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How Do You Get Rid of Ants Without Killing Them?

You don’t want ants but you also feel bad about killing them. So how do you get rid of ants without killing them?

Because as far as pests go, ants aren’t so bad. They don’t spread disease like mosquitoes and they don’t leave dangerous dropping like mice.

They’re actually more helpful than harmful – ants are helpful gardeners, helping to turn soil and aid in decomposition, as well as great for natural pest control since they feed on the eggs and larvae of more bothersome pests like flies, fleas, bed bugs and roaches.

Not to mention that they are nature’s little cleaners, tirelessly working to tidy up their immediate surroundings.

So how do you get rid of ants without killing them? We got you covered – here are 7 natural ways to repel ants from your home and discourage them from coming back!

How to Get Rid of Ants Without Killing Them

If you’ve got a soft spot for ants but you don’t want them marching all over your home, here are your best bets to keep them away without actually harming the little critters.

Lemon Juice

You’ve seen how the ants go marching one by one on those little ant highways of theirs. Ever wondered how they manage to keep such straight lines to whatever out-of-sight destination they’re traveling toward?

Well, it’s certainly not by sight – ants have pretty poor eyesight. Instead, they release pheromones to guide them from their homes to a food source and back.

This is where lemon juice comes in handy – the citrus acids mess with the ant’s ability to sense the pheromone trail, effectively wiping out the road they use to find their way into your home.

To use lemon juice: Spray pure lemon juice around ant trails, openings and where ants are most likely to enter. Also use it to wipe down countertops and surfaces close to food sources.


Another way to disrupt the pheromone scent trails leading ants into your home is to use good old vinegar. This old school remedy makes it difficult for ants to re-locate whatever food source highways they’ve built into your home.

To use vinegar: Mix 1 part vinegar and 1 part water – plain white vinegar works great for this – and use the ant repellent solution to mop floors, clean counters, and spray along openings and ant trails.

Essential Oils

Love the yummy baked goods scent of cinnamon? How about the super fresh scent of peppermint?

While most of us love these scents, ants can’t stand these strong smells and they will go to great lengths to avoid them, making essential oils one of the most effective natural ant repellents.

To use essential oils: Peppermint oil, cinnamon oil, eucalyptus oil, clove oil – these are all potent ant repellents. Use one or a combination to prevent ants from coming in your home. Here’s how:

  • Make a spray by filling a spray bottle with fresh water and dropping in essential oil – since this won’t go on your skin, feel free to use a lot of the essential oil. A mixture of 50% water and 50% essential oil is potent and will do the trick. Spray it on windowsills, doors, countertops and floors.
  • Dip a Q tip into the essential oil and draw boundary lines across entryways so ants can’t get in.

Spices and Herbs

Don’t have essential oils on hand? Spices and herbs will do the trick as well – cardamom, cinnamon, clove, garlic, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, and black pepper will keep the ants away. Salt, though, does not work.

To use spices and herbs: Sprinkle ground cinnamon, clove, peppers, or bay leaves in a line to block entrances and openings into your home.

You can also use salt water to clean the countertops and surfaces close to food sources.


It’s true – ants won’t cross a line of chalk. So simple, so effective.

Except it doesn’t seem to work for all ants – some ants will absolutely refuse to cross a chalk line while other simply don’t give a damn. But it’s worth a try – who knows which side of the chalk line the ants in your house will be on?

To use chalk: Grab some good old fashioned white chalk and start drawing a line across all entry points into your home.

Coffee Grounds

Everyone with a coffee habit winds up with loads and loads of this – instead of throwing it away, put it to good use by lining the perimeter of your house with this stuff. Ants don’t like it and won’t cross it.

To use coffee grounds: Sprinkle it around your house to secure the perimeter or at entrance points.

Talcum Powder

Talcum powder is yet another ant repellent that these little critter don’t like to cross but we’re also not crazy about this method since talcum powder can be dangerous if inhaled. If you’re going to use it – don’t sprinkle it anywhere where there’s wind or where it can get easily disturbed and airborne.

To use talcum powder: Sprinkle it in cracks and crevices in corners to block off ant entrances.

14 thoughts on “How Do You Get Rid of Ants Without Killing Them?”

  1. I didn’t know that cinnamon and cloves can be used to block ants from entering the house. I found ants crawling on my laptop last night, but I don’t know where they’re coming from. This article was great, but I think I’m going to call a pest control service rather than try the spices.

  2. Yeah, chalk doesn’t work, and cinnamon only for a short time. The borax cotton ball thing works for a while, but has to be repeated regularly.

  3. I am so happy to see this! I’ve never been a fan of killing bugs, but I’ve always looked at it as a necessary evil. My husband on the other hand is completely distraught when he has to take those kind of measures. Thank you for posting these less-lethal measures!!

  4. Fire ants! Best way to get rid of them is to move and not take them with you.

    But if you can’t move, there are two ways I’ve found to deal with them.

    First way is to liberally sprinkle the mound with grits (from the cereal aisle in the grocery store). Theory is that the ants eat the dried grits, consume water, grits swell and kill the ants.

    Second way is much more fun. If you have two mounds in close proximity, take a shovel (wrap the handle above the blade with a rag that has gasoline/kerosene/diesel on it to keep the ants from climbing the handle to your hands) of mound #1 and dump it on mound #2. Then quickly take a shovel full of mound #2 and dump it on mound #1. This begins an ant war, which the ants will fight to the death, thereby killing both mounds.

  5. I was alarmed to read Deborah’s lethal and sadistic solution (in a comment above). People come to this page in search of a nonlethal way to get rid of ants, not to get them to fight to the death or make them swell up and die.

    • So yeh, I rlly didn’t like her ideas.
      I’m trying to find a kind and caring way to make the ants leave my house without hurting or killing any. I have never purposely in my life killed a bug and it will stay that way.

      Ants are just so hard because they are so tiny. I’m gonna try put a plate of sugar outside and but cinnamon, garlic and lemon juice where they were coming from then see the results. Hope it works. XXX

    • This may sound alarming and sadistic, but if you have ever been infested (typically outside) with fire ants, you get DESPERATE!!! They attack without provocation, and it is extremely painful with little blisters that take forever to heal, to say nothing about possible allergic reactions. I like ants and typically do not kill them nor appreciate when others step on them, but I draw the line at fire ants! They are aggressive and mean!!!


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