If you are an essential oil lover experiencing an ant infestation, especially in kitchen or walls, you are probably wondering why on earth ants even exist and more importantly whether you can use essential oils to get rid of ants.
The idea of ants coming into contact with your food is far from appetizing, not to mention the cost of damage to walls, other structures, and electrical wires from chewing ants. Quite frankly, ants could be a nuisance.
But, as much as ants are a nuisance and an insect we’d rather just didn't bother us, these little insects do bring benefits to our planet.
- Ants help with soil aeration and drainage. While we might think that worms are what create all of those tunnels in the soil that allow proper flow of water and nutrition, it is actually ants that do a much better job. Ants build their nests within the soil and construct tunnels to move from place to place. Through the process of building and connecting these tunnels and nests, they move the soil around, which helps with that aforementioned flow.
- Ants help to keep the soil at a neutral pH level and ensure that the soil stays rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, which is vital for plant growth. Nitrogen is vital as it is a component in chlorophyll, which is how plants use the energy from sunlight to produce sugars from carbon dioxide and water (the concept of photosynthesis). Phosphorous also plays a role in photosynthesis as well as a variety of processes in plants. It helps with the stimulation of root development, improved strength in the plant’s stalk and stems, enhanced flower formation and production of seeds, and so much more.
- If you’ve ever seen the 1998 animated film Antz, you enjoyed watching the ants transport a variety of seeds. While in this case, the seeds were intended to feed a diabolical grasshopper, the actual process of seed transformation to the ant's nests, is quite real. Ants transport these seeds to nutrient-rich habitats and protect the seeds from seed-eating animals. This movement and dispersal of seeds is called myrmecochory carries the seeds to desirable locations for germination.
- Ants prey on other pets that we don't particularly care for, such as ticks and termites. Ants can even feed on more giant insects, or arthropods, such as scorpions or stinkbugs.
So, while we might not care for ants much, they do good for our earth. But then, how do we keep them out of our homes, and prevent the destruction that they cause?
And, how do we get rid of ants safely without posing additional health risks to our family members by using hazardous chemicals?
Ants play a key role in the environment. However, if you have to keep them out of your home, and prevent the destruction that they can also cause then natural approaches are preferred. Using essential oils is both an effective, natural and safe way to keep ants at bay.
First, know where to find the ants
While we know that ants like to work their way into our kitchens and wall spaces, it is important to understand more specifically where they like to frequent, so that we can target our methods to get rid of them. Ants are most likely to be found in these places:
- Kitchen cabinets, especially where food is stored
- Pantry shelves
- Garbage pails
- Recycling bins
- Pet food containers and feeding dishes
Though you may find ants in these places, it does not mean that you are practicing poor hygiene or inadequate home cleaning practices. Sometimes, despite your best intentions, these little bugs work their way in and get comfortable.
Ants are tenacious and have a primitive survival instinct. So, if they find a place where they can be warm and fed, they are likely to keep coming back.
Putting essential oils to use for ant extermination
Ants smell through their antennae, which have hair-like sensilia that contain sensory neurons.
There are a variety of scents that ants do not care for, and while essential oils may smell pleasant to humans, that is not the case for ants.
Furthermore, the smells from the oils interfere with the pheromones that ants use for coordination. When you put essential oils around critical places in your home, you mask that pheromone, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for ants to lead other ants to your home or property.
The best essential oils to get rid of ants in your home include:
- Tea Tree
Cedarwood essential oil, in particular, does an excellent job of keeping ants from moving towards food. Thus, cedarwood oil is very effective for fire ants, which are very aggressive, especially during the season they are most likely to forage (May to September).
As most bugs and insects are sensitive to moisture loss, cedarwood essential oil is effective because it works to leach moisture from insects, which leaves them dried out, and eventually kills them.
When cedarwood oil comes into contact with eggs, larvae, and pupae, it can dissolve them on contact, including their exoskeleton. This helps to prevent your home or walls becoming a breeding ground from fire ants, which work to destroy the structures inside your walls.
Cedarwood essential oil also can help repel ticks and fleas, and when diluted in water and sprayed on your skin, the cedarwood oil and water mix works well as a natural bug spray.
If you prefer a natural bug repellent, or if your home has been subject to fire ants in the past, keep a small bottle of cedarwood essential oil mixed with water, and store the bