Everyone has had to deal with ants, and they seem to be everywhere. Your house can serve as a haven for these tiny insects. It can provide them with food, water, and shelter in one convenient location — protecting them from the elements as well as predators like birds and lizards.
Getting rid of ants isn’t as simple as squishing each one you see, though. If you have an ant problem at home, it’s likely that you have an entire colony somewhere close. The key is to deprive ants of their basic needs so that they won’t have any reason to stay.
There are a lot of easy, natural, and effective methods to keep ants out of your home, inside and out. There are also chemical and professional alternatives for more serious ant infestations.
What Kinds of Ants Invade Homes?
Different ants cause different problems and will require different treatments. The only sure way to treat an infestation is to destroy the nest and the queen. The most common household ants you might come across include the following:
Carpenter ants. These ants infest wood structures and are usually a sign of a moisture problem. They can cause structural damage to you home if left untreated.
Cornfield ants. These pests are usually found outside the home nesting in the soil under brick, pavement and sidewalks.
Large yellow ants. Yellow ants can be found nesting in and around foundation walls and soil under buildings. While they will remove dirt and other things, like cement particles from their nests, yellow ants don’t damage masonry or wood — they’re more of a nuisance than a threat to homes.
Pavement ants. They can be found under pavement in driveways, sidewalks and under homes with concrete slab construction. Pavement ants enter homes through small cracks in concrete.
Pharaoh ants. Pharaoh ant nests can be difficult to find and they always nest inside the home. They typically nest behind cabinets, inside wall voids and other small cracks and crevices inside your home.
Thief ants. Thief ants are often mistaken for pharaoh ants and are found in many of the same places. But while pharaoh ants can’t survive outside, thief ants can and will also nest in the soil.
How to Combat Ants Inside your Home
There are many areas inside your home where ants will build their nests, including the kitchen, living spaces, bedrooms, bathrooms, and inside basements and attics. They’re attracted to different areas for different reasons, and keeping them out of those areas means removing whatever it is they’re attracted to.
How to Keep Ants out of your Kitchen
Always keep your kitchen clean and tidy. The kitchen is where you keep food and water, which means you’re likely to see ants there, too. Ants are attracted to a variety of foods, including greasy and fatty foods, meats, cheeses and sweets.
To avoid attracting ants, regularly wipe down kitchen counters and sweep floors to remove any crumbs or food residue. You should also make sure to keep honey jars wiped clean and sugar bowls covered and off counter tops.
You should also make an effort to clean up immediately after meals. Properly dispose of leftovers and make sure to rinse any food residue from your cookware, dishes, and stovetops. The same goes for your pets’ food and water bowls. If there’s no food for them to eat, ants won’t stay.
Use sealed, pest-proof containers for food storage. Another effective way of keeping ants from your kitchen is to place your food items in airtight plastic, glass, or metal containers. Ants can crawl inside or bore tiny holes on cardboard boxes, potentially contaminating food like cereal and pasta. Using sealed containers also deters pests like rodents and cockroaches.
Fruits and other perishables should be stored in the refrigerator rather than counter tops to discourage ants. And pet food should be stored in a hard plastic, glass, or metal container as well.
Eliminate moisture. Ants thrive in damp environments and some will seek out moisture in kitchens and bathrooms. Keep an eye on the pipes under sinks and regularly check for signs of leaking, like bubbling or raised wood floors.
Block off potential access points. Regularly inspect your kitchen for small cracks in caulk on the counter tops, damaged grout, or gaps in the baseboards. If you find any cracks or gaps, seal them and use soapy water to wipe down these areas to remove the ants’ scent trail.
How to Keep Ants Away from your Living Room
Use homemade ant spray. You can use essential oils, like peppermint and cedarwood, or citrus oils, like orange and lemon. Mix the oil with water and pour the solution into a plastic spray bottle.
You can spray the mixture along baseboards and other possible entry points like exterior doors. While these scents are pleasing to people, they may deter ants. You can also try cayenne pepper to keep ants out, by placing a line of the spice along their entry points.
Sweep and vacuum regularly. Sweeping and vacuuming will pick up any food that you may have missed or that may have been carried into the living room accidentally by pets and kids. If you have carpet in your living spaces, you might not notice a few crumbs, but ants will. Vacuuming eliminates this potential food source.
Use ant bait. Ant bait will help eliminate not just the worker ants you see, but also ants back at the colony when the bait is brought back as food. The best place to use these is in places you know ants already visit.
There are many commercially-available ant baits, but you can also make your own concoction by mixing boric acid and maple syrup. The syrup attracts the ants and bait is taken back to the colony, where it poisons everything that eats it within 24 to 48 hours.
