How To Get Rid Of Ants In The Kitchen?
Yesterday, I was eating a chocolate chip cookie when the doorbell rang incessantly. Absentmindedly, I placed my cookie on the kitchen counter and went to open the door.
I think I was gone for about ten minutes, and when I came back, my cookie was gone! I was completely alone in the home at that time, so you can imagine my surprise.
I was ready to hunt down the cookie burglar when I noticed a small army of ants marching my cookie towards the window.
Well, needless to say, I was pissed. This is the last time these ants steal food from me. Filled with determined energy, I grabbed my laptop and sat down to do some research on ‘how to get rid of ants.
Undeterred by this setback, I decided to call my mom for some natural remedies to get rid of these persistent insects. My mom called her mom, and her mom called her friends, and soon, I had a handful of home-made solutions to get rid of ants.
One by one, I tried them all. Most of these DIY remedies worked so well that I have decided to share them with you.
Just like me, you too can say goodbye to your ant problem without worrying about toxins in your kitchen!
Why Do You Have Ants in Your Kitchen?
Ants are a common household insect. They can be found in the house year-round, but they are more active in certain seasons and environments. Ants are also a social insect; once an ant has found a food source, it quickly communicates it to the rest of his hive.
It is essential to identify the reason ants are invading your kitchen. Once you have identified the reason, you can take the proper measures to get rid of the ants.
The two most common reasons for an ant infestation are:
1. Open Season
Like most insects, ants become active in the spring and summer season. In late spring, the queen bee stirs out of hibernation and starts looks for suitable mates and a hospitable environment to start her colony.
During the summer season, the queen bee is well-settled in her colony. New queen bees are produced which begin their own settlements, and so the ants multiply rapidly.
Since you can’t always avoid spills and another messy accident while you are cooking, this mess can affect your appliance effectiveness and attract a lot of dirt, grime, ants and other Insects.
There are many ways to clean your appliances, items like your blender, food processor, microwave, toaster, or mixer! This article will cover some step-by-step tips and tricks for cleaning some of the essential kitchen equipment.
2. Food Source
Once the ant colonies begin to flourish, the worker ants go out to search for food, which leads them to your kitchen.
Ants are attracted to any type of food, but sweet and starchy food is there favorite. Ants have a keen sense of smell. An ant can smell a small particle of sugar or a droplet of honey from afar and quickly moves to secure it.
What is more, the unique communication between ants enables them to inform each other about the food source. Ants release chemicals called pheromones, which nearby alert ants to come towards the food. This is why one ant can quickly become 100 ants.
Ants are industrious insects; they are constantly scavenging for food. You find ants in the kitchen because the kitchen is the main source of food in the house. They are attracted to the smells coming from open bags of cereal, loosely closed sugar-pots, and dirty dishes.
How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Kitchen?
Getting rid of ants in the kitchen is a little tricky because it is not safe to use chemicals in the kitchen. While chemicals should be used with caution in any part of your home, they should not be used in your kitchen at all.
There is a risk that the chemical deposits or reside will embed in the food items, utensils, crockery, and other things in your kitchen, which you use to make and eat your food. These chemicals, commonly pesticides and insecticides, are harmful if ingested.
Most of the commercial products like ant baits and sprays are available in the market have these insecticides and pesticides besides other chemicals. Therefore, it is best to keep them far away from your kitchen.
If not Chemical then What?
Don’t panic! Chemicals are not the only way to get rid of ants. There are many tried and tested Do-It-Yourself techniques that use natural ingredients to get rid of an ant infestation in your kitchen.
We will discuss each of these options one by one. However, before we do that, it is essential to identify the type of ant in your kitchen.
What Types of Ants are in Your Kitchen?
|Odorous House Ants (Tapinoma sessile)||Carpenter Ants (Camponotus spp.)||Pavement Ants (Tetramorium caespitum)||Red Imported Fire Ants (Solenopsis invicta)|
What do they look like?
¼ - ½ inch
Black or Red and Black
Reddish Brown – Brownish Black
1/16 – 1/15 inch
Red with a brown abdomen
One Node or Two Node Ant?
Where will you find them?
Nests in Soil
Near Water pipes
In areas of construction
Nests in soils (nests have multiple openings)
Food they love
After you have identified the ants, its time to get rid of them.
1. Bait, Lure, and Kill
If there is an ant infestation in your kitchen, then it is not enough to kill just one ant, you have to find and kill the entire colony. If you don’t get rid of the colony, then no matter how many ants you kill, more will keep coming.
Here is what you have to do:
Step1: The Pre-bait
The pre-bait is a tester to see which food attracts the ants in your house. We have learned that ants most household ants like sweet and protein-rich food, however, their preferences can change with the change in seasons.
So, the pre-bait is set up to find out which food they like more at this particular time. To set the pre-bait simply put a plate in your kitchen with a few pieces of sugar. In a few hours’ ants will descend on the pre-bait.
The next day, you can put out honey or fried food and observe the number of ants which show up.
This process will tell you which bait is more effective and lures the most ants. Remember! Our goal is to attract as many ants as possible.
Step 2: Set the Bait
Once you have found out which food you are going to use, its time to set the actual bait. The bait is a mixture of the chosen food item and an ingredient which will kill the ants. In commercial products, baits contain insecticides. In this article, we will tell you about some natural ‘insecticides’ such as borax, vinegar, and salt.
Step 3: The Kill
Once the bait has been set-up, the ants will come towards it to get the food. They will carry the food with them to their nest, where the food will be consumed. Since the food will contain ingredients which are lethal to ants, they will die.
If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can buy ready made baits available on Amazon. It can really save you ton of time. Read my other article about Best ant baits for a curated list.
Some recipes for this trap are:
Recipe 1: Borax and Food Trap
Borax is one of the most effective low-toxicity insecticides. Borax, officially sodium tetraborate, is a salt of boric acid. It has multiple uses but is common in cleaning products. It is used as a less harsh alternative to detergents.
The toxicity of borax is very low; research shows that it is not harmful to humans in small quantities. That said, be careful when using borax bait in your kitchen. While not necessary, wearing gloves while handling borax will keep you safe from any skin irritation. Additionally, keep it out of the reach of your children and pets.
Borax is sold as both powder and liquid. You can purchase it easily from any grocery store in the detergent aisle.
Borax slowly destroys the digestive system of ants and eventually kills them. It is ideal for eliminating a whole colony of ants because the ants do not die immediately after consuming borax. They take the spiked food back to the colony where it is consumed by other ants and the queen. The ant infestation dies with the queen.
Here is what you should do:
- Mix borax and chosen food in a 1:3 combination. You can mix the borax in sugar, honey, maple syrup, or any other fatty or protein-based food which was preferred by the ants in your pre-bait test.
- Place the bait in reusable bait stations. You can even make your own bait station such as a cardboard box or a plastic bottle.
- Place the bait in a place where the ants are often seen
- Leave it overnight
- Attracted by the smell of their favorite food, ants will come to collect it and take it back to their colony.
- Once the food is consumed, the borax will slowly kill them.
- You may have to repeat this step a few times to kill a large infestation.
Recipe 2: Baking Soda and Food Trap
Baking Soda or Sodium bicarbonate is an even safer alternative to Borax. Baking soda is an edible substance, it is commonly used as a leavening agent in cakes, doughs, and other baked goods.
Baking soda reacts with the acid in the ant’s digestive system to create carbonic acid and sodium acetate. The sodium acetate is a decomposition agent, it destroys the ants from within.
You can use this recipe in the following way:
- Mix 1 tablespoons of baking soda and 3 tablespoons of sugar in hot water.
- Once the sugar and baking powder has dissolved in the water, place some cotton balls in the water.
- Place these soaked cotton balls in strategic locations around your kitchen
- The ants will ingest the baking powder along with the sugar water. They will also carry this back to their nest, effectively killing the entire colony.
If the ants are more attracted to fried or protein-rich food, then use the following method:
- Mix 1 tablespoon of baking powder in oil
- Spread this mixture on small pieces of meat or biscuit
- Leave these baits in select locations in your kitchen
- The ants will eat the bait and will be killed.
These recipes (borax and baking soda) are very useful for killing Odorous house ants, pavement ants, and fire ants. It does not work on carpenter ants.
Lot of studies suggest baking soda works perfectly for ants if you have small infestation. If you care curious read my other article: Does Baking Soda Kill Ants
2. Target The Colony
Another effective method to get rid of an ant infestation is to target the source directly. You will have to find the ant nest inside your home and kill the ants in it to get rid of them. Do the following:
Step 1: Observe the Ants
You have to find out where the ants are coming from. Make the following observations:
- Observe your door, window, and wall crack to monitor the ant movement.
- I know this is boring work and no-one has time to wait and watch ants all day. Use baits to speed up the process.
- Once you have identified where the ants are coming from, you have to do two things: (i) close the point of entry and (ii) follow the ant trail to find the nest.
Step 2: Kill the Ants
Once you have found the nest you can use the following recipes to kill the entire colony of ants:
Recipe 1: Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a natural and organic sedimentary rock, made from the fossilized remains of single-celled algae. Food grade DE has no harmful effects for humans or kids, but it is lethal for insects. Ants die instantly when they come into contact with DE.
