These Are the Cheapest & Best Ways to Kill Ants (& Keep Them Away!)

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Wondering how to kill ants? We’re sharing the best methods!

family sitting outside on picnic table

Tired of dealing with uninvited guests?

Ants are the scourge of every picnic gathering and outdoor BBQ. And oh, heaven forbid we leave a single crumb on our counters–you just know they’re gonna come running. To make it worse, they become practically unavoidable as the weather starts warming up.

To make life just a little easier and more bug-free, we’ve rounded up the BEST & cheapest ways to get rid of those pesky insects.

First, before we start mixing up our ant-eliminating potions, it’s important to get rid of any food that may be drawing them in.

pantry with oxo containers

Crumbs left on the table are the obvious source of food for the ants to bring back to their colonies, but also check your cabinets. You may find that they’re being attracted by your pantry staples like sugar and honey. Instead of leaving the sugar in its original bag (I’m SO guilty of this 😳), check out some clear, airtight food storage containers.

The ants won’t be able to get inside to the sugary goodness, and these containers will keep your cabinets lookin’ sharp and organized. 🙌

Sugar cookie batter in mixer with paddle attachment

And if you’re a baker, make sure you check out the nooks and crannies of your baking tools. Stand mixers are especially notorious for housing little leftover bits of batter in places you can’t quite see, so give all your utensils a thorough cleaning to eliminate that ant food source.

And finally, if you’re able, try to limit food consumption to one area of the house. I know this is super hard (especially with kids), but it’s more difficult to try to keep ants away when there are crumbs and other goodies for them in several places inside.

After everything’s been cleaned, it’s time to start mixing up some easy, homemade ant-killing concoctions!

If your ant problem is more of an annoyance than a serious issue, try these eco-friendly & kid-safe DIY solutions to get rid of them.

Use dish soap to kill the ants and eliminate their trails.

hand holding dawn dish soap in front of plant by sink

Ants lead the way for their colonies by releasing pheromone trails, so getting rid of the trail makes it harder for others to follow suit.

Make a 50/50 mixture of liquid dish detergent and warm water and mix it up in a spray bottle. Then just spray down the surfaces where the ants crawl in and wipe it off as usual.

Dish soap suffocates the ants already present in your home, and then others can’t find their way in.

Vinegar doesn’t smell the best, but it’ll get rid of the pests!

hand holding vinegar bottle

Similar to the soapy water solution, vinegar is an effective ant-killer (and has many other uses!) & they’re also repelled by the scent. And although I’m not a fan of the smell myself, it’s worth it to have an ant-free house!

Just mix up equal parts white vinegar and warm water, and you can spray it or sponge it on the areas you’ve noticed ants getting in the house. And after you spray it, you can just let it set.

It’s effective at keeping them away, and even though it doesn’t smell the best, it doesn’t last long at all!

Hip Tip: If you really can’t get comfy with the scent of vinegar (I’m with ya!), you can always add some essential oils to mask the odor! They won’t take away from vinegar’s ant-killing properties.

When you clean, remember to check the houseplants.

hand holding glass with a basil plant inside

Ants sometimes like to burrow down under the greenery right inside your home. Check to make sure all your houseplant soil–especially if you have larger planters–isn’t doubling as an ant colony.

Then, spray the vinegar mixture around the base of the planter to kill and ants crawling around and prevent others from moving in.

Food-grade diatomaceous earth will kill ants + lots of other insects as well.

how to kill ants with diatomaceous earth in box

Diatoms are tiny little single-celled organisms, and diatomaceous earth is made from finely ground fossilized diatoms. While it can be harmful to mammals when large amounts are directly ingested or inhaled, you don’t have to worry about your kids or pets being affected by reasonable amounts sprinkled around the baseboard.

Put diatomaceous earth around the house, and it’ll kill not only ants but also other tiny pests. It’s really abrasive on small insects but too powdery to be harmful to humans and pets. I’ve also heard of this working well for flea problems!

If the above solutions aren’t cutting it, you might need something a little more heavy-duty.

Borax is a reliable & frugal solution to bigger ant problems.

how to kill ants with box of borax cleaner

Since borax interferes with all ants’ digestive systems, this solution will effectively kill many different species of ants.

