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How to Get Rid of Ants Safely

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Ant On A LeafMy wife and I started composted this year and one thing we learned was that ants love our compost. We keep an old 3 lb. coffee can (the same Folgers can in this post) with kitchen compost waste and ants seem to love the chopped up fruits we toss inside. We fill up that can and then empty it about every other week. It really reduces the amount of trash we discard and it will make for some good fuel for our garden next year. But, it’s also a nice little buffet for ants.

The Traditional Advice

The traditional advice is to use ant traps and keep a cleaner kitchen. Talk to anyone who has actually had an ant problem and cleanliness, while important, isn’t the final solution. As clean as you get it, ants will find something they enjoy in your kitchen. It could be a speck of something that fell between the range and the counter and they’ll make it back there to get it. Cleanliness is important but it’s not the solution.

Ant traps themselves are often relatively effective but I don’t like the idea of using poisons. While we don’t have a dog, we learned that dogs love chewing on ant traps when we were watching my in-law’s pair of Scottish Terriers. Fortunately we only saw one going for the trap, he didn’t chew through anything so that was good. They’re also fun little toys for children, since they’re octagonal in shape and black so they look like toys, and while we don’t have kids and most visitors don’t, we’d still like a solution that’s safe for people.

Finally, the traps do lose their effectiveness after a while. Maybe our ants are smarter than most because I think I hear them laugh as they run around them, flicking me off as they go on their merry way. My response was to crack open the traps and mix in some Nutella (I didn’t have peanut butter at the time) and that seemed to work last year, but I would rather eat Nutella than bait a trap with it. So I went out on the internet to find a better solution.

The Best Way To Get Rid of Ants

To my surprise, I found my good friend Nickel writing about how to get rid of ants. His solution was to mix boric acid powder and table sugar 50-50 in with some water to make a slurry. Then put that slurry in the path of the ants and watch them eat it up. Eventually they take this awesome sweet boric acid concoction back to their evil dungeon lair, share it with friends, and then take a nice long nap. Boric acid is toxic to ants but safe, in low quantities, for people and pets.

I have to admit I was apprehensive when I tried it but I saw Nickel’s advice replicated on a number of sites (Wikipedia has lots of uses for boric acid, though they recommend a more diluted mixture to be used in cotton balls) so I gave it a shot.

To date, we haven’t had an ant problem in out kitchen and we’ve been happily composting away!

(Photo: squinza)

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23 Responses to “How to Get Rid of Ants Safely”

  1. Jessica says:

    Also a very safe alternative is to sprinkle pepper in areas ants are known to frequent. I don’t know why but they won’t go near the stuff :)

  2. Andrea says:

    I’ve heard that corn meal works too. They eat it but can’t digest it and die. Safe for toddlers too.

  3. Any advice for getting rid of Scorpions? lol ..Ants don’t bother me too much

  4. jim says:

    You don’t get a lot of ants then… or too many scorpions. :)

  5. I was interested to see this post since I had a small ant problem about two months ago. I first tried killing them with ant spray, which has a terrible smell and is highly toxic. Second was the use of bait traps, which are still in place, but kept away from food or where our cats go and have seem to do a wonderful job. Just like the boric acid mix, they take the bait back to the hive and it kills them all (or most of them).

    However, the most useful thing I found was that the household cleaning product “Simple Green” is actually a VERY effect ant spray that is also non-toxic! If you have ants in the immediate area, for instance, all over a chair that you sit in frequently, spray them with that stuff and they’ll die right away. Bait them to keep them from coming back! Make sure to look outside the home to find out where they are coming in and bait those areas too. When they are gone, seal those entry ways with caulk or expanding foam if the hole is large enough.

    Hope that helps!

  6. A good way to prevent pests (ants and flies) from getting to the compost in the first place is to use a smaller container and keep it in your fridge. I use a large tupperware box, and then empty it every two or three days.

  7. Lise says:

    Hmmm… my problem is more carpenter ants than this kind of ant – they’re more interested in devouring the remains of the shingle siding that’s underneath my aluminum siding than they are in the compost bucket.

    And, unfortunately, I think boric acid, cornmeal, planting mint around the house, Simple Green, etc are pretty ineffective against them *sigh*

    • GiGi says:

      I agree with you. Wood loving ants are a bit different I’ve learned. It’s amazing how they can eat their way through to tunnel their way to wherever they’re moving to.

