How to Get Rid of Ants Naturally

My favorite way to get rid of ants – cornmeal :)

Have I ever I told you about the time several of my aunts (which I pronounce “ants”) were in town helping me in the kitchen? We were having a lovely time capping strawberries and telling stories and laughing. Suddenly, a big, fat ant crawled across my kitchen counter and I let out a breath of frustration while exclaiming, “I wish these stinkin’ ANTS would get out of my kitchen!!!”

Well, my aunts hadn’t seen the ants that had so suddenly caused my outburst. They all dropped their knives and looked at me in astonishment because surely I wasn’t asking THEM to get out of my kitchen was I? I mean, what had they done except to help me so graciously with my load of strawberries?

Oh dear.

I quickly realized my mistake, and they quickly realized that I wasn’t talking about my aunts but about the ants – the nasty, little bugs that like to make a trail from one part of the kitchen to the other all while making away with our dinner roast beef. My aunts on the other hand, while they would surely enjoy my roast beef, have never formed an assembly line across my kitchen in order to steal away my supper. Nor have I ever had the urge to scream at them or squish them with my flip-flop. Goodness.

Now, isn’t that a great story? Laura screams at her ants. Laura’s aunts become shocked.  The ants get squished. The aunts have a good chuckle. Laura enjoys her aunts while trying to figure out a good way to get rid of her ants.

All that to say, let’s have us a little discussion about getting the ants out of your kitchen. Regarding the aunts in your kitchen – you’re on your own, but I highly recommend figuring out a way you can all remain together harmoniously.

Recently, Mary emailed this question:

I have a one-year-old and don’t want to use RAID around the house. The warm weather is starting to bring ants around and my little girl loves running barefoot. What do you suggest? Mary

Here is a list of all the “Getting Rid of Ants Naturally” tips I have up my sleeve (if in fact I do have sleeves):

  • Keep your floors and counter-tops clean. Crumbs and stickiness just give ants the incentive to stay. They call or text all of their friends, then they come into your kitchen and have a great, big party.
  • Seal all leftover food very well, or put it into your fridge. There have been too many times I’ve made a lovely baked item for breakfast, only to find that ants have gotten up under the plastic wrap during the night and had their party in my Pyrex. If you think I screamed at my ants when I saw them on the countertop, you ain’t heard nothin’ like when I saw them in my fresh-baked whole wheat cinnamon rolls.
  • Sprinkle some cornmeal around doorways and places you normally find ants. They eat it and become bloated and it does them in.
  • Ants don’t like vinegar, bay leaves, peppermint oil, cinnamon, black pepper or whole cloves. You can make a picnic of any of these items for them in various places in your kitchen but their noses (ants have noses?) will be offended and they are likely to refuse your picnic invitation.

What else? Do you know of any natural, non-toxic ways to rid your home of ants?

The aunts, well…we’d like them to stay.

 

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Comments

  1. says

    If you can manage to follow he trail of ants back to their anthill, pour boiling water into the anthill (may have to do it a few times over a week or so) and they will stop bothering you. Yes, it feels awful to kill a whole colony of ants, but I was so frustrated one year that I felt I had no choice.

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    Brieana @The Living Well Reply:

    Color me insensitive, but I don’t think I’d feel too bad about it! :)

    I don’t know if it works for ants, but equal parts borax and powdered sugar make a poison for cockroaches.

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    Christy Reply:

    I have used it to kill ants sucessfully. I would, however, keep this mixture out of the reach of children and pets. Since it is sweet, I would think they would be more likely to to eat it.

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    Dana Reply:

    I have also had great success with this combination! 1/4 tsp borax plus 1 tsp regular sugar, get it wet with a little water, hide in places where ants travel. They eat it at night, bring back to to the colony. It worked for me last year (large amts of carpenter ants in my kitchen) and this year (carpenter ants coming in through the vent in my bedroom, right by my bed, yuck!) And yes, place where pets and kids cannot reach, or pick up immediately in the morning – they get into this stuff at night.

  2. Laura says

    i’ve heard that sprinkling a barrier of cinnamon around the outside of you house will prevent them from coming in. apparently they dont like to walk on it. i have yet to try this meathod…but plan to!

