How To Keep Ants Away Naturally: 37 Effective Tips

TheRoundup is reader supported. We may earn a small commission when you make a purchase via links on this site, at no cost to you.

“Ants in your pants make your belly button dance”...not quite sure what that actually means…but Mom used to sing it to me all the time as a kid, so it must be true.

For many of us, ants are a common pest that can be found both indoors and outdoors.

If you’re looking for tips on how to keep ants away naturally, you’ve come to the right place!

In this article, I’ll let you in on some of my favorite methods to keep pesky ants away from your home and garden.

Some of these methods are simple and easy to do, while others may require more effort. But they all work!

So read on and learn how to effectively and sustainably deal with ant infestations.

Natural Ways to Get Rid of Ants from your Home & Garden

Put Away Dirty Dishes

One of the main reasons ants enter your home is to find food.

So, an easy way to keep them away is to ensure your dirty dishes are either washed immediately after use or put away in the dishwasher.

natural ways to prevent ants coming into your home

Wipe Up Spills

Another reason ants come into your home is for water. So, be sure to wipe up any spills, especially sugary drinks, as soon as they happen.

Also, fix any leaking pipes or taps to prevent standing water from attracting ants.

Keep Food In Sealed Containers

One way to keep ants away from your food is to store it in sealed containers.

This will make it more difficult for them to get to and will help keep your food fresh longer.

Sweep And Vacuum Regularly

Ants are attracted to crumbs and other small bits of food on your floors. So, sweep and vacuum regularly to help keep your home clean and free of ants.

Clean With A Vinegar Solution

You can also use a vinegar solution (50% vinegar, 50% water) to clean your floors and surfaces.

Ants don’t like the smell of vinegar and will stay away from areas that have been cleaned with it.

Clear Away Pet Food Bowls

Another way to get rid of ants away is to make sure your pet’s food bowls are cleared away after they’ve eaten.

Ants are attracted to the scent of pet food, so it’s important to clean up any leftovers as soon as possible.

A quick rinse with hot water should do the trick.

Ground Black Pepper

Sprinkling black pepper around your home is an effective way to keep ants away.

Ants are repelled by the strong smell of pepper and stay away from areas sprinkled with it.

Ground red cayenne pepper also works.

Place Bay Leaves In Cupboards

keep ants away with bay leaves

If you’re looking for a natural way to keep ants out of your cupboards, try placing bay leaves in them.

The scent of bay leaves is repulsive to ants and will help keep them away from your food.

You can also place bay leaves near doors and windows to help deter ants from entering your home.

Stay On Top Of Your Garbage

Make sure to keep your garbage cans clean and free of food scraps. Ants are attracted to the scent of garbage, so it’s essential to make sure your cans are covered and sealed tightly.

If you have a compost bin, keep it away from your house, as ants are also attracted to the smell of rotting food.

Maintain Your Backyard

Keeping your garden tidy and presentable will not only earn you admiring glances from your neighbors but will also help reduce the risk of an ant outbreak.

Clear away leaves and mulch before it starts to rot and attract all sorts of vermin.

If you have a fruit tree, clear away the fruit from your lawn as soon as it falls. Rotting fruit will attract an army of ants in no time.

Watch Your Wood

If you have a wood-burning stove, don’t keep your pile of firewood too close to the house.

Also, keep an eye out for rotting wood and trees in your garden and remove them as necessary.

Create A Buffer Between Outside And Inside

Ants use plants as stepping stones to gain access into your home, so create a buffer of a few feet.

essential oils keep ants away

Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint oil is a natural insecticide and can be used to keep ants away.

You can make a peppermint oil spray by mixing two cups of water with 20 drops of peppermint essential oil in a spray bottle.

To deter ants, you can then use this spray on your baseboards and around doors and windows.

Alternatively, you can add drops to small cotton wool balls and place them in areas you have an ant problem.

