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Organic Ant Control

"Go to the ant and be wise" by Pandlyan on Flickr


I have lived in the north, south, east, and west – and ants find you know matter where you live!  I have tried all sorts of different organic sprays and urban legend tinctures.  Most things work a little bit and then the ants come back.


So how do you get rid of ants?  Here’s what I’ve found that works best:


In The Home


First off, you have to trace your ant trail as far as you can trace it.  That means across the windowsill or the floor, through the window or door, and outside.  If they are coming through a crack in the wall or ceiling, you may not be able to do this, but at least follow it to the crack.  If they’re coming through a wall, you may be able to go around to the outside of your house and find where they’re coming in.


Then you’ll need to get rid of the trail.  If you only kill the ants you see, more ants will return in their place, following an ant trail established by scent.  The best way I have found to get rid of the ant trail is to spray it with orange oil cleaner (which you can find in any health food store – try to find one that isn’t dyed orange, and is a natural color).  I spray the entire trail inside with a hefty dose of orange oil cleaner, and leave it there for several minutes.  Then I wipe it clean, go outside, and do the same.


After I’ve gotten rid of the trail, I spray the orange oil cleaner into the entry point on the outside of the house (if I can find it).  That means every crack, crevice, window, or doorway where they are coming in.  Don’t wipe the spray clean – just leave it.

In a pinch, you can also use straight vinegar in a spray bottle.  In my experience this does not last as long – the ants find their way back a day or two later.  But if you need to take immediate action, this will help.  You can also combine it with shaking some ground cinnamon into the corner or crevice where the ants are coming into the house.  It may look a little weird, but the ants will not cross the cinnamon.  Baking soda can work as well, though again, not as well as the orange oil.


In The Garden


In the garden, I leave ants alone because they help break down the nutrients for plants – they’re a natural part of the garden ecosystem.  However, if you have a serious infestation (sometimes ants will bring in aphids), or if you want to get rid of fire ants, you can deter them.  Try scattering ground cinnamon, wood ash, and/or diatomaceous earth around the perimeter of your beds.

Anyone else have any organic ant deterrent tricks?

This post was inspired by a comment from Charlene – thanks for asking, Charlene!

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29 comments to Organic Ant Control

  • For many years, I, too, have used cinnamon with great success. I don’t have too much trouble with ants—usually only when I am pulling weeds. Cinnamon gets rid of the swarming immediately.

  • We haven’t tried it yet, but dried molasses is supposed to be great for the outdoors. Just sprinkle it on and the fire ants move to your neighbor’s yard :) Oh, added bonus… the molasses is also a GREAT fertilizer for your garden plants. So with one product, you both fertilize and get rid of ants, and it doesn’t get any more natural than molasses!

  • When we moved here, one wall was infested with moisture ants. After spending $10k replacing a dormer and chunk of roof, we contacted a pest control company and they applied a borate solution around our house. This is relatively safe as far as pesticides are concerned. Since then we’ve applied nematodes to keep the ant and termite problem minimized. I’ve heard of sprinkling Borax around, but we haven’t needed to resort to that yet.

    Compared to moisture ants, termites and carpenter ants, I see sugar ants as just somewhat pesky. Making sure they have nothing to eat helps. I’m not sure molasses is the thing you’re looking for unless you spread it as bait away from the house. :)

  • Growing up in the south, I have had to fight fire ants my whole life. There is one tried and true remedy that works everytime for fire ants. Grits. Get the instant kind and sprinkle them on the mound. The workers will carry it back to the queen. She will ingest it, and well.. explode. The mound will move on.

  • First off thanks for the tip about orange oil. I admit that I gave up and bought some Raid after battling ants on my kitchen table for the past three weeks! I didn’t spray the Raid on my table! The biggest issue is we can’t find the trail so we have no idea where they are coming in. It’s been quite frustrating.

    Heather mentioned dried molasses for fire ants. I really hadn’t made the connection, but we have our yard fertilized etc. using organic methods. They put molasses down about three weeks ago and I haven’t seen a single fire ant mound so maybe there is something to that!

    Last, I usually use vinegar on the ants. I add a little tea tree oil to it. If I can identify the entry point for ants on the counter I also put a couple of drops of tea tree at the opening and spread it around. This is always very effective.

  • I completely second the Orange Oil. I use Orange Guard ( with complete success. It’s safe to me & my cat, it smells great, and it really works. It’s the only natural remedy I’ve had success with.

  • How organic is borax? (lol) We used to mix a little white sugar with borax; it’s a lottery. If a worker makes it back to the queen with borax and she eats it (they can’t tell the diff between borax and sugar, I’m told, so I’m not at all sure why the sugar was supposed to be there too), no more eggs. No more eggs, no more colony. But there are colonies and there are colonies. The one that infested this house was miles across and was exploring many, many houses. One day they all disappeared at once. It’s been years. The odd thing was that the carpenter ants had a major population crash at exactly the same time, AND so did the termites.


  • I’ve heard mint works to keep them away. We have an infestation in our mailbox. I mean HUNDREDS of ants have appears in our mailbox the last two years. I use an all natural ant spray made of mint oil, and it gets rid of them right away.

