Getting the Ants Out – Naturally

Ants make me crazy.  I hate them.  I hate them most in my house.   I hate the thought of them walking around my house or through my cupboards.   I put up with them outside, but I prefer them in small quantities.

borax as a natural ant solution

Dealing with Ants Naturally

It used to be that when ants got into my house we’d buy poison traps and put them where we thought the kids and cats could not get at them.   Then we learned about chemicals and the bigger picture problems with using chemicals beyond just keeping our children safe from them.  We learned about chemicals in landfills and getting into water ways.  We do not want to encourage companies to make and sell more chemicals.   I realized there must be a natural answer.

And there is.  Or I should say, there are.  There are many natural answers to dealing with and controlling ants.  Many websites talk about different ways of handling ants depending on what kind of ants you have.  I’ve found that over the course of the year different types of ants wander in and out of my house and I don’t really want any of them around, so I’ve looked for general, keep them all out, solutions.

General Ant Prevention

Using Mint Plants to Keep the Ants Out

Mint planted near a house to repel ants

Mint growing around the house to repel ants

Plant mint around your house.   Ants hate mint.   Mint grows like a crazy weed, and most people like the smell.  I moved some mint sprigs to near my back door and near where I’d seen lots of ants.  Mint is a weed and will grow in any teeny-tiny little patch of space,  so you don’t really need a yard, just a little bit of dirt. If you do have yard, consider planting it in the borders near the house.  Jon just mows ours down when he mows the grass and it makes the yard smell nice.  It’s hard to kill,  so don’t worry about having a green thumb.  And the best part?  Fresh mint!

Corn Meal to Reduce Ant Population

If you know where the ants are coming from, or you want to keep a population down outside, sprinkle the area liberally with corn meal.  They eat it and it swells in their stomach and they die.   I’ve used this to keep ants down in the yard and garden. I don’t think it’s right to wipe them out completely outside, like all living things they serve a purpose.  However, I do try to keep the population down where the children play and where we’re trying to grow food.

Clean with Vinegar

Vinegar erases the ant trails.  Ants usually send out a scout who leaves a trail and then the hoards follow him in.   If you wipe the counters down with vinegar, you can thwart any scout ants who are trying to bring their hoards in.

Clean with Mint Infused Vinegar

I put fresh mint (see above, plant mint around your house)  into jars of vinegar and let them steep.  Then periodically I fill a spray bottle with the mixture.  Vinegar wipes out the trails  (and disinfects while you’re at it) and mint dissuades the ants from coming.

Clean Thoroughly

Once I found ants in the cupboard.  The only thing to do was to take *everything* out, wipe everything down with vinegar, the packaging, the walls and shelves.  If you can figure out how they are getting into the cupboard, wipe the paths down with vinegar as well.

Dealing With An Infestation

Borax and Sugar Mix

Boric Acid and Sugar Mix

Sometimes the prevention isn’t enough and groups of ants show up inside.   At this point I feel the only thing you can do is poison.  I use a mixture of borax boric acid and sugar.  Boric acid is the refined form of the naturally occurring mineral borax. I mix it up in a small bowl, then put little piles of it around where I see the ants congregating and drip a few drops of water on it.  The amounts don’t need to be specific, the boric acid is the poison and the sugar is to attract the ants.  I tend to do about 50-50, but I don’t measure. I find that the water seems to attract the ants to powder.  At this point, you can’t kill the ants, because they have to take the mixture back to their ant hill and share it with the family.  This should kill off the entire colony in a few days.  I find when I put the mix out, with 2-3 days the ants seem to be pretty much gone.  Sometimes new scout ants show up again, so I often leave it in the back corners of my counter for most of the summer, refreshing as necessary.

Be sure to put the mix where children and animals cannot get into it.  Borax is natural (occurring in nature) and isn’t an artificially created chemical, but it is still poisonous to children and animals.  Because Borax is poisonous, I prefer to use it as a last resort.  However, I am much more comfortable with using boric acid than with manufactured chemicals.

Dealing With Specialty Ants

Note that if you have carpenter ants you must speak with an expert  because they can cause significant structural damage to a building.   There are exterminators who specialize in “Integrated Pest Management” who make ever effort to deal with pest problems without using chemicals that will otherwise harm the environment.  Sometimes, in order or preserve our health and buildings we must use poisons, but by following these suggestions, and when necessary working with someone who practices integrated pest management, we can be as kind to the environment as possible.

Happy Greening!

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  1. Thank for your tips.
    We use coffee around the plants. Ants hate the stuff and its good for the plants too, as it nurtures the soil.

