Every homeowner has experienced seeing a random ant crawling across the floor or countertop, or even a mysterious and sudden ant infestation a time or two. And we're often alarmed at the sight of them, especially if we've just cleaned those areas. You can expect ants to congregate around an outdoor trash can full of leftover party food, but when you find them indoors, it can be quite frustrating and upsetting. Spotting a single ant could mean there are many more that you don't see. Luckily there are some easy DIY ways to evict these unwanted guests and prevent them from showing up in the first place.
1. Keep the Kitchen Clean
Ants are always looking for food and water to keep their colonies going. That makes your kitchen and bathroom prime locations to find these creepy little visitors.
Sinks provide a water source, so it's quite common to find ants there, especially if you have any dripping pipes underneath. Periodically check for any leaks that could attract them.
2. Sweep Up Leftovers
Leftover food crumbs and spills are an ant's best chance at finding sustenance. Be diligent about cleaning up food spills promptly before ants discover them. That includes any leftover food or water spills near pet bowls.
Keep trash cans as clean as possible, making sure any food grime on the outside is wiped off quickly. Keep an eye on your indoor potted plants for any ant activity as well.
3. Caulk Up Windows
Use a silicone-based caulk on any gaps around your windows and doors, since those make easy entrances for ants.
If you've already seen ants making tracks, wash those surfaces with a household cleaner or a 3-1 water/vinegar spray. Doing so removes any scent trails (pheromones) that "scout" ants use to cue other ants where to find food and water.
There are some preventative measures you can take to try and keep ants from taking up residence around the outside of your home.
4. Use Rocks, Not Mulch
Ants love to nest under mulch, so consider using crushed stone around the perimeter. It's also a good idea to keep trees and shrubs trimmed away from your home's exterior.
Store stacks of firewood at least 20 feet away from the house. All sorts of pests love to hang out there, not just ants!
5. Fix Up Problem Areas
Make sure you've got good water drainage going away from your home. Pooling water from shotty gutters or downspouts can be heaven for ant colonies.
Use more caulking on any outside gaps in your window and door frames, as well as cracks in your home's foundation.
6. Spot Treat the Backyard
If ants are disrupting outdoor dining or play areas, spot-treat the areas with an outdoor insecticide in liquid or granule form. If you have a large-scale problem, you'll need to treat the entire lawn and garden with an insecticide that contains bifenthrin as the active ingredient.
Many folks don't like the idea of using chemicals around the house, because it's hard to know what's safe and what isn't.
You can try some homemade cleaners with vinegar or essential oils like lemon, peppermint, and tea tree. Other methods include sprinkling stuff around like lemon juice, cayenne pepper, or baby powder. These are thought to be unappealing to ants, so they avoid them.
Store Bought Repellants
You can go the opposite route and purposely set out toxic ant baits that contain tasty morsels ants usually go for, like peanut butter, honey, or fried food. They'll gobble it up and take the toxins back to their colonies to share with the rest of the ants and the queen. Store-bought liquid or gel ant baits are usually pretty effective, while dry baits like Boric acid dust and diatomaceous earth are generally less effective.
One thing to keep in mind with DIY methods is that results can vary. Not to mention your willingness to keep up with it. If what you're doing isn't working, it may be time to call the professionals in to find the nests and eliminate them for good.