To start, you’ll want a mixture of both solid and liquid borax bait. Adult ants can’t digest solid food (which is why you’ll want liquid bait as well), but they can bring solid food back to the nest. The older ant larvae eat the solid bait and then process it into a liquid for the queen to eat, so the mixture kills the queen, the larvae, and the worker ants.

Hand holding jar of powdered sugar mixture and q-tip

For the liquid bait, mix a tablespoon of borax with 1 cup of warm water and half a cup of granulated sugar. Once everything is dissolved, dip cotton balls or Q-tips into the mixture and place them in areas that pets and kids can’t reach. Alternatively, you use one part borax to three parts sugar and add just enough water to make a thick, sugary paste that the ants can’t resist.

For the solid bait, simply mix three parts powdered sugar and one part borax. Again, just be sure to sprinkle it around areas the little ones can’t access.

Once you’ve set out the bait, wait 24-48 hours for the ants to successfully bring back the borax mixture to the queen.

If DIY borax mixes aren’t your thing, consider getting a chemical spray or liquid bait to kill ants.

Chemical spray for killing ants

Get one of the non-commercial, highly-rated indoor chemical sprays or ant baits if the borax mixtures haven’t proven effective. Just be sure to carefully follow the directions for any spray or chemical-based ant killer you purchase.

These solutions are generally pretty effective, just keep in mind that they’re usually not designed for full-on infestations.

Hip Tip: Right now, you can score the Ortho Home Defense Spray on Amazon for $12.99 (regularly $26.99) & 6 Terro Ant Bait stations for only $4.68!

As a last resort, it may be time to call an exterminator.

Orkin exterminator inspecting home

Even though ants can be a nuisance, they’re also very smart and industrious little creatures. And they can certainly put up a fight to stay in your home!

If you find yourself in the midst of a full infestation & the ants have officially made your home their home, it’s probably time to consult an extermination company.

They’ll be familiar with all the different species of ants and know how to get rid of ‘em as fast as possible.

Pest control services can be pricey, but chances are, it’ll be cheaper to pay a professional now than wait until the ants have caused costly damage to your home. Luckily, your local extermination businesses will likely assess the damage and give you a quote for free. 🙌

My Hip teammates Sara, Lina, and Jen also shared some great tips for getting cheaper services!

“I recently had someone soliciting bug termination at my home and they were offering a discount because my neighbors were also having work done. Try to get a few neighbors together to get a better price since the company will already be in the area.” – Sara

“We use a bug service. When they first came, we turned them down a couple of times and then they offered a better rate. It’s worth saying no a few times first.” – Jen

Also, Lina said she was able to find an affordable extermination company by doing good old-fashioned research on sites like Yelp. She also suggested using apps like Nextdoor to see if other folks near you were able to score some budget-friendly services.

ant drinking water on concrete

Some last tips for keeping the ants at bay:

  • Make sure the house is sealed up. Ants may view a cracked window as an invitation to come on in, so be sure any potential entry points are closed off.
  • Repellent sprays won’t kill ants, just keep them away. As the name suggests, ants can smell repellent sprays and will avoid them. Use non-repellent sprays to trick the ants into walking through the insecticide and carrying it back to the nest.
  • Avoid putting the bait in highly visible places. We all know the saying that “things get worse before they get better,” right? Well, that’s definitely the case with killing ants. If you put bait on your kitchen counter, you’ll likely see a ton of them come out of the woodworks. To avoid the horror of seeing your counter covered in insects, put the bait near your windows or other openings if possible.

Check out this amazing, all-natural, & organic bug repellent!

About the writer:

Brandi has an Associate's Degree and 5+ years of experience writing and creating online content for local businesses.

Join The Discussion

Comments 21

  1. Lana

    We have often been able to deter them by putting jar lids of water on our outside window sills because they come in for water. And on another subject we keep a small dish of water on our deck for the squirrels because we realized that they were only digging in the pots that were wet. Once we put out the water they stopped messing with the flower pots.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Oh interesting! Thanks for sharing this, Lana! Good to know what has been working for the ants and squirrels!

  2. Jerica

    Baby power. Just sprinkle it and they leave after a while and don’t come back where the powder is left. It’s messy but always works for me

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks for that tip, Jerica!

  3. kadysiga

    I recently used the borax method, but only had regular sugar on hand. I added some honey, too. I only put it in one place (where the dog and cat couldn’t get to it, but the ants could), and was extremely surprised and pleased that all the ants were gone in a couple of days. Even the ones on the counter – and I put my container several feet away in the pantry. Thanks for this post and the info on the Diatomaceous Earth!