How to Keep Ants Away from Your Bedrooms
Avoid eating in your bedroom. Having a snack before bed might be tempting, but it increases the likelihood that you’re getting crumbs in your bed and carpet, which may not get cleaned up immediately. If you do decide to snack in your bedroom, make sure not to leave leftover food in bedroom garbage bins. Also be sure to vacuum and change your sheets regularly.
Use interceptors. Interceptors are little containers placed underneath the legs of your bed to catch insects. Place soapy water in the outer ring of the interceptor to prevent ants from climbing back out.
Check air-conditioning and heating units. Ants are attracted to air-conditioning and heating units so make sure to check if they are being used as entry points or nesting areas. Soapy water can be used to clean the outside of the air-conditioner or heater, just make sure it’s unplugged from the wall first.
Keep clothing clean and off the floor. Dirty clothing can carry food particles. Keeping dirty clothing off the floor will prevent food from being dropped there. Immediately hanging up or putting away clean laundry will also prevent clutter from building up.
How to Keep Ants away from your Basement or Attic
Keep your foundation sealed. Ants could be entering your home through cracks in the concrete of your foundation. Take a yearly look at your foundation and seal any small cracks you see — ants can use even the tiniest openings as an entry point to your house.
Use a dehumidifier. Basements, attics, and crawl spaces tend to attract moisture, which ants love. You can use a dehumidifier to keep these areas as dry as possible. If investing in a dehumidifier is not an option, there are also cost-efficient mini dehumidifiers and other absorber products.
Also, don’t forget to check if exposed pipes are leaking, or your dehumidifier isn’t going to make much of a difference.
Deep clean regularly. The basement or attic is an ideal location for ants because humans don’t always visit these areas. You might not realize that a queen ant has already set up a colony in your storage room. So, as much as possible, try to deep clean your basement or attic on a regular basis. Once clean, you can also use ant baits here just in case.
Inspect electrical wires and pipes periodically. Electrical wires and pipes run throughout your house and ants might be using exposed pipe, like that under your house, or wiring as entry points. If you have an unfinished basement or garage, ants might also be entering you home through there.
Inspecting these places for ants will let you know whether they’re being used to gain entry and if they are, you can seal them up.
How to Combat Ants Outside your Home
Even if you don’t have ants inside your house there may be a colony outside of your house, possibly in the garden or near the garage. Close proximity to your house makes it easier for ants to travel inside and out for food and water. Here are some ways to keep them away.
How to Keep Ants away from your Patio/Garden
Repair faulty gutters and drainage pipes. Water buildup in faulty gutters and drainage pipes might be attracting ants to your house. Keeping gutters and drainage pipes clean and properly maintained will not only help keep ants out of them, but also make your gutters last longer and prevent hazardous debris buildup.
Trim trees and bushes in your garden. If you have overgrown bushes and trees right next to your house, they can be used as an entry point. You might consider moving plants farther away from your house altogether — but keeping them trimmed and away from windows can also help.
Use diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is a very effective ant deterrent. It’s made from sedimentary rock that’s very sharp to ants. You can use it in garden beds and around places ants have been seen. And diatomaceous earth also deters other insects like cockroaches, beetles, and earwigs.
Locate the ants’ nest. If you need a more aggressive approach, locating and treating the nest will solve the problem at its root. Knowing where they are coming from allows you to tailor you methods and place ant bait where you can be sure it will be picked up.
How to Keep Ants Away from Your Garage/Shed
Keep garbage and compost bins properly sealed. The contents of garbage and compost bins can attract ants, but keeping them properly sealed can help. You should also avoid over filling bins — overfull bins are harder to keep secure. And consider cleaning your bins periodically to prevent buildup of garbage and thrown out food, which ants will see as a food source.
Keep things tidy. As with other areas of your home and property, it’s important to keep your garage/shed clean. The goal is to avoid buildup of things that attract ants, like food and water sources. For example, if you fish, keep your tackle box and hooks cleaned up and properly stored. If you snack while working on projects, clean up food immediately.
When to Call Pest Control
Although there are a lot of things you can do to keep ants out of your home, there are some instances where you might need a professional pest control service. If an ant infestation has become too severe — and other methods don’t seem to be working — it’s time to call an exterminator.
An exterminator can more easily find the ants’ nest, follow their trail, and identify entry points to your house. As licensed professionals, they also know which treatments are best for which species or ants. They can also provide additional tips so you can be sure the ants won’t be coming back.
Keep Ants at Bay
Ants might be tiny insects, but they can cause a lot of problems, especially if they’ve gotten inside your house. They can contaminate food and water and some ants can cause structural damage.
The best thing you can do to prevent ants from entering your home is keep food and water sources picked up and seal up entry points. And when all else fails, an exterminator can come in and treat your home.