12 Simple Ways to Control Little Ants

Dealing with ant infestations can be frustrating, but there are simple and effective ways to control these tiny pests without using harmful chemicals. With some basic strategies and natural ingredients found in your kitchen, you can get rid of ants and prevent them from coming back.

Why Ants Invade Your Home

Ants enter homes looking for food and shelter. They follow scent trails left by other ants to find ways into your house. Once inside, ants can be difficult to control because of how quickly their numbers grow. A few scout ants can turn into a trail of hundreds in just a few days.

The most common ant species that become home invaders include:

  • Carpenter ants – These ants nest in wood and can cause structural damage over time. They come in large, black varieties.
  • Odorous house ants – This ant gets its name from the rotten coconut scent it emits when crushed. They are small and brown to black in color.
  • Argentine ants – Aggressive, trail-following ants that feast on sweet substances. They are small, brownish ants.
  • Pavement ants – These ants build nests under sidewalks, patios, or foundations. They are black or brown with pale legs.

Controlling an ant problem requires removing their food sources, sealing entry points, and killing off nests. It takes diligence and persistence, but natural methods can effectively send ants packing.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a powder made from tiny fossilized sea creatures called diatoms. The sharp edges of DE cut and damage the waxy coating on insects’ exoskeletons, causing dehydration and death. DE is non-toxic to humans and pets but lethal to crawling insects like ants.

To use diatomaceous earth for ants:

  • Purchase food-grade DE, not pool-grade which can be harmful if inhaled.
  • Apply a thin layer of DE along baseboards, in cupboards, under appliances, and anywhere else ants frequent.
  • Wear a mask when applying DE to avoid breathing in the dust.
  • Re-apply DE after cleaning or if rain or moisture gets rid of it.

The sharp DE powder will cut through ants’ protective coating and kill them within 48 hours as they groom it off their bodies. Place DE outdoors along ant trails and around nests for the most effective control.


Borax is a natural mineral that disrupts ants’ digestive systems, eventually killing them. Mix it with something sweet to make irresistible ant bait.

Make your own borax ant traps:

  • Mix 1-2 tablespoons of borax with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 cups of warm water.
  • Soak cotton balls in the solution and place them along ant trails and in areas where ants are seen.
  • Refresh bait as it dries out. The sugar attracts ants who then ingest the borax and die after returning to the nest.

For quick control, buy pre-made borax ant baits. Place them near ant trails, nests, and where they’re active inside. Borax baits offer fast-acting elimination of sweet-eating ant colonies.

Clean Up Food Sources

One of the simplest ways to control ants is to remove what attracts them – food!

  • Clean counters, floors, and cabinets thoroughly to eliminate spilled crumbs and residue.
  • Store food, especially sweets, in airtight containers. Ants can detect the faintest traces of food.
  • Take out garbage regularly. Rinse recyclables to remove residue. Ants love foraging through the garbage!
  • Clean pet food bowls immediately after meals. Don’t leave extra food out.
  • Keep dish sponges and kitchen rags very clean or ants will flock to them.
  • Regularly disinfect and wipe down eating areas.

Removing food sources forces ants to look elsewhere for meals. It breaks the scent trails that guide ants to food inside your home. Good sanitation is one of the most critical steps in ant prevention.

Track Down and Destroy Nests

Finding and destroying ant nests is key to getting control of an infestation. Look for clues to uncover nest locations:

  • Follow ants’ trails to locate entry points. Use caulk to seal openings around windows, pipes, and thresholds.
  • Inspect areas inside and out that offer shelter – under patio stones, within lawn debris, under pots, between bricks, etc.
  • Notice if ants travel up and down walls which may indicate a nest inside.
  • Watch where ants carry food, larvae, and eggs as those are signs of nearby nests.
  • Use soapy water to destroy nests located in woodpiles, mulch beds, under stones, etc. It will flood and kill them.
  • Apply pesticide sprays or powders into nesting sites, but avoid overuse of chemicals.

Destroying ant colonies removes the breeding source of the problem.Combine nest elimination with food removal for quickest and most effective control.