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  3. Sheila says

    Grits. They’re also supposed to be taken back to the den, eaten by the queen who bloats and explodes thus ending the den. Sometimes the ants will gather the grits I’ve sprinkled into a nice little pile and leave it there for me. It doesn’t always work, but I sure keep trying. I’ll be trying the cornmeal tonight. I’ve got a great den/nest/hive whatever probably in my kitchen wall and they don’t really seem to mind vinegar (well except when I spray it on them and it kills them), so I may mix up a little cinnamon/black pepper for them on the other side of a line of cornmeal. If that doesn’t work, I may have to break down and use ANT SPRAY!!!! Thanks for the timely tip!!

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  4. Mrs. E says

    I use a mixture of Borax, sugar, and water and place small amounts near wherever they hang out. They love to eat it and they carry it back to the colony. It kills them and the others that eat it.

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    Laura Reply:

    Yes, I’ve heard of using Borax, but it is my understanding that borax could be harmful to a child. I’ll have to research that a little bit more!

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    Danielle B Reply:

    Yes, I’ve heard that too Laura. One of the BIG reasons I refuse to make my own laundry soap.

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    Amber W. Reply:

    This actually works REALLY well…just put the mixture up on the
    counter top, out of reach of little ones.

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    Nicole Reply:

    I am not sure about Borax being harmful, but here is how we used it: we mixed equal parts Borax and white sugar and sprinkled around the outside of our house. Basically made a barrier around the house. The ants take the sugar back to their colony, not realizing that they also take the Borax, and it kills them all. Also, because you have put the borax/sugar outside your house, you lure them out of your kitchen. Then the next time it rains, all that Borax and sugar is gone, but the damage should already be done! This worked very well for us!

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    Brieana @The Living Well Reply:

    I use Borax and powdered sugar. I think Borax is poisonous to kids but the amount you’re using is very very small. And none of my kids have ever tried licking it off the floor. Yet. :) We usually sprinkle it around the perimeter outside the house anyway.

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    Stacy Myers Reply:

    The FDA says that Borax is only harmful if ingested in LARGE amounts. :-) I use it and I feel safe with it. I just don’t serve it for dinner. :-) Of course tons of things are harmful if ingested in large amounts….like chocolate cake.
    I use the borax+sugar+water mixture and it works every time.
    That being said, I don’t want it around my dog or daughter because yes, it can be bad for you if you eat it…….that’s why it kills the ants. :-) I put the mixture in a lid with short sides and put it down as we go to bed. When we wake up, I take it back up and don’t put it down again until we go to bed again. They’ll be gone in 24-48 hours.

  5. says

    I use to have a horrible ant problem. What works every time for me is to take your finger and just smash as many as you can and leave them there. Come back the next day, and they will all be gone, even the dead ones. For some reason, seeing their fallen comrades keeps them away!

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  6. says

    I haven’t tried this, but I watched a home improvements show that said salt as a barrier around the house will keep ants out. Not sure as it works as I haven’t had a problem with ants.

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  7. Gina says

    Thanks so much for this timely post and for the laugh! Just as I was about to walk out the door to go to work, my 2-year-old said “uh oh!” and pointed to a pile of ants that had made their way into our house. My husband was saying he would try to find some ant spray that would be safe for our son, but I didn’t think there was such a thing. I have cornmeal and hopefully won’t have ants after tonight!!

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  8. Karen says

    I just had an awful experence with ants this morning…one of the worst! Our little two year old woke up and crawled into bed with me. I hadn’t remembered that I left my cup from my protein drink on my chest of drawers next to my bedside. Well our little one picked it up and began drinking from it. I reached for it and took it away when I realized what it was. I then proceeded to move him away only to have him put his hand up to my eyes. Oh so terrible, his hand had ants all over it. The ants climbed into my eyes and starting biting me. I couldn’t see anything and couldn’t care for our little one and began crying out for help from my husband. It was the most painful ant experience I have had..many ant bites to my eyes! So much for leaving my cup unwashed on my chest of drawers!

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  9. Soccy says

    Does anyone know if you spread cornmeal around the outside of your house, if you’ll repell ants but invite other creepy crawlies?

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    Danielle B Reply:

    Yeah I’m curious about that too. We already have a CUTE (but annoying!0 raccoon getting into our trash can NIGHTLY.

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    Lana Reply:

    About 25 years ago we had a terrible problem with raccoons. Hubby bungied the lids down on the trashcans. That night we heard a curious thumping sound outside. Two raccopns were rolling our square trashcan down the side of the house and toward the woods where we joked that they must have had power tools to remove the lid!! Wish we had it on video!

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    Danielle B Reply:

    Wow! lol. I’d bungie cord the lid too… but I’ve had a raccoon EAT thru a lid! This one can get the lid open on their own. And manage to move it 5-10 ft!

