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How to Kill Ants without Pesticides

Four Methods:Using Natural InsecticidesLaying TrapsTaking Out a NestTrying Natural Deterrents

When you open your cabinets and see ants swarming your spilled sugar, it might be tempting to use strong chemicals to take them all out as soon as possible. However, pesticides are unhealthy for humans, pets, and other beneficial creatures you might want hanging around your property. The good news is that there are so many highly effective ways to kill ants without pesticides that there's really no need to turn to them. See Step 1 and beyond to learn how to make ant spray and traps, take out a whole nest, and deter ants from coming inside, all without using pesticides.

Method 1
Using Natural Insecticides

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    Use dish soap and water. Fill a water bottle with one part dish soap and two parts water, then shake it up to mix the solution thoroughly. When you see a line of ants (or just one ant, for that matter) spray the mixture over them. They'll immediately halt and suffocate. Wipe up the dead ants with a wet cloth, and keep the spray bottle around for next time.[1]
    • Setting out shallow dishes of soapy water is another good way to kill ants. Lure them in with a trail of something sugary.
    • This method is good for killing groups of ants, but it won't take out the entire nest. If ants keep coming back, you might have to address the source of the problem.
    • Soapy water is a natural insecticide that kills most insects, not just ants. Try it on roaches, too.
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    Try white vinegar and water. Ants really hate vinegar, and you can make a cheap, easy pesticide just using vinegar and water. Mix a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray it directly onto the ants to kill them, then wipe up the ants using a damp paper towel and discard them.
    • You can also use vinegar and water as a deterrent; spray it around your windowsills, doorways and other places where you see ants coming inside.
    • Some people have found that using this vinegar solution to clean the floors, windows and countertops makes ants less likely to crawl over these surfaces. White vinegar makes an excellent household cleaner, and you can't smell it once it dries.
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    Make a lemon juice solution. If you can't stand the smell of vinegar, spray the ants with a lemon juice solution. They're averse to the citric acid in lemon juice, so you can use this spray as a deterrent as well by spraying it around the perimeter of your house. Mix up a solution of 1 part lemon juice to 3 parts water and use it as an all-purpose spray.[2]
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    Sprinkle diatomaceous earth inside the house. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is a very effective insecticide that doesn't harm humans or pets in the least. It's composed of fossilized diatoms that have been ground to a powder. When insects walk over the powder, the tiny fossil shards scratch the waxy outer coating on their exoskeletons, causing their bodies to dry out. Sprinkle the powder along your baseboards, windowsills, and around the perimeter of your house to kill ants.
    • It's recommended that you wear a mask or cloth over your face when handling diatomaceous earth. While the powder isn't harmful when ingested, the tiny particles can be hard on your lungs when you breathe them in.
    • Diatomaceous earth becomes ineffective when it gets wet, or even when the air is damp and humid. It will regain its effectiveness when dry, so if your home's humidity is reducing the potency of your DE consider using a dehumidifier in the problem areas. [3]
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    Use boric acid. It's completely natural and it really works against ants. When they ingest boric acid, it poisons their stomachs and they die. Boric acid also damages ants' exoskeletons the same way diatomaceous earth does. It comes in the form of a white or blue powder that you sprinkle in areas where you commonly see ants, like near your baseboards or in your windowsills.
    • Boric acid is not a toxic pesticide, but it should not be consumed by humans or pets. Avoid using it in areas where your children and pets play. Don't use it near food sources or in your kitchen cabinets.
    • Boric acid is nontoxic to beneficial insects, birds, reptiles or fish.

