How to Get Rid of Ants in Your House and Yard

Learn how to get rid of ants around the house with our expert tips. You can put an end to most ant problems with inexpensive products from your local hardware store!

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Sidewalk Chalk
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Draw a Chalk Line

Drawing a chalk line will deter ants temporarily as it disrupts their scent trail. This will buy you some time while you explore other ant extermination methods! You can use standard sidewalk chalk or buy squeeze bottles of chalk powder at your local home improvement store.

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Close-Up Of Ants
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ID the Ant

This is often the first step toward understanding how to get rid of ants. Take a photo of the ant and email it to your local university extension office. Someone there will be able to tell you the type of ant you’re dealing with and where it nests. Then, it’s time to get rid of your pantry pests.

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Ant nests
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Find Ant Nests

Ants generally prefer damp areas, such as framing or flooring that’s soft and spongy from a plumbing or roof leak. Look for areas with water damage. Attics, bathrooms and exterior walls are obvious candidates.

Cut small holes in water-damaged walls to track down the ant nest. (You’re going to have to repair the walls anyway.) When you find the nest, spray it with an insecticide that contains bifenthrin, permethrin or deltamethrin. Ortho’s Home Defense Max is one top-rated brand.

If you can’t track down the nest, hire a pest control service. Professionals spend about 80% of their time hunting down nests, believe it or not.

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Close-Up Of Ants On Apple
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Determine the Best Ant Bait

Pre-bait ants in areas you’ve previously seen them. Ants’ tastes change during the year. They usually prefer protein in the spring and sweets or fatty/oily foods in the summer. Look on the bait package for words like “controls both sweet and grease eating ants.” Stop ants from coming in the house by using this outdoor ant bait around your yard.

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trail of black ants (path in a garden - seen in Portugal)
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Erase Ant Trails

Where you see one ant, you’re bound to see others. That’s because ants leave a scented trail that other ants follow. Sweeping or mopping won’t eliminate the scent. Instead, mix one part vinegar with three parts water in a spray bottle, then spray wherever you’ve seen ants in the past. This will stop outdoor nesting ants that have entered the house to look for food.

Editor’s Tip: Vinegar and water won’t stop ants that are already nesting indoors. You’ll need to kill them with ant bait.

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Europe, Greece, 2018: View Of Ant Nest At Night Ants Nest At Night
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Wipe Out Ant Colonies

Once you’ve set out toxic ant bait, don’t be surprised if you suddenly see lots of ants. That’s a good thing. It means more ants are taking the toxic bait back to the colony where they’ll share it with the rest of the ants, including the queen, and kill them. There could be thousands of ants back at the nest.

Liquid bait is the best way to kill many sweet-loving ants. Other ants prefer solid bait. If you still have ants in the house after two weeks, replace the bait containers.

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spraying insecticide with portable sprayer to eradicate garden weeds in the lawn. weedicide spray on the weeds in the garden. Pesticide use is hazardous to health.
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Kill Ants in Your Yard

If you only have ants in a certain area, like along your sidewalk, spot-treat the area with an outdoor insecticide. Spray in the early morning or late afternoon when the ants are most active. If ants are still building mounds after six weeks, treat the area again. You won’t kill every ant in your yard (nor would you want to!), but spraying will eliminate most of them and stop the annoying mounds. See what other products help keep bugs away.

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Close-Up Of Ants On Cracked Blue Wall
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Destroy Exterior Ant Nests

If you frequently see ants in the same area on the outside of your house, there’s probably a nest in there. Look for holes where ants are crawling in and out. They are often located between bricks where mortar has fallen out, under siding or in cracks in stucco. Once you locate the nest, spray the area with an insecticide containing bifenthrin.

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Red Ant on wooden
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Kill Fire Ants with Bait

Fire ants are common in the southeastern United States and Southern California. Want to know how to get rid of ants like this? You’ll need more than a standard insecticide. Look for a special product that’s designed to wipe out fire ants. As with other baits, it may take a few weeks to see full results.

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Adult Woman Sweeping Dirty Floor Indoors
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Ant Prevention: Keep It Clean to Deter Ants

It’s time to clean every nook and cranny of your house! Sweep up food crumbs, wipe up spills, take out the garbage and don’t leave dirty dishes anywhere but the sink. This takes away the ants’ food source. Spray vinegar mixed with water around pet food bowls to keep ants from feasting there, too.

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spraying insecticide along outdoor door
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Ant Prevention: Spray Ant Entry Points

Caulk and seal any holes ants are using to get into your house. Then spray insecticide around doors and windows. Spray a 4-inch-wide band along entry points, just enough to wet the surface. Once dry, the spray leaves an invisible film that repels ants, so they won’t enter the house.

Each spring, spray the insecticide again to guard against ants. Keep in mind that this only works to keep ants out—it won’t kill ants that are already inside, and it can actually interfere with the use of ant baits.

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Side View Of Mature Man Spraying Crop Sprayer In Back Yard
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Ant Prevention: Spray on an Ant Barrier

If you still find ants in your house after spraying interior entry points, spray a 12-inch-wide band of insecticide on the foundation and on and under the siding to keep ants from entering the house. Look for an outdoor insecticide that says “barrier treatment” on the label.

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Midsection Of Man Cutting Plants In Yard
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Ant Prevention: Eliminate Safe Havens for Ants

Once you kill the ants in your house and yard, take the following steps to ensure they don’t come back.

  • Trim back bushes, shrubs and trees that brush against your siding or roof.
  • Keep a 3 to 6-inch clearance space between the soil around the foundation and the bottom row of siding.
  • Don’t stack firewood next to the house.
  • If anthills pop up in bare areas, spray the mound with insecticide and plant grass in the bare spots.
  • Rake the lawn or bag the grass when you mow to eliminate thatch.
The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman

Susan Bronson
Susan Bronson is a writer and editor based in Northern Wisconsin.