  8. matt says:

    i just had carpenter ants in my house. a mixture of 1cup of water, 2 cups of sugar, and 2 table spoons of boric acid got rid of them over night. after the first ant found the bait, it went back to the nest and after about 10 minutes every ant in the nest was eating on the mixture. they ate so much i had to keep putting more out for them while i stood there watching them all kill themselves. i first called a large exterminating company for help and they told me it would cost about 600.00 dollars. the boric acid, a 1 quart bottle cost less than 10.00 dollars. what a joke. this method works

  9. Holly says:

    My problems is..I sell rv’s and they are parked on the pavement and the ants are everywhere..What could I use?

  10. GiGi says:

    Just moved into a brand new home we had built to find we were infested with ants coming out of tiny pinhead size holes in the kitchen baseboards and sprayed for them with a store-bought product. Within a few days, they started coming out of the electrical outlets in the kitchen and we srayed there as well. Now, they’re coming out of the baseboards in the upstairs master bedroom and from under the carpet on the stairway. We hired an exterminator company that said they were “acrobat” ants, part of the carpenter ant family and every time we sprayed for them they just moved to another part of the inside of the walls. The exterminator company advised us to watch where they go in/out and vacuum them up, then call them to come out; however, we’ve had a steady rain since that day and it’s been too wet to treat for them. Anything I can do in the meantime? The boric acid mixture sounds like a good idea. Can anyone tell me how to find out if the wood used in the construction of the home could have been moist when it was framed up-maybe rained and didn’t get dried out?

    • big daddy frank says:

      quick throw the sprays away, while very toxic in an enclosed space, if it makes you cough or eyes water it is toxic to you…

      above all do not spray anything on them they will just find another entry point in your home. your main objective is to kill the queen and “queen ants live two years or more so you might be killing the worker ants the queen will produce more alot more….

      age old method 3 dollar method, step one find a dollar store now adays they are almost every where. two by the following items boric acid power, small can of peanut butter, honey
      most dollar stores have the little bear honey thats all you need

      when home mix the following 3table sps pb.
      3table spoons honey 1tbs boric acid powder.

      mix well to a drizzel small amouts along the forage trail i call it the ant super highway.at this point you might want to keep the wife and kids away because evey ant in the nest is going to after that bait it will take two or three days to get to the queen then you will see the ant super highway slow down to a one lane road then nothing. please pass this along to freinds you know money is tight for all of us right now. and it is time for americans to work together god bless

  11. Meaghan says:

    I am trying this mixture as we speak! within 5 minutes they were all in the mixture. I am patiently waiting to see if it works!

  12. Monika says:

    We’re infested with these little buggers. Up until now I have been spraying them with a ammonia based window cleaner and they die on the spot. Within a few hours there are more then there were in the first place. I can’t begin to tell you all the household remedies i’ve used before coming across this site. I will tell you that cinnamon is not the way to go cause I swear one of them gave me the Ok sign as he was leaving his little footprints in the dust. Tomorrow it’s Borax and sugar..WATCH OUT YOU LITTLE SUCKERS I’M GONNA GET YOU NOW!!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Let me try your method. thanks!

  14. kt says:

    I’ve read that ant poison also works on earwigs which have infested our lawn. I’m going to try the boric acid method to see if it works on them. Thanks!

  15. CJ says:

    Ha ha ha. This story at the top of the page is so funny along with all the other ppl who have posted in regards to it… My friend had an all of a sudden ant problem one day. I came to her house and we decided to look up safe ways to get rid of these little suckers since she has a crawling lil boy.. WE ARE GONNA TRY THIS GREAT IDEA!!! ASAP!! I hope it works, and what better way to kill ants than this safe method especially since we have children.. Its like a silencer on a gun pugh!! ha ha ha die!! +) Thanks again!!

  16. JC says:

    Any objections to creating little bottle cap baits and tossing them UNDER the house? Seems like that would keep them from coming IN the house…. Thoughts about that?

  17. mary says:

    does this work for pharoe ants also?

  18. con says:

    I personally did the sugar/boric acid mixture and didn’t find them to come soon enough and with all that interest for that matter.So, i made a concoction with peanut butter, honey and of course boric acid.Well, within seconds they came feasting! I did my first trial today and hope for positive results.


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