster could work, but ideally caulk, silicone or plastic should be used. You shouldn't only cover up the ant nest holes. If you discover ants coming in from your yard or elsewhere, it is likely they came in through an aperture in the house. While you can't seal the whole house completely, you should have all your windows and doors sealed properly to prevent ants and other pests from entering your home.

Soap and water mixture

Water spraying alone will not get rid of your ants. In the case of the odorous house ant, they may even appreciate the moisture. Adding soap to the water will be an effective way to destroy some of the ant species which may have invaded your home. This is because the detergent of the soap can break down their ant armor and kill them.

To make the soap solution, find an appropriate soap to use. Organic soap works best. Fill a spray bottle 3/4 of the way and fill the rest of the bottle with soap. Even simple dish soap will work in this way. Turn the bottle upside down so the soap mixes with the water. If you want to kill what is inside, spray ant nests liberally with the soap solution. The soap shouldn't do much damage to your home, but be careful not to overuse it.

Water and vinegar

Rather than an insecticide, using white vinegar sprays will be a deterrent. This won't do much to rid ant infestations, but they will stop them from coming in to places like your kitchen. Handily, white vinegar is also a great household cleaning product, so you can kill two birds with one stone.

As white vinegar can be used to clean certain surfaces like steel hobs or glass, you can use it to clean your windows and then spray some extra at the base of the window panes and doors. This will provide a barrier as the ants do not like the vinegar solution. They should retreat on approach and stop you from getting an infestation in the first place. You can also add some to your mop bucket so that when you wash the floor, a greater surface area will be able to deter the pests.

If you do have ants, you can still use the vinegar spray to drive them out of a certain area or to keep them away from one. To make the vinegar solution, simply add equal parts white vinegar to water into a bottle and spray ant nests and similar places. This solution is a great multi-purpose cleaner also, so it won't go to waste. Works great on everything from hair to washing machines.

How to Get Rid of Ants from Your House - Water and vinegar

Herbs and spices

This is another solution which is organic, humane and a double hitter. Planting certain herbs and using spices can help deter ants from coming into your house. This is because ants do not like the smell of certain strong smelling herbs. Herbs like basil, mint and parsley all deter ants. Grow some in a pot and distribute them around the places you think the ants might be. Your second benefit will be having all those delicious herbs to season your favorite dishes with all around the house. Keep them like houseplants and the ant's terror is your reward.

Ants apparently also don't like cinnamon and lemon peel. Dried pieces of both can still have a strong smell, so leave them in places like window sills or near doors. Unfortunately, except for the pleasant aroma these two give off, they will not be very useful other than deterring ants. Leaving pieces of cinnamon or lemon peel can also clutter up your home and provide other problems, so maybe this isn't the solution for everyone.

One way you might be able to get round it is to incorporate them both into a potpourri. Potpourri often has these elements in them already, but you can make your own for added surety. Also, essential oils are known to deter ants also. Use some peppermint or eucalyptus oil either in the potpourri or in scent dispensers around the house.

Best way to avoid ants in the home

Like perhaps most problems we encounter around the home, prevention is better than cure. The easiest way to prevent ants from entering your home is to keep it clean. There are many reason you want to keep your home clean, but this is an important one. Although a fruit bowl might look nice in the center of your table, it can be catnip to certain ant species who like to feed on sweet things. It's not so much of a problem when the fruit is unripe, but if it starts to turn and turns rotten, the increased smell will attract ants.

Food doesn't have to be rotten, however, to attract ants. Keep perishables in the refrigerator or in locked storage boxes like tupperware. Make sure you keep all areas and surfaces clean. If you have a cluttered and dirty house, this is a breeding ground not just for ants, but many different types of household pests.

Be aware that ants are part of our ecological system, especially if we want to have a healthy garden. They help kill certain insects which might be just as pestersome. However, they can also help protect the aphid population in the garden, so it's sometimes a double edged sword. Only destroy the ants if they are inside the house and causing a problem to its inhabitants. Needlessly killing them won't help anyone.

If they do find their way into your house, you can find ways to create barriers. Other than making sure all the doorways and windows are sealed, you can set up barriers in the garden for them. One particularly good one is to use chalk. Draw an outline with the chalk around the ant nest in your garden and replace it when it rains. This is because ants are particularly repulsed by chalk and substances like baby powder.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Get Rid of Ants from Your House, we recommend you visit our Maintenance and home security category.

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