13 Natural Remedies for the Ant Invasion

Here are the best DIY pest control methods to help you cope.

A muffin and cookies on the counter, with ants scattered around the food

Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Getty Images

Little tiny ants have been spotted in our new home, and many people are suffering the same fate across the country. As much as I love spring, I don't like bugs—especially bugs that can infest a house. Last week I asked for some advice on how to deal with ants naturally, as I didn't have time to research it myself since I just moved this weekend. I got such good advice, I had to share it.

Some of these measures are deterrents—that is, they deter ants from coming into your house. This seems to work well for those with a mild problem. Others found that they needed something stronger. I've compiled the comments and suggestions by category, allowing you to compare the different methods a little more easily.

Remember to take steps to make your home less inviting to ants. Put all food away in tightly sealed containers and wipe surfaces throughly. Do dishes promptly, keep floors clean, and wipe around pet food bowls and rinse daily. Check houseplants to make sure they don't have ants; if they do, remove from the home and discard. They might have ant nests in the soil. You can also try to surround the plant's base with citrus peels.

Seal Holes to Keep Ants Out

If you can find where ants—and other pests—are entering your house, sealing up the holes can be incredibly effective for keeping them out. Use silicone caulk, putty, or glue. In a pinch, you can try petroleum jelly or poster tack.

We generally advocate against the killing of wildlife and recommend getting along with creatures we share habitat with, even ants in our homes! Some of the commenters recommend methods that will kill ants. We include those for people with allergies or when ants are destroying things. But please consider non-lethal methods first.

1. Lemon Juice

Glass jar of lemon juice with whole lemon next to it on marble cutting board

Treehugger / Dan Amos

The idea behind using lemon juice is that it masks the ants' scent trail and deters them from proceeding. You can mix up one part lemon juice and three parts water and spray around window sills and door frames and wherever else they may be entering.

One commenter named Teresa said, "We just spray around the openings with pure lemon juice and it always works for us—something about the acid messes up their sense of tracking."

2. Cinnamon

a few cinnamon sticks on white table with more in glass jar in background

Treehugger / Dan Amos

When ants inhale cinnamon, it can cause them to suffocate and die, which makes this an effective DIY repellent. Cinnamon oil also works—the stronger, the better.

Shayla said, "We use ground cinnamon around where there are ants coming in. It works really well.

Peggy said, "We spray cinnamon essential oil all around the doors, windowsills, floors, etc. to keep them from coming in. I put the sugar water and borax OUTSIDE!"

Letia: "Another vote for ground cinnamon. Easy to clean up afterwards and worked great for us!"

Jean: "Cinnamon and cloves. Makes your house smell nice and the ants just hate it sprinkled right in their path."

Patricia: "We also use cinnamon oil. We draw borders around everything with a Q-tip dipped in it. They won't cross it."

3. Peppermint

small jar of peppermint essential oil with fresh peppermint sprig on tree trunk

Treehugger / Jordan Provost

You can use peppermint essential oil (20 drops per 2 cups of water) and spray around window sills and door thresholds as a deterrent.

Heather: "My mother-in-law has success with peppermint essential oil around windows and doors (any entries). Plus her house then smells awesome."

Julie: "Dr. Bonner’s liquid soap in the mint aroma. Mix 1 to 1 with water in a spray bottle. Spray on the ant invasion and watch them suffer."

4. Borax, Water, Sugar

glass ramekin of borax, water, sugar with red card stock on blue speckled plate

Treehugger / Dan Amos

Borax is a slow-acting poison for ants that will wreak havoc on their digestive system and cause them to die within a few days of ingestion. It is most effective if taken back to the colony, where (ideally) the queen eats it, too.

Kristi: "We use borax, sugar, water, and a touch of peanut butter. It takes a couple of weeks but really works. We used it last year in our old house and are implementing it again this spring in our new house. Pesky ants!"

Christy: "I’ve made a thin paste before with water, sugar, and borax, then spread it on little pieces of thin cardboard or stiff card stock and placed them near where it seems they are coming into the house. They’ll eat it and take it back to their colony (just like the Terro liquid you can buy). The paste will dry up in a couple days, so you’ll have to make more. But I think I only had to do it twice before they were gone."

Chookie: "What worked for us was a mixture of borax and sugar in water. Several years ago, we lived in a house where there was an ant nest in the walls. Removing it would have meant virtually demolishing the entire front wall of the house (not practical!). Instead, after a year or two of having flying ants swarm into our bedroom, we decided to go on an ant killing spree. Conventional ant killers didn’t work. Borax and powdered sugar didn’t work. But adding water to the borax and sugar mix to make a thick sugary borax-y syrup DID work. The worker ants took it back into the nest and it positioned the queen. Result: no more flying ants. Borax does need to be kept away from pets and small children, but it is relatively safe beyond that, as it is only toxic if you eat it. My solution was to put it somewhere where the kids and the cats would not reach it but the ants could."

BeverlyC: "We live in China and had a HORRIBLE ant problem in our house. Tried cinnamon, black pepper, vinegar, etc. We were concerned about the borax because we have guests in and out regularly and the little children are often, well, naughty and undisciplined. When someone suggested Terro liquid ant bait and we found it was just borax and sugar, we asked someone to bring us some. We could pick the traps up and put them away when company came and put them back out after they left. They worked wonders!"

5. Boiling Water and Dish Soap

hot water kettle and blue dish soap in glass container outside near flowers

Treehugger / Dan Amos

If you notice ant hills around your home, you can pour boiling water into them to kill the ants inside immediately. It won't kill every ant, so be sure to apply this treatment to as many holes as you can.