Use Essential Oils

Many essential oils naturally repel ants with their strong scents. Try these tips:

  • Mix 5-10 drops of peppermint, tea tree, lavender or citrus essential oils with water in a spray bottle. Mist around doors, windows, appliances, and other ant entry points.
  • Place cotton balls soaked with pure essential oils along ant trails. Citrus oils mask scent trails ants follow.
  • Mix 20 drops each of eucalyptus and peppermint oil with 2 cups of water. Pour down outdoor nests or ant hills.
  • Make homemade vinegar cleaner with 25 drops lemon essential oil. Wipe counters and clean floors to deter ants.
  • Place opened bags of cloves, cinnamon sticks or crushed mint leaves in cabinets to repel ants with scent alone.

Essential oils are natural ant deterrents. Try different combinations to see what works best for indoor and outdoor ant problems.

Use Ant Repelling Plants

Certain plants contain oils, compounds and nectar that ants dislike or that attract predators of ants:

  • Mint – All types of mint including peppermint and spearmint repel ants. Crush leaves for stronger scent.
  • Basil – The oils in basil drive ants away and repel their trails.
  • Citronella – This plant’s famous lemon scent masks ant pheromones and repels them.
  • Catnip – Catnip contains nepetalactone which ants detest. Keep pots along ant trails.
  • Marigolds – Marigolds exude a chemical that is toxic to ants upon contact.
  • Chili Pepper – Ants avoid capsaicin which gives chili peppers their heat. Use dried peppers.
  • Lemon Thyme – The lemon scent combined with thyme oil makes ants steer clear.

Use these ant-repelling plants fresh or dried both indoors and out. Concentrate them along known ant entry points and trails.

Create Barriers

There are some simple ways to create physical barriers to keep ants out of your home:

  • Apply petroleum jelly to window and door frames to block ants from squeezing through.
  • Place slices of cucumber or lemon peels by doorways, windows, pipes or holes. Ants won’t cross them!
  • Draw a line of chalk, talcum powder or cinnamon in doorways and on countertops. Ants won’t cross these barriers.
  • Use caulk to seal cracks around walls, baseboards, and openings. This denies entry points to your home.
  • Tack mesh screen over vents, drains, and weep holes. Staple copper mesh over exposed wood.
  • Clean up vegetation or overhanging branches touching your home’s exterior. It allows ants to access your house.

Physical barriers combined with scent deterrents provide excellent first lines of defense to keep ants out. Use them liberally!

Follow Proper Sanitation

Prevent ant problems from popping up again by following these sanitation practices:

  • Take out trash every 1-2 days. Rinse and clean recyclables. Use trash bins with tight lids.
  • Clean pet food bowls immediately after meals. Store extra food in sealed containers.
  • Clean and wipe down eating areas daily. Sweep and mop floors well.
  • Fix any water leaks and clean up standing water around your home.
  • Store opened food like sugar, flour, and cereal in airtight containers.
  • Use soapy water to regularly wash kitchen cabinets inside and out to remove grease.
  • Fix holes in window screens and door screens. Paint and caulk where paint is peeling or cracked.
  • Ensure downspouts direct water away from the home’s exterior walls and foundation.
  • Keep decks, patios and sidewalks swept. Clear flower beds of debris and vegetation touching the home.
  • Keep counters free of crumbs and spots by cleaning with natural products like vinegar.

Great sanitation habits eliminate food sources and nesting spots. Starve ants out and make your home as unattractive to them as possible.

Inspect Imports and Travel Bags

Ants sometimes hitchhike a ride into your home on items brought in from outside:

  • Carefully inspect potted plants, mulch bags, soil products, cut flowers and firewood for ants before bringing indoors.
  • Examine luggage and travel bags closely for ants after returning from a trip.
  • Check boxes and other items being moved if they’ve been stored in a shed or attic space.
  • Vacuum suitcases after unpacking to remove any stray ants.
  • Wash or heat dry clothing and linens after traveling to kill ants and eggs.

Being diligent catches “traveling” ants before they have a chance to establish themselves in your home. Don’t provide them with transportation inside!

