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Tips for Humane, Nontoxic Ant Control

There are ways to keep ants outside the house without using toxic chemicals, so before homeowners reach for the ant traps or bug spray or call the exterminator, they should know that the toxic chemicals that kill ants are also harmful to humans and that scientific studies show that ants are intelligent animals who likely feel pain.

Did you know that similar to human gardeners, some ants use bacteria to produce higher-yielding, nitrogen-rich gardens? Or that leaf-cutter ants will overcome roadblocks between their colony and a food source by cutting smaller pieces of leaves and adding more workers to the line? And one study found that ants and other insects have the same chemical in their bodies that’s known to transmit pain in humans.

Follow the tips below for humane and safe ant control in your home:

  • Remove sources of attraction. Keep your kitchen clean. Wash countertops, floors, and cabinets with equal parts vinegar and water. Do not leave crumbs or garbage around, and keep all food, including companion-animal food, and trash in tightly sealed containers. Don’t leave uneaten companion-animal food in bowls, don’t feed animal companions outdoors, and never feed wildlife. Remove objects in the yard that might attract moisture (e.g., children’s pools, flowerpots, barbecue grills, sheet metal, boards, large pieces of debris, bricks, logs, etc.), trim back vegetation, and remove furniture and debris near the house.
  • Locate the source of the ants. When you see ants in your home, try to follow them back to the point where they entered. Use caulk to seal all possible entrances into the house, remembering that ants are tiny and can fit through almost any small opening. Apply weather stripping under doors.
  • Use natural ant repellents. If ants are coming in through the cracks of doors and windows, pour a line of cream of tartar where they enter the house, and they will not cross over it. A cinnamon stick, coffee grinds, chili pepper, paprika, cloves, or dried peppermint leaves near the openings will repel ants. You can also squeeze the juice of a lemon at the entry spot and leave the peel there. Planting mint around the foundation of the house will also keep ants away. Place cloves of garlic around indoor and outdoor ant pathways.
  • Use only nontoxic commercial repellents. A product called “Orange Guard” is a nontoxic organic ant repellent that is harmless to humans and other animals and will drive ants away from areas where they are not wanted. However, when applied directly to ants, the active ingredient d-Limonene (orange peel extract) destroys the waxy coating of the insects’ respiratory systems, causing the ants to suffocate, so please do not spray ants with the repellent. Simply spray the repellent around your home—the citrus fragrance of d-Limonene will repel the ants without killing them.

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  • put-put says:

    Hang sandwich bags with water in the house where you are seeing the flies. They don’t Lind the water and well leave the house alone. I have dogs and it is the best way I know of getting rid of them.

  • irishgal63 says:

    I have 2 small dogs, so I use white vinegar & water = it works !

  • Kevin says:

    I have a puppy(6 weeks). Any thing I can spray on him that will keep ants and insects from irritating his skin AND he loves to chew on things ALOT; is that his way of being a puppy or do the ants irritate him.

  • MaxxFlax says:

    Ants won’t cross baby powder

    I surround the food containers in the barn with baby powder and they stay ant free

  • Bug Repellent says:

    These tips are medically really helpul, thanks for sharing

  • Franklin says:

    What about in the garden? I have pavement ants literally eating the roots off my cauliflower starts, killing the plants. I’ve tried commercial ant traps, alleged home remedies like salt and NutraSweet, and even boiling water (sorry, PETA, but it’s either them or my organic food supply). They keep coming back. What’s non-toxic enough to use directly in the garden, but effective enough to stop them?

  • Carol says:

    There are dozens of ant hills arising between our patio bricks, and they have invaded the bricked/beamed step directly outside our back door. The sand is spilling everywhere and our step is sinking. I gingerly carry out all insects out of my house, but I can’t pick up these tiny ants. They have to go, I’d rather not use anything toxic (because of the ants, and our dog). Any suggestions?????