  10. says

    We got ants in our bathroom of all places… I used vinegar for a few days and they left. I had never heard of using cornmeal. I will have to keep that in mind. It doesn’t smell! :)

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  11. Angie says

    I’ve heard that food grade diatomaceous earth will kill them–I’ve never used it, but am actually planning on getting some this week. People and pets can eat it, it’s supposed to help with fleas/ticks/ect for pets as well. Anyone have any experience with it?

    [Reply]

    Steph Reply:

    Yes! I just came here to post about that. I spread it along the edges off our kitchen and pantry and the ants were gone within a few days. I didn’t have success with other non-toxic methods, but this worked really well.

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    Kristina Reply:

    I’ve heard of this before… where do you get it from?

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    melanie Reply:

    I bought some at the feed store where we buy for our livestock.

    Stephanie Reply:

    I got it from a local nursery, as it’s used in organic gardening as well.

  12. says

    I have ants in my raised vegetable beds. Every year I have to count to 5 real quick and plant my vegetables as quick as I can before the ants swarm my hands. It is a pain but I have learned to work with them. You gotta love all of God’s creatures.

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  13. says

    We use grits. I sprinkle grits on any ant-beds out in the yard. Same thing, they eat it – it swells in their stomach – they die.

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  14. says

    Okay, so this is neither non toxic or natural, but it works the best for me. Terro. It only takes a little drop, the ants have a little party at the Terro drop, invite their HUGE friends back the next day (make sure to give them a refill!) and then they’re done after a day or two. You can put it in a high spot or an unreachable spot (behind the garbage can, between the oven and the cupboards on the floor etc) so pets and kids can’t get to it. $3-$4 at Walmart (or any walmart like store) and you’re done. I’m sorry it’s not natural, but I haven’t had a drop of luck with the natural fixes. We must have very hearty ants here in Minnesota!

    [Reply]

    Heather Reply:

    I second the Terro. It is the ONLY thing that works for our just barely south of the Mason Dixon line ants. We get a nasty case every year and the Terro wipes them out. I believe it is just a borax mixture. We poke holes in canisters with lids and put the Terro inside. It has not been an issue for our family of cats and a toddler. You do need to keep refilling it until the ants quit taking it…but it works and is cheap.

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  15. danielle says

    OH I HATE ANTS! last year we had a heck of a time with them…but when you have little ones throwing crumbs around like confetti i guess it tends to happen! We did use terro last year and it worked really well but i guess when we moved here we had these flowers i cant remember what they are called planted all around the house and i guess it takes ants to eat all the sticky stuff on the outside of the bloom for them to open and so the ants would have a HUGE party and then once they bloomed there was nothing to eat anymore so they came inside :( grrrrr! and we can’t kill the stupid flowers either! lol so we still have the problem i am going to try the grits and cornstarch thing cause the ants nests are in the grass out front LOADS OF THEM :(

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  16. Nancy Simmonds says

    About Borax…it is harmful to children, but if you can use it away from them, mix 1 T. of Borax to 1/4 C. of Confectioner’s Sugar and sprinkle in your kitchens and bathrooms. They take it back to their ant beds and it kills them. Just remember that it can be harmful to kids.

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  17. Karen C. says

    I had to laugh when you said that in your home town, you call your Aunts, Ants, I am from a small town in Iowa and we call our Aunts, Ants too. When I moved to SD, I found it very funny that they call there Aunts, Awe – nts. Like they are in awe or something. Then, I felt weird calling my Aunts, Ants and have come to call them Awenties instead. Much sweeter and cuter than Awe-nts.

    Thanks for the helpful hints. I have also heard of sprinkling chili powder or paprika around the ants.

    [Reply]

    Karen C. Reply:

    sprinkling it around the ants helps to keep them away.

    Also, a mixture of borax and grape jelly. They take the jelly to their
    colony and it is supposed to help kill them.

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  18. Dana says

    I was hoping the suggestions wouldn’t include cleaning anything…….:( Sometimes I feel like an ant picking up all the crumbs behind my little ones!

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  19. Lisa says

    They don’t like to walk across baby powder, so I sprinkle baby powder around the outside of the front of my house, especially the front door. I reapply often and it seems to help.

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  20. Jane says

    I spray the foundation with distilled vinegar twice a year. Spring and Summer. Haven’t had an ant in the house since I started doind this.

