Make This Non-Toxic Spray to Keep Ants Out of Your Kitchen

©. Melissa Breyer

A mixture of leftover citrus rinds and vinegar is an easy, food-safe way to cut ants off at the pass.

First things first: I secretly love ants. I love all living things (well, except mosquitoes. And lately, some humans) – so if you are looking for a homemade formula to zap these cute little social creatures into oblivion, that's not where we are going here. However, if you are looking for a gentle way to thwart their entry into your home, then you've come to the right place.

You really have to hand it to the ants. Somehow, against all odds, they find their way in. I live on the 4th floor of a building in Brooklyn, and even though my kitchen is crumb-free and (almost) spotless, every year I see a trial of them lining up to barge in. Four floors seems like a pretty long way to go for not much in return – they are persevering and tireless, that's for sure.

So I have written about my ants before, and explained what I have long thought of as the perfect solution for keeping them out of the house. (Because as fascinating as I think they are, I don't like inadvertently eating them.) My number one solution is cinnamon, which you can read about here: How to keep ants out of your house naturally. But as much as I love the smell of cinnamon, spring and summer don't always feel so cinnamon-y, and so I've adopted a new formula that feels a little more seasonally relevant.

It's very simple, a mixture of citrus rinds and vinegar. It's non-toxic, which is more than can be said for some commercial insect sprays that nobody should have in their kitchens, let alone their homes. And it's a good way to use up some fruit peels.

In this formula, the d-limonene in the citrus mixed with the vinegar works the same way that cinnamon does – by disrupting the pheromone trail that the ants use to navigate along their little paths. Some suggest spraying it directly on the ants – shudder – which will kill them. I only use it along known paths and entry routes. Apparently, they get one whiff and hightail it out of there. And seriously, using it as a deterrent is much nicer than just dousing the poor things with it. What did they ever to do us? Well, aside from carrying entire cupcakes off crumb by crumb, but still.

Here's how simple it is to make – this method comes from Apartment Therapy and is an improvement on how I've been making it.

• Add citrus rinds (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit) to a pot, then add white vinegar to cover.
• Gently the mixture until it’s steaming, but not boiling. Turn off the stove and let the mix sit for several hours to overnight.
• Strain the liquid and pour it into a spray bottle, then store it in the refrigerator.

(And your vinegar-soaked citrus peels can still be used for cleaning, by the way. In fact, the ant spray itself can be used for cleaning, too.)

As I noted in the cinnamon post, removing the lure of crumbs and sealing entry holes should be the first plan of attack. But if they're still coming, this tangy citrus spray should hold them at bay. Extending the life of citrus peels and a bright smelling home are just the icing on the cake ... but don't tell the ants about that part.