How to Keep Ants Out of Your House Naturally

This simple nontoxic trick is a little miracle … and no ants were harmed in the writing of this story.

I am a total wuss when it comes to killing things – I don’t eat animals, I can’t squish bugs. But often times co-existing with creatures that want to hang in my home is disconcerting. And even though I live in the city, nature has a way of creeping in.

Case in point: Every spring a troop of ants manages to invade the building I call home and diligently do their ant thing. They line up in an existentially hypnotic string of undulating insects and snake their way through kitchen and bathrooms, assiduously attending to their work. And man, they are everywhere.

My first approach was to go the preventative route. If I can block every point of access, voila. Anyone who has tried this – who lives in a big old building – knows the folly of this plan. Ants, they are tiny. And determined. They will find a way to get in.

Next, I considered motivation. “Why are you here?” I asked, they didn’t answer – dashing my hopes of being the world’s first ant whisperer. But between common sense and the great oracle known as Google I determined that food and water were key. I keep a tidy kitchen, but paid extra attention to crumbs and bits that might present a small feast for the little troopers. I also considered water: Standing water, damp areas, leaky plumbing, houseplants – all pretty dry. (I mention these things because if you are a battling a pest infestation, these concerns should be addressed.)

So what to do? I refuse to use toxic repellents – the use of insecticide confounds me, why would I want to spray killer chemicals in my home? Yes, they are only meant to kill pests – and a dose lethal to a creature that weighs one-millionth as much as I do (that’s an actual figure, by the way) may seem innocuous, but still. Poison is poison – and given the challenge that our beloved pollinators are facing because of insecticide, I just say no. So I took a look at the perennial favorite over at MNN on natural remedies for the ant invasion and saw an idea that resonated with me: Use ground cinnamon.

Although I pathologically prescribe to natural remedies, I admit that sometimes, occasionally, some of them just don’t work. But I got out a jar of cinnamon and sprinkled it along the popular ant party spots in the house, and within a few hours this happened: There was not a single ant left. They jumped ship, they bailed, they hit the road – and with that one application of cinnamon, there was not another ant to be found for the rest of ant season. What kind of black magic is this? Thinking it a fluke, I pre-cinnamoned the next spring, and nary an ant entered. Plus, the house smelled good. I remain converted.

There are several ways to go about it. I just sprinkled, but others suggest using cinnamon essential oil – which would be tidier – or dipping a Q-Tip in ground cinnamon and drawing a neat line to create a barrier that the ants won’t cross.

It appears that this simple trick relies on the idea of disrupting the pheromone trail that ants rely on to navigate. And there are other natural remedies that can induce the same result: citrus, vinegar, peppermint and coffee grounds all have their supporters as well. So if cinnamon isn’t your thing, try one of the other scent distractors and hopefully, say goodbye to sharing your house with a troop of tiny interlopers. Try one! And let us know in the comments what works for you.

main image credit: CC BY 2.0 Sancho McCann/Flickr


Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

Thanks! I used Cayenne pepper too.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jane R.
Jane R3 years ago

I don't have ants in the house now but have had them before. They would come from behind an electrical outlet near the kitchen sink. I kept wiping them up and washing them down the drain. After a couple of days they stopped coming in.
They won't cross a chalk line so you could draw a line on your foundation. That might stop them from getting in.

Teresa W.
Teresa W3 years ago

well said, Tanya

CD M3 years ago

Another effective repellent - and just as fragrant - whole cloves spread across the threshold. Granted, this was a seldom used entrance where the cloves could stay relatively undisturbed for several days. Eventually they all disappeared - whether tracked in and swept up or tracked out and into the cracks of the walkway - but the ants never came back.

Rhonda Hill
Past Member 3 years ago

Great tip. Thanks.

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola3 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Janis K.
Janis K3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Bill Eagle
Bill Eagle3 years ago

We have tried various ant traps and none have really worked for us.
We really need to try cinnamon oil...I plan to see about buying some today.

Patty Kappmeyer
Patty Kappmeyer3 years ago

ants are back in my house will try