Tea Tree Essential Oil

Tea tree oil is another natural insecticide and can be used in the same way as peppermint oil.

It’s more pungent, so you only need ten drops per two cups of water.

Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

This oil is another natural insecticide.

It’s most commonly used in candles for deterring mosquitoes and other flying bugs, but when used in the same way as peppermint oil and tea tree oil, it’s also an effective ant deterrent.


Cinnamon is a spice that ants dislike. You can sprinkle it around your home or make a cinnamon oil solution from water and cinnamon essential oil to repel ants.


Ants also dislike cloves. You can use it in the same way as cinnamon.

Coffee Grounds

As mentioned in my What Plants Like Coffee Grounds? These 11 Love Them! article, coffee grounds are an excellent pest repellent and especially good at keeping ants away (they don’t like the smell, and they don’t like walking on the grounds).

You can sprinkle coffee grounds around your home, on window sills, or even directly onto ant hills in your yard.

You can also make a spray by mixing one part coffee grounds with one part water and spraying it on problem areas.

Silicon Dioxide (Diatomaceous Earth)

Diatomaceous earth is a powder made from the fossilized remains of tiny algae-like creatures called diatoms.

It’s non-toxic to humans and animals but deadly to insects. The sharp edges of the diatomaceous earth cut into the exoskeletons of ants and other insects, causing them to dehydrate and die.

You can find it at most hardware stores or online. Be sure to get the food-grade option, as some types are only for industrial use and can harm humans.

To use, simply sprinkle it around the perimeter of your home or anywhere else you’ve seen ants.

You can also make a spray by mixing one part diatomaceous earth with three parts water and spraying it on problem areas.

Be sure to keep children and pets away from areas treated with diatomaceous earth until it’s had a chance to dry.

Liquid Detergent

When an ant walks, it leaves a scented pheromone trail in its wake, which functions as a map.

Cleaning up areas where you see ants entering your house with a mix of water and eco-friendly dish soap will destroy the ant trails and help disorient the ants and keep them away from your property.

Glass cleaner also works well.

Cinnamon Leaf Essential Oil

Cinnamon leaf oil contains trans-cinnamaldehyde and is especially effective against red fire ants.

Simply saturate cotton wool balls in the essential oil and place them in the affected areas.

Neem Oil

Neem oil is a naturally occurring insecticide drawn from the neem tree, which is native to India.

My in-laws are keen gardeners, and they put neem oil around plants and trees to prevent damage caused by sap-sucking aphids, which in turn attract ants.

Cedar Oil

Cedar oil is a natural ant repellent that You can use both indoors and outdoors.

Simply mix a few drops of cedar oil with water in a spray bottle and use it to mist your floors, counters, and other areas where ants may be present.


The in-laws also swear by cornmeal.

They love bird watching and have multiple feeders and bird baths in their garden.

A few years ago, they had a big problem with a massive colony of ants climbing the feeder to get the bird food. It was gross. It looked like the pole of the feeder was alive!

They resolved the issue with a half cup of cornmeal around the base of each feeder.

The only drawback was that some of the birds took a liking to the cornmeal, so they had to keep replacing it until the ants gave up and moved on somewhere else.


Good old-fashioned chalk (the stuff children use to write on blackboards and pavements) is another tip my in-laws swear by.

Ants don’t like walking over chalk, so an unbroken chalk line drawn around your house should help keep pesky ant invasions at bay.

Grow Tansy

The final tip to prevent ants comes from my in-laws (big thank you for their input to this article, btw) is to grow tansy in your garden (ideally close to your house).

I feel this is more anecdotal than anything, but they’re convinced that ants hate tansy and won’t go anywhere near it.

Check Your Houseplants

House plants are often a favored home for ants.

If you have an outbreak of ants and can’t find the source, check your houseplants.

