How To Get Rid Of Ants Cheaply

26 May 2015

ants final

While I love spring, I wish when all the bugs started moving again they would stay outside. Our dining room table is very close to the back door. With a preschooler who frequently drops food, the ants have found a nice buffet of macaroni and cheese, apples, peanut butter, and whatever else she happened to drop on the floor.

The average exterminator is going to cost you anywhere between $150 and $1000 per treatment, according to CostOwl. Carpenter Ant infestations tend to be more expensive, which is why that range is so high. This article is no substitute if you have an infestation in your walls. At that point, you probably need to call an exterminator to take care of the problem. If you are battling the spring ant invasion, there are tricks you can do to win the battle without paying hefty exterminator costs.

Clean It Up

Ants are invading our home because they are looking for food.  Specifically ants like sweet food and need water sources. Deter them from coming to your house in the first place by cleaning preventatively. Many of us aim to have a clean home, but the reality is sometimes life gets messy. Now is the time to be more vigilant about your cleaning to keep those ants away. Here is a short list of things you can clean to deter ants.

  • Get a trashcan with a lid and is taken out regularly.
  • Wipe down the outside of the trashcan, and any surfaces nearby that may get accidentally splattered.
  • Clean or rinse dishes right away. Do not leave dirty dishes in the sink.
  • Clean out any food trapped in the bottom of your sink.
  • Vacuum up all crumbs, especially near the kitchen, dining room and anywhere else you eat frequently.
  • Vacuum your couches if you eat in that area.
  • Clean the tops of your stove and any other appliances
  • Keep kitchen counters free of standing water.
  • Wrap up any loose foods or open packages. Make sure containers such as peanut butter, honey and jams are clean on the outside of the jars.

Sure, cleaning stinks. In my opinion, battling an ant invasion is worse. They call it spring cleaning for a reason! Now is the time to be vigilant.

Make Your House Taste Sour And Smell Strongly

vinegar solution

Ants are hard wired to find sweet things to eat. Sour tasting things are very repellent to ants. Therefore, if you make your house taste sour, the ants are going to head the other way. I tried this little trick just last week with a bottle of vinegar. I was getting so frustrated at the trail of ants parading to my kitchen, that I dumped a quarter bottle of vinegar all over my floors. Yes, my house did indeed smell like a pickle for a few days. The good news is since wiping down the floor with straight vinegar, I have only seen a few stray scavenger ants.

I also keep a bottle of vinegar, dish soap and water ready to go. When I see an ant, I spray them with the mixture. I also make sure to wipe behind where the ant was crawling. Ants leave a trail behind them for other ants to follow to find a food source. If you wipe away the trail, the ants search elsewhere. Rinsing down surfaces with the mixture when you are cleaning also helps. For more details about how vinegar confuses and deters ants, check out this blog post over at Stir-fried Science from the Science Centre of Singapore.

You can also choose to try other remedies if you can not stand the vinegar. Ants do not like strong smells, as they interfere with their scent trail communication. Try wiping down your house with a mixture of water and lemon juice, mint oil or tea tree oil. These extracts also make everything taste sour to ants. You can also add some drops of essential oil to your mixture to help your new cleaner smell better. I would stay away from sweet smelling scents, but lemon, orange or other citrus essential oils will help cover up the smell of these homemade cleaners.

Fight Back With Borax


If wiping down the scent trails and messing with the ant’s sense of smell is not working, the next step I would try would be to try borax.  Practically Functional has a great post that fully details how to fight ants in your home, in your garden and outside using borax and some sugar. You can find borax in the laundry section, but it is generally cheaper if you buy it in the store. has borax, but not in stock online. According to the post, by mixing the two, you can create baits for the ants. Place this sweet and sticky mixture in places where the ants will find it easily without being intrusive. The scavenger ants then take the mixture back to the nest.

If you are not familiar with borax, it is a cleaning agent. Borax is toxic, so you will want to keep it out of reach of small children and pets. By the same premise, bleach is also toxic if ingested. I find this method is much less toxic than over the counter chemicals, and at around $5 per box should be more cost effective.

If these methods fail, then it is time to reconsider your strategy and consult the pest spray aisle or an exterminator. For most ant invasions, these cheaper combinations listed above should work and save you some cash.

Bargainmoosers, how have you gotten rid of ants without a pricey exterminator bill?

(Image Credits: Mika Hiironniemi, Chiot's Run, Ben Sutherland)

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