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How to get rid of ants…

Where do they come from? What do they want? How can I get rid of them?

Most common ants live outside in the ground, in nests or ant hills. Several hills and nests can make up one colony. The queen ant (which can live up to 30 years) is in charge and is responsible for making the new ants. In the spring, as things start to warm up, ant colonies send out scouts to forage for food and fuel. These foraging ants leave a scent trail so they can find their way home and so other ants can follow. While foraging ants may be attracted to food material inside your home.

Here’s what to do when you spot an ant…

  • Watch the ant for a while. See if you can tell what it’s looking for and where it came from.
  • Go ahead and kill the ant (get it out of your system).
  • Clean the area around the ant with a strong soap or window cleaner to remove the scent.

Note: Resist the urge to just “squish them all”, they give off a scent when squished that will attract others, also you need them alive so they will be able to carry the poison back to the nest.

  • Try to determine what the ant was after, then remove the attractant and clean the area.
  • Look for others (there’s never just one).
  • See if you can determine the path the ants are using, then clean the path with strong soap or window cleaner (like Windex).
  • Find the entry points (where they enter the house), then fill any cracks or patch any holes where the ants are getting in.
  • Use an ant powder or bait around the entry points (inside and outside if possible).

Note: Hardware stores sell ant killer/bait powders. Do-it-yourselfers use boric acid (Borax) and sugar in small amounts. Here’s a recipe…

  • Ants will continue to show up for some time (3-7 days). Keep cleaning the trails and the entry points.
  • Most ‘ant killer’ is made up of an attractant and an ant poison. Ideally the ant is attracted to the poison and carries it back to the nest where many ants will be killed.

You will never kill all the ants, they will make more! You can only hope to keep them to a minimum in your home. Most attempts to control ants are temporary at best so be careful with poisons and be wary of false claims.

ps/ Ants perform many ecological roles that are beneficial to humans, including the suppression of other pest populations, aeration of soil [source] and an occasional Pixar movie.

Considerations..

  • This article is written in the most general, non scientific terms for people who have spotted a few ants in their home and would like to get rid of the ants.
  • This article is not meant to deal with major ant infestations in out buildings or ant colonies near bio waste facilities in the Florida everglades (see: Empire of The Ants 1977 for more on that type of infestation).
  • Ants are everywhere. Ants thrive in all ecosystems, and form 25% of the terrestrial animal biomass on earth.
  • Getting rid of all the ants in your yard is impossible. However you may be able to stop them from showing up in your home.

Good luck!





  • Brian

    Hi there. I have a farm house and i’m finding a few ants in each ground floor rooms each day. I’ve tried following them but so far there’s no pattern to see where they are getting in. I was thinking of putiing some sugar down so they’d make a more obvious trail. What do you think?

    • Mike Benny

      Hi Brian,

      I don’t think encouraging them with sugar is a good idea, you might end up with a much bigger problem! A good rule-of-thumb, if you’re not sure where they’re getting in the house, is to place ant powder outside around the perimeter of the house, particularity at all entry points (doors and floor level windows).

      However, you may not need to do anything drastic, if it’s just a small problem…

      I had the same situation in my house, where they were turning up in small groups (three or four) in random rooms. I placed a few of those small baited ant traps ( like these) under each chair and the ants eventually stopped showing up. If you don’t want to buy ant traps, you can try making you’re own bait/killer with borax (instructions here: https://antsinmyhouse.com/borax-ant-killer-formula/).

      Please let us know how you end up dealing with this situation and if you have any success.

  • On my kitchen side I have a few ants everyday crawling around and my mum keeps blaming me and I get in trouble for it because apparently it’s sugar that does it is she right and what should I do

    • Mike Benny

      Hi Adam,

      Your mum is partially right, the ants can be attracted to sugar. The next time you see a few ants, see if you can follow them and see what they’re after. If you can see what they’re after you’ll know what’s causing the problem. If you clean around where they are and clean around where they came in the house, that should help keep them away. For the cleaning just use window cleaner or even vinegar and water. Let me know how it goes! Thank you

      • Thank you mate I’ll let you know tomorrow

  • Federico

    My girlfriend, baby, and I just moved into a new home we are renting back in February. Just as the weather starts warming up, I begin seeing ants around our pantry/kitchen area and then into bathrooms and living rooms. I bought the poison food and placed a couple tiny boxes in our mud room. We noticed about 100-200 ants come and eat from the containers. I let them eat it and take it back to the colony. This was about 2 weeks ago. The ant population has significantly dwindled down, BUT now something much more sinister is happening. I am finding black carpenter queen/princess ants everywhere and some drones as well. So far I’ve caught and maybe killed more than 30 black carpenter princess ants that are large and have wings. They are really the only ants I see now. Am capturing about 5 a day now. I also sprayed the outside perimeter of the house with any spray from Home Depot. The problem is that the house is old and has tiny crack all around the foundation and outside of the home and thus cannot find where exactly they are coming in from OR if they have a nest somewhere inside that I cannot find. Any suggestions?? I have yet to do a good cleaning, which will be down this weekend, and maybe spray the inside of the house this time. Thanks for your help Mike.

    • Mike Benny

      First of all, it’s really unlikely they’re nesting inside the house.

      Here’s some info on Carpenter Ants from Penn State (http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/carpenter-ants)

      “The black carpenter ant is a common invader of homes in the northeastern United States. In their natural habitat, carpenter ants aid in the decomposition of dead, decaying trees. They normally nest in logs, stumps, and hollow trees. However, the large, dark-colored workers often invade homes in search of food. These ants seldom tunnel into dry, sound wood, but they may excavate moist, rotting wood and other soft materials (such as foamed plastic insulation board) to make satellite nests. Rarely will the expansion of a nest into a building’s wooden timbers cause structural damage.” (Source)

      It sounds like you’re doing all the right things, but if they become more of a problem, you may need some professional help from a Pest Control company (hopefully your landlord will pay for it).

      Let us know how this turns out, please. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • The best way to keep ants out of your house is to figure out how they are getting in and then block up the entrance. However, they are small enough that this isn’t always possible. I use poison that they take back to the colony and make sure I take care of any ant hills as soon as I find them. The fewer ants there are the fewer you will have to deal with. I also try to have my house sprayed at least once every three months.

    • Mike Benny

      Thanks for the advice James, it looks like you’re a pro at this! Feel free to post comments and suggestions anywhere on this site. If you would like to write an article about ant control in your particular area of the country, I would gladly post it here as well.
      Thank you, Mike

  • Elizabeth

    Hi I move in to this new house I been there for almost 2 years everything was OK but last year we had a small problem with ants I spray and clean my floor with bleach and got rid of them but now there back and this are ants that bit, but I don’t get it why are they coming out from my rest room where i put the dirty clothes I don’t get why would they like the dirty clothes when it stinks and small bad now from my son closet I check every thing there no food but the only thing i can think of, the close is in back of the restroom where we put the dirty clothes, can u please help me any advise why they like the dirty clothes??

    • Mike Benny

      Hi Elizabeth. I don’t think ants have any attraction to “dirty clothes”, but maybe they are attracted to the coolness or dampness of the area. It’s more likely that the ants are making there way into the house threw that room. I would recommend trying some of the techniques mentioned here:

      1. Locate their entry point and seal the opening.
      2. Clean the are with strong smelling soap.
      3. Place ant killer/bait at the entry points (where they are coming in).
      4. Wait.
      Here’s the link for a “home made” ant killer/bait : https://antsinmyhouse.com/borax-ant-killer-formula/

      Good luck! Please let me know if you have any luck with this or if things do not improve.

