Shoo Those Pesky Ants Away, Naturally

While sitting around the Christmas tree after dinner with my family a few years ago, my sister-in-law’s phone rang. Her daughter was hysterical, and I could hear her screaming through the phone from across the room. She had accidentally poured milk into a glass that had borax at the bottom and taken a sip.

Borax, though naturally occurring, is a poison – not just to ants, but to people, as well. Fortunately, she did not ingest enough to be harmful, but those were a scary couple of hours in the emergency room. 

Lots of people use borax to kill ants, but there are many safer alternatives to shoo away those pesky insects, especially around little kids and pets. Try one of these instead:

Good Old Boiling Water

When we see ants creeping on the patio, this is my family’s first line of defense. Pour boiling water from a kettle over any visible ants and their burrow. The scalding water will kill them instantly. 

Peppermint Oil

We spray peppermint oil around our house to deter a number of different bugs, not just ants. It is a natural repellent, and easy to use. In a plastic spray bottle, simply mix 10 drops of peppermint oil for every cup of water. Peppermint oil is available online, at health food stores, or wherever you might find essential oils. Spray it where pests may be entering your home, such as around the base of doors and windows. Be careful using it around cats and dogs as it can be harmful to them. 

Neem Oil

Neem oil is good to use around plants as a repellent for pests like aphids, and also works on ants, which like to feed on aphids. Pick some up at your local nursery, online or at a health food store, and spray it around your houseplants according to the directions on the bottle. 

Tea Tree Oil

Tea Tree Oil works much like peppermint oil. You’ll use a little less in this case, about 5 drops per cup, and like peppermint oil, keep it away from your pets.

White Vinegar

Vinegar not only cleans, but it also naturally repels ants. Dilute it 1-to-1 in a spray bottle and use it to wipe vinegar-safe surfaces in your home. Ants will likely stay away from these areas. 

Coffee Grounds 

Coffee grounds naturally repel ants, other insects and critters, and as a bonus are great for many plants that like acidic soil. If you have an ant problem around a garden or in your house plants, check to make sure you plant will tolerate it, then sprinkle the soil with coffee grounds to keep pests away.

Keep it Neat and Tidy

Ants are attracted to food particles. Keep your home free of crumbs and you’re more likely to avoid an ant problem. In particular, vacuum between couch cushions regularly, and keep an eye on the dog food bowl, where ants love to hang out.

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