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7 Ways To Get Rid of Ants Naturally

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7 Ways To Get Rid of Ants Naturally

It’s a compliment, I’m sure . . .

The way ants are descending on my kitchen. The sticky sweet smell of homemade strawberry jam is irresistible if I do say so myself. But after watching them take an afternoon dip in my coconut oil I’m not feeling very hospitable.

I draw the line at coconut oil, y’all.

There are certain spices, such as cinnamon and turmeric, that are thought to repel ants, but I haven’t had much luck with them. So this year, I dug around on some university entomology pages for effective alternatives to synthetic pesticides – here’s what I turned up!

7 Ways To Get Rid Of Ants Naturally

Mint oil

1. Essential Oils

When a forager goes out and discovers food, it marks the path from the food to the nest using a pheromone trail. Other ants, who smell with their antennae, then follow the path. Certain botanical scents interfere with these scent trails  – here are a few of the most effective ones:

Peppermint Essential Oil

Not only does this one really work, it smells great to boot! It’s often used to support alertness and mental clarity. Not a bad oil to have around, huh?

To use: Place a few drops on a cotton ball and wipe on baseboards and other entry points. You can also leave a peppermint-infused cotton ball in cabinets and other areas as needed. Repeat every few days until ants are completely gone, or see below for how to use it as a spray.

(Where to find peppermint oil)

Tea Tree Essential Oil

Tea tree is a great all-purpose oil to have around. I use it as a disinfectant in homemade cleaners and a general antiseptic.

To use: Place a few drops on a cotton ball and wipe on baseboards and other entry points. You can also leave a  tea tree-infused cotton ball in cabinets and other areas as needed. Repeat every few days until ants are completely gone, or see below for how to use it as a spray.

(Where to find tea tree oil)

Clove Essential Oil

In addition to disrupting scent trails, clove oil kills ants on contact.

“Eugenol is a component of clove oil. It is a fast acting contact insecticide that is effective on a wide variety of household pests such as cockroaches, ants, dust mites, flies, wasps, spiders, crickets, and fleas. It is also used on some ornamental plant pests such as armyworms, thrips, aphids and mites.

Eugenol has little or no residual activity [meaning it’s effectiveness fades quickly], although the scent of cloves will linger. Products based on eugenol are considered minimum risk pesticides with very low risk of damage to the environment or user.” (source)

To use: Clove oil works best when mixed with another oil. It is very strong, so I recommend using it in small amounts. See recipe below for ideas.

(Where to find clove oil)

Lemon Or Orange Essential Oil

Citrus oils contain d-limonene, which is toxic to ants. It also masks their scent trails. (Orange, lemon and grapefruit essential oils all contain d-limonene)

To use: Place a few drops on a cotton ball and wipe on baseboards and other entry points. You can also leave a citrus-infused cotton ball in cabinets and other areas as needed. Repeat every few days until ants are completely gone, or see below for how to use it as a spray.

(Where to find orange oil. Where to find lemon oil.)

7 Ways To Get Rid Of Ants Naturally

Ant Away Spray


  • 1/4 cup purified water
  • 1/4 cup vodka (Used to help suspend the oil in the water. If you don’t have any available you can just use water and shake often)
  • 15 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 15 drops tea tree essential oil
  • 7 drops citrus essential oil (orange, lemon, grapefruit, etc) OR 1-3 drops clove essential oil


Pour all ingredients into a small spray bottle.

How To Use Essential Oil Spray:

Shake bottle, then spray around baseboards, entry points for ants and just about anywhere you’ve seen ants. If you’re spraying on a food surface, omit the tea tree oil and add 15 drops peppermint oil. Repeat every few days until ants are completely gone.