Jennie: "We make sure all of our food is sealed up. The honey jar is usually the biggest ant magnet, so it gets a thorough washing and then is placed on a small water-filled saucer in the cupboard. We use a spray bottle filled with water and a squirt of liquid dish soap (I use Seventh Generation) to kill any visible ants. I also look around outside to try to find their hill; pouring a kettle of boiling water on it solves the problem."

Christy: "I’ve done what Jennie mentioned, too. Boiling water will destroy an ant colony or weeds popping up between sidewalk cracks or in mulch. It’s an easy, purely natural way to kill things that we don’t often think about."

6. Diatomaceous Earth

close shot of trowel sprinkling diatomaceous earth into potted plant

Treehugger / Dan Amos

Sprinkle diatomaceous earth (aka silicon dioxide) wherever the ants move around within your home—following their trails, along baseboards, window ledges and sills, door thresholds, cracks, and elsewhere. Be sure to wear a mask to avoid accidental inhalation and gloves to minimize contact with hands. It's not harmful, but it's best not to touch if possible. Apparently it destroys an ant's exoskeleton and causes dehydration.

Karen: "Yes, diatomaceous earth (DE) works well. Use food-grade, not swimming pool DE. It should be sprinkled around the perimeter of your new home and you can also safely sprinkle it inside where you see them. Do not wet the DE or it will not work. DE isn’t an instant kill but should resolve the problem within a week or so."

Jami: "I have a pretty serious any invasion at my house, too. When I moved in last April, [ants] had already made themselves at home. I did the cinnamon thing last year and it worked OK, but they just kept finding new ways in. My ants weren’t attracted to sugary things, but protein, especially the dog food. This year I made some borax cookies and put them in the old fireplace where I noticed the ants returning a week ago. I also sprinkled DE around the perimeter of my kitchen and that seems to have worked better than anything so far for immediate results."

7. Chalk

hand draws chalk line with orange chalk alongside stone wall and ground

Treehugger / Jordan Provost

Some people swear by chalk's effectiveness, but it's not proven. If anything, it would prove only to be a temporary deterrent, but that might buy you some time to come up with a more comprehensive solution.

Natalie: "They will not cross a line drawn in chalk. I drew a line around my window where they were coming in and it kept them at bay."

Anali: "My grandparents had really good results with the line of chalk, they used powder that you can get at home improvement stores. It comes in a squeeze bottle so it’s easy to lay down a line with."

8. Baking Soda and Powdered Sugar

baking soda in jelly jar and pile of powdered sugar in ceramic ramekin with wooden spoon

Treehugger / Dan Amos

This combination is effective because powdered sugar attracts ants and baking soda (which they cannot differentiate from the sugar) kills them by mixing with the acid in their stomachs. It's most effective if left close to the entrance of the colony, since the ants must bring it back to the nest to kill the queen in order to eliminate the whole colony—and do so before they themselves die.

Jennifer said, "Ants carry an acidic substance with them always for protection. I do a mix of baking soda and powdered sugar in a plastic lid set in strategic places. I think a little volcanic science experiment happens inside their bodies. Over the course of several days, it has made a huge difference."

9. Coffee Grounds

metal spoon filled with coffee grounds spilling onto table

Treehugger / Dan Amos

Brewed coffee grounds are said to be most effective if spread near the ants' entry point. Once they dry out, though, they don't work as well.

Lea: "I have had success with used coffee grounds. I did know where their entry was and, after putting it in the cracks, they never returned. I also do know it doesn’t kill them, it just makes them move homes. We have put them on [garden] beds outside and we just see them pop up a small distance away."

10. Cornmeal

clear glass bowl of yellow cornmeal on blue table

Treehugger / Dan Amos

Ants are attracted to starchy foods like cornmeal, which is why this can be effective.

Jill: "I saw somewhere to use cornmeal. Well, it worked out since some moths got into my cornmeal, and I felt bad wasting it. That’s when I saw the idea and tried it. I sprinkled a little bit just off the back porch. Every day I would check and every day the same trail of ants was still there. Then I forgot about it. My daughter found another ant nest further out in the yard, and it made me remember to check the last trail. It was gone, completely gone. So, I sprinkled it on the new nest, and less than a week later, it is gone."

11. Cream of Wheat

uncooked cream of wheat in red ceramic bowl with handles outside on granite table

Treehugger / Dan Amos

Cream of wheat is said to expand in ants' stomachs when they ingest it and cause them to die.

Rebecca said, "Cream of wheat! They eat it and it expands and they explode! Ha! I used it in my garden for ant problems. Kind of makes you wonder what it does to our insides when we eat it, too."

12. Vinegar

upcycled milk jar with white vinegar and measuring cup on brick patio outside

Treehugger / Dan Amos

Make a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water and spray directly onto the ants and onto whatever surfaces they travel on, including areas where food is stored, such as cupboards and pantry shelves.

Kristie: "Vinegar! Since we switched to using a vinegar/water solution for mopping the floors and cleaning the counters, our ant problem has vanished."

Mysty: "Vinegar is the one sure solution, but you need to pour it where the ants have their nest, not just to where they walk around. If you find their nest just pour about 0.5-1 L of white (cheap) vinegar."

Cath: "We used a mixture of vinegar, washing up liquid, and peppermint oil last year. Tracked them back to their nest and syringed it into the cracks. They never came back."

13. Equal

close shot of small pile of Equal aspartame sugar with open packets in background

Treehugger / Dan Amos

Tea Leaf said, "We killed our ants by mixing Equal packets with apple juice. It is a neurotoxin to the ants. Scary that people put these in their coffee."