  2. I tried all of these, plus a few others and nothing worked. The ants were literally walking over the mint and counters that I just cleaned with vinegar.

    I finally broke down and got a trap with liquid poison. Within days 99% of the ants were gone and I only occasionally see a straggler.

  3. Anonymous says

    I have used minute rice to get rid of fire ants. They eat it and it expands in their stomach and die.

  4. Anonymous says

    any ideas for hummingbird feeders…mine get infested with ants every year

    • Yes, if you’ll wrap the hanger with double-sided tape, the ants will not be able to get to the feeder. Additionally, if you put a poison onto the tape then they’ll die.

  5. Diatomaceous Earth. You can get it at Home Depot or Feed Stores. If the ants(or other kids of bugs) walks over it, it will work itself under their shells and kill them. Powder can even be added to food as a mineral supplement.

    • Do not use the diatomaceous earth marketed for killing bugs and/or to use in pool systems. If you are going to eat it (is truly good for you… google it) you must find the kinds that has the words “Food Grade” clearly represented on the packaging. It is imperative you do NOT eat any DE that doesn’t say Food Grade. Seriously, this cannot be stressed enough.

  6. what about fleas?

    • For fleas, try this: Before you go to bed (at night), get a saucer or plate and fill it with water. So of course, it will be shallow…..but then put in about a teaspoon of Dawn dishwashing detergent , and mix it up in the water a little. Now, position a little desk light/lamp over the saucer and turn it on! (This should be in the area where the fleas are, of course.) Fleas are attracted to the light — the rest of the room is dark — as they jump toward the light, they land in the plate, and they can’t get out, and drown. It worked for me! I had to do it every night for 3 weeks, less and less fleas every night!

  7. I’m also extremely interested in preventing them into my hummingbird feeders. I won’t try the poisons because I’m afraid they’ll consume it, then burrow into the feeders, dying in there due to drowning and contaminate the feeder. I’ll try the double-sided tape around the feeder hanger, but it just hangs from a nail with a wire going down, so that may be problematic.

    • One of our FB readers suggested this for Hummingbird feeders:
      Patti Swartzel: In regards to the ants — spraying a cooking spray on the hook or vaseline does the trick. Too slippery for the ants and will not harm the hummers.

    • Anonymous says

      In regard to the hummingbird feeders, coating the pole with vaseline has always worked for me.

  8. I love your solar panel jewelry and blog and just subscribed! Our ants are under control now but if they get bad again I’m going to try these tips- thank you 🙂
    annie @ montanasolarcreations

  9. Yah, what about fleas?? my ants just crawled all over my mint plants. i just live with them. i find in my organic garden every ‘pest’ population eventually finds a comfortable carrying capacity and it all works itself out without chemicals. the key is in balance. plant different kinds of plants that attract different kinds of bugs and in time the populations level out and i never have a problem. and just as a note, the word ‘hate’ is such a harsh word that sends out bad vibes to all that hear-read it…’intensely dislike’ is much softer and kinder to our souls. at least we are hearing ‘like’… 🙂 thanks for the tips!

  10. Just simply wanted to point out I am just delighted that i stumbled on the page!

  11. Seems like mint is not the best deterrent according to some posters. Also, I read that mint attracts pollinators such as wasps or bees.

    Borax mixed in sugar water degraded my infestation, but didn’t completely eliminate it. I still struggle with those single ants crawling on my walls, floors, bed sheets, my laptop, and even me! They are much harder to eradicate since there isn’t a trail, I can’t determine from where they are coming.

    I’ve had the exterminator spray my home’s interior and exterior, which did not solve the problem. They must search, find, and destroy the nest. Meanwhile, I cannot figure out why these natural remedies work for some and not others.

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  13. I had a sudden stream of ants earlier in the spring, sprayed down the entry areas with fresh squeezed lemon juice which greatly reduced the population. But continued to have a few stragglers, which I usually just killed by hand. I picked some fresh mint (from a friend) and put it in a vase of water on the counter to keep until used in a recipe. I noticed that the ants completely disappeared and wondered if the mint had anything to do with it. Some google research….and I discovered that mint does in fact repel ants. I think I will start growing mint in my own pots for its many uses (fragrance, recipes, and now insect and mouse? repellent).

    • Thanks for the comment Bscrimm! It’s nice to hear examples of where this works for others too! I hadn’t thought of putting springs in water on my counter, I’m going to try that – I certainly have enough outside! -Alicia

  14. Ants are the best thing that happend to this socitey, I dont understand why anyone would be so crude as to kill then with rice. Im so triggered

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