Diatomaceous earth

2. Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth

Just one teaspoon of boric acid can be fatal to children, so I prefer not to keep it around. (source) Instead, I use diatomaceous earth (DE), “an off white talc-like powder that is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton. When sprinkled on a bug that has an exoskeleton (such as bed bugs, ants or fleas) it compromises their waxy coating so that their innards turn into teeny tiny bug jerky. But it doesn’t hurt mammals. We can eat it. ” (source)

And in fact many do. It is rich in silica, which is good for hair and nails, and is thought to help clear parasites and bacteria, heavy metals, etc. (source)

It’s also odorless and non-staining, and can be used safely indoors.

How To Use Diatomaceous Earth:

Gently sprinkle a thin layer in places ants are likely to be: on windowsills, beneath the fridge, under cabinets, garbage cans, etc.

Note: DE that is used to filter pools is not safe to breathe. Food grade DE is. More info here.

(Where to buy food grade diatomaceous earth)


3. Vinegar

Like essential oils, the smell of vinegar repels ants and also masks their scent trails. It is best used with another repellent, like citrus peels or essential oils.

How To Make Vinegar Spray:

Add 1/4 cup white or apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cup water to a spray bottle. Add 30 drops of one of the essential oils listed above, if desired. (If you are using clove oil, I recommend using just a few drops as it is very strong)

How To Use Spray:

Shake bottle, then spray around baseboards, entry points for ants and just about anywhere you’ve seen ants. Repeat every few days until ants are completely gone.


4. Citrus Peel Spray

Waste not, want not, right? This is a great way to use leftover lemon peels from your most recent batch of gummy stars or lemon jello.

How To Make Citrus Peel Spray:

Add peels to a pot, then pour in enough water to cover them. Or if you prefer, add 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar. Heat water/vinegar until steaming, then turn stove off. Allow to steep overnight, then strain and pour the liquid in a spray bottle.

How To Use Spray:

Shake bottle, then spray around baseboards, entry points for ants and just about anywhere you’ve seen ants. Repeat every few days until ants are completely gone.


5. Dr. Bronner’s Soap

Like diatomaceous earth, soap also dissolves the waxy coating on the outside of the ant.

How To Make Bronner’s Soap Spray:

Fill a 1 quart spray bottle almost all the way to the top. Add 1/4 c. peppermint castile soap, attach nozzle, and shake gently to mix.

How To Use Spray:

Shake bottle, then spray around baseboards, entry points for ants and just about anywhere you’ve seen ants. Repeat every few days until ants are completely gone.

(Where to buy Dr. Bronners soap)

Powdered sugar in a metal sieve

6. Baking Soda & Powdered Sugar

Apparently, the powdered sugar attracts the ants and the baking soda kills them. Mix 1 part sugar with 1 part baking soda and then place your mixture in shallow lids wherever you see ants. More details here.

Homemade Lemon Juice

7. Lemon Juice

Works for the same reason as vinegar. It is best used with another repellent, like essential oils.

How To Make Lemon Juice Spray:

Add half lemon juice and half purified water to a spray bottle. Optional: Add 15 drops of essential oil for every 1/4 cup. If you are using clove oil, I recommend using just a few drops as it is very strong.

How To Use Spray:

Spray around baseboards, entry points for ants and just about anywhere you’ve seen ants. Repeat every few days until ants are completely gone.

Do you have a tried-and-true trick for keeping ants away?

Please share it below!

Additional sources for this post:

University of Florida Department of Entomology and Nematology

Texas A&M University Department of Entomology

Photo credits: D Sharon Pruitt, Jason Ross Williams, Lex McCall, Fireballsedia

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198 Responses to 7 Ways To Get Rid of Ants Naturally

  1. Rochelle says:

    I’ve found my orang power spray kills ants

  2. Susan Beppler says:

    I have been using wet coffee grounds to deter ants and it works like a charm…..If you spread the grounds where the antes are entering it will disrupt their pheromones and they go some where else. AND….this works for years…..I did this four years ago and have not seen one since. My family and friends were also amazed when I told them. It may leave a light stain on some counter tops which can be removes by a cleaner containing bleach

    • D.A. says:

      Are you using used coffee ground?

