How to Keep Ants Away (Out of Your House) 

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

A line of ants marching across the counter is never a welcome sight! And, you know if you see one, there are sure to be more to follow. Keep reading to learn more about ants, and find out which common, household ingredients are best to repel ants!

Ant Colonies

Ants live in colonies. The queen stays hidden. Her job is to have lots, and lots of baby ants. The ants we see running around in our homes are adult, worker ants. Their job is to gather food for the queen, the young ants, and the rest of the colony.

The worker ants leave scent trails of pheromones for other ants to follow. These trails lead to food, water, or back to the colony.

If you can find the source of the ant infestation or the colony, that would be the best way to eliminate your ant problem altogether. Otherwise, the queen will keep producing worker ants, and you’ll find them everywhere in your house, sometimes even in your laptop. For more information about ant hills or ant colonies, check out this article.

Eliminate the Ants

Boric Acid

Boric acid is different from borax and is commonly used as a pesticide. It needs to be added to bait to attract the ants, then works quickly to kill the ants.

You will need:

  • ¾ teaspoon of boric acid
  • 1 cup of food to attract ants. Try peanut butter, honey, jelly, or sugar water.

Place the mixture in containers with openings, then place the containers around the house where you have seen ants. Check the containers at least once a day. You may need to switch the bait or the location of your ant trap.

Boric acid is poisonous! Keep this out of reach of pets and children! If accidental ingestion occurs, call a medical professional. Always wear gloves while handling boric acid.


Borax is commonly used to clean laundry. It is lethal to ants. In order to attract ants to the borax, it needs to be mixed with a bait, like sugar.

You will need:

  • 2 Tablespoons Borax
  • 1 ½ cups of warm water
  • ½ cup of sugar

Stir these ingredients together until the sugar dissolves. Place the mixture in a shallow dish. The ants will be attracted to the sugar and will carry the poisoned food back to their colony.

Keep this out of reach of pets and children! If accidental ingestion occurs, call a medical professional. For an easy guide to using borax to kill ants, check out this article.

Liquid Ant Bait

A trap with a liquid ant bait and poison, like this one, is ideal for eliminating an ant problem. The worker ants will take the poisoned bait back to the colony, where the rest of the ants will eat it. This will kill off the entire colony, instead of just the old worker ants.

Repel Ants Indoors

Once you’ve dealt with the ant colony, you can handle any stray ants that try to enter your home. These remedies should repel ants before they try to stake their claim on your house!

Clean the House

Ants are highly attracted to sweet foods. Keep food preparation areas clean, and wiped down with a cleaner like Lysol, or another cleaner, to eliminate any scent trails. Make sure spills are cleaned up immediately. Sweep up crumbs, mop the floors, and take food trash out at least once a day.

Remove Standing Water

Ants also need a source of water so they can remain hydrated. Check pipes and plumbing for leaks, and make the necessary repairs. Clean up any water spills, and keep sinks drained.

If you have house plants, check the water around the plants. Ants may be trying to get a drink from the plants. Change the soil, move the plants, and use an ant deterrent around the plant.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth is an all-natural, non-toxic powder made of diatoms or fossilized sea animals. It feels soft to our touch, but it has microscopic, jagged points that pierce insects’ shells. Sprinkle it along the edges of counters, around doors and windows, and anywhere else you have seen an ant.

For a complete guide to diatomaceous earth and ants, check out our article here.

Dish Soap

Liquid dish soap will eliminate the scent trail the ants leave behind. You can mix a squirt of dish soap with warm water in a spray bottle, and spray it around ant hot spots, or just use a wet sponge with dish soap to wipe down counters.


Ants dislike the smell and taste of pepper. Any pepper will do! Sprinkle black pepper, red pepper, or cayenne pepper along the edges of countertops, around window sills, or anywhere you see an ant trail. Avoid touching your eyes after handling pepper!


Peppermint is a natural ant-deterrent, as well. Mix 10-20 drops of peppermint oil with water in a spray bottle and shake it up. Spray this mixture around your home.  Peppermint oil can be an eye irritant, so be careful not to spray it near your face.

Mint plants may also help to deter ants. Plant mint plants around the outside edges of your home, or keep a potted mint plant indoors.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil works to kill and repel ants! Soak cotton balls with diluted tea tree oil, and place them around the house, especially near doors, windows, and cracks. Keep tea tree oil away from pets. It can cause an adverse reaction, especially to cats.

Mix a few drops of tea tree oil with water in a spray bottle. Shake the bottle to combine the mixture. Spray this directly on any ants you see to kill them.


Not only will vinegar repel ants, but the high acidity levels will also kill ants. Most people have white vinegar in their homes already. Any vinegar will work to kill or repel ants, but white vinegar typically has the highest acidity level of the usual household vinegars.

Simply mix the vinegar with water in a one-to-one ratio. If the smell of vinegar bothers you, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to mask the smell. Shake to combine. Spray the vinegar and water solution along ant trails, and around openings to your home. You can also directly spray on any ants you see to kill them.

Read this article for more information about using vinegar to kill ants.


Cinnamon is another spice that ants dislike. Sprinkle it near windows, or around ant hot spots. Cinnamon leaf essential oil has a strong cinnamon scent that will deter ants, as well. Soak cotton balls in the oil, then place them near doors, windows, cracks, or ant trails.

Coffee Grounds

The scent of your favorite brew is repulsive to ants! Brew the coffee first, then sprinkle the grounds on a dish, or piece of cardboard, and place it near the ants’ favorite hang-out spots. The ants are only bothered by damp coffee grounds, so replace them after they dry out.


Citrus is toxic to some of the fungi that ants enjoy eating, so they will avoid citrus. You can place citrus peels around your kitchen to deter ants. A citrus oil will also repel ants! Soak cotton balls with the oil, and place them strategically around your home. Some cleaners contain citrus oil, as well, like this one.

Repel Ants Outdoors

Ants may be coming into your house from your backyard. Check your yard carefully for ant hills or ant activity.

Clear the Yard

Piles of bush or tall weeds may help conceal ant colonies. Clean the yard of all debris.

Ants are always on the lookout for food and water. If you have a garden or fruit trees, clean up all fruit and vegetable debris immediately. Empty standing water, and remove anything that could capture rainwater, like toys, birdbaths, or containers.

Use Pesticides

An insecticide that contains Cypermethrin, like Demon Max Insecticide, will kill ants, termites, and other pests in your yard. Use caution with pesticides if you have pets or children in your yard.

Diatomaceous earth is also approved for outside use. Sprinkle it around any areas that have ants, and entrances to your home. Reapply if it rains or gets washed away.

When to Call a Professional

If you have tried everything, and the ants are still on the march, it may be time to call a trusted exterminator to help eliminate your ant problem!

Final Thoughts

Stop ants in their tracks with these remedies! There are many varieties of ants, so you may need to experiment with these methods to find the best way to get rid of the ants in your home. Stay alert to any further ant activity, and deter them from your home.

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