According to National Geographic, there are more than 10,000 known species of ants in the world. Often confused with termites, most ants are harmless. But carpenter ants can damage wood, and ant varieties like fire ants, harvester ants, field ants, and crazy ants can bite or sting people and pets.
Ants are also a common household pest that are drawn to food. While each is typically half the size of a paper clip, a large infestation of ants, called an army or colony, can be an unsightly nuisance. Worse, a study showed that Monomorium ants can carry pathogenic bacteria harmful to people, and another study indicates that the pharaoh ant is related to asthma and respiratory allergies.
That's even more reason to get rid of ants around your home. Various store-bought products can do the trick, but for harmless ant varieties, chemical baits and sprays can be more detrimental than the ants themselves. Try these cheap, natural ant remedies to rid your home of the tiny pests.
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How to Get Rid of Ants from Your Home Using Natural Ingredients
Start by identifying what attracts ants indoors. Observe the trail they walk and consider if there are food or water sources along their route. Whether it is a sticky drop of honey or a spoon under the sink, find what they're looking for and remove it. Never leave food out on open surfaces. Put leftovers in sealed glassware or in the refrigerator. If you are lucky, the ants will move out on their own once you remove the source of attraction. If they don't, try these remedies.
1. Distilled White Vinegar
A white vinegar and water solution is a common method to wipe out ants for good. Ants don't like the smell of vinegar. It not only repels them; it can also kill them. Depending on how much you can bear the smell, mix at least one part vinegar and three parts water. Some people use 100% vinegar in a spray bottle or a 50/50 mix of water and vinegar.
Ants search for food using pheromones, leaving a trail for other ants to follow. To get rid of the trail, spray this mixture anywhere you spot ants. Don't forget any entry points, like window sills, backdoors, or baseboards. Use the solution to wipe down and sanitize surfaces. If used once a week or so, you should see a marked improvement.
2. Citrus Fruits
Ants hate the smell of citrus fruits, such as lemons, limes, and oranges, so they're an excellent natural repellant. Save your lemon or grapefruit peels and scatter them around entryways. They act as natural deterrents without causing ants any harm.
3. Peppermint Oil
"Peppermint oil is one of the best household remedies for creeping critters in your home or garden. The odor of peppermint is strong enough to ward off insects—ants, flies, and mosquitoes—without being pungent enough to cause headaches or nausea," suggests Harry Peters of the UK-based cleaning site Tidy Choice. "It can be used in the house or garden to prevent unwanted pests from entering your home. You can add peppermint essential oil to your homemade household products or spray it on doorways, window sills, and baseboards to keep pests out of your home."
Another option is to use an oil incense burner near the ant infestation source to keep them from coming back.
Studies show that cinnamon has a compound known as trans-cinnamaldehyde that effectively repels and kills ants. Place ground cinnamon around common entryways and its strong smell will act as a natural repellent. You can also coat cotton balls with cinnamon powder or cinnamon oil and place them near ant-prone areas.
Spread table salt near nooks and corners to keep ants away. A line of salt creates a barrier that repels ants. A spray of salt water solution can also help kill ants by dehydrating them.
6. Cayenne or Black Pepper
Like many people, ants find the smell of raw pepper to be irritating. Sprinkle pepper around the areas where ants access the house. A Texas A&M study found that a water and pepper solution was effective at killing ants.
Pest experts indicate that ground coffee keeps ants away. Researchers tested three varieties of coffee on three species of ants. They found that Arabian coffee has the highest mortality rate among three types of ants: ghost ant, big-headed ant, and pharaoh ant.
How to Keep Ants Out of Your House
Seal all entry points. Caulk and seal any cracks or exposed crevices where ants can access the house.
Keep sweets in airtight containers, tightly wrapped with foil or plastic, or in the fridge.
Regularly clean countertops, floors, cabinets, and pantries. Also, keep pet food properly stored between meals and regularly clean pet bowls.
Take out the trash and make sure that the trash cans are covered. Inspect the cans for residue that might linger after taking the garbage out and clean them regularly.
Brittany Hampton, COO of Massachusetts-based disinfecting and cleaning company Purifly, explains while it's logical to think that cleaning products would kill bugs too, "people may be surprised to learn that disinfectants, sanitizers, and most under-the-sink cleaning agents are not rated to terminate ants or household pests. If someone's best efforts to use environmentally sound solutions aren't working, a local pest control company should offer the safest option for the customer's specific needs and location." Pest control companies can quickly identify the type of species you are dealing with, survey the extent of the damage, and suggest effective long-term remedies.