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  21. Kate says

    My grandmother always put cucumber rinds in the doorways to repel ants – at least until we got a dog who thought cucumber rinds were the height of gourmet grub. Nan was more than a bit perplexed trying to figure out where on earth those rinds were going until she caught the pup in the act! :)

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  22. Olivia G. says

    I would be careful about sprinkling cornmeal or any type of grain in your pantry or kitchen b/c of mealworms and weevils. YUCK! One pest to another is not victory… lol… I have also only used Terro in the past and it worked, but the vinegar would probably be the best bet, or the Borax mix up high away from kids… hope this helps!

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  23. Jane says

    I keep a small teacup full of whole coffee beans on my kitchen counter, every since I read somewhere that ants don’t like the smell of coffee. I haven’t seen an ant since. The lovely benefit of this is that my kitchen usually always smells like coffee, and that isn’t bad at all!

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  24. Kathleen K says

    Borax can be toxic to small children and pets, so use with extreme caution.

    We used to have this problem too. (The ant problem, not the aunt problem!) I solved it with Terro bait traps from Lowe’s. They aren’t natural so we used them near doors (outside) and in cabinets, out of children’s curious fingers. I worked harder to keep the kitchen clean. Yes, that really is part of it. And I wiped down the counters with a damp cloth sprinkles with essential oil of peppermint (or spearmint or lavender, depending on my mood). Within a few days, the problem was completely eliminated. Plus, my kitchen was cleaner and smelled fresh.

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  25. Kristina says

    My sister used chili powder and baby powder as a barrier for ants with good success. I wish ants were my only problem. Does anyone have a natural rememdy for pincher bugs? I kill 5-10 in my house EVERYDAY! And there are hundreds on the wall outside at night. We live in a rural area and also usually have spiders and the occasional centepede in the house. I’m a city girl and my babes are 1 and 2 so I am just not used to all these bugs! I would love to hear any and all suggestions… thanks!!

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  26. KimL says

    Thanks for these wonderful tips! I had no idea about the peppermint or bay leaves! Also, thanks to the 1st commenter regarding the boiling water idea. We have a lot of big ant hills around here. One summer I caught our littlest guys putting grasshoppers on the ant hills and watching them feast. I’m not thrilled with our abundance of grasshoppers we get here either. EEK!

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  27. Lisa says

    We lived in Alabama during a drought and the ants came in looking for water and never left. We swept them up by the hundreds, several times a day. Nothing seemed to work.

    If you are bitten by fire ants, spread regular toothpaste on the bitten area right away. It generally takes away the itch. If a “pimple” has already formed, we pinch them first and then apply the toothpaste.

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  28. Charlotte Moore says

    How funny your ant, aunt story is. I love it!!!

    We have never had any success with grits to repel the ants or kill them. We do nit have small children or grandchildren so we could use anything. My husband has spent a good bit trying to get rid of the “hotels” of ants from our yard. We still have way too many.

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  29. Lana says

    We use the plastic ant traps outside where we see ants and in ant beds. Rain does not seem bother them. They work quite well and we have eliminated some long time ant beds without putting chemicals in the ground water. If we put them on our deck we have to staple them down with the staple gun because our squirrels steal them!

    One reason ants come inside is to get water in dry weather. I have found that putting a jar lid full of water on the window sill of the kitchen and bathroom windows often keeps them from coming inside.

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  30. says

    I don’t know if it would be considered “natural,” but it is non-toxic – ultrasonic pest repellers. Plug into a standard outlet and you’re done.

    I bought Bell & Howell from Carol Wright Gifts: (http://www.carolwrightgifts.com/Outdoor-Garden/Pest-Control/Bell-Howell-Ultrasonic-Pest-Repeller/10496.cfm?clickSource=SEARCH)

    I had a horrible ant problem last year, plus some spiders, which I hate. I tried black pepper, chili powder, vinegar with the ants with no success. I bought these repellers and haven’t had any trouble this year with ants, and I’ve had a lot fewer spiders and other pests! Some are made only for mice and rats, so make sure you get the kind that are for insects, too. I love mine and have one in nearly every room as suggested. At the link above, you can get three for $20.
    It is important to keep your affected area very clean, while you’re first using the product.

    I haven’t tried diatomaceous earth, but I have heard that it’s very effective. I would be leery of using the Borax + sugar method as I have very young children, one crawling soon, who are not afraid to pick something up off the floor and put it in their mouths.

    Hope this helps!

    [Reply]

  31. Aimee says

    Last year we were having an ant problem and I noticed they were coming in through the back sliding glass door so I smeared Vaseline all around the doorway and we haven’t had a problem since!

