How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Dishwasher – A Thorough Guide

Updated on by Jared Belson | Please note that there may be affiliate links on this page.

There is really nothing worse than going to unload your dishwasher, thinking you have clean, pristine dishes, and finding ants crawling all over the dishes, creeping inside the mugs, and sliding down the silverware.

Spotting ants like that anywhere in your kitchen leads you down a slippery slope, thinking there is an entire colony of little black creatures invading your kitchen.

Because you think of a dishwasher as a place where things get clean, finding ants crawling through your dishwasher is especially heinous.

Do not despair, though. There are many ways to get rid of ants that will keep your sanity and clean dishes intact.

Why Do Ants Go into Your Dishwasher?

Ants climb into your dishwasher for the same reason they go anywhere: to find food. The tiny particles of food left on the plates before you run the dishwasher cycle are very appealing to ants.

Since most food in your cupboards and pantry is sealed, the ants are drawn to the crumbs and scraps left behind on the plates or anywhere they can find them. And let’s face it – you don’t always run your dishwasher every day, so that gives ants time to find a snack.

The second reason ants infiltrate your dishwasher has to do with water. Just like all animals, ants need water, which is found plentifully in your dishwasher system. If ants are in your kitchen to start with, they will not find water in cupboards or the pantry, but the dishwasher is the perfect place for them to quench their thirst.

Determine How They are Getting in

There are many ways ants can get into your dishwasher, and discerning the way they got in is extremely important so that you can solve the problem.

  • Plumbing holes: When the hoses are attached to your dishwasher and run to the sink, there is a chance that the sealings are not entirely tight.
  • Through the back: Ants can crawl in through the back behind the dishwasher, coming from the rear wall of the house, and easily come in through the outside.
  • Tiny hole or crack: Any tiny hole or crack can offer an entrance to these tiny ants looking for food.
  • Side vents: With the heat of the water in the dishwasher, the dishwashing system needs to vent, and these side vents can offer a way in for the ants.
  • Someone leaves it open: This is not too far-fetched in most households that someone would leave the dishwasher open and give the ants easy access to their dinner!

Shore Up the Holes

After identifying how the ants got in to start with, make sure to eliminate the problem by shoring up the holes where they originally gained access. With some examination, you should be able to determine the entrance the ants used, and with a little caulk and muscle action, you can eliminate the cracks and holes. Make sure you give the caulk time to dry before running the dishwasher again.

Common Types of Ants Found in the Dishwasher

There are so many different kinds of ants found in the world, and each one is shaped differently, acts differently, and is after something different. The list is seemingly endless: fire ants, pharaoh ants, weaver ants, little black ants, bullet ants, red wood ants, yellow meadow ants, and pavement ants.

Although the sight of any ant can be unnerving, there are a few that frequent dishwashers. If you learn to spot them, you will more easily figure out how to get rid of them.

Carpenter Ants

One common ant found in dishwashers is the carpenter ant. As the name implies, they chew through wood and create tunnels in which to create their nests. Unlike termites, they do not eat the wood, but leave sawdust behind.

Carpenter ants often come in from behind the dishwasher and create a nest under it. In this case, getting rid of the few ants you see will not eliminate the problem. You need to get some ant poison back to the nest to eradicate the entire colony of ants.

Sewer Ants

Sewer ants are another common ant found in dishwashers. These ants are lured through drains by the buildup of food and grease. Even though it seems that the scalding water of the dishwasher should get rid of them, they can hide in cracks and stick around.

In order to get rid of them, you need to thoroughly clean the drain. Vinegar and baking soda are good for this. To prevent the sewer ants from coming back, put ant poison in cupboards under the sink and near the drains to keep them away.

Get Rid of Ants without Hurting Your Children or Pets

If you are like most people, you will want to eradicate the ants as soon as possible. In doing so, you need to be careful that getting rid of the ants won’t harm any children or pets in the house. Whether you choose a do-it-yourself technique or a ready-made ant poison product, there are several easy ways to get rid of ants without calling an exterminator.

Run an Empty Cycle of Hot Water

The instinct of most people when they see ants in the dishwasher is to run a cycle of hot sanitizing water (while first emptying the dishwasher of its plates) to kill the ants. This is a great first step on the journey to ridding your dishwasher of ants. However, ants are sneaky little creatures, and just as they got in through tiny openings and cracks in the walls of the dishwasher, they can hide during the cycle and spare their own lives.

Use Vinegar

Vinegar is a miracle cure for ants in the dishwasher. Vinegar is a natural cleaning and sanitizing agent that will get rid of the food particles, especially those in the drains that lure the ants in the first place. It will also mask the smell of food to prevent them from returning.

Remove the drain first. This should easily twist off. Clean out the drain carefully because that is often where food particles get stuck and that is the primary reason the ants come in. After returning the drain, pour one cup of vinegar down the drain to sanitize and mask the smell of food for the ants.

Use Peppermint

Another natural way to keep ants away from the dishwasher is by using peppermint oil. Ants do not like the smell of peppermint, and this will deter them from returning. Not only will this leave your kitchen smelling better, but it is also a non-toxic way to deal with the ants.

Leave Borax Bombs Around

The best way to eradicate ants is to find their nest and eliminate them at the source. For this to occur, you need to get the ant poison back to the colony. By placing the poison where you see the ants, they will track it back to the colony and eradicate all the ants.

Borax bombs are a great way to do this, and this type of ant poison will also be safer for your pets or children. You can make your own with a mixture of Pure Borax Powder and powdered sugar (if you have young children around, this is also a prime ingredient in making slime.)

Mix a half cup of sugar, 1.5 tablespoons of Borax, and 1.5 cups of water. Soak cotton balls with this mixture and leave the cotton balls around the dishwasher.  The powdered sugar will lure the ants, and they will end up taking the borax mixture back to the colony with them. This is a cheap, effective method of getting rid of the ants without spraying pesticides.

Use a Traditional Ant Trap

For some people, creating their own ant traps is too time consuming or problematic, so using a traditional store-bought trap will get the job done more quickly and easily. This Child Resistant Ant Killer contains twelve cans and will keep your family safe while getting rid of your ant problem.

Call an Exterminator

When all else fails, or if your tolerance for creepy crawly things is extremely low, you can always call an extermination company to help you with the ant problem. With this kind of problem, however, it should really not be necessary.

Ant Round-Up

Though shocking at first, finding ants in the dishwasher is a problem you can handle with a little ingenuity and time. Check for the port of entry and remove it by caulking over it so ants can no longer get into the dishwasher area.

Once you find and identify the ant entrance, work to get rid of them. Use vinegar, hot water, and even peppermint oil to eradicate the ants in the dishwasher itself.

After you solve this short-term problem, make sure to go after the long-term situation and get some poison back to the colony so that the entire colony is no longer viable. A more natural way to do this is by mixing borax with powdered sugar to attract the ants, which they will then take back to the rest of the colony.

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