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      You’re most welcome! Happy to hear the borax worked for you!

  4. Jackie

    Be careful with diatomaceous earth. You are not supposed to inhale it or get it in your eyes or on your skin. Terro works wonders, I’m always amazed by it.

  5. Rita Cangialosi

    I’m own a pest control company and am a long-time reader/follower. Be careful if using repellents. You’ll repel them away from an area right into another area. You may spread them further through-out your house. Also, if you interrupt their chemical trails they may get lost and split off to form another colony so not always the best idea. If using bleach, vinegar, windex, essential oils etc… anything with a noxious odor it’s the same thing it acts as a repellent so if you do end up hiring a professional you’ve made their job more difficult as they will want to treat in the same areas you’ve just sprayed a noxious odorant so their will be less ants in that area to come and take the specialize bait we use. If this is a problem you have year after year definitely do your self a favor and hire a professional. Pricing is dependent on level of infestation, size of house and often area of the country you live in.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks so much for the helpful warning, tips and for being a longtime reader! We truly appreciate it!

    • Lana

      I agree. Years ago we had big black ants living in our foundation wall and they needed to be treated where they were and it took care of it. I believe they would have had a hard time finding the source if we had interrupted the trail.

  6. shop4mybabies

    roofer was pulling off the old roofing yesterday and discovered a huge colony of carpenter ants. exterminator on the way. we’ve had little sugar ants which we put out terro for but never big black destructive ones.

  7. Denise

    Just moved to Texas. Everything’s bigger in Texas and that includes the bugs here! Anyone have any idea best way to kill roaches? My apartment has pest control but doesn’t seem to work for these things!

  8. Lunafalls

    To kill a swarm of ants in your kitchen, you don’t need bug spray — just keep a bottle of Fantastik cleaner handy and spray them with that! It kills them all on contact (every bit as fast or even faster than bug spray!). Afterwards, you simply “clean up” with paper towels, and you haven’t sprayed poison in your home and near your food.

    For complete colony kill — I, too, recommend the Terro liquid ant baits. They work on both sugar-eating and grease-eating ants.

  9. **Lisa**

    Original Windex with ammonia. Best tip my bug guy ever game me. 😁

    • Eva

      We’ve also used Windex but once the ammonia dissipates, they’re crawling right back over it. So I only use it when I need to kill them on contact. To kill them and keep them away, I use Skin So Soft from Avon (the original scent). This kills ants on contact and keeps them away, plus it smells good!

  10. Heather B.

    Terro liquid ant traps have worked the best for us!

  11. just me

    I’m in the Phoenix area and bugs can be a problem. I use diatomaceous earth all around my house and around the fence area. It really does keep bugs away but after rain you need to put more out. As far as ants I get the AMDRO granules and it takes care of them quickly.

  12. Stallion

    We really don’t need to kill every time. We have been using ultrasonic pest repellent for years and they work wonderfully well. Work in harmony with nature.
    Along with they remember ants will come if they find food, ensure you clean your kitchen tables and floor every night, lastly vinegar it another natural and safe deterrent . Do your self and nature a favour 🤗

  13. Tina

    Like Jerica had mentioned above baby powder works great. I’ve been using that method for 10 yrs now. The first year I moved into my house my ex and I had realized when it got to spring that all of a sudden there were ants everywhere. We did some research and saw about baby powder. I put it on every doorway entrance and it had dramatically helped stop them from coming in. I would still get some that would be on my kitchen counters and in the bathroom and would use the liquid ant traps that would kinda help. But last year I found this spray called Hot Shot Kitchen Bug Killer that has botanical insecticide in it and that has basically eliminated any ants in my house. Now I might see 1 ant like every other week in the bathroom. I spray it where I would see them coming and going from around my stove and around the bathroom sink.

  14. Thia

    Cinnamon is a great option for killing ants. When an ant inhales cinnamon, it suffocates and dies. You can use ground cinnamon and sprinkle on the ants’ path or around an anthill opening. Cinnamon essential oil also works well to repel ants.
    Often you can buy Cinnamon on clearance. I mix it with vinegar and water and pour it on my patio, around the exterior door frame. I use the powder in the house.

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