We’ve all experienced this before. One day, you walk into your kitchen or dining room and see an ant working its way across a counter or on the ground. At first, there might just be one, but over time you see more and more of them. Eventually, there seem to be ants everywhere, and even the smallest crumb draws them by the dozens.
Ants are incredibly organized and persistent creatures that communicate and work together to search for food. If you’ve got crumbs or anything sweet out at your counters or on the floors, even in small quantities, you can unintentionally attract ants from outside. Ants can make it into your house through even the smallest cracks or gaps and make their nests in small spots in the walls.
But before it gets that far, let’s consider three natural deterrents for ants that can keep them away from the moment you spot them without resorting to toxic chemicals that can harm you and your family.
Not only is vinegar a great all-purpose cleaning solution that fights bacteria and mold, which can come in really handy when you’re trying to clean dirty surfaces in the bathroom or clear out clogged drains and pipes, but vinegar has another benefit you might not be familiar with—it can kill and ward off ants.
The acetic acid in vinegar and the smell will keep ants away, so be sure to use cleaning vinegar (which is diluted to 6 percent acidity rather than the 5 percent acidity that would be normal for vinegar used for cooking). If you’re dealing with an active trail of ants, make a mixture of 50 percent vinegar and 50 percent water. Spraying this directly on the ants will kill them straight away. Spraying some in the areas where they are most likely to get in the house, i.e. windowsills, door frames, cabinets, and baseboards, will deter them from coming back in.
In the meantime, regularly cleaning any of the areas where people are eating in the house with a vinegar solution will not only keep things clean but also ant-free.
While most people love the smell of cinnamon, associating it with cookies, cakes, and Christmas, for ants, the fragrant chemical compounds are extremely off-putting. Using cinnamon as a natural ant defender is a great way to avoid dangerous insecticides and having a costly call to the exterminator.
What are the most effective ways to use cinnamon? According to scientific studies, using cinnamon essential oil is the most effective technique, and the more concentrated it is, the higher the repellency and mortality rate for the ants. Remember that essential oils can irritate your skin if applied directly, so be careful as you use them.
Just as with vinegar, you’ll want to dilute the cinnamon oil with water and put it in a spray bottle. Studies conducted by researchers show that a 20 percent concentration was completely effective in killing the ants, whereas lower concentrations only partially got rid of them (5 percent oil resulted in a quarter being killed off, 10 percent oil killed half of them off, and 15 percent oil killed two thirds).
Simply spray the oil in the same places you would the vinegar: anywhere that you have seen act activity or suspect they might be getting in.
Last but not least, borax can be a very effective repellent. You’re probably more familiar with this product for its cleaning properties. Containing boric acid, it has incredible anti-fungal properties and just so happens to be deadly to ants.
The best way to use borax is to create a trap for the ants that will encourage them to ingest it. They will either consume it on the spot or take it back to their nests for others to eat and then die. To lure ants, all you’ll need is white sugar, which is just about as close as it gets to perfection for these sweet-toothed insects.
Mix three parts warm water with one part sugar, then add some borax, which you can use more or less of depending on how bad your ant problem is. Once you’ve created your solution, you’ll need to dip a cotton pad or ball into it and place it in a small container. Leave it out where the ants have been and they will come get it. After a couple of days, you’ll see results, and the ants from that nest will eventually die off.
Remember with all these deterrents to keep kids away from the areas you’re spraying or trapping. If you do make solutions with vinegar, cinnamon oil, or borax, keep them in sealable containers out of reach for little ones. Last but not least, the number one way to keep ants away is always not to feed them! Keep your food sealed and surfaces clean and that will already make a big difference.