How to Keep Ants Out of Your House Naturally

Ground cinnamon and a bunch of cinnamon sticks

Matthew O-Shea / Getty Images

This simple nontoxic trick is a little miracle ... and no ants were harmed in the writing of this story.

I am a total wuss when it comes to killing things – I don’t eat animals, I can’t squish bugs. But oftentimes co-existing with creatures that want to hang in my home is disconcerting. And even though I live in the city, nature has a way of creeping in.

Case in point: Every spring a troop of ants manages to invade the building I call home and diligently do their ant thing. They line up in an existentially hypnotic string of undulating insects and snake their way through kitchen and bathrooms, assiduously attending to their work. And man, they are everywhere.

My first approach was to go the preventative route. If I can block every point of access, voila. Anyone who has tried this – who lives in a big old building – knows the folly of this plan. Ants, they are tiny. And determined. They will find a way to get in.


Next, I considered motivation. “Why are you here?” I asked they didn’t answer – dashing my hopes of being the world’s first "ant whisperer". But between common sense and the great oracle known as Google, I determined that food and water were key. I keep a tidy kitchen but paid extra attention to crumbs and bits that might present a small feast for the little troopers. I also considered water: Standing water, damp areas, leaky plumbing, houseplants – all pretty dry. (I mention these things because if you are a battling a pest infestation, these concerns should be addressed.)

Choosing a Repellent

So what to do? I refuse to use toxic repellents – the use of insecticide confounds me, why would I want to spray killer chemicals in my home? Yes, they are only meant to kill pests – and a dose lethal to a creature that weighs one-millionth as much as I do (that’s an actual figure, by the way) may seem innocuous, but still. Poison is poison – and given the challenge that our beloved pollinators are facing because of insecticide, I just say no. So I took a look at natural remedies for the ant invasion and saw an idea that resonated with me: Use ground cinnamon.

Although I pathologically prescribe to natural remedies, I admit that sometimes, occasionally, some of them just don’t work. But I got out a jar of cinnamon and sprinkled it along the popular ant party spots in the house, and within a few hours this happened: There was not a single ant left. They jumped ship, they bailed, they hit the road – and with that one application of cinnamon, there was not another ant to be found for the rest of ant season. What kind of black magic is this? Thinking it a fluke, I pre-cinnamoned the next spring, and nary an ant entered. Plus, the house smelled good. I remain converted.


There are several ways to go about it. I just sprinkled, but others suggest using cinnamon essential oil – which would be tidier – or dipping a Q-Tip in ground cinnamon and drawing a neat line to create a barrier that the ants won’t cross.

Other Possible Repellants

It appears that this simple trick relies on the idea of disrupting the pheromone trail that ants rely on to navigate. And there are other natural remedies that can induce the same result: citrus, vinegar, peppermint and coffee grounds all have their supporters as well. So if cinnamon isn’t your thing, try one of the other scent distractors and hopefully, say goodbye to sharing your house with a troop of tiny interlopers. Try one! And let us know in the comments what works for you.