  • Cinnamon Vogue says:

    The all-time best method to get rid of ants is Ceylon Cinnamon Leaf Oil. It smells great for humans (non toxic, child safe, pet friendly) but is pretty awful for ants. All you need is just 1% Cinnamon Oil with 99% water. It’s the Eugenol content in Cinnamon Oil that works because it is an anti-microbial and powerful disinfectant. It’s safe to spray on your ant covered chocolate cake. The ants will run leaving your cake intact to eat. And it’s cost effective since a little bottle of Ceylon Cinnamon leaf oil will last a very long time. Also useful for keeping all kinds of other insects at bay as well as disinfecting your whole including the inside your refrigerator.

  • Christine says:

    I have to disagree with the planting mint tip…I have a huge ant colony living in my mint plant at the moment. :) I actually came here to find out how to safely get them out!

  • Haley says:

    @ Dazzle59, baby powder for ants is like walking on broken glass for people and other animals and the chemicals that make it smell might be harmful, so I wouldn’t recommend using it for ants.

  • Patricia says:

    wow thanks I live in a very old home almost 75yrs old now and ants can be a problem as well as spiders now that I know how to repel ants can anyone tell me how to repel spiders, flies and moths lol great site keep up the great work

  • Pratap says:

    hi, turmeric will help to keep them out safely.

  • Olivia says:

    Great article! But for those of you who read it, be careful! I know from experience that one little mint plant will grow supernaturally fast, invading your entire garden. The plants get very woody, and are impossible to get rid of because of their roots. The mint will flush out every other plant in you garden within a month, guaranteed. Just FYI

  • Rdigs says:

    this is very much a helpful article about how to get rid of ants..at least I know some very effective tips to control the ants in our home or better yet get rid of them

  • Stacey Norris says:

    I love you PETA!

  • Cindy says:

    Thank you, for educating me. I have a new found respect for ants.

  • Missy Kelsey says:

    Ditto to comment above from Jo!:) I use the cream of tarter but have a hard time winning the battle with 3 kids all under the age of 6 – it is very hard to keep the floor clear of crumbs 24/7 but I always do my best! Thank you I am going to share on fbook:)

  • Dazzle59 says:

    We have had good luck with baby powder (the regular smelly kind). Sprinkle a line of powder at the threshold or wherever ants are entering the house, and they will not cross it. You do need to refresh the powder regularly.

  • AnaD says:

    Thank you!!!! Like Jo said, they work so hard to stay alive…

  • DaveD says:

    I had a girlfriend who had ants running her kitchen. So I traced their chemical paths they leave behind (they exude tracing chemicals they leave behind to clue in other ants within their nest where the good pickings may be found) then gently picked them up and took them outside. Then I destroyed their chemical trails leading into my girlfriend’s kitchen with a spray of diluted vanilla essence. That meant they could not refind the trail and thereby reenter the kitchen. It is important to use pure, natural vanilla essence as the fake stuff actually seems to attract them! I use organic vanilla essence the moment I see a trail threatening to enter the house.

  • jegintx says:

    Wow, thanks for the great article. Very informative, and things I had never thought about before. Keep up the good work, PETA!!

  • Jody B. says:

    Thank you for this article. As much as possible, I try to “relocate” spiders and other small beings that come into my home. I have been using diatomaceous earth along baseboards to repel ants. My intention is to repel, rather than harm them. I’d be interested in your thoughts on that.

    When I do feel that I have to kill a small creature (such as a wasp trying to sting me, or an infestation of ants), I try to do it quickly and humanely by crushing them. Is there a better way?

    I appreciate the information.

  • margo alexander says:

    Thanks!

  • Jo says:

    Thank you so much. I have used oil of pepperment mixed with water. Any oil will do, Eucalyptis, lavendar (made us sick after awhile). The spray controls the ants entry, but it’s an ongoing battle that I sometimes lose to my ant-killing husband. I will definetly buy Orange Guard. I don’t want to kill these critters. They works so hard to stay alive. Thank you for being PETA!!!!

  • KarenHG says:

    This was very helpful. Taught me about repellents I didn’t know about. Thank you!!

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