Method 2
Laying Traps

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    Make boric acid sugar traps. These are easy to put together, inexpensive, and best of all, extremely effective. All you need is a few pieces of cardboard or index cards (one for each trap), a bottle of corn syrup or any type of sticky sugar substance, and boric acid powder. Here's how to make the traps:
    • Mix 2 tablespoons of corn syrup and 2 tablespoons of boric acid in a small bowl.
    • Make sure the texture is paste-like and sticky, not runny. Add more boric acid if it's too wet.
    • Use a spoon to spread the mixture over the surface of your cardboard pieces. Each piece is its own trap.
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    Set the traps where you tend to see ants. If they like to collect on your bathroom floor, put one there. Put one under the kitchen sink, and another on your front porch. Set the traps around wherever you see ants gathering.
    • Since the traps contain boric acid, don't put them in your kitchen cabinets or near food sources.
    • You can put the traps outside, too. Place them in your flower beds or near your trash cans.
    • The sugary smell might attract critters other than ants, like your child or dog. Make sure to put the traps out of reach of kids and pets.
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    Wait for the traps to attract ants. If you have an an infestation, it won't be long before the traps become full of ants who wander onto the cardboard in search of sugary food and feast on the boric acid-tainted syrup. They won't die just yet, but the poison will soon take action in their stomachs. In the meantime, they'll return to their nest to bring some food back for their fellow ants, which will in turn ingest the poison.
    • When you see ants entering and leaving the traps, let them move around freely. If you kill them, they won't get the chance to bring the poison back to the nest, killing dozens more ants.
    • This method won't necessarily kill the entire nest of ants, but it will significantly reduce the population of ants around your home.
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    Change out the traps when the syrup dries. After a few days, you'll probably need to set out fresh traps. Mix up a fresh batch of the ant poison, spread it on pieces of cardboard, and set out the traps.
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    Keep using the traps until ants no longer come to them. After a week or two, you should see the number of ants coming to feed on the syrup decline dramatically. When you start to see dead ants around the vicinity of the traps, and you no longer witness hoards of ants marching into the house your work is done.
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    Use cornmeal borax traps to kill the larvae. Worker ants eat liquids, not solids, but they'll carry cornmeal pieces back to their nest. They'll feed the solid pieces to larvae, which then convert the food into liquid and feed it back to the worker ants.[4] In this way, the boric acid cycles through several generations of ants.
    • Make sure the dishes of cornmeal and borax are low enough to ants to get in and out.
    • You can also make a dry paste with cornmeal, borax, and a few drops of water. Spread the paste in areas where you tend to see ants.

Method 3
Taking Out a Nest

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    Follow ants to track down the nest. If ants keep swarming your house no matter what sprays and traps you employ, you'll need to attack them at their source: the nest. When you see a trail of ants marching inside, follow it as far as you can to find the anthill. Depending on the species of ant you're dealing with, the nest may be out in the open, hidden carefully in rocks or hedges, or inside your house.
    • Little black ants are one of the most common home invaders. These ants walk in long, slow lines, giving away their nest sites to anyone with the good sense to follow them outside. You'll find their nests in sheltered spots around the yard.
    • Odorous house ants (known for the rotten coconut smell they emit when you crush them) build nests inside the house in window frames or inside the walls. They also build nest outdoors in woodpiles, mulch piles, under rocks, and in other outdoor crevices.[5]
    • Pavement ants tend to nest in cracks in the sidewalk or driveway. You might not be able to see the nest itself, since it could be hidden under the pavement, but you should be able to find the ants' entryway.
    • Fire ants usually don't come inside the house, but you might have a nest on your property that's preventing you from walking around your yard in bare feet. Look for a large mound raised above the ground and composed of sand-like granules.
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    Prepare a pot of boiling water. Fill a large pot halfway to the top with water. Bring it to a rolling boil over high heat. As soon as the water comes to a boil, and while it's still piping hot, you'll need to be able to get it from the kitchen to the nest you found.
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    Pour the water over the nest. Try to pour it into the entry hole you found. The boiling water will kill hundreds of ants on contact, and it will also cause the nest to collapse. If the nest is quite large, you might want to pour more than one pot of water over it.
    • If the nest you're dealing with is indoors, the boiling water trick might damage your house. Instead of using water, douse the nest with a bowl of soapy water. You can also put on a pair of long rubber gloves and scrape the nest into a bucket, then drown the ants.
    • If you're dealing with fire ants, make sure you approach the nest wearing long pants tucked into socks and long sleeves. The ants are sure to get angry, and they may swarm out of the nest and attempt to climb into your clothes.
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    Check for ants over the next few days. If the boiling water effectively killed them, your ant-enduring days should be over. If you see a slow trickle coming back, give the nest another boiling water treatment. Sometimes it takes more than one application to effectively kill all of the ants.
    • If the boiling water doesn't seem to be doing the trick, take a stake and stab it down into the nest. Wiggle it around until you have a fair-sized crater. Fill the crater with baking soda about halfway up and pour vinegar over it.
    • If you're trying to kill red ants, you can also try what is known as "bucketing." Wearing pants tucked into long socks for protection, take a shovel and quickly shovel the fire ant mound into a large bucket that has been sprinkled with baking soda, which keeps the ants from climbing out. Keep going until the whole nest has been shoveled out. Drown the ants in vinegar and water or with boiling water.[6]
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    Plug the entrance holes if you can't get to the nest. Sometimes it's difficult to access the entire nest, but you can usually find an entrance hole. You can pour boiling water into the entrance hole, but it's often just as effective to simply plug the hole. Fill it up with dirt or rocks, and sprinkle some boric acid around the site for good measure. The ants will likely relocate their nest.

