How to Keep Ants Away: Top 10 Ant Repellent Tactics and Products

Try and think of any other many-legged pest that’s worse and more annoying than ants. Go on, I’ll wait.

What’re you writing down? Wait, stop, you’re ruining my point. I don’t care if you’re more scared of spiders… You’re making me look like an idiot in my own article. Give me that. Giv- Give it to me. Thanks. *ahem*

THAT’S RIGHT: THERE’S NOTHING WORSE THAN ANTS.

Which is why I’m devoting this entire article to the simple act of getting them as far from you as is humanly or ant-ly possible. Let’s dive right in.

How to Keep Ants Away

Now, I don’t know what your ant politics are, so we’ll start at the bottom and work our way up. One of the most effective strategies to repel ants, of course, is to incorporate several ant prevention tactics, like...

Food storage

how to get rid of ants
how to get rid of ants

I don’t think you need me to tell you that ants love our food or the scraps that we don’t care for at any rate (although, if you’re a cartoon character then you’ve probably had to deal with ants stealing your picnics too). But, given the chance, they’ll take a bite out of the majority of foodstuffs that we keep around the home.

So, it’s up to you to keep a lid on things by storing your food correctly, and in airtight containers where possible. By making sure your food, especially the fresh and perishable stuff, is sealed tight, you’ll limit the chance of scents escaping and attracting all manner of hungry creepy crawlies into your kitchen.

You also want to apply this to things like fruit, which is often left out in the open and totally exposed, and even dry goods like cereals and flour. Although ants are more likely to target the sweet or greasy ingredients, desperation and opportunity can often alter their diets.

Cleaning up!

how to keep ants away

While you’re in the kitchen, tidying things away, you might want to break out some of the cleaning products and give the place a thorough going over from top to bottom.

Many folk only focus their kitchen area cleaning on things like worktops and the stove, which is skipping many spots that food detritus can collect over time (shelves, cupboards, cracks in the floor, behind the larger items like ovens and fridges and so on).

I know, I know. I don’t want to do it either. I don’t even want you to have to do it, but this is the world we live in: a reality where we can’t trust ants to keep their grubby mandibles to themselves.
The good news is that you don’t need to do it too often. After the BIG CLEAN, it’s really just a case of keeping on top of things on a daily basis.

Bonus tip: try to keep the place as dry as possible – check for any leaky pipes or faucets and dry/repair where you find them. Standing water and leaking moisture can be a huge allure for ants and a whole wealth of other multi-legged guests you don't want.

Treat your garbage right

how to keep ants away

General crap and trash has feelings too, did you know that? It gets hurt when you don’t treat it well and just leave it to stink and overflow and rot in the corner of your kitchen.

Your bin longs to be emptied on a regular basis and the bin bags want nothing more than a thorough disposing in an appropriate manner. Grant them this last request.

A huge lure for ants is a bin that’s packed to absolute bursting: the longer that rubbish sits in your bin, the more rotten it becomes and the stronger its creepy-crawley signal becomes. Before long, you’ll have an army of ants marching into your home for an inquisitive bite at whatever’s going off in there.

If you can, also try to make sure that you can leave the trash as far from your actual house as possible. The more distance you put between yourself and anything that ants might enjoy, the less work you’re going to have down the line.

And of course, invest in a trash can with a lid that seals pretty tightly shut - just that one thing can be the difference between ants getting in and ants staying out.

Make your home impenetrable

By the end of this article, I want your house to be airtight to NASA requirements. The tiniest, most benign looking hole, gap or crack in your walls, foundations, window sills, door sills, roofing beams, pipes and whatever else can be like a welcoming archway for ants in the area.

Once again, you’ll need to patrol your house from top to bottom to source these spaces and very often you won’t even catch them with the naked eye. As far as protecting from invaders goes, the market is on your side: simple caulking or bathroom sealant will usually do the job.

All you’re trying to do is erect a fence of sorts, it’s doubtful that any ants are going to try and tear it down like the Berlin wall. Although, you just never know… the things you read in the papers these days.

Make it disgusting for them

It can be even better to plug these holes with something a little more sinister (for the ants) before you block it up with sealant, though. Your choice of ant repellents and pesticides is near limitless, and you can choose from ant pesticides to more natural solutions like essential oils.

For smaller areas or targeted repellents, you could use lemon juice or vinegar as potent, but natural and safe, ingredients. Both of these essentially mess with the ants’ sense of smell and, subsequently, their direction – although, in vinegar’s case, it’ll very often actually kill upon contact.

For a wider, all-encompassing repellent, however, you might want to look for more high-grade toxic exterior pesticides for the perimeter of your home. No matter how hard you try, you’re never going to be able to find all the entry points; so a thorough spray around the home should be enough to prevent any ants even bothering to investigate in the first place.

Although, bear in mind, you’ll need to reapply as time goes on and the weather washes the chemicals away.

Soap up… your house, that is

Now, there’s a lot of discussion and controversy around the actual abilities of simple detergents and soaps when it comes to ants. Some say it’s almost as good as a high-grade pesticide, others say it’s only useful for getting your utensils to shine again.

