Ants in the Kitchen? 7 Ways to Kill Them, Bob Vila

Solved! What to Do About Ants in the Kitchen

Shoo the six-legged squatters in your kitchen with these proven ant removal techniques.

Q: I squashed an ant on my kitchen countertop this morning only to spot more circling the sink. Where did all of these ants in my kitchen come from? More importantly, how do I get rid of them?

A: House ants—commonly of the Little black, Pharaoh, Argentine, or Odorous house varieties—enter kitchens through cracks in windows, doorways, or floors in search of morsels that might replenish their own colony’s food and water supply. Killing one ant in the kitchen isn’t the solution: Where there’s one ant, there’s usually a colony nearby, and each ant leaves behind a trail of chemicals called pheromones that attract its species in the vicinity. Until you wipe out the ant colony where the egg-laying queen resides, she’ll continue to reproduce and send additional worker ants into your home to score free refreshments on your kitchen countertops and inside sinks and cabinets. Read on to learn how to get rid of kitchen ants permanently.

Identify the entry point.

Observe those ants in the kitchen for a few minutes to find out where they’re coming from—be it cracks in the kitchen floor, crumbled caulk along a windowsill, a torn window screen, or small holes inside of a kitchen cabinet mounted against an exterior wall. You’ll target the entry point in your ant removal efforts, so don’t seal it quite yet.

Find the nest.

Wait for the ants return to the source with their crumbs, and try to spy where they go after exiting the kitchen. Tracking their movement will sometimes lead you directly to the nest where the rest of the colony lives. The nest may be located outdoors (e.g., on the ground, in a tree) or indoors (e.g., in a moisture-damaged wall or cabinet void) and will typically resemble a mound of debris or a pile of decaying leaves.

Destroy the nest directly.

If you find the nest outdoors, destroy it yourself with an outdoor non-repellent insecticide (like Harris Home Pest Control, available on Amazon). Unlike repellents, which deter insects and cause the colony to disperse and reform elsewhere, non-repellent insecticides won’t tip off your pests—in other words, ants can pass through this type of insecticide unaware that they have been exposed to the poison. Alternatively, pour a half-gallon of boiling water over the nest to collapse it and kill off the ants

If you find the nest in an indoor structure, like a wall void, apply a very thin layer of boric acid powder (available on Amazon) directly over the nest using a plastic squeeze bottle to kill the ants inside. While fatal to ants, the white powder made of Boron and water is a low-toxicity product to humans. Store any leftover powder out of reach of children and pets. Then, use a vacuum with a hose attachment to remove the physical nest from the wall void, and discard the contents of the vacuum dust collector bag outdoors immediately. Reapply boric acid to the emptied space, and repair any damage to the wall with joint compound.


Use traps to kill the colony.

If you don’t find the ant nest or don’t want to destroy it yourself, kill the colony with a store-bought trap such as Terro (available on Amazon) or a homemade ant trap consisting of a small, sealed plastic container filled with one teaspoon borax and a quarter-cup corn syrup. Position the trap as close as possible to their entry point to the kitchen so that the ants quickly find the bait. Once the worker ants enter, they will carry the poisonous bait inside the traps back to their colony to feed the queen and her young, in effect killing off the whole colony over a period of a few days. Remove all other food sources from the vicinity of the ant traps so that there are no distractions.

Clear out remaining ants.

After killing the colony, you might be left with a stray ant here and there on some kitchen surfaces. To kill these, sprinkle a scant amount of food-grade diatomaceous earth (the fossilized remains of aqueous organisms called diatoms, available for purchase by the bag on Amazon) in the ants’ path to dehydrate and kill them. Alternatively, spray the ants with a soapy solution (one tablespoon dish soap and 12 ounces of plain water) to immobilize the ants, then wipe them away with a paper towel.

Seal the entry point.

Seal the entry point you identified earlier to prevent new ant colonies from invading your kitchen in the future. Caulk is an appropriate sealer for closing cracks around windows or doors, while joint compound is suitable for sealing small drywall voids.

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Call in the pros if you continue to see ants in the kitchen after using the techniques above.

Certain types of ants, such as Carpenter ants, build satellite colonies that are separate from the parent colony where the egg-laying queen resides. What this means for you: Ants can reappear in the kitchen if a satellite colony was destroyed but the parent colony remains intact. A pest control specialist can help locate the parent colony and stamp out the ants for good.

Keep out future ants.

Use these tips to keep your kitchen an ant-free zone:

  • Routinely wash kitchen countertops, floors, and cabinets with cleaners suited for the specific material.
  • To keep ants at bay, never leave uncovered food or drink on counters or floors (that includes pet food); always store leftover foods in airtight containers.
  • Standing water is an invitation to ants to drink up, so wipe up water and other liquid spills as they occur and don’t leave pots and pans soaking in the sink for more than a few hours at a time.
  • Keep the lid on lidded garbage cans shut tightly when not in use, and take the trash out every one to three days.
  • Make your kitchen inhospitable to ants by coating previous ant entry points with homemade ant repellents such as two tablespoons of peppermint oil and a quart of water, equal parts apple cider vinegar and water, or a sprinkling of cinnamon powder.
  • Regularly inspect the kitchen for plumbing or appliance leaks and repair the leak and any moisture-damaged indoor structures to prevent the formation of indoor ant nests.
  • Trim tree branches that touch the siding of your home; if the tree harbors an ant nest, the branches can act as a bridge for ants to enter your home.

How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Home Once and for All

Make pesky ants a problem of the past with these simple solutions.

Spring has sprung, blooms are blooming, and you’re probably trying to figure out how to keep the garden looking its best. Sure, that can mean chores like planting and watering and deadheading—but it also means getting rid of pesky rodents. It’s time to think about how to get rid of snakes, how to get rid of crickets, and even yard mole eradication.

As if that’s not enough work, you’ve got to figure out how to get rid of other pesky little critters—how to get rid of fruit flies once and for all and figuring out how to get rid of gnats. Once you’ve taken on those challenges (and won!), you’ll probably spot a steady stream of ants marching across your kitchen counter or loitering along a windowsill. Don’t panic. You can get rid of those ants—and send them packing for the (ant) hills—with these easy steps.

How to Get Rid of Indoor Ants

Play detective. Instead of sweeping away ants immediately, you need to get to the bottom of what’s attracting them. Whether it’s a drip of honey down the side of a jar or a stray spoon in your sink, there’s always a source. Clean up whatever has attracted your new tenants (although there are probably more than ten!), and they just might move out on their own.

Shut down the scouting. Teams of scout ants look for food using pheromones that leave behind a trail for other ants to follow, and simply sweeping them away won’t cut it. Destroy their tiny trail with a mix of one part vinegar to three parts water and spray it anywhere you’ve spotted ants.

Ready, set, repel. Mix peppermint or lavender oil (two scents ants hate) with water and spray it on entry points like windowsills or door frames. If you decide to take the chemical route, look for a product with boric acid, and make sure to carefully read the instructions. (Some can be harmful to pets and small children.)

Count to three. Once you set out the repellents, avoid the temptations to kill any ants—they’re going to do all the hard work of bringing the poisonous bait back to the nest.

How to Get Rid of Outdoor Ants

Send out a search party. Look for ant beds in your yard or along your home’s foundation. Carpenter ants tend to hide in damaged or wet wood, so inspect tree stumps, wood piles, damaged trees, and old patio furniture.

Make a splash. Once you’ve found the nest, pour boiling water over the ant hill or spot treat with an outdoor insecticide.

Get to (yard) work. A well-kept property is the easiest way to keep ants at bay. Keep a watchful eye for branches, bushes, or shrubs that touch your house and provide easy access for ants to make their way inside.

How to Keep Ants Out of Your Home For Good

Seal those entry points. Caulk and seal any cracks or exposed crevices in doors and windows.

How to Kill Ants

20 Effective Ways to Get Rid of Ants

Don’t know how to kill ants effectively? So here are 20 easy ways you can do to kill ants. Try them now to get rid of ants for good.

Ants are a nuisance that can invade the house overnight. When your home is being overrun, you need to learn how to kill ants quickly.

There are many remedies available from natural to pesticides, but they don’t all work. Read our comprehensive guide to learn how to kill ants in your house.

Understand Them

When you face any sort of problem, knowledge is power when you need to overcome it. Let’s take a closer look at what the ant is so you can properly defeat it.

What are Ants?

There are currently more than 10,000 species of ants worldwide, but only about 25 of them infest homes. Ants are known to eat any food, but particularly like sweets.

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They can live anywhere from weeks to years depending on the species. Ants are related to wasps and bees and contain three body regions: the abdomen, thorax and head. They also have antennae.