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  32. Jeri says

    Well, I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. Since I live in Papua New Guinea, I thought it was normal to have ants in the house. I’m in the States right now and was cracking up yesterday when my sister saw ONE ant in the house and starting going crazy. I thought she was pretty fortunate to just have one walking around. We’re used to having them walk all over the place – even when we keep it clean. I guess they’re almost like part of the family in some places, just like aunts. :)

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Welcome back to the states Jeri!! Are you guys back for good or just for a visit?

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  33. Lisa says

    My grandmother made a small bouquet of mint and placed it on her window sill. It kept the ants away and didn’t look too bad.

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  34. Nicole says

    We had a BAD (I can’t stress that enough) ant problem last year. I searched online for a natural way to get rid of them and couldn’t find anything. I ended up using raid and felt awful about it b/c I had a crawling baby. Thankfully it was in an area that we generally kept blocked off, so after a few days of no ants I mopped and mopped and mopped – with vinegar. I’m currently battling japanese beetles and squash bugs in my garden. The squash bugs have killed 2 plants and are moving on to #3. I was almost in tears yesterday. I cannot figure out how to get rid of them. We’ve used insecticidal soap and picked them off but they just come back. I do NOT want to use a harmful chemical so they are winning. And the japanese beetles; ooh they anger me!!!! DESTROYING my green beans and peaches! If anyone has any tips PLEASE let me know!

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  35. Vicki Ronsick says

    I second the diatomaceous earth. We put it down on ant trails outside, feed it to the chickens and horses and use it for other bugs when we need to. It will kill them and it cuts down on flies in the manure from the livestock. It is also supposed to work as a wormer for dogs, but I haven’t tried that yet.

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  36. Kelly says

    I read a couple years back to squirt some Dawn over their trail. I’ve done it in years past and it worked great. Forgot about it this year and had them all over the sink area then remembered that trick. All I had was the white Dawn with lotion in it, but it worked fine. The kitchen is now ant-free! Maybe it’s the same idea as the lady who used Vaseline… they don’t want to get stuck in the goo? I’m not sure why it works but it does.

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  37. Carol says

    I put black pepper in my window sills. Keeps the ants away. If some get on my counter I use vinegar.

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  38. Mary says

    I have had good luck with baby powder. If I put up a line where they are coming in they won’t cross it. I think it is the talc they don’t like.

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  39. kyKelly Zimmer says

    We live on a small residential island in So. Md and this year have had the worst weather, a earthquake, Hurricane Irene, and renments of TS Lee. We have well water and since the rains have
    soaked the ground with a high water table, I have had drowned ants in my water, to the point I wont use the house water anymore. Ive let the well almost run dry by running the outside waterline but it hasnt helped.
    Im about to get desperate by spraying an insecticide but id like to try ana natural remedy first. Im going to go by vaseline but im sure that only works for so ling.
    Any ideas? Any help will be great!

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  40. Joy Beum says

    I just went to the Terro website and they stated that the ingredients in Terro are borax and a sweet syrup. Sounds safe to me.

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  41. Rob says

    Borax is not harmful in small doses to humans. It actually is an antidote for flouride poisoning if a child should eat a tube of yummy toothpaste. Half teaspoon in a gallon of water is a good fix for intestinal fungal infection. Go to earthclinic.com to learn more.

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  42. Sue Watson says

    Ants also will not cross anything with a citrus (mainly lemon) scent, so if you make a trail of any lemon scented dishwashing liquid(I use Joy) across any place an ant can get in you will be safe. The problem is that a lot of time they find their way in in hidden cracks in the foundation etc. You just have to backtrack until you can fine that place.

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  43. Dianna says

    The ants in our house have decided to find a different spot. In our Master bathroom shower and floor. I have tried to watch them to see where they lead back from. They seem to have found a spot above the shower wall and also go along the ceiling. I checked our pantry in the kitchen to see if there was a connection beings how our shower and the kitchen pantry are a wall away from each other , but found nothing. So frustrating.

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  44. BellaB says

    Hi everyone! I am an Atlanta girl living in Vienna, Austria. We live in a 6th floor apartment and every spring we get a bad ant invasion in our kitchen. I tried the black pepper and cinnamon, and it works a little bit, but since they come down a wall, I need something that sticks to the wall and is cheap. I couldn’t find that chalk you talk about, but will spray vinegar on the wall where they come in. Let’s see of that will work!

    [Reply]

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