Picture this: You swing open your front door after a week at the beach, ready to enjoy your last night off before work, only to spot a trail of ants winding their down the hall. You follow the line into your pantry—and your favorite box of cereal. You must've left it open, and they found their way in; now you have to figure out how to get of ants. That's an annoying scenario, but it's actually a pretty lucky one . Unless you find the source of your ant problem quickly, it can be hard to get rid of ants safely and permanently. There are tons of store-bought chemical traps, sprays, and solutions out there, but they often smell bad and aren't safe for curious kids or pets.
The best tips to keep ants (and other bugs like gnats and fruit flies) away from your food is to seal open bags and boxes or transfer anything that can't be resealed into airtight containers that ants (and other critters) can't breach. The good news is that you probably have the best natural ant repellants on hand. Strongly scented sprays made with vinegar and essential oils like citrus are great at creating a border or line that ants won't cross. But the line only works as long as the scent lingers. Unfortunately, there's no natural solution to keep the ants away permanently, but with regular maintenance and upkeep you can keep them away for a long time.
T0 stop your pesky ant problem in its tracks, we've gathered the best methods to get rid of ants safely and keep them at bay year-round. Whether you're approaching the problem from the indoors or outdoors, read on for how to get rid of ants safely.
How to Get Rid of Indoor Ants
You may see only a few ants on your windowsill, but it's safe to assume there are many more where they came from. These steps will stop the whole colony from moving in.
Step One: Clean the Area Thoroughly
Ants are attracted to trash, food debris, and moisture. The first step to get rid of ants (or any critter for that matter) is to deep clean your home. If you've seen them mostly in the kitchen, we recommend removing everything from your pantry and wiping down each shelf. That can also help you locate any problem areas or ant hubs to focus your removal efforts on—like that open bag of cereal you forgot about.
Step Two: Wipe the Area With a Vinegar Solution
Ants absolutely hate the smell of vinegar. Mix one part distilled white vinegar with one part water in a spray bottle. Spray each shelf, drawer, and countertop—making sure to get every corner and nook—and wipe it off with a cloth or paper towel. Just be sure vinegar is safe for the surface material before you start spraying; you shouldn't use vinegar on marble countertops, for instance.
Step Three: Create a Border With Scents Ants Hate
Once your place is clean, it's time to send a message telling the ants to stay out. Using any one of the below ingredients, sprinkle or spray a line you don't want the ants to cross. The smellier the ingredient, the better—ants naturally avoid strong smells. But the border will only work as long as the smell lasts, so it's important to reup the lines once a month or so.
- Coffee grounds
- Baby powder
- Citrus peels or essential oils
- Soap or all-purpose cleaner
- Peppermint essential oil
How to Get Rid of Outdoor Ants
An ant bed or hill in the yard is a danger to anybody who steps on it—and an eyesore if you're a perfectionist about your lawn. It's important to get rid of outdoor ant beds if you have little kids or if the ants keep making their way inside.
Step One: Locate the Source
You'll probably be able to identify an ant hill or pile in your yard or near your home's foundation. Mark them with yard flags or something similar so you'll know exactly where to come back to.
Step Two: Drown The Ant Hill
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Carefully carry the pot outside and slowly pour the hot water into the top of the ant hill. The boiling water will flood the ant colony and prevent the ants from escaping and finding refuge inside your home.
Step Three: Create an Outdoor Border
This is basically an outdoor version of the indoor ant line, but you can use ingredients that are stronger since you won't be smelling them all the time. Try any of the below materials to create an antproof border to prevent ants from getting into your home.
- Boric acid
- Baking soda and powdered sugar
- Diatomaceous earth
- Vinegar and water
- Coffee grounds
- Mint plants
Step Four: Seal All Entrances
The best way to keep ants out of your home is to make sure that they can't get in. Fill all cracks with caulk, secure any loose baseboards, and patch any drywall holes. It's also important to walk around your home's exterior and examine the foundation for holes, cracks, or other potential entry points for ants and other pests.
When to Call a Professional
If neither of these methods nor store-bought chemical ant repellers work and you can't locate the source of the ants on your own, it's time to call an exterminator. They have better tools and other tricks of the trade to help solve your ant problem once and for all.
Kate McGregor is House Beautiful’s SEO Editor. She has covered everything from curated decor round-ups and shopping guides, to glimpses into the home lives of inspiring creatives, for publications such as ELLE Decor, Domino, and Architectural Digest’s Clever.