    • david says:

      Not sure if it disrupts the pheromones but I heard of this one.
      I was told you can take your used coffee grounds, dry them out and put around area’s to block them. ( around outdoor plants). This works because the ants find it very uncomfortable to cross. also is great for slugs. but if you are someone that doesn’t drink coffee. crashed dried egg shells do the same trick.

  3. Sue says:

    Don’t put neat essential oils in gloss painted surfaces it will start to dissolve the paint and leave it matte and sticky

  4. Holly S says:

    Trying the essential oil spray out today, as I discovered ants in my bathroom (going after the cat food) and would love to avoid using chemicals to get rid of them! After reading some of the other comments, I’ll be keeping my cat’s dishes in the other room for awhile just to be safe (even though I’m spraying on the other side of the bathroom). I’m very hopeful that this will get them to leave and not come back!

    • Dianna says:

      Also, if you will put your cat’s bowl of food in a shallow dish/bowl and pour a little water into the shallow bowl the ants won’t get into the food–they won’t cross water. We were inundated the first morning in our new apt with a crawling mess of ants all OVER the canned (or dry) food…a friend told me this trick and it works like a charm.

  5. Claudy says:

    Any good remedies for termites?

  6. Trisha says:

    Ive tried the cinnamon and vinegar, didn’t work. I tried the baking soda and sugar and the ants just separated it, took all the sugar and left the baking soda. So then I added a few table spoon of water to the baking soda/sugar. And that worked. But your have to make a new batch everyday because they will suck all the moisture out and start seperating it again

  7. Heather Parks says:

    EOs: Clove, Lemon, and Peppermint

    Base: equal part ACV, Rubbing Alcohol, and Filtered Water

    Dropper makes the ant instantly done. Spraying kills them too, though they wiggle for a few seconds. Cotton ball soaks up any excess I may create and is great for cabinets, base board swiping, etc, so it’s a double bonus.

    I’ve been trying for YEARS to battle the yearly spring house ants in every home I’ve had (South Carolina, Ohio, Indiana). This is the first time I’ve succeeded with ants (though I’ve got fruit flies already figured out). I hate ants, so this feels like a day to document lol!

    • Veronica says:

      What do you do for fruit flies?

      • Mel says:

        For fruit flies make a dish with a small piece of fruit or sugar water and seal with plastic wrap and poke just a couple tiny hole in it and the fruit flies will get in but can’t get out

      • Lucinda says:

        Vinegar and dawn dish detergent. Works every time for flies also. About half cup of vinegar and drop off soap in a small dish! Place it where the flies are and one they try to drink the vinegar the soap traps and kills them. I’ve tried it and it does work

        • Zenobia says:

          For fruit flies I set out a small Dixie cup with a splash of bourbon and a shot of insecticide (I just spray it directly into the cup). The bourbon attracts the fruit flies and the insecticide kills them. (For obvious reasons, this remedy is intended for an adult household; children may ingest the contents of the cup!)

    • Beth D. says:

      Thanks for the recipe! I love the smell and I hope it will rid our kitchen of these pesty ants!

  8. LaQueasha says:

    I loved this because ants are taking over my house. They’re getting into my laptop, purse and shoes. Raid isn’t working anymore, go figure. So I’m trying the peppermint, tea tree oil & vodka mix! I pray it works!

  9. Darlene Alexander says:

    I use borax and icing sugar for nest outside

  10. Brittany says:

    So I just moved into a second for apartment a week ago and noticed a HUGE infestation in my kids’ room. They were crawling all over my 16 month old daughter as she slept. I mixed 5ml water, 5ml apple cider vinegar, and a tablespoon ground thyme. It killed the ants on contact! Going to check again tomorrow and see how many are left! Hopefully I killed most of them off!

    • N says:

      I really recommend Terro. I am a hard-core DIY girl, but this stuff is cheap and gloriously effective. Every spring when ants start creeping in, one dose of Terro and they are GONE within 24 hours. Then I just wipe up the sticky residue of whatever is left and move on with my life.