  • Trish The promised land

    I use diatomaceous earth, it works great! Last year, I noticed my chickens eating them in my herb garden. Thought it was great until they ate all of my herbs too. ;)

    Risa B, borax is considered organic since it’s derived from minerals. I visited a borax mine in Death Valley last year. Google it and you’ll see many uses for it

  • I use tea tree oil. We have had a real problem with them getting into the dog’s food dish. I put a drop or two in a cotton ball and rub it around the bottom edge of her food dish everytime I wash or give her a clean dish. No more ant’s in the food dish.

    I add about 20 drops of tea tree to my mop water when I mop. Not only does it deter the ants, but disinfects too.

    I also use borax around the drain pipe for the washer where they come in. I can’t reach all the way to the pipe so I just give it a little sprinkle.

  • Sounds good to me. Hopefully our baby chicks when grown will help with all insects.

  • Abbie, mint sounds like an awesome idea. I wonder if the spray is something we could make at home? Any idea what’s in it besides mint? Hmmmm…

    Kim and Victoria, awesome solution. Jealous I am.

    Tea tree oil, borax, molasses – awesome. Thank you all for sharing your tips – we all now have an arsenal of possibilities. : )

  • In the house I use talcum powder onto the entry point: it’s easily available and very effective. I’ve never found a good way to keep ants away from my vegetable garden where they create lots of problems: not only do they bring in aphids, they also take away EVERY SINGLE small seed (lettuce, carrots etc).

  • I just read a tip on Debra Lee Dadd’s Q&A site that said peppermint soap works. I have a sugar ant problem, so I mixed some Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap with water and put it in a spray bottle. In one area, it took care of the trail and killed the ants straightaway and no returning ants. Another area needed several treatments. In my kitchen, it deters for only a few days (I have a food-dropping toddler, so they have good reason to come back there), so I’m going to try the orange oil next. I love the tea tree oil suggestion, too – is there anything that stuff can’t do? Thanks for the info, all!

  • Boiling water. Take your tea kettle out to the garden and let em have it. This works. Just don’t burn yourself or any precious plants. I rarely do this because ants are pretty good, actually. They harvest seeds (mostly weeds).

  • When I had ants coming up the wall and into the greenhouse window where the catfood dish is, I took up the piece of carpet lining the bottom of the window, cleaned everything well and then sprinkled talcum powder, pushing it into the cracks around the edge and replaced the piece of carpet. No more ants there. Down in the cellar, I draw a thick line with sidewalk chalk around the edge of the floor and around the feet supporting the storage racks, making sure none of them touch the walls. Ants won’t cross a chalk line. And a little tip I got from my Texas relatives, that keeps my kitchen cupboards ant-free is putting unopened 5-packs of Wrigleys Spearmint gum inside.

  • Lisa

    I second (third?) the tea tree oil in the mop water. We’ve had sugar ants entering our kitchen seasonally for two years now. My husband dutifully goes around the house spraying some chemical that lasts maybe til it rains, if that. I kept saying we should research green alternatives on line but we just had a baby and seemed to be researching so many things, so it fell to the bottom of the priority list. (it shouldn’t have though!). One day I got fed up and sprayed the appeared points of entry with our kitchen cleaner that’s primarily tea tree oil. They stopped coming in there. This season we had the worst case, finding them all over the down stairs. I brought my sons diaper pail in the kitchen one day, which is scented with tea tree oil. I noticed no ants! I then put a few drops in my wash pail when I mopped the floor. That was two weeks ago and I haven’t seen a single ant since. I also found a infestation under our water hose reel which I sprayed with the organic kitchen cleaner (figured it was better than telling my husband since I’m pretty over the chemicals!) So here-here to the green option of tea tree to ward off ants!

  • [...] to 1GreenGeneration, the first thing you have to do is find the ant’s trail. Simply killing ants isn’t [...]

  • [...] to 1GreenGeneration, the first thing you have to do is find the ant’s trail. Simply killing ants isn’t going to do [...]

  • You got a really useful blog I have been here reading for about an hour. I am a newbie and your success is very much an inspiration for me

  • [...] Check around your yard and see if you can find the hill.  There were also some great comments in this post that might [...]

  • Joanne

    Every summer we’re plagued by ants and I’m actually looking to find a solution to the upcoming problem, being already May. We’re living in an apartment on the first floor, but the height doesn’t help much, sadly, they still climb up and inside the house, particularly in the kitchen.
    Your “in the home” tips helped indeed.

  • seal key farm

    hello, i have noticed a great increase in anthills in the yard this spring. i have left them alone outside, but now they have invaded the house. i am wondering if any of these remedies have a negative impact on the other creatures around the house-butterflies, toads, black rat snakes. any information on that? thank you, erin

  • Take your tea kettle out to the garden and let em have it. This works. Just don’t burn yourself or any precious plants.

  • Judy johnson

    Hope this is not a repeat, but coffee grounds is a great deterrent for ants. Of course you wouldn’t want to use it in your house, but outside it works great!

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