Here is how you should use DE to get rid of ants:
- Mix 2 tablespoon of DE in one quart of water
- Pour the mixture into the anthill
- Ants will die immediately when they come into contact with the DE
Recipe 2: Hot Soapy Water
Dish soap and hot water is an easy way to kill ants without pesticides. Soap strips the ants of their exoskeleton, killing them immediately. Here is how to use this recipe:
- Mix 2 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid into one cup of hot water
- Pour this mixture directly into the ant nest
- The dishwashing liquid will destroy the exoskeleton of ants while the water will drown them
How to Prevent Ants From Coming Back?
Destroying one colony is not enough to prevent ants from entering your home. You should take steps to deter ants from entering your home again. You can do this by following some easy steps:
A. Close Points of Entry
Fix Wall Cracks: Survey your house and identify points of entry. Patch the cracks in your wall with a joint compound. These compounds are readily available from hardware stores or online.
Use Baby Powder: Ants don’t like the smell of baby powder. Spread some on your windows and areas which are vulnerable. It will keep ants away.
B. Keep Your Kitchen Clean
Clean Windows with Citric Acid: Ants hate the smell of substances with citric acid such as lemon and vinegar. Mix 2 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar into one cup of water and pour it into a spray bottle. Use this mixture on your windows and foundations regularly to keep ants away.
Clean Windows with Herbs and Spices: Ants are repelled by the smell of some herbs and spices. Cinnamon, bay leaf, and black pepper are some common examples. Ironically, you can find these herbs in your kitchen easily. Take two cups of water and put cinnamon and bay leaf into the water. Bring the water to a boil and let it simmer for 15-20 mins. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and use it to clean your kitchen counters, cabinets, and shelves. You can use this on windows as well.
Clean Windows with Soapy Water: make a mixture of water, dishwashing liquid, and vinegar. Use this mixture to clean your kitchen counter and cabinets regularly. It will disinfect the counter and remove any food particle as well as its smell.
C. Always Cover your Food
Ants are attracted by the smell of food. The best way to prevent ants from coming into your house is to cover your food.
- Keep sugary food items in airtight jars or containers
- Use lids to cover food
- Use bags to cover your food
D. Take Out the Garbage Regularly
Ants may have found a food source in your garbage bag. A simple way to keep them away is to take out your garbage daily so that the smell of decomposing food does not attract them.
E. Use Plants
Ants are attracted to certain plants (especially carpenter ants) while they are repelled by others. Look after your indoor and outdoor plants to minimize ant infestation in the following ways:
- Maintain your plants: change the soil of your indoor plants regularly and monitor them for any ant nests. If required, used natural repellants such as lemon peels to keep the ants away.
Indoor plants which Repel ants: Plant peppermint, spearmint, sage, and catnip in your windows. These plants are natural ant repellants. They will keep your house smelling fresh as well!
Non-Toxic Commercial Products
There are some commercial products that claim to be made of non-toxic, natural ingredients. I will recommend you to read the ingredients of each product before you buy them. I have chosen the following commercial products to solve your ant problems:
Terro Ant Baits: They are pre-made borax liquid baits. They claim to use only borax, which is low in toxicity and thus relatively safe to use in kitchens.
Advion Ant Killer (Gel): Advion is a sugar gel that can be used as an ant bait. It has a small percentage of active ingredient (Indoxacarb 0.05%), which makes it relatively safe to use in the kitchen. You should keep it out of reach of children and pets. I recently wrote Advion Gel Bait review, you might be interested in checking that out.
People are often surprised that exterminators offer ant-extermination services in urban areas. People often ask, “what will an exterminator do to eliminate ants that I cannot do myself?” The simple answer is that an exterminator will ensure that all the ant colonies are eliminated from your house.
I will recommend that you use the services of an exterminator under the following circumstances:
I. Large Infestation
Home remedies and DIY commercial products may be effective for a small to medium ant infestation. For larger infestations, an exterminator might be the only option.
It is possible that you will not be able to find the ant colonies. The ants may be hiding beneath the foundation of your house or in other places where you cannot reach.
Exterminators have professional tools which will eliminate colonies from all over your house; indoors and outdoors.
II. Nothing Else Has Worked
If your home remedies and your commercial products are failing to prove effective, then it is time to call the exterminator.
Ants are the most common household pest in North America. Ants are attracted to sugary, starchy and protein-rich food. Their sense of smell is higher than any other insects, this allows them to smell food from great distances.
When one ant finds a food source, it quickly alerts others. Ants will build their nests close to the food source to get easy access. It is important to keep your food covered and your kitchen clean to prevent ant infestations.
Home remedies like home-made baits, use of DE, and natural ingredients can be effective in eliminating ants. However, if the infestation is getting out of hand, I recommend that you call an exterminator.
Do you have any other natural remedy to keep ants away?