      • ginny sheen says:

        Thank you! I have tried every remedy suggested here, and they are effective for 10 minutes to 1/2 hour. Florida “sugar ants” come in EVERYWHERE, and are really, really difficult to get rid of. Terro has been my “go-to” product for years, and is easily applied in single drops, which are simply appled where children can’t reach or would never go. Gone the ants! Only need to use it twice a year or so at entry points. It may be toxic, but once it starts to dry, you can’t smell it, and I certainly wouldn’t encourage ingestion! After spotting the first three or four ants of the season and using the Terro, it’s a very long time before we see them again–rinse, repeat, GONE.

  11. Katie says:

    Heather or readers, do any of these options work for spiders and/or other bugs that get inside the house? We just moved and are finding we are sharing a residence with some other critters! I’d love to find or make something safe and non-toxic that works well too. What do you recommend? Thank you!

    • Deb says:

      Katie, I have read that peppermint essential oil is very effective against spiders. Try this recipe: Recipe for All Natural Spider-Stay-Away-Spray
      You will need…
      -5 to 7 drops of peppermint, tea tree, citrus, lavender, or neem essential oil
      -a reusable spray bottle
      -liquid dish soap
      -warm water
      -a dash of white vinegar* (optional)

      Put 5-7 drops of peppermint oil in a spray bottle (about 16 ounces is good), and fill mostly to the top with warm water. Add a squirt of dish soap, place the top on, and give the mixture a good shake. Before using, use the hose attachment of your vacuum to suck up any egg sacs or old webs. Test on an inconspicuous area, and then spray in the corners of window frames, along door cracks, or in dark dingy places spiders may be hiding out. You can also add a dash of white vinegar to the mixture, but keep in mind this could affect some fabrics and surfaces.
      Good luck, and let me know if it works for you! Deb

  12. Jean says:

    I use a small squirt of original Dawn dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle filled with water. Spray it on and it kills ants immediately. You have to do it more often as the water dries up but I prefer it to oils on my paintwork and floors. An added benefit when you clean up dead ants with a damp sponge you have essentially cleaned baseboards and sills.

  13. Tiffany says:

    I use cheyenne pepper sprinkle it and make a barrier, ants don’t cross it, it seems to kill them. Works on other things too to repel squirrels and such to keep them out of your garden. Just spray on plants, won’t hurt them at all!!!

    • Chata says:

      We had good luck with cayenne. You must be ok with the smell. After reapplying the cayenne every few days for a couple of weeks we were able to clean it up and the ants never came back

  14. Richard says:

    You’re making this way too hard. Baking soda alone will drive off ants. Find out the path they are coming in, usually a crack along the wall, or a gap by a window, and pour down a layer of baking soda. Goodbye ants. You do that and you won’t see another ant. It will also drive off earwigs, guaranteed.

  15. Veronica says:

    I spray windex around in the places i see ants. Or i just give a quick mop or wipe down non-porous surfaces with the windex & it seems to work. Last year my house i had just purchased was invaded with them. I guess they ran the house while it was alone. But windex seems to work for me.

  16. Toni says:

    I’ve used plain salt for years with great success. Sprinkle a thin line along the ants’ entry point and they’re gone.

    • Col says:

      How do you know where they’re entering from?

      • ginny sheen says:

        They tend to move almost in single file (at least here in FL), so one may just eyeball the trail backward to the entry point, or even just make your application where you first see the ants–which you will most likely see again before too long, at which time you can repeat your treatment. I treat the area where I see the entry to a room, and then find the corresponding area OUTSIDE the house to repeat it. Incidentally, if you have any kind of trees that touch your house or roof, the ants will migrate from there. Keep ’em trimmed as best you can.

  17. Jess says:

    Dish soap and water in a spray bottle will kill the ants instantly. If you see a group of ants spray them with that mixture and they die right then plus it is safe for children to be around and don’t leave a strong smell behind.

  18. Steph says:

    I can’t wait to try these. Does anyone have recommendations for repelling mice?