Borax (Sodium Tetraborate)

Borax is excellent at whitening sheets. It can be used as an ant deterrent in the following way:

  1. Mix one tsp of borax and 16 tsp of sugar in two cups of water
  2. Soak cotton wool ball in the solution
  3. Place the balls around the house where you see ants congregate

Always keep borax stored away in a high cupboard away from pets and children.

Also, ensure that pets and children do not come into contact with the soaked cotton wool balls.

Boric Acid

Boric acid can be used in the same way as borax.

Use it very carefully and always wear gloves.

Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, and grapefruits are natural insecticides and can be used to keep ants away.

For example, you can make a spray for repelling ants by mixing water and lemon juice in a spray bottle.

Citrus fruit peel placed around your garden and home can also repel ants.

Seal Holes

If you can figure out where ants are entering your home, sealing up the breaches with things such as caulk, putty, glue, and vaseline will help keep them out.

Powdered Sweeteners

Sweeteners, such as Equal, are toxic to ants.

Mix with fruit juice and leave it out for the ants to consume.

Baking Soda

Baking soda mixed with powdered sugar is a simple and safe way to kill ants.

When sprinkled around an ants nest, the number of active ants starts to reduce dramatically after a few days.

Cream Of Wheat

This household staple can be used as a natural ant killer when sprinkled around the perimeter of your home and where you suspect the ants congregate.

The ants will eat the cream of wheat, which will swell up in their stomachs and kill them.

Also, the ants carry it back to the ant colony, for more ants to eat and die.

Boiling Water

One of the most common and effective ways to get rid of ants is to simply boil water and pour it over their nests or anywhere you see an ant infestation. The heat kills ants instantly.

Be careful not to use boiling water near plants or grass, as it will kill them too.

Cold Water

If you don’t want to use boiling water, you can pour cold water into the ant’s nest in an attempt to drown them.

Some ants can survive underwater for up to 24hrs, so you might need to keep adding water.

Use water from a rainwater butt rather than a hose to save this precious resource.

Hire An Exterminator

If all of the above fails, it might be time to bring in the pest control professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Ants Harmful To People?

Most ants are not harmful to people. However, there are a few species of ants that can bite or sting, and these can cause allergic reactions in some people.

Where Do Ants Go At Night?

Ants are primarily active during the day, but they will also come out at night if they need to. You just don’t see them as much because it’s dark and you’re asleep.

What Do Ants Eat?

Ants eat a variety of things, but they are especially fond of sugary foods. This is why you often see them in your kitchen.

Do Ants Have A Useful Purpose?

Yes, ants can be very beneficial to humans. Some species of ants help control other pests. They also aerate the soil and help with seed dispersal.

What Attracts Ants?

Many things can attract ants, but the most common one is food. If you have food out in the open, it will attract ants. Other things that can attract ants include moisture and shelter.

What Months Are Ants Most Active?

Ants are most active during the summer.

The Final Word

According to the National Wildlife Federation, there are more than 12,000 species of ants around the world, and most found domestically in the U.S. are harmless to humans.

They can be a nuisance, though, and there are two things you can do when ants appear in your garden or home.

  1. Try to keep them away without killing them
  2. Kill them

I would rather repel ants than kill ants, but I’ve included tips for both. I hope you find one that works for you.

Get In Touch

How do you deal with ants? Do you have a humane and natural method? Or do you nuke them with boiling water? Drop me a line and let me know.

You May Also Like

James is a senior editor at The Roundup and has been in journalism for over 10 years. He was born in the UK but raised in Florida, where he currently lives with his wife and two daughters. James is passionate about sustainable living and environmental issues which are reflected by his work as an editor of
James Miller
James is a senior editor at The Roundup and has been in journalism for over 10 years. He was born in the UK but raised in Florida, where he currently lives with his wife and two daughters. James is passionate about sustainable living and environmental issues which are reflected by his work as an editor of

The Roundup

Your guide to a green and eco-friendly lifestyle. We offer simple, practical advice that anyone can follow. Together we can make a difference today & save tomorrow.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram