How to get rid of ants in the kitchen – and stop them coming back


Finding ants in your kitchen can be annoying and frustrating. An ant infestation, no matter how small, needs to be dealt with promptly before the ants can establish a colony in or around your home. Getting rid of ants in the kitchen and preventing future infestations requires using a combination of ant control methods. This comprehensive guide covers various effective ways to kill ants in the kitchen, stop them from coming back, and prevent future ant problems.

What Attracts Ants to Your Kitchen?

Before learning how to get rid of kitchen ants, it helps to understand what attracts them in the first place. Here are some common reasons ants invade kitchens:

  • Food residue – Ants are attracted to sugary and starchy foods. Even tiny crumbs left on kitchen counters, floors or dirty dishes can attract foraging ants.
  • Moisture – Ants need water to survive. They are attracted to moisture sources like spills, leaks, condensation around refrigerator and sinks.
  • Entry points – Small cracks or openings around baseboards, walls, cabinets, and windows provide easy access for ants to enter your kitchen.
  • Warmth – Kitchen appliances and heating vents provide warmth that ants find appealing, especially during colder months.

How to Find Where the Ants are Entering From

Before using ant baits or sprays, it helps to find where and how the ants are getting into your kitchen. Here are some tips:

  • Look for areas where you see more ants – near crevices, walls, pipes, etc. Ants usually enter from the same spot.
  • Place some food items like sugar or honey near suspected entry points and check where more ants gather.
  • Use a flashlight to inspect cracks, holes and other potential entry points, especially around window and door frames.
  • Look for ants trailing along edges – this usually reveals the path ants use between nest and food.
  • See if you can track the ants back to a nest or source point. This will confirm the exact entry spot.

Effective Ways and Products to Get Rid of Kitchen Ants

There are various DIY methods and ant kill products available to get rid of a kitchen ant problem. Using multiple techniques works better to eliminate ants and prevent future infestations.

Borax Ant Traps

Borax is a natural mineral salt that acts as a slow-acting stomach poison for ants when ingested. It is a safer option compared to commercial pesticides.

How to make homemade borax ant traps:

You will need –

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons borax powder
  • 2 cups warm water
  • Jar lids, shallow bowls or cups


  1. Mix the sugar and borax in the warm water until thoroughly dissolved.
  2. Soak cotton balls in this solution and squeeze out excess liquid.
  3. Place the wet cotton balls on jar lids or shallow containers.
  4. Set these homemade traps near ant trails or suspected entry points in your kitchen.
  5. Ants get attracted to the sugary borax solution. When ingested, the borax slowly kills them.
  6. Discard and replace traps as the cotton balls dry out.


  • Natural and safe around kids and pets
  • Affordable and easy DIY trap
  • Very effective against common household ants


  • Can take several days to start working
  • Has limited residual effect – traps must be kept moist
  • Some ants might avoid the traps at first

Liquid Ant Killer Sprays and Baits

Ready-to-use ant killer sprays, baits and traps are available at most hardware and grocery stores. These can effectively control ant infestations within days:

Ant Killer Sprays

  • Easy to use directly on ants and nests
  • Fast knockdown effect on ants
  • Available as organic citrus, essential oil or mint oil formulas
  • Some have residual effect to prevent future swarms


  • Contain harsh chemicals, so avoid around food prep areas
  • Can be hazardous for kids and pets

Ant Killer Baits

  • Come pre-packaged in traps, stakes or gels
  • Enclosure ensures baits aren’t accessible to kids/pets
  • Used outdoors and indoors
  • Worker ants carry bait back to nest and queen, killing entire colony
  • Available as FAST-acting and SLOW-acting formulas


  • Can take several days to start working
  • Ants may avoid baits at first

Tips for Using Liquid Sprays and Baits:

  • Start treatment at first signs of ants before infestation spreads.
  • Alternate between protein-based and sweet liquid baits – ants can’t resist both.
  • Use FAST-acting baits for quick knock-down indoors.
  • Place SLOW-acting baits outside nests and entry points.
  • Spray ant trails, nest openings and entry points to deter activity.
  • Follow all label instructions carefully.

Natural Ant Repellents

For a non-toxic approach, various pantry staples can be used to repel and get rid of ants naturally:

Essential Oils

  • Strong scents repel ants
  • Peppermint, tea tree oil, lemon & eucalyptus oils effective options


  • Mix 20 drops oil per cup of water in spray bottle
  • Spray along ant trails, entry points and other surfaces


  • Disrupts scent trails ants use to navigate
  • Can kill ants on contact


  • Mix equal parts vinegar and water in spray bottle
  • Spray on ants and wipe down surfaces in kitchen

Cucumber Peels

  • Bitter taste deters ants


  • Place fresh peels near problem areas
  • Dice peels and sprinkle near entry points


  • Ants avoid due to spicy scent


  • Sprinkle ground cinnamon along ant trails and entrance holes
  • Can also mix cinnamon essential oil with water and spray

Chili Pepper

  • Contains capsaicin which ants avoid


  • Sprinkle chili flakes or cayenne pepper on and around ant trails
  • Mix pepper powder with flour and sprinkle around nests

Prevention Tips To Keep Ants Away From Your Kitchen

Once you get rid of the existing ant problem, you can take some simple steps to prevent future infestations:

Deny Access

  • Seal cracks, holes, and other entry points with caulk or silicone sealant, especially around sinks and pipes.
  • Install weather stripping around doors and windows.
  • Keep screens in good condition.

