How To Get Rid Of Ants Without Killing Them

Want to know how to get rid of ants without killing them?  Whether it’s fire ants in the garden or sugar ants in the kitchen, these pesky bugs can be challenging to get rid of. Keep reading to learn what smell ants hate most and how to get rid of ants humanely when they descend in masse on your home and garden.

While killing ants is probably easier, all life is precious, right?  Learn how to get rid of ants without killing them if at all possible.  If that doesn’t work, you can move on to the bait, diatomaceous earth, or other more deadly methods. 

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ants on bread on the counter with text overlay 'Get Rid Of ANTS without killing them'

How to get rid of ants without killing them

While outdoors is an ant’s natural habitat, they can wreak havoc on your gardening efforts and make it hard for kids to play outside. Here are a few natural ways to repel ants from gardens, patios, and playsets:

8 ways to keep ants away from outdoor areas

  • Place the leaves of basil around your outdoor area, as ants don’t like how it smells. Planting basil throughout the garden is another way to keep ants out.
  • Add mint, lavender, or peppermint essential oil to water in order to make a natural insect repellent. Spray as needed around play gyms or patios.
  • Keep shrubs in check. Don’t plant them too close to the house and trim back branches or bushes that are close to your home. Carpenter ants are drawn to the wood and may cause damage to your house if not controlled.
  • Keep your lawn well maintained. A healthy, green lawn will discourage ants from coming in search of food and water.
  • Sprinkle cayenne powder on entry points outside your home to deter them from coming inside.
  • Citrus peelings can also be used to repel ants. Save and dry the peels of oranges, lemons, and grapefruit. Then grind them in a food processor and spread them near areas you want ant-free.
  • Ants hate chalk! Create a chalk line around the perimeter of your patio table to keep them away.
  • Save old coffee grounds. Mix them with dried cinnamon or cloves for an extra ant deterrent smell, then sprinkle around your outside area where you are having trouble with ants.

marigolds growing in garden to repel ants

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What plants help deter ants?

Repel ants from your yard and garden by planting the right herbs, flowers, and other plants. Here are a few to choose from:

Garlic is also said to be a natural repellent. Planting garlic around the perimeter of your property may help deter ants from crossing into your yard or garden. Check out my post on herbs that keep bugs away for more information.

apple cider vinegar and spray bottle under chair to make natural ant repellent

DIY Natural Ant Repellent Spray

Want to make your own DIY ant repellent? Try this combination:

  1. Combine ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar, ½ teaspoon of dishwashing liquid, and a few drops of peppermint oil in a gallon container.
  2. Spray the mixture on areas where ants are to discourage them from returning.
  3. Reapply after rain or if you wash off your windowsills with water.

*Note: You can also use lemon juice instead of apple cider vinegar.

common ants, inside the bathroom, home pest, insect transmitting diseases

How to keep ants OUT of your house

The best way to get rid of ants is to make sure they never come into the house at all.  

Make sure water doesn’t drip from the faucet. Ants can actually enter your home through water pipes. Repair any leaks you find in your plumbing system so that ants don’t have easy access to your home!

Keep anything sweet away from doors, windows, or other entryways. In other words, don’t let your cookies cool on the counter right under your kitchen window.

Make sure food is sealed well and garbage isn’t left out for too long of a period of time. Ants can smell the scent from far away, so make sure they don’t have easy access to it!

Seal all your home’s nooks and crannies. Ants can crawl in through cracks and holes, so make sure to seal any places they could get into.

Remove ant trails. Ants follow pheromone trails back to their nests. If you find these trails, scrub them down and remove the substance as thoroughly as possible

a trail of ants climbing a stick with the sun in the background

How can you tell where ants are coming from?

It may take some work, however, with patience and a flashlight, you can usually find where ants are coming from. Ants leave a pheromone trail for their friends to follow. Just work backward from where they ARE to where they WERE.

The first thing to check is your home’s foundation. If you see ants coming in from under the house, or going up and down a side of your house where there are no windows or doors, then that is how they’re getting inside.

You should also inspect outside garbage cans that will often attract insects.

If you are only finding a couple of ants here and there, you can do the honey and peanut butter test.

  1. Place a few drops of honey on an index card. Then, place a dab of peanut butter right next to it.
  2. Place the card near the area of ant activity and leave it for a few hours.
  3. Once they discover the bait, a trail will quickly form and you can trace that back to where they are coming from.

common essential oils

Using essential oils to get rid of ants

Looking for ways to get rid of ants without toxic chemicals? One way is through the use of essential oils.

– Place a few drops of peppermint, lemon, tea tree, or eucalyptus oil in your house plants and they’ll repel ants naturally.

– In areas where you’ve seen ant activity outside, spray a mixture of peppermint and dish soap on the area you want to repel ants.

– You can also fill your kitchen sinks with water, add half a cup of vinegar, and then put some orange peels in there as well. Use this solution to wipe down counters and windowsills.

More Natural Ways To Get Rid Of Bugs

Have more bugs around the house and yard?  Here are a few more natural pest control tips that might help:

While bugs are a natural part of our ecosystem, it’s not always easy to live in harmony with them.  Try to get rid of them naturally whenever possible before moving on to methods that kill them! Whenever possible, learn how to get rid of ants without killing them FIRST. They are just trying to survive and mean you no harm!  If you need more tips, check out Consumer Reports for more ways to get rid of ants. 


1 thought on “How To Get Rid Of Ants Without Killing Them”

  1. I love, love this post. I am going to try leaving the basil leaves outside, the cayenne powder, and the spray. Thank you for sharing these tips.


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