  • Alex

    I have had loads of little black ants (not carpenter ants) in my apartment for several weeks now and it is the dead of winter. After trying all the DIY methods and have none of them work I’ve had my landlord first plug all the holes where they might be coming in. Then, they called a professional to put down a “treatment” which is supposed to keep the ants away for a few months, giving the landlord time to find the nest. Here is the problem. They put the treatment in yesterday. This morning I found five dead ants on my carpet. They were not there the night before. I don’t know what treatment they used, but is it working or do I still have a problem.?

    • Mike Benny

      Hi Alex, It sounds like it’s working! Good for your landlord for being so responsive. Please keep in touch and let us know how the “treatment” goes. -Mike

  • nic

    a bunch of ants have been nesting inside one of my shoes. They arent attracted to any other shoe except one particular one and despite washing it already, they still appear in the morning! I can’t seem to get rid of them! Help!

    • Mike Benny

      Wow, I haven’t heard that one before. If you’re not going to be wearing that shoe for a while, try using an Ant Trap (something like this) inside the shoe. If you want something a little cheaper and e-freindly try mixing up some of that borax ant killer and put it in a small container in the shoe.

      It’s unlikely they’re living in the shoe, but there must be something in the shoe that they like, so ant killer bait should work in a situation like this.

      Let us know how this works out!

  • Zareena

    Hello, I was sat eating my dinner and saw an ant crawling on the pillow I had in my lap is it possible that it was just a one off? I have no idea how it ended up on my cushion/pillow as it hasn’t even been on the floor! And I just did a deep clean of the floors in my house 2 days ago!

    I’m very concerned as I’m 6 months pregnant so any advice would be much appreciated please, thank you

    • Mike Benny

      Hi Zareena,

      No worries. There are several ways a random ant could have made it’s way onto your pillow. It could have hitched a ride on your clothing, a pet, a newspaper, or even on some groceries that you brought into the house. If you do see another one, see if you can follow it – it may lead you to it’s entry point. Let us know if you do see more and hopefully we can help! Thnx 🙂

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  • Hollie harrison

    Hi there, I moved into our new house in dec last year and have never had a problem with ants, unfortunately the other day I left a cup of juice lying out and there were ants in it, now they won’t stay out of my house just this morning I sprayed and killed at least 30 or more, they are in my plate cupboards my cups my pots and pans but not the food cupboard my house is spot cleaned every day I just can’t get them out !!!

    • Hi Hollie, It can be a painfully slow process, but the best way to get rid of them is to find where they’re coming from, close the entry point if you can, clean the area, then use a bait/killer. Sometimes it feels like they will never go away. If you’re in a panic, contact a pest control specialist in your area. If you just Google Pest Control you’ll likely find three or four to choose from. Please let us know if you have any success, there are a lot of people in a similar situation to you. 🙂 – Mike

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  • Rita

    Thank you for this site. Every year we have ants in our shower and then they show up in our kitchen everywhere. I’m hoping we beat them a bit this year. My husband saw them in the shower first and sprayed and then around in the kitchen where they might come. They seem to come around in the hot weather. We live in the desert and there are ants everywhere, so it makes sense they want to come visit inside. Maybe they like air conditioning too. I just saw an ant in the kitchen, so I did what you said and cleaned the area. I took a flashlight and looked at all the hiding spots and didn’t see anymore, so I’m crossing my fingers. I wrapped up any inviting food better in our pantry and now I am cleaning more carefully. It’s easy to miss small bits that an ant won’t. We get those flying ants too. They just fly in when the door opens occasionally. We haven’t had a lot. They are kind of creepy. Anyway, thank you Mike, you mentioned a couple of things I wasn’t aware of.

    • Hi Rita,

      So glad you could find some help here. It sounds like you’re doing everything right. Good luck! 🙂

      ps/ The flying ones are worst! :]

      • Jenny

        Hi mike Benny every year we alway get ants and today I got bit my two ants and can it affect you??

        • Mike Benny

          Hi Jenny,

          I’ve never been bitten (fingers crossed), but I have been doing some reading on the topic. See the article below from NaturallyBubbly.com.

          Does this sound like your bite?

          An ant bite starts as a round red mark. It doesn’t hurt and there is no bump, yet. Ignore it and it becomes a little bump, like a pimple on the skin. Continue to ignore it and the ant bite starts to enlarge and become hard and very painful. At this point it is too late to prevent the pain but not too late to force the bite to go the distance and pop sooner rather than later. You can treat with hot compresses at this point but only to ease the pain and hasten the healing.

          There’s more here…

  • Alyce Iavarone

    Oh boy, have we had ants for the pat five years. I was able to control the ants with a Mr. Clean that contains Fabreze. It is really great and I highly recommend it, Alyce

    • Good tip Alyce. Mr. Clean has such a strong smell, it’s great for throwing the little guys off their scent.

  • You’re really a sharp guy Mike Benny…one of the few that understands ants could not be wiped out. Few pest companies train their guys into “separate ants from food source” doctrine instead of “spray to kill all ants” garbage that is an insult to humans and ants alike 🙂 I enjoy reading your stuff.

    • Thank you for your kind words. The more I learn about ants, the more I like them (I just don’t want them in my house). 🙂

  • I’ve been in my home for 4 years and never had an and problems. 2 days ago I came home to find a few tiny ants in the kitchen I killed those in it and cleaned up completely. Today I come home and I see about 20 little ants in the kitchen, all over. I sprayed with raid, vacuumed, mopped, wiped down everything, and I couldn’t tell where they came from. Is there anything else I can do to stop this from spreading and to eliminate them?

    • Sounds like you’re doing all the right things… just keep following those steps. Clean up the trails, remove the attractants and try to use bait if you can find some. I recommend Insectigone… it’s pretty safe and really works well for me.

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  • Linda

    I wake up every morning to find a cluster of ants, I have an ant hotel under my one winder, they go in and come out and die. But I can’t find on this window how they get in. Help

    • I had a similar situation and it turned out they were squeezing in under the weather stripping on the window. I replaced the weather stripping and closed the window tightly and that seemed to stop the ants. I hope this helps. Let me know if you end up solving this one. – Mike

  • James Parham

    Thanks for building this website. It really does help.
    I closed on my new house on March 10, 2014. The ants have been coming through an opening in the plumbing under the kitchen sink & somewhere through the drain of the master bathtub. All of the ants I’ve seen have wings. This part really scares me is about the wings. Do you have any info on this? Or should I just treat the problem as clearly stated here on this website.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi James. Good luck taking care of your ant problem. As for your question; the flying part isn’t as bad as you might think. The winged ants have a pretty short cycle, lasting only a week or so. They are queens and drones taking flight to find new nests (most don’t make it). After this cycle, you should be able to better deal with under the sink. Let me know how it goes dealing with your problem. I’m not sure I can be any help, but I am interested.

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  • BMC

    Thank you very much! This article is helpful. Just what I was looking for.

  • We have had ants in our ceiling for about 5 years. Each year we take the down lights down and get the pest controllers to put their powder in the spaces right through the lounge, kitchen and bathroom. It has not been successful and we have still had ant “droppings” from all sorts of areas quite badly, although no invading of the kitchen with the ants. (just once a year perhaps) We have decided to have the metal colorbond sheets removed and have it sprayed from the top. But in the last day the droppings have ceased? It has turned cold so does it mean they have just gone into hibernation? Driving me mad!

    • Hi Nola, Wow, that sounds like an awful bunch of ants you have there! Yes, cold weather can slow down the ants quite a bit. They may not be in hibernation, but they move a lot slower in colder weather. I recommend you get some professional help from an exterminator or pest control specialist in your area. Honestly, your situation sounds too large to tackle on your own and I’m afraid my only advice would be to get some help. I wish I could be more helpful. Good luck in dealing with this. Let me know if you have any luck.