Ants tend to be social and live in large colonies. These colonies can consist of millions of ants at once.

Many times these nests will be found underground, in trees or in ground-level mounds. Inside of a colony, you’ll have a queen, female workers and males.

The queen is in charge of laying eggs. Sometimes there is one and other times, colonies have multiple queens.

Workers are the females that most people come in contact with. They don’t reproduce but are in charge of finding food and caring for the offspring.

The male ants only have one purpose and that is to mate with the queen and die.

How to Kill Ants Naturally

For many people, it is important not to use pesticides in the home. Learning how to kill ants naturally, helps to keep your household safe from dangerous chemicals.

Here are a few tactics that have been tested and work.

1. Bay Leaves

Start by placing some bay leaves underneath the countertops. This is especially important where food is prepared.

It is also wise to use near entrances of the home. Many cooks find this to be a favorite remedy.

2. Vinegar

Ants are naturally deterred from coming near the smell of vinegar. That’s why it makes a great household cleaner.

You’ll want to make sure that you don’t use apple cider vinegar as that has a tendency to attract more ants.

  • Mix white vinegar and water in equal parts
  • Pour your solution into a spray bottle
  • Spray the mixture on ants directly to kill them
  • Spray more of the mixture on ant trails and entry points of the house
  • Clean and disinfect the kitchen with solution

3. Chalk

The same sidewalk chalk that your children use can keep the ants away! Simply draw a line in the entrance to deter them.

4. Coffee Grinds

Place coffee grinds near the entrance of your home to keep the ants away. The smell of coffee works to deter them while the acid can actually burn them.

5. Borax & Sugar

If you’ve ever wondered how to kill ants with Borax, I have a recipe for you:

  • Mix ½ cup of sugar and 1 ½ tablespoons of Borax with 1 ½ cup of warm water
  • Take cotton balls and dip them into the mixture. Place these on jar lids where ants tend to travel
  • If you would rather use a powder, mix 3 parts sugar and 1 part borax. This can be placed wherever ants travel.

6. Boric Acid

Using Boric Acid is a simple way to kill ants. Try this recipe mixed with honey as a bait.

  • Mix 2 tablespoons of honey with 2 tablespoons boric acid and form into a paste.
  • Place this paste on cardboard and place where ants frequent.
  • Replace your trap every few days until ants disappear.

Keep in mind that Boric Acid is toxic. Keep it away from your children and pets.

7. Essential Oils

Essential oils can be a valuable resource when attempting to do your own pest control. There are several used to rid the home of ants, including:

  • Peppermint oil
  • Tea Tree oil
  • Lemon oil
  • Clove oil

To make a spray, mix ½ teaspoon of your chosen oil with 8-ounces of water. Shake well before use.

8. Diatomaceous Earth

Purchase the food grade quality for a safe version to use around pets and children. Then, follow these instructions:

  • Sprinkle the entire perimeter of the home with powder. Reapply when it rains.
  • Sprinkle around the windows, kitchen cabinets or anywhere else you’ve seen ants.
  • Apply powder around the pet food bowls.

How to Kill Ants in the House

Sometimes you just need a fast solution to how to kill ants in the house. These are the times when you require the use of commercial products.

There are many available to you and most work quickly.

1. Baits

Ant baits will lure ants out of their deep hiding places and help bring them to the end. Liquid baits tend to be effective for indoors as well as how to kill ants outside.

First, the ants will come and consume the poisonous bait. Then, their digestive system works to carry it back to the nest.

In the nest, all the other ants, including the queen, will share the bait. Once they’ve eaten, they will surely die.

Ant baits come packaged inside plastic so there is little to no mess required. In addition, they are normally safe to use around children and pets.

2. Sprays

Ant sprays are common in stores nationwide and they are normally in aerosol cans. You can use these to spray ants that are visible.

The downside to using a spray is that it doesn’t have any impact on the nest. However, when you are hosting a dinner party, you need to know how to kill ants in the kitchen fast; that’s when you use a spray.

These sprays can produce fumes due to the chemicals they contain. Be careful when using around pets and children.

3. Granular Baits

These ant baits will target the nest and protect the home all at once. They are slow acting and naturally occurring as they are made from biodegradable fungus.

Just like the regular baits, the ants carry the poison back to the nest where everyone will enjoy it. Many granular baits are designed for a specific kind of ant, so you’ll want to be sure that you are using the proper variety.

This is especially true if you need to know how to kill fire ants or how to kill red ants.