    • judy says:

      after the mice in my kitchen ran off with the sachet of Decon poison, (and retuned the next day!), i saturated a cotton ball with peppermint oil (essential oil), wiped down the cabinets and have not seen evidence of mice since. also, it smells very refreshing in the kitchen.

  19. Sherri says:

    I just had great success killing hundreds of those tiny sugar ants with only the Spray Bottle of THE HONEST COMPANY “GRAPEFRUIT” cleaning solution (which is now available at Target, so you don’t have to order it online any longer). I normally use it to clean my kitchen and bathroom counters. so happened to have it available. It is all natural and safe for pets and children. Contains Grapefruit Essential Oil. The ants died instantly and no more ants have returned.

  20. Shelly says:

    I just whipped up a batch of your Ant Away Spray (minus the vodka) using tea tree, peppermint, and clove oil as you suggested. It has worked wonders to get rid of ants in my kitchen! I am amazed. Since I live in the Middle East where it is currently 110F on a cool day, the ants are vigilant this time of year. Your spray got rid of most of them immediately. I have been spraying today (day 2) just to keep them at bay. So far, so good. Thanks so much!

  21. Dianna says:

    We had an ant situation tonight and your spray worked out great. The only thing that I would be careful of is using something that leaves such a strong EO scent in places without good circulation if you have babies under 2. My baby is 20 months and I was willing to take the risk (especially because she’s already in bed and the scent would probably dilute into the air enough by morning), but peppermint and clove oils “CAN” be dangerous around babies under 2. I just know that I will just have to be more mindful of my babe to make sure she doesn’t have a negative reaction from inhaling the oils.

  22. Gabe says:

    Ants hate cinnamon….it won’t kill them, just repel them.

  23. Randolph says:

    Hey, I like what you’ve done here – thanks! I live alone on Sand Dune in the middle of a large Southwestern Desert in my RV – a Hermit of sorts or so ladies call me? I’ve always used Boric Acid Crystals to Ants, Cockroaches, about everything alien disappears in a short time. My small Poodle is too damn fussy about what she might eat, if she feels so disposed to eat at all? But its a good drive into a town to buy only Borica Acid, so I’m gonna give Boraxo a try and Sodium Bicarbonate to get rid of these damn little Ants that bite like hell and have suddenly invaded my house! My shotgun is slightly over-kill! If I can find your page again, I’ll let you know how it goes.

  24. LizzeeDee says:

    I found that when I sprinkled garlic powder on my back door sill as well as on the edges of my sidewalk (which was predominately their home) I’ve had very few ants invading my house. It’s a cheap Dollar Store item that works for me!

  25. Hol lee says:

    This was very helpful. Thank you! (You used the word “and” twice in the first sentence section 1 “Essential oils”.)

  26. Kirsten says:

    The ants absolutely hate the vinegar plus oils and after wiping the counter and walls with this mixture to erase their trails, they have not traversed the same routes again … however, what they’ve done is simply create new trails and explore other areas. I could spray the entire cabinets inside and out and miss a spot, which would be the new trail they create. I’m purchasing Terro, as I know it works. I was OK until they found the trash and that was like the gold mine … I can’t walk into the kitchen and leave without ants crawling all over my body right now … that’s where I draw the line!

  27. barbara says:

    Dryer sheets work for me everytime…..just put one down where they are leave it a while and then check and all ants have disappeared.

  28. elizabeth says:

    what about moths my son and his wife are having a terrible time with moths!!

  29. Lynda. says:

    Ants can’t cross a powder line, so I use baby powder or similar powder for your body, and block off access routes that ants use. I used it on the window where you close the window, and it worked.

    Another thing, is to block their entrance (if it’s a small place) with blu-tac, the slightly sticky white substance that you buy to put pictures on walls. When you block their entrance, they can’t come in.

  30. Emily True says:

    Great ideas here! My house gets ants EVERY year without fail and peppermint essential oil mixed with tea tree oil has been the ultimate lifesaver in the kitchen. Thanks for sharing!

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