Method 4
Trying Natural Deterrents

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    Make a line that ants won't cross. There are several natural substances that ants abhor so much, they won't go near them. If you use one of these substances to create lines around your windowsills, around the perimeter of your house, and in any spots where ants are getting inside, you can keep ants from coming inside. Freshen up the lines every few days, since ants will be able to get through once the lines are broken. Here are substances that work for this purpose:[7]
    • Cinnamon
    • Cayenne pepper
    • Ground orange or lemon peels
    • Coffee grounds
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    Squirt lemon juice along outdoor edges. This will keep the inside of your house from getting sticky, but the ants will be deterred by a strong citrus smell. You can also squirt a solution of half lemon juice, half water around the outside of your house.
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    Use essential oils to keep ants away. They hate the smell of a variety of essential oils, many of which smell very pleasant to humans. Add 10 drops of essential oil to 1 cup of water, then spray the solution both indoors and outdoors to keep ants away. Here are the oils you can try:
    • Lemon oil
    • Peppermint oil
    • Eucalyptus oil (don't use this near cats! It's toxic to them, but not to dogs)
    • Lavender oil
    • Cedar oil
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    Keep your surfaces clean so ants aren't interested in coming in. During the spring months, when ants are most likely to come inside the house, do your best to keep your floors, countertops, and cabinets spotless. This goes a long way toward keeping ants out. If they don't smell food, they won't be interested in invading your house.
    • Keep food containers tightly sealed, too. This is especially important for sugar, honey, syrup and other foods that ants like to eat.
    • Clean up spills right away, especially fruit juice or syrup spills.
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    Seal your house to keep them out. If you don't give ants a door inside, they'll be more likely to stick to outdoor areas. Find all the little cracks and crevices where they could be getting in, like under the door, around the windowsills, and in other little cracks in the foundation. Fill the holes with caulk or other sealants to keep your house airtight. Spritz the areas with lavender or lemon water for good measure.


  • Try creating a spray mix with dish soap, vinegar, and other household items to spray. Works every time!
  • Always check doorways and window ledges; one ant can lead to thousands. Ants leave an invisible scent trail that only other ants can smell, so use cleaning materials designed for ants to get rid of the line.
  • Ants don't like peppermint toothpaste. Just smear it around where you see them, and presto, they are gone!
  • Take a piece of paper and spread glue or some sort of other sticky solution onto the paper and place it where you see the ants. They will come to it and stick to it, then once it's full, just throw it away!
  • If you can't bear to kill them, leave a jar of honey up a tree in the garden at the start of summer. The ants will be happy to stay out of your kitchen.
  • The best way to keep ants out is to keep your home clean. Wipe counter tops often and don't leave crumbs.
  • Chalk and salt barriers are said to keep ants out, but many find them to be ineffective.
  • Arm yourself with sticky tape. When you see an ant, place the sticky tape over it and use your fingers to squash it beneath the tape. The ant's carcass will be stuck on the sticky tape, so it will be clean. Repeat until tape is no longer sticky.
  • Squash ants with your fingers. Be sure to wash your hands afterwards, especially since many ants stink.


  • Always keep ant baits and traps away from children and pets. Put these where only ants can reach the bait.
  • The ants will come back in time; be prepared to do this again.
  • Remember: ants are an important part of the food chain. Don't try to kill all the ants in your neighborhood, only the ones in your house.

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