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How do I Kill Ants?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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There are many ways to kill ants, and also numerous varieties of ants that may invade homes. It can be extremely difficult to take ants on the outside, particularly since there are so many types and their nests can be huge. Unless the ants are in some way dangerous to people, such as fire ants, it’s unlikely to be necessary to attempt to kills ants that live outdoors. With ants like fire ants, it may also be safer to hire an exterminator to eliminate nests.

For most household ants, resistance should start wherever they enter the house, and it’s important to not tempt ants by leaving food out or crumbs upon the floor. Even dog food should only be placed down for as long as it necessary to feed the dog, and shouldn’t be left down or it’s likely to end up being swarmed by ants. With a long ant trail extending into the house, it’s first important to try to kill ants that are part of the trail. This can be accomplished with a large sponge soaked in some dish detergent or another gentle soap. Simply wipe up the trail, and pause periodically to rinse off the sponge.

This usually will mean getting a few ants crawling on the hands. If they are the type that typically bite, they can be first be sprayed with a common household window cleaner. The wipe up method does tend to work better, though, when there are a lot of ants to eliminate, and a person in fear of bites can wear rubber gloves.

Before the trail is completely eliminated, try to find its source. This is valuable because the next thing people will want to do is put down ant bait like ant stakes where the ants are coming in. As the ants pick up this bait, they’ll bring it back to their nest and it will kill ants in large numbers. This usually ends invasions in a day or two.

Many sources on getting rids of ants suggest caulking walls or cracks to eliminate possible sources for entry too. Yet ants can come in from plugs, through doors, and a variety of sources, even an open window. It would make more sense to suggest that making a dwelling as airtight as possible will help eliminate some ants from entering, but most are very good at getting in from somewhere.

Using ant bait to kill ants is one of the safer methods for using a pesticide in the home. It is generally not considered fully safe to use spray killers in the home as these will then be present in the house, and are a risk to people. The small amounts of poison in things like ant stakes are generally only a potential danger to very curious pets or children. They should be placed out of reach of pets and kids, or access to that area of the house should be barred while the stake is down.

There are some ways to kill ants that completely avoid using pesticides. Placing cornmeal on the ground may help because ants will pick it up but can’t digest it, and pouring boiling water over ants will kill many of them. Some things like coffee grounds, and citrus peels are natural ant repellents, though they may not discourage all ants. A truly natural means of the solving the problem is to encourage a few daddy longlegs spiders to take up residence near when the ants come in. This tends to make ants stay away, and the few that come in as scouts may end up as spider dinner.

Even in the cleanest homes ants may occasionally invade. It helps to make sure all food is in closed containers so it doesn’t become the attractor for ants or get spoiled when ant visitors arrive. If ant invasions are frequent and cannot be controlled with things like indoor ant bait or ant stakes, it may be time to talk to an exterminator about how to address the problem more fully.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By miriam98 — On May 09, 2011

@David09 - You didn’t say what kinds of ants you have, but if you’re trying to kill carpenter ants there are several solutions that are available. All of these solutions have one thing in common—they act as bait. The reason you want bait and not general pesticides is that pesticides actually deter ants. In other words, the ants smell the pesticides and build nests elsewhere, whereas with bait, they will eat the bait and die. Search online for effective baits against carpenter ants and I think you’ll see some good results.

By NathanG — On May 06, 2011

@David09 - If you’re concerned about pets and want to save money as well, you should definitely consider some home remedies to kill ants. I’ve heard that vinegar, cayenne pepper and black pepper have been effective treatments against ants. There are other ideas that you’ll find online. I’d research those ideas, then get an empty bottle and fill it with everything imaginable that is said to kill ants (make your own bug spray) and spray it in the infected areas and see what happens.

By David09 — On May 04, 2011

We have a big swarm of ants in the house every spring. They come into the kitchen and crawl over the sink. I finally went outside in the backyard and found a big nest outside in the back. I sprayed the nest to kill the ants, even though that’s considered useless as they’ll come back again, and also sprayed the inside. It worked for about 2 weeks and then I had to spray again.

I suppose I could keep doing this. Some guy just approached me about having the house treated for about $500 for the summer. I don’t know if that’s worth it or if I should try to stay with the do-it-yourself approach. I was using a pesticide, and not baits. I’m also concerned about letting my dog out in the back when that chemical junk is out there, whether it’s professionally done or I do it myself. Does anyone have any ideas?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor,...
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