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The Best DIY Ant Killers That Really Work, According to Pest Pros

Plus how to keep them from entering in the first place

There are 2.5 million ants for every person on Earth — and sometimes it seems like they’re all trying to break into your kitchen. Beyond the ick factor, ants are not just uninvited guests, explains Bill Swank, founder of Pest Source. “They can spread bacteria and disease, including salmonella, staph, strep and E. coli, and can also contaminate your food. Some species, like carpenter ants, can even damage the structure of your home, costing thousands in property damage.” So we asked pest control pros for the most effective DIY ant killer remedies and deterrents to send them packing — whether you have a sudden infestation or just noticed a few crawling around your floor — without having to spend on an exterminators or traps and using ingredients you likely already have in your house!

Why do I have an ant infestation?

With their intricate colony hierarchies, study-proven intelligence and knack for surviving in almost any climate or natural disaster, ants are one of the most prolific and adaptable insects on the planet. Which begs the question: if they are doing so well out in nature, why are they so determined to break into our homes?

“Ants are, at their core, survivors, which means they are always on the lookout for secure shelter and easily accessible food and water — all of which can often be found in our homes,” says Bob Gilbert of Blue Sky Pest Control. “That’s why the first line of ant defense is to always make sure there are no food crumbs or residues on floors, counters or elsewhere in the home since some ants can smell food sources up to 60 feet away.”

Pest pros’ top DIY ant deterrents

Now that you know why they’re inviting themselves in — and why you definitely want them out— here are the expert-tested methods for making your home an unfriendly ant environment.

1. Peppermint, cinnamon and lemon eucalyptus oils

“These oils not only repel with their potent scents, they also disrupt the pheromones ants leave behind to tell the others in their colony to follow them, so even if one or two breaks through the barrier, its friends won’t get the signal to join,” says Swank. To apply: look for areas where ants are likely entering your home — typically windows, doors, vents and where pipes come through the wall — then soak cotton balls in any of the oils listed above and leave them tucked into corners in those areas. Replace weekly to ensure the scent remains strong.

2. Chalk

DIY ant killer: Pastel sticks of chalk
Mark Weiss/Getty

“Chalk contains calcium carbonate, which again disrupts ants’ ability to follow scent trails, essential for their communication and navigation,” says Allan Bossel of Michigan Pest & Bed Bug Specialists. “It’s also a great safe, natural option to use in homes with small children or pets present.” To apply: You can use regular white chalk or the sidewalk variety; simply draw lines with it along ants’ entry points, reapplying whenever the line visibly fades.

Related: 12 Startlingly Useful Things You Can Do With Leftover Chalk

3. Coffee grounds

While this is often touted as a pesticide, coffee doesn’t actually kill ants unless you pour the boiling hot variety on them, and in that case, it’s mostly the heat that does the trick. The grounds can be an effective deterrent, however, as ants will bring them back to the nest, where the caffeine will lead them to become confused and unable to follow scent trails. To apply: Simply sprinkle already-brewed grounds in a barrier around the outside of your home; replenish after a steady rain.

Related: What To Do With Leftover Coffee Grounds: 13 Brilliant Uses That Save You Time & Money

4. Salt

DIY ant killer: Close-up of a salt spilling from a salt shaker

Much like coffee, salt is sometimes listed as an ant killer, but it’s much more effective as a deterrent. “Salt acts as a desiccant, absorbing moisture from ants’ bodies and dehydrating them, but ants know this and typically will not ingest it or even walk over it. So it won’t kill them, but if you leave trails of it where they like to enter your home, ants will avoid crossing the lines and go elsewhere,” says Bossel.

Related: 15 Brilliant Uses for Salt

5. Bleach or vinegar

“Both of these can also be effective for deterring and disrupting ants’ chemical trails so that they can’t find their way into the home,” says Gilbert. To apply: Fill a spray bottle with a 50/50 mix of either bleach or white vinegar (note: never mix bleach and vinegar together, as it creates toxic fumes) and water, then spritz along areas where ants like to enter your home. Reapply weekly to keep the scent strong. Note that the bleach mixture, if sprayed on ants directly, can also kill them on contact; vinegar will not.

Pest pros’ top DIY ant killers

So what to do if ants have already entered your home? Here the experts’ tried-and-true homemade ant pesticides.

DIY ant killer #1: Borax

This eco-friendly material is one of the most recommended DIY ant demise methods, says Swank. “Simply make a 50/50 mix of borax with sugar and partially dissolve it in water. Add to a spray bottle and spritz along where you’ve spotted the ants in your home — the sugar acts as a bait while the borax acts as a Trojan horse. Ants will bring the mixture back to their colony, where the borax will disrupt their digestive system and eliminate the whole group.” You can find borax in the laundry section of your local supermarket, drugstore or dollar store; note that borax can also make kids and pets sick, so do not spray where they may accidentally ingest it.

To see how to make and apply this ant killer, watch the video from Kendall Todd TheSilverGuy below:

Related: The Top 10 Uses for Borax: The $10 Superhero No Home Should Be Without

DIY ant killer #2: Diatomaceous earth

This difficult-to-pronounce material is a nontoxic substance made from pulverized aquatic fossils, and you can purchase it in any hardware or garden store in the pest control area. “This material acts as a natural abrasive that damages ants’ exoskeletons, leading them to pass away due to dehydration,” says Swank. “Simply sprinkle it over any ants you see, and leave trails of it wherever they have gathered.” And while it’s deadly to ants, diatomaceous earth is not harmful to animals.

See how to apply it in the video from Letitia Liu below:

DIY ant killer #3: Baking soda

Baking soda can eliminate ants if they ingest it by disrupting their digestive systems. The issue? Getting them to eat it, which they are not likely to do if you just leave baking soda lying around. “You can make a 50/50 mix of baking soda and sugar, the latter of which may lure the ants into consuming the baking soda and bringing it back to the nest, but it’s shown mixed results in real-world tests,” explains Georgios Likopoulos of Fantastic Pest Control.

Related: Natural Spider Repellent: 4 Easy DIY Sprays That Keep The Bugs Away

DIY ant killer #4: Dish soap

For this method, mix 2 oz. dish soap and 32 oz. water in a spray bottle, then spritz over any ants you see. The soap clings to the ants, eventually suffocating them. “While this does kill ants, unlike the methods above, they won’t bring anything back to the colony, so ants will likely return unless you find and also eliminate their source or deter them in some other way,” says Michael Rector of Romney Pest Control.

Related: 10 Brilliant (And Surprising) Uses for Dish Soap

For more on pest control, click through the links below!
How to Keep Snakes Out of Your Yard — Easy Expert Tips Stop Them From Slithering

What Keeps Mice Away: Pest Control Pros’ Easy Tricks Repel Them Naturally

Stink Bugs Are Not Harmless — Here’s How To Stop a Chemical Burn and Dispose of the Bug

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