How to get rid of ants at home

Do you have ants that keep coming inside your home to visit? Well, that’s never fun. But most often than not there are ways of getting rid of ants without hurting them. Some of these solutions also work on other insects, so keep on reading.

First off, some quick solutions on how to get rid of ants:

  • Keep it clean and dry! Ants forage for food and moisture, mostly in the form of sugar and water in different forms.
  • Store your food and sweets in sealed containers.
  • Make sure that your entrance and windows are fully sealed.
  • Empty the trash as often as possible.
  • Wipe away the scent trails of the ants with soap or detergent.
  • Localize the nest. If it is settled in something movable, move it (flower pots or similar)
  • Examine your surroundings. Are there any aphids in the nearby vegetation being farmed by ants? Many ants live in harmony with these small “ant cows”.

How to Get Rid of Ants – Food Sources

Ants are incredible foragers. They look for food and water everywhere. They have patrols, spies, and scouts that work day and night to find nutrition and important resources for the colony. So when the ants find their way into our homes it’s probably because of this behavior. And if they find anything usable, they will come back. When people want to get rid of ants it’s mostly the areas around the kitchen, dinner table, and the trash. The reason is not hard to think of: this is where we keep, handle and consume our food. An uncleaned kitchen is a dream scenario for a colony of ants. This is why keeping it clean is an important aspect when you want to get rid of ants in your home. Keep it clean!

how to get rid of ants
A colony of black pavement ants (Lasius niger) in a formicarium. Photo: Lennart Tange

Many ants prefer to live in close quarters with us humans, like the black pavement ant Lasius niger. They are great foragers and often find what they’re looking for in our kitchen and/or patios. The species is very flexible and can nest in many different environments. They can settle in flower pots, under rocks/stones, or directly in the dirt. If you have ants in your flower pots: try moving them further from your windows or entrance.

Try this:

  • Make sure there is no food to be found in your home. The less food the ants can find, the fewer scent trails they will lay down leading to your home. They like crumbs, dried-up juice or soda spots, and leftovers from dinner, breakfast, etc. To get a better understanding of the ants and their communication system read more about it here.
  • Localize the colony. If possible, try moving it!

How to Get Rid of Ants – Quick fixes

As previously mentioned ants communicate by way of scent. If the workers find a source of food they will run back to the colony and tell their sisters. On the way home they will put a scent trail on the ground, sort of like breadcrumbs, for the other ants to follow. When the other colony members find the food they will take some in their mandibles and carry it home, all the while enhancing the scent trail. As long as the ants find something useful on the other end, the trail will be continually reinforced. In our homes, there are often many delicious things for ants to eat, so the trails can linger for a long time.

Luckily, if you want to get rid of these ants quickly, there is a simple solution. Use a damp cloth with some detergent or soap and wipe away the scent trail. Just observe the ants and where their “roads” are laid out, then wipe them away. A plus is also that ants don’t like the smell of detergent, so they will most likely not return until the smell is gone.

Try this:

  • Ants use scent to mark out their “ant roads”. Use a damp cloth with some detergent to wipe away their trail.
  • Be creative! Ants don’t like strong smells. This means it can be taken advantage of. For example, put some detergent or soap on your finger and apply it on the thresholds and window frames. Ants also hate the smell of Fun Light and cinnamon, so be creative.

How to Get Rid of Ants – Make Your Home Impenetrable

Study the movement patterns of your ant visitors and seal up their ways of getting in. Most ants won’t dig through doors or facades, so try plugging their entrance holes shut.

How to Get Rid of Ants – Feed Them!

If you’re a true animal (ant!) lover and don’t want to risk hurting the ants there is another solution. Try feeding your ant neighbors! When ants find their way into our homes it’s mostly sugar they’re after. So try making it easier for them by putting a sugar source by their nest or in another direction compared to your home. They like most things sugar, marmalade, sugar water in a container, or sugar in the form of fresh fruit. Every species of ants is different so try what works best for your ants. Read more about what ants prefer to eat and drink

Further reading