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How to Get Rid of Ants: Ant Repellent Vs. Ant Bait

Posted by: Cooper Pest

Ants can be a nuisance to many homeowners but the majority of the time they are only entering your home for a source of food or water.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and as you’re sipping your morning coffee enjoying the spring weather, you notice ants crawling across your kitchen countertop towards a microscopic bagel crumb.

Before you drop your hot coffee and start going into a panic trying to massacre every ant, stop and breathe! There’s a reason why the ants have entered your home and there are a few DIY methods to keep them from coming in your home, and even ways to eliminate their entire colony.

Most ants usually enter homes while they are foraging for food or water. Once the scout ants find a source of food, they will quickly notify the rest of the colony. Shortly after, you’ll notice more ants in a single-file line traveling to the food.

So how exactly can you stop ants from coming into your home, and how can you get rid of them?

Before you do anything, identify what type of ant you have. From there, you can decide on which DIY method you want to use. Do you want to just prevent the ants from entering your home or do you want to permanently get rid of all the ants? If you want to just stop the ants from coming in, then you need a repellent. If you want to eradicate the entire ant colony, then you will probably prefer to use bait.

What exactly is an Ant Repellent?

The definition of repellent is as follows: “a substance that deters insects or other pests from approaching or settling.” Basically, an ant repellent does as its title implies: it repels ants. This means creating a barrier that the ants no longer want to cross and instead search for somewhere else to go.

Some repellents can work, however, in the end you’ll just be redirecting the ants, and they may find another entryway into your home. Repellents don’t kill the colony, and if that’s what you want to do, then you may want to use a bait instead.

Repellents can be liquid sprays or dry substances. A few common DIY ant repellents are:


      Essential oils (peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus)

      Chili Pepper (sprinkled liberally)

      Whole cloves

      Chalk lines

      Baby powder (talcum powder)

      Coffee grounds


      Vinegar spray

      Salt/water solutions

      Dish soap/water solution

When you have your repellent, be sure to spread it around cracks, holes, window sills, along baseboards, corners, and outside the perimeter of your home. Ants prefer to walk in single-file straight lines, so when you apply your repellent, keep that in mind.

Drawbacks of Ant Repellents

There are drawbacks to both types of repellents; dry or liquid. For instance, if you have animals or young children that are prone to putting items in their mouth, it might not be a great idea to sprinkle chili powder around your kitchen, unless you have it well out of reach. Dry repellents can also be very messy, especially when cleanliness is key to keeping ants at bay.

One problem with liquid repellents is the fact that once it dries, it is no longer as effective. You then have to continuously reapply the solution to still have an effective barrier against ants.

Dave Burgess, Vice President of Operations at Cooper Pest Solutions, said he doubts the overall success of the soap repellent.

“Soap may help break down pheromone trails, therefore reducing foraging,” he said. “But I have serious doubts that soap alone will repel ants. I've seen too many ants foraging around sinks and dishwashers where there is plenty of soap residue.”

DIY Ant Baits

If you’re looking to deplete the entire ant colony, you may want to use a baiting solution. The bait will attract the ants and they will ingest it to bring back to the colony, where the rest of the ants will also eat the bait and eventually die off.

A few common DIY Ant Baits are:

      Borax solution

      Food-grade safe Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

      Terro Liquid Ant Baits (sold at Home Depot or any other major retailer)

      Amdro Liquid Ant Killer Bait Stations (most major retailers)


In general, baits need to be left out for a period of time in order to be successful. Bait success can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on a variety of factors.

If pest professional Burgess had to choose one DIY remedy, he said he would choose baits over DIY repellents because he feels they would be more successful.

“I would recommend the baits, but I urge the consumer to follow the directions on the label,” he said.

DIY Ant Baiting Tips

A few things to consider when baiting, first and foremost, have your areas clean, without wiping away any ant trails. Make sure the ants’ only source for food is the bait. If there are crumbs or food particles elsewhere, the bait may take longer because the ants have alternative sources of food.

It is also crucial that ant trails remain intact, as these trails are their maps to the bait. Also, resist the urge to kill any ants you see going to the bait. You need them to ingest it and bring it back to the colony in order to kill off the population.

When placing the baits, keep them out of reach of children and animals as they could potentially be dangerous if ingested. Lay the bait in areas where you tend to see regularactivity, because you want the ants to find it easily. Similar to repellents, the best areas to lay the baits are around baseboards, in corners, near entryways and along the ant trails.

If you’re using a home-made bait like the Borax solution, it’s best to use a fresh batch daily. Don’t fret if you notice an increase in ant activity, as the bait is doing its job. The more ants ingesting it and bringing it back to the colony, the faster the colony will die.

If for some reason the bait doesn’t seem to be working, try switching it up because sometimes ants may already be resistant to that bait. Be sure to rotate baits in-between different ant infestations.

The best tip for DIY ant baiting is to be patient. Remember that baiting takes time because you are killing off an entire colony of ants, not just the foragers you see in your house.

Whether you’re using a DIY ant repellent or bait, Burgess explained that although DIY remedies could work, the user should be skeptical on the actual success of it.

“There are a lot of home remedies,” he said, “but the user should approach each with some skepticism.”

Now that you have an idea of what type of DIY repellent or bait you will use, what do you need to do in order to make it successful? Do you bait inside or outside? What is the optimum temperature for baiting ants? What are the best lines or edges to spray repellent or place bait along? For the answers to these questions, as well as our expert entomologists’ opinions on the DIY options, check our article, “DIY Ant Removal Best Practices: Tips for Successful Ant Elimination.”

If your DIY Ant remedies aren’t working and your NJ or PA home is in need of a pest professional, give Cooper Pest Solutions a call at 1-800-949-2667. Our skilled technicians will eradicate your ants and allow you to once again enjoy your spring and summerbarbeques without any uninvited guests.

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