4. Call the Professionals

When all else fails, you need to call the local, professional pest control company. They will have formulations and ideas that you might not be able to implement.

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How to Kill Ants by Prevention

Prevention is the best way to handle any sort of pest control. Getting rid of ants and learning how to kill ants in the kitchen starts with the right steps.

Here are some tips that will keep you pest free:

1. Clean the Countertop

Use bleach to wipe your countertops down every night. Ants are attracted to dirty counter-tops and will seek out the tiniest crumbs to eat.

Bleach helps to sanitize as well as breaks down any pheromones that ants are using to follow one another.

2. Clean and Dry the Kitchen Sink

Just as important as the counter-tops, be sure to keep the sink clean. Ants love a dirty sink especially when there are water and leftover food traces.

If you must leave your dishes sit overnight, rinse them thoroughly. After you complete the dishes, wipe out the entire sink to ensure there is no moisture or debris left behind.

Then, pour bleach down the drain as a precautionary measure. This keeps any rotting food from smelling and attracting more bugs.

3. Clean the Kitchen Floor

Mop and sweep the kitchen floor every night before bed. This is most important during the warm, summer months.

You can use bleach during this process as well. It will help you to ensure there are no food or pheromone trails left behind.

If you have carpeted floors, be sure they get vacuumed on a regular basis.

4. Clean the Garbage Can

Take out your trash on a timely basis. When you remove the bag, inspect it for any punctures or holes that could cause spills inside the can.

It is wise to invest in garbage bags that don’t rip easily. There are even some brands that have Arm & Hammer baking soda. This helps to keep the bags smelling fresh even when they are full.

When you take the trash bag out, be sure to take the time and clean the can. Using bleach is a great way to sanitize and remove any unwanted odors.

5. Maintenance Around the House

There are some simple maintenance tasks you can perform around the house to ensure the ants stay away. Here are a few ideas:

  • Seal up any cracks that are found around the doors or windows
  • Replace your damaged or old roof
  • Seal up the foundation
  • Replace decaying wood frames or shingles
  • Spray pesticides around your foundation
  • Seal any cracks around your pipes

6. Maintaining Clean Areas around Food

Food is what the ants are after, so you must be diligent about keeping the house free of food products.

Keep all of your opened boxed or bagged goods in sealed containers or bags. This includes fruit snacks, cookies, cereals and chips.

Store your molasses, honey and syrups in the refrigerator. When you are ready to use them, simply warm them up.

Do not leave any sticky snacks to sit on the counter. Store your flours and sugar products in the airtight storage containers.

All baked goods and bread should also be stored in a bread container or inside the refrigerator. You also need to store any open juice, sodas or teas inside the fridge as well.

It is imperative that there are no sugary foods put in the sink. They are hard to clean up and leave a residue that will attract ants.

How to Kill Ants Outside

When you are dealing with ants outside the home, there are some practical tips you can use as well. Start by using the natural remedies and pesticide options that were listed above.

Then, try these tactics:

1. Destroy the Nest

If you can find the nest, there are some great ways to kill the ants inside and cause them to leave your home for good.

  • Sprinkle baking soda over the entire anthill.
  • Flood the ant nest with running water. You can do this easily if you have a garden hose outside.
  • Dump bleach into the hill.
  • Pour scolding hot boiling water into the nest.
  • Drown the nest in hot coffee.

2. Clean Out the Car

Many people who suffer from ant infestations outside will notice many little creatures inside their vehicle as well. Here are some tips for that as well.

Be aware of your parking space.

Oftentimes, we have a tendency to park right where there might be an ant hill. If this is the case, you can simply move your parking spot and treat the nest with the tips above.

Baits can also be used inside your car. They are self-contained and discreet so no one will see them.
Clean out the car well. Follow these steps:

  • Vacuum the car while paying attention to any crevices and cracks. Make sure you remove all floor mats and seat covers.
  • Wipe down the entire car with a high-quality spray.
  • Clean up any spills that happen on the dash or in the console.
  • Clean the windows, inside or out to ensure that there are no sugary substances from your hands.
  • Remove any food from the car


There is no more need to wonder how to kill ants in and out of your home. We’ve laid out all the best solutions for you so you can take hold of your household.

Pick the options that you think will work the best in your surroundings and be sure to take your financial budget into consideration. You are just one person, battling an army of ants, but with the right tools and tricks, you’ll overcome them.

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