The truth, this ant-killing reviewer believes, is somewhere in the middle. Most liquid soaps are highly repellent for ants, at the very least, which is why they’ll steer well clear of your home after it’s been thoroughly cleaned.

Unfortunately, this stench won’t last too long and so the repellent factor won’t be anything close to a permanent fix. But so long as you keep a regular cleaning schedule going… Sorry, sorry. I know, I sound like your mother.

As for the killing power of detergents and soaps… you really need direct contact with the ant itself for much of a punch. It’s unlikely that any ants are going to suddenly pop their clogs upon spotting the shine from your silverware.

Locate the ant hill

how to get rid of ghost ants

Now we’re working toward the big ticket item: ant genocide…mwhahahahaha.

It’s always helpful to actually find where the pesky sods are coming from in the first place. Rest assured, those are not stray ants wandering through your home, they’re intrepid antennae’d explorers from a nearby nest or ant hill.

Kill the source and you kill the problem.

There are many different methods for dealing with an ant hill once it’s been located – you can get as medieval or high-tech as you want: a simple shovel could even do the trick, if you have the energy.

Some folk think it’s enough to simply eradicate the surface level mound, but this is akin to thinking an iceberg is only the little bit you can see: ant hills are incredibly deep and wide ranging. When digging, the ultimate goal is to uproot the whole system and the queen’s chamber, so it’s best to have some buckets nearby to empty the dirt into – even better if it’s coated in pesticides or other killing agents to stop them escaping back into the yard.

The next step up from manual labour is usually to try and flood the whole ecosystem with boiling water. You’ll need a lot of it, however, given that your average ant hill runs Very Deep Indeed (official measurement).

The boiling temperature should be enough to kill any ants that it comes into contact with, whilst the water itself should do a lot of damage to the actual structure of the ant hill – hopefully, in an ideal world, meaning any survivors won’t be able to rebuild the home.

This method can be a little bit like a shot in the dark, though, as it’s difficult to tell how successful you’ve been. Which is why many folk opt for…

Liquid pesticides!

how to keep ants away
how to keep ants away

Spectracide Spray, $8

Using granulated substances rarely works well outside, unless it’s used as ant bait (we’ll get to that, don’t worry). The ants have plenty of room to move and will often just circumnavigate any powder they don’t like the look of.

But with liquid pesticides, there is no escape. Again: mwhahaha.

Make sure you do your homework first, though, and choose a chemical that won’t damage your environment or yard, especially if you have young children or pets playing in the area. We like Spectracide's Triazicide Insect Killer for Lawns & Landscapes Concentrate since it'll kill off ants - and ant hills - while leaving your plants intact.

Bait ‘em

how to get rid of ant hills

Terro Outdoor Liquid Ant Bait, $7

Remember the drawbacks to granulated pesticides? The other big failure is that you’re basically relying on the ants to eventually wander into the kill zone by accident, which is about as far from an effective killing technique as you can get.

You didn’t see Arnie just waiting in a McDonalds for Sarah Connor to wander past in the Terminator did you?

There are a variety of outdoor bait stations for sale, such as Terro’s outdoor liquid ant baits which are basically like small pools of toxic bathwater. The bonus is, naturally, that the ants are lured there of their own accord due to the ingredients and scents used.

Set one of these up near the ant hill entrance and you’ll soon have a small troop of overworked ants looking for a relaxing dip in some yummy munchies after a long day…they’ll then transport the slow-acting toxic liquid back into the nest on their own bodies and begin to infect the others!

This all being said, baits can work with granulated forms of pesticides too of course, but you want to find something that will either stick to the ants’ exteriors, like Diatomaceous Earth, or something that's poisonous for ants when ingested, like boric acid or baking soda.

Both boric acid and baking soda are well-known, natural and DIY ant killers, which can be highly effective in bringing down an ant hill - make sure you mix it with something sweet, delicious and tempting like sugary water, syrup or honey to lure ants to ingest it. The sweeter, the better!

Seek and destroy

For interior ants that just will not take a hint with all of your cleaning, sealing and blocking, you’ll generally want to stay well clear of any high-grade toxic chemicals, especially since you'll be exposing yourself and your family to the stuff.

The good thing is that aerosol sprays, such as Terro's Ant Killer Aerosol Spray and its ilk, are highly effective at killing ants on contact,

You’re unlikely to have much success if you use them as repellents; but for a quick killing agent, whenever you spot a rogue ant rushing from a crack in the wall – there’s little better.

Think of it like a handy six shooter, hanging from your holster: these ants just stumbled into the wrong one horse town.

Orange Guard, on the other hand, uses orange peel extract to both kill ants on contact and repel them with its scent. It's also natural and safe to use indoors, making it a great option to kill ants with a single spray. ​

And there we have it Ant-Killers: a list of effective methods of ridding yourself of and killing any ants that are giving you domestic trouble. The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed this was a mainly manmade list of methods…

For all natural ways of dealing with ants, read our Best Natural Ways to Get Rid of Ants article! And also buy my CD on the way out.

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