How to Get Rid of Ants Fast—and for Good

Follow these steps for an ant-free home

Bry'Ana Arvie
Written by Bry'Ana Arvie
Updated July 13, 2022
Father and sun fix a meal
Photo: Tom Werner / DigitalVision / Getty Images
Difficulty

Simple

Flex your DIY muscles.

Time to complete

2 hours

Cost

$25

Keep it wallet-friendly.

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What you'll need:

TOOLS

  • Magnifying glass
  • Spray bottle
  • Caulk
  • Wire mesh and spackle
  • Plastic lid

SUPPLIES

  • Cotton balls
  • Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth
  • Borax
  • Vinegar
  • Essential oils
  • Sugar
  • Peanut butter (or any protein source)

Ants are like annoying houseguests who show up uninvited and show no rush to leave. And while they don’t carry diseases like some other pests, they’re still unpleasant to deal with. Fortunately, with a few simple steps, you can get rid of them fast and forever.

  1. Identify the Problem Area

    Your first step to making your home ant-free is to see where they’re coming from and why. Start inside and look for an ant trail. Once you’ve found them marching, see what it is that has them attracted to your home. Are they eating crumbs or spilled sugar in your kitchen? Or have they found a water source underneath your bathroom sink? 

    But don’t just check your kitchen and bathroom—ants don’t care where they get their food or water from. To eliminate them permanently, you’ll need to search every room in your home to narrow down how they’re breaking in.

  2. Identify the Type of Ant

    The most effective way to eliminate ants is to use the right treatment plan for the right species, or they’ll keep coming back. To identify them, you’ll need a magnifying glass so you can clearly see their color, size, and movement patterns. 

    Odorous House Ants

    Odorous house ants, also known as sugar ants, are one-eighth-inch long or smaller and are attracted to sugary foods. 

    Pavement Ants

    Pavement ants are or to black and about one-tenth-inch long. They set up colonies near driveways or patios, then send scout ants in search of food. They’ll eat meat, grease, seeds, or other insects and are known for their stings and bites if disturbed. 

    Carpenter Ants

    Carpenter ants are black and around a 1/2-inch long, consume protein-rich foods, and eat through wood to find nesting spots. Getting rid of carpenter ants starts with finding any damp wood in or near your home.

  3. Find Their Nest

    Even if you find a way to eliminate the ants currently in your home, if you don’t rid yourself of their entire colony, they’ll keep coming back and looking for a new food or water source. 

    So once you know why you have ants in your home and what type they are, you’ll need to follow them to find their nest. Their nest can be indoors or outside, depending on how severe your ant infestation is and its species. 

    The most common outdoor nests are identified by their top mound, the anthill. Outdoor ant colonies mean you might be dealing with pavement ants. If the colony is near rotten wood, you might have carpenter, crazy, or fire ants.

    If you find wood shavings or sawdust inside your home, then it’s likely carpenter ants who have chewed their way in. Odorous house ants, on the other hand, are located near damp areas. Indoor nests can also be within your walls or floors, and if that’s the case, you’ll need to contact a local pest control company immediately.

  4. Seal Their Entryway

    Now that you know where they’re entering your home, seal off their entry points. You can use caulk to seal any cracks or wire mesh and spackle for holes.

  5. Eliminate Their Food and Water Source

    Woman cleans stove
    Photo: zinkevych / Adobe Stock

    Focus on eliminating the ants’ food and water sources. If you had ants in your home because of food crumbs, then thoroughly clean your floors, countertops, and stoves to remove all crumbs and food residue. If they are attracted to sugar, properly store any sugary substances in your kitchen. 

    Or, if the ants were living in the damp wood in your home, fix the leak and replace any rotten wood. Overall, the goal is to take away why ants found your home attractive, so they have no reason to return.

  6. Create a Treatment Plan

    An effective way to eliminate ants is by using ant baits. You can buy ant traps at the store or make an ant bait by mixing a sugary or greasy food source with an ingredient that’s toxic to ants. Then the ants will carry the bait back to their colony, where it’ll slowly spread through their nest and poison them.  

    Below are some baits and other treatments that’ll help you get rid of your ant infestation. 

    Borax

    Borax is a mineral commonly used in everyday household products such as laundry detergent and toothpaste. While it does have a low toxicity rate for humans and pets, you’d need to place these bait traps in areas away from your kids and the family dog—if ingested, it can cause stomach irritation and other reactions. 

    To make the ant bait, you’ll need to mix a small amount of Borax with sugar and warm water.  Then place the mixture on a cotton ball or plastic lid so it’s easy for the ants to find near their entry points.

    The sugar attracts the ants to the bait, affects their digestive system once consumed, and eventually kills them. 

    If you notice that ants aren’t taking the bait, you might have carpenter ants. Substitute the sugar for a protein-filled alternative like peanut butter and try again.

    Vinegar

    White vinegar doesn’t kill ants, but it’s a natural ant repellent because its scent blocks the pheromones left behind by scout ants when they’re searching for food. This can be used as a temporary solution until you’ve found and sealed up their entry point. 

    You’ll need to mix one-part vinegar with one-part water in a spray bottle. Spray the mixture around entry points and wherever else you see ants in your home.  

    Diatomaceous Earth

    Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a fossilized algae powder with small, sharp pieces that work by sticking to ants’ exoskeleton then drying up their fluids, leading to dehydration. When using DE, make sure that you’re getting the food-grade version that’s safe to use near children and pets. 

    Sprinkle it in areas where ants are entering, near their trials, or anywhere you’ve seen them.  

    Essential Oils

    Essential oils such as peppermint, lemon, orange, and clove work as an ant repellent. You’ll only need a few drops of your preferred oil on a cotton ball, or you can dilute it with water in a spray bottle.

Should I Hire a Pro?

If you’re still seeing ants after a few days, then you might need to change your current approach. And if that still doesn’t solve your problem, then you may have a large-scale infestation that’ll require you to contact an ant exterminator near you

There are a ton of reasons to enlist a pest control pro; they’ll be able to locate the ant nest using bait traps and use a combination of techniques to eliminate the ants inside and around your home. 

Also, if you have carpenter ants, early detection is essential to protecting and minimizing damage to your home. Because these ants create nests in hidden places like your wall and floor, a pro will need to drill small holes for inspection, ensuring that the entire colony is eliminated. 

They’ll also conduct follow-up visits to make sure your ant problem is completely taken care of. 

DIY vs. Professional Cost of Ant Removal

The cost for an ant bait trap or repellent spray can range between $5 and $15. And because most of the above solutions won’t expire for at least a few months and still be effective, you can use them any time you have an ant problem. 

However, DIY treatment plans aren’t strong enough to work on large-scale infestations. For extensive treatment, ant exterminators charge up to $1,400 per year. And they can charge between $150 and $500 for a one-time treatment based on ant type, infestation size, and location.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.