Call an Exterminator for Severe Infestations

For serious ant problems that natural methods cannot resolve, or with invasive species, calling a professional pest control company is advisable.

  • Seek help for infestations inside walls, under flooring, in insulation or elsewhere inside the home’s structure.
  • Have a qualified exterminator inspect for carpenter ants that can damage your home over time. Their nests are often hidden inside.
  • Hire a pest control expert if you’re unsure of the ant species and need an accurate identification. Proper ID ensures using the right control methods.
  • Request eco-friendly treatment options that use the least toxic methods to eliminate your ant problem.

In some cases, prescription-strength insecticides or specialized equipment is needed for full ant eradication. Seek professional help for heavy infestations or ant problems that persist despite your efforts.

Stay Vigilant in Maintenance

Controlling ants requires patience and commitment. Be vigilant in these maintenance steps:

  • Write down when and where you’ve seen ants, their trails, and what methods you’ve tried in each location. Keeping detailed notes helps you stay on top of problem areas.
  • Inspect possible points-of-entry regularly such as windows, doors, attic vents, weep holes, etc. Re-apply barriers and deterrents as needed.
  • Quickly clean up any new food spills or messes that could attract ants inside. Starve them out!
  • Monitor previously problematic areas inside and out where ants have been seen before. Watch for renewed activity.
  • Replenish ant baits and traps regularly according to label directions. Replace old bait stations when they expire.
  • Repeat pesticide barrier sprays according to label directions to maintain their effectiveness. Don’t allow gaps in your defenses!
  • Continue using natural deterrents even after ants are gone to prevent future problems. Maintain vigilance!

Staying on top of controls and activity is key to preventing ants from gaining footholds. Be proactive and diligent in your defenses.

When to Call for Professional Help

In general, calling a professional exterminator is a good idea in these cases:

  • You’re unable to locate or eliminate multiple nests, especially those inside walls, under flooring or in other inaccessible areas.
  • Serious ant infestations involving hundreds to thousands of ants that natural remedies cannot contain.
  • Ant problems continue recurring despite your pest control efforts over time. The ant problem persists and you’re unable to manage it.
  • You believe the ants inflicting damage are carpenter ants or an invasive species. Their nests can be hard to find and eradicate.
  • An ant bite or recurring ant bites prompt health concerns for you or a family member. You want qualified help in treating the problem.
  • You rent and cannot make structural changes or alterations without approval. Your management may arrange professional pest control.

Don’t spend more than 2-3 weeks battling an ant problem alone. Seek an expert rather than endure months of frustration. Ensure you safely eliminate ant threats.

Prevent Ants from Coming Back

Keep ants from renewing their invasion efforts with these prevention tips:

  • Caulk and seal cracks along baseboards, windows, doors, pipes, vents, and other openings.
  • Apply weatherstripping around doors and windows to close gaps where ants enter.
  • Keep foliage, branches, woodpiles, etc from touching exterior walls. Prune back any vegetation giving ants access.
  • Clean gutters and direct downspouts and drainage away from your home’s foundation. Eliminate moisture sources.
  • Fill in voids and cracks in concrete foundations, sidewalls, patio slabs etc. with caulk or concrete patch.
  • Ensure crawl spaces have adequate ventilation and drainage. Dehumidify damp basements.
  • Remove dead trees and tree stumps on your property. Live trees should not overhang your roof.
  • Store firewood at least 20 feet from your home and keep woodpiles off the ground.

Ongoing vigilance keeps ants out for good. Take steps outdoors and indoors to protect your home from a recurring invasion!


Controlling ant infestations involves diligence, patience and persistence. Form an integrated pest management plan using multiple methods together for best results. Keep notes on trouble spots, controls used and their effectiveness to optimize your efforts over time. While eliminating ants takes commitment, natural methods reduce reliance on harsh chemicals in your home and on your property. Pay attention, take action at the first signs of ants, and incorporate preventative measures. Keep ants out of your home with these simple, time-tested strategies. Stay calm and carry on until you eliminate the ants!

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