Remove Food Sources

  • Store food like sugar, flour, cereals in airtight containers.
  • Clean up food spills, crumbs, and dirty dishes right away.
  • Rinse recyclable bottles and cans before recycling.
  • Remove grease buildup and food debris from kitchen appliances.
  • Take out garbage frequently.

Eliminate Moisture

  • Fix any water leaks or dripping pipes.
  • Wipe down excess moisture on kitchen surfaces.
  • Ensure drain pipes under sinks are not clogged.
  • Replace damp sponges and dish rags frequently.

Make Entry Points Inhospitable

  • Apply a perimeter treatment of diatomaceous earth around the foundation. The sharp edges cut ants entering your home.
  • Spray diluted essential oils around possible entryways.
  • Apply sticky barrier like petroleum jelly on suspected entry spots.

Maintain a Clean Kitchen

  • Sweep and mop kitchen floors regularly.
  • Clean countertops and cabinets thoroughly after preparing food.
  • Promptly clean up after meals.

With some diligence, these measures can help prevent future ant infestations and keep your kitchen ant-free. Act swiftly at the first signs of ants before the problem gets out of hand again.

Homemade Ant Traps To Catch Foraging Ants

Along with other control methods, using homemade traps is an effective way to capture and kill ants roaming around your kitchen. Traps placed strategically can intercept ants in their trails before they reach food sources. Here are 2 simple homemade traps you can make using common household items.

DIY Sticky Ant Traps

You’ll need:

  • Cardboard/thick paper
  • Petroleum jelly/clear vegetable oil
  • Cotton swabs/paintbrush


  1. Cut cardboard into squares around 1 inch wide
  2. Apply a sticky coating of petroleum jelly or vegetable oil on one side using a cotton swab or brush.
  3. Place these homemade sticky traps along ant trails or near food sources. The ants get stuck and die.
  4. For best results, make multiple traps and replace as needed.

Funnel Ant Trap

You will need:

  • A plastic bottle/funnel
  • Bait – honey/sugar syrup
  • Dish soap and water


  1. Cut the plastic bottle around 3/4th of the way down. Insert the funnel into the bottle mouth.
  2. Add bait like honey or sugar syrup to the bottom of the funnel
  3. Fill the bottle halfway with soapy water.
  4. Ants get attracted to the bait, crawl in through the funnel but get trapped in the soapy water.

Tips when using homemade traps:

  • Place traps along edges, walls, cabinets where ants travel
  • Maintain proper moisture of sticky traps
  • Check funnel traps periodically to dispose of dead ants
  • Use traps along with other remedies for effective control

How To Get Rid Of Ants Naturally – DIY Remedies

For those wishing to avoid chemicals for ant control, some all-natural ingredients present around the home can also help eliminate and repel ants in an eco-friendly way:

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is composed of fossilized remains of diatoms, an algae species. When sprinkled where ants are active, the sharp silica in DE gets lodged in the exoskeleton of ants, leading to dehydration and death.


  • Completely natural and non-toxic
  • Also acts as an insect repellent
  • Can be applied indoors and outdoors
  • Has long-lasting residual effects
  • Safe for kids and pets

How To Use:

  • Apply a fine layer of food-grade DE along ant trails, entry points.
  • Create a perimeter around foundation using DE.
  • Sprinkle around door thresholds, window sills, appliances.
  • Wear mask when applying to avoid inhalation.

Talcum/Baby Powder

The fine particles of talcum and baby powder clog and desiccate the ants’ breathing pores, causing dehydration. When ants walk through it, the powder sticks to their bodies hampering movement.


  • Cheap and easily available
  • Non-toxic

How to Use:

  • Puff the powder in areas where you see ants. Reapply after cleaning.
  • Spread powder along potential entry points.
  • Line window sills and other openings with a fine coating.

Baking Soda

When mixed with sugar, baking soda forms carbon dioxide bubbles that can effectively kill ants by rupturing their digestive systems.

How To Use:

  • Mix equal parts baking soda and powdered sugar.
  • Sprinkle this mixture in problem areas.
  • The sugar lures the ants who then ingest the baking soda.

You can also sprinkle baking soda directly on ants to desiccate them. Use around 1-2 teaspoons per ant hill.


Table salt draws out moisture from the ants’ bodies via osmosis, leading to dehydration. Salt damages their smell receptors also deterring future swarms.

How To Use:

  • Sprinkling salt directly on ants entering your kitchen is effective.
  • Make a saltwater spray – 1 cup salt in 1 gallon water and spray generously over ant trails.
  • Maintain moisture for the salt to be effective.

Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds make an unlikely natural ant repellent. The strong aroma masks the ants’ scent trails impacting their navigation. Coffee grounds also act as a desiccant absorbing moisture from ants.

How To Use:

  • Place used coffee grounds in problem areas in the house and outside entry points.
  • Spray coffee grounds in water along ant trails.
  • Sprinkle around potted plants which often attract ants.

How to Get Rid of Ants In The Kitchen – Key Takeaways:

  • Finding the entry points ants use to get in and tracking them back to the nest is key for effective control. Look for areas with more ant activity.
  • Mix up the treatment methods – no single remedy works best by itself. Rotate between natural home remedies, commercial ant baits, insecticide sprays and homemade traps for best results.
  • For quick knockdown, use fast-action commercial ant killers, insecticide sprays or soapy water traps indoors where you see ants actively foraging.
  • Place slow-acting baits or boric acid near nests and entry points outdoors to kill the queen and destroy the colony.
  • Caulk and seal cracks, crevices around kitchen walls, water pipes, sinks windows, etc. to deny entry.
  • Borax works as an effective natural ant killer bait – make homemade traps using borax, sugar and water.
  • Keep your kitchen meticulously clean and dry to remove food and moisture sources attracting ants.
  • Use essential oils, vinegar, diatomaceous earth and other desiccants to repel ants and cut off their trails.

Employing a combination of these tips and maintaining diligence should help you safely get rid of kitchen ants and prevent future occurrences. Call a pest control professional if the infestation persists despite aggressive treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get rid of ants in your kitchen naturally?

Some effective natural ways to get rid of kitchen ants are:

  • Sprinkle diatomaceous earth in problem areas. The sharp crystalline powder damages the ants’ exoskeleton.
  • Make homemade borax ant bait traps – the borax acts as a natural stomach poison when consumed.
  • Use essential oils like peppermint, tea tree or eucalyptus oil to repel ants.
  • Set out vinegar-water spray, coffee grounds or cinnamon to disrupt ant trails.
  • Drawing out moisture with salt, baking soda or talcum powder also kills ants.

What home remedy will instantly kill ants?

  • A simple homemade trap using soapy water instantly kills foraging ants.
  • Mix equal parts sugar water and dish soap in a shallow bowl. Ants are attracted to the sweetness but the soap reduces water tension drowning the ants.
  • Alternatively, directly spraying ants with soapy water, isopropyl alcohol or vinegar water will kill them instantly.

What scent do ants hate?

Ants have a strong sense of smell and steer clear of certain potent aromas that interfere with their trail pheromones:

  • Citrus oils – lemon, orange, lime
  • Peppermint
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Tea tree and eucalyptus oils
  • Lavender
  • Vinegar
  • Coffee
  • Citronella

What is the best thing to kill ants naturally?

Diatomaceous earth and borax are considered the most effective natural ingredients to kill ants:

  • Diatomaceous earth – the sharp particles dehydrate ants.
  • Borax – interferes with ants’ metabolism when ingested. Mix with sugary water to make homemade baits.
  • Baking soda – causes ants’ stomachs to burst due to released carbon dioxide.
  • Vinegar – disrupts their scent trails. Spray full strength vinegar directly on ants.

Why do ants hate cinnamon?

Cinnamon contains the compound cinnamaldehyde which gives it that spicy pungent aroma. This strong scent can overpower ants’ sensitive chemical trail used for navigation. Ants have trouble following their normal paths due to the cinnamon interference. Cinnamon also may absorb moisture from ants leading to dehydration. These effects make ants avoid areas treated with cinnamon.

Does lemon juice kill ants?

Yes, lemon juice is an effective natural ant killer. The citric acid in lemon destroys ants’ exoskeleton and kills them if they ingest it.

  • Spray pure lemon juice directly on ants you see trailing in the kitchen.
  • Mix lemon juice with water and spray around ant nests.
  • You can also mix lemon juice with borax to make homemade ant bait traps.

Does apple cider vinegar kill ants?

Apple cider vinegar works in two ways to control ants:

  1. The acetic acid in vinegar kills ants on contact when sprayed directly on them.
  2. Vinegar also erases the scent pheromone trails ants use to navigate back to food and nest. This causes disruption in their foraging activity.

Mix equal amounts of apple cider vinegar and water and spray liberally along ant trails, nest openings and other areas where ants are active.

Does Vaseline keep ants away?

Yes, Vaseline or petroleum jelly can help repel ants trying to enter through cracks and crevices. Ants avoid getting stuck in the thick, gooey substance.

  • Apply a thin coating of Vaseline on windows, door thresholds, holes in walls, etc.
  • Also use to make homemade sticky traps – coat one side of cardboard pieces with Vaseline to trap ants.
  • Reapply if the coating dries out.

Does salt kill ants?

Yes, ordinary table salt is effective against ants. When ants come in contact with salt, it absorbs moisture from their bodies, leading to dehydration and death. Ants also avoid the smell of salt.

  • Sprinkle salt directly on ants in your kitchen.
  • Make a saltwater perimeter around entry points.
  • Maintain moisture for the salt to keep working.