When considering how to get rid of ants, the most problematic question is: what kind of ants are we trying to get rid of? There are so many varieties found in North America, it’s almost impossible to know what is what. Some (like the Argentine Ant) are more of a problem on the West Coast than they are on the East Coast. Fire ants are a problem only in the south, while the carpenter ant seems to keep both southerners and my people up north quite busy, as well. So, what we’re going to do is approach the subject of how to get rid of ants by showing you the most common types of pest ants, and then we’ll go over some basic household ant control after that.

More Ant Species +

Controlling the Most Common Ant Species

a hoard of sugar antsTo get rid of sugar ants: sweet-based ant baits. The pavement ant is perhaps the most common to invade houses, apartments, and other places where food can be found. It is mistakenly called both the sugar ant (which is exclusive to the Australian continent) and the house ant (of which there are many). Pavement ants are the little brown ones that make small mounds in the sand near sidewalks, driveways, and the sides of houses. I’ve had plenty of problems with these, and I prefer Terro brand traps to control them.

close-up of a black ant To get rid of black ants: sweet baits, again. This species is particularly obnoxious because of its persistence in getting what it wants, and it will eat just about anything: sugars, proteins, you name it. In some instances, these ants are found in hospitals where sterilization standards are lax. The Pharaoh Ant is often blamed for transferring dangerous bacteria like Staphylococcus and Psuedomonas, according to the Ohio State Extension Office. Sweet baits placed near trails or high traffic areas are the most efficient form of control. As I mentioned earlier, Terro makes a quality bait which you can order at Amazon.

close-up of an Argentine antTo get rid of argentine ants: a combination of protein-based and sweet baits. These little jerks are destroying America’s environmental and ecological balance by killing off native species, thereby starving the natural predators of these species. They also form a symbiotic relationship with aphids (a common garden pest), tending to and even transporting aphids in return for the sweet secretions the aphids produce. Argentines will eat just about anything they can get their grubby hands on, and they are a particularly social species of ant that “teams up” with other colonies nearby. Broadcast baiting with insecticide granules like Niban seems to be the most effective way to control colonies outside, coupled with sweet baits to help control in-home populations.

a few fire antsTo get rid of fire ants: protein-based ant baits. The sting causes intense pain, sweating, and sometimes anaphylactic shock. Again, broadcast baiting with Hydramethylnon granules (Amdro, Maxforce, and Siege are reputable brands) is probably the best way to control them; though, it should be noted that most fire ant baiting methods are only temporary, and need to be repeated every 2-4 weeks.

a big ol' carpenter antTo get rid of carpenter ants: bendiocarbs or Niban.People often mistake this species for termites once they start to swarm, coming out of cracks in the walls and flooring of a house. Carpenter ants do not, in fact, eat wood. If they have reestablished themselves in a home, it is only because there is an ample food supply (sweets and proteins). They burrow through wood only to expand their nests. Locate their nest by listening for rustling noises in walls where you most often see them wandering around. Once the nest is located, drilling holes and applying residual and aerosol insecticides in combination seems to be the most effective way to solve the issue.

If you’ve got problems with both Argentine and Carpenter ants, Amazon has niban in a 4lb shaker for a reasonable price.

Preventing Ant Infestations

  • Do the dishes regularly.
  • Wipe down your kitchen counters with bleach water every night.
  • Clean your room and pick up food wrappers.
  • Seal door sills, window sills, and mend broken screens.
  • Mop floors with bleach regularly.
  • Put food and leftovers (especially sweets and starches) in containers that seal tightly.
  • Take out the trash as often as possible.

Getting Rid of Ants in Your House

Clean your house. I mean, really clean it. You should vacuum and shampoo your carpets. You should sweep, then mop all of your hard floors with hot water and bleach. Wipe off all of your countertops and any exposed surfaces in your home, then wipe them down with hot water and bleach (or any other cleaning solvent you wish to use). Make sure your sink and your food disposal are cleaned regularly. Wash your clothes and your linens and make your shoes aren’t covered in something the ants might like to eat (like dog poop or hard candy).

Store your food in air-tight containers. This includes your pet’s food. Much of our diet these days consists of simple carbohydrates, unforunately, and this happens to be what most species of ants are looking for as well. Put your sugars and your sweets in rubber-sealed containers. Make sure bottles of syrup are cleaned and stored in the refrigerator (or anywhere that ants can’t get to them). Put rice and starches in sealable containers.

Find the ant trail and seal the entrance to your home. Next, you’ll want to find out where these ants are going, but most importantly you’ll want to find out where they’re coming from so you can seal up the entrance with caulk or putty to prevent another ant incursion. Once you’ve discovered where they’re coming from, vacuum them up and seal the entrance, and wash the area with bleach and warm water (if you can) to prevent the other ants from finding the trail again. rory_ants2

Douse the ant nests with a garden hose. This will encourage the ants to move away from your home, a little further from the food source they’ve been nesting near. Go hog wild with that water. The more flooding of their nests you do, the more likely they are to either drown or pack up and leave. If you want to be extra effective about it, fill up some buckets with hot water and some insecticidal soap and pour that on their nests. (Note: if you’re dealing with fire ants in this manner, get ready to make a quick escape.)

Line the perimeter of your home with ant repellents or insecticides. There are a number of natural ant repellents outlined in the Natural Ant Control section of this article. There are also recommended insecticides for each ant species covered in this guide within their respective categories. Keep in mind that if you’re going to use ant baits outside of the house, you should make sure to place the baits away from you home; you don’t want to encourage ants to get closer.

Which bait should you use to get rid of ants?

Species that can’t be taken care of with the steps outlined above will need to be dealt with using ant baits. Most pest control professionals refer to the poison as “ant bait,” because ants will only eat the poison if they take the bait it’s been applied to. There are basically two types of bait, and two means of delivering that bait:

  • For sugar ants, we generally use a sweet-based ant bait (usually a syrup) with a chemical like Borax, or boric acid salt. Boric acid is a naturally occuring mineral mined in California, and is the most common ingredient in baits used to control most domestic ant species.Terro products are a good example baits which contain boric-acid as their effective ingredient.
  • For outdoor ants like fire ants, we generally use a protein-based ant bait with a more industrial strength insecticide like Niban. These types of baits are typically referred to as granular ant baits and two of the most highly recommended producst are Maxforce Ant Bait Granular and Advance Select Granular Ant Bait which can be found at your local hardware store or gardening center.

Natural Ant Control


pile of boric acid powderBoric acid is the most common ingredient in home control products, and get this: it’s absolutely 100% natural. The best way (in my opinion) to use boric acid is to mix 1 cup of warm water with 1/2 cup of sugar, and 2 tablespoons of boric acid. Then soak the mixture up with cotton balls and place those cotton balls near any trails the ants have established in your home. Capsaicin (chili peppers) is a natural ant repellent. Dust the areas you wish to keep ants away from. Capsaicin is the substance found in peppers like Jalapenos that make our foods spicy. You can buy concentrated amounts or you can simply get a bulk supply of chili powder from your grocer.

box of Concern brand diatomaceous earthDiatomaceous earth (be sure it’s Food Grade) is not just for worming or keeping crawling bugs out of your garden. You can also use diatomaceous earth to line the outside of your home, around the edges of the house, to help cut up and kill any bugs that try to enter your home from the ground level. Diatomaceous earth is perfect for keeping them out of your home and garden.

Whole cloves are a rather well-known natural control. Personally, I’ve never tried it, but Eric says they’re effective against silverfish infestations, so why shouldn’t they be effective against ants? This argument hardly holds weight from a scientific standpoint, but I’m not the only one to recommend whole cloves, either.

Boiling water, poured on an ant nest, is a pretty cruel way to get rid of ants, but it’s also effective. It’s not considered a long term solution because there’s a good chance that the soil surrounding the ant nest will absorb most of the water before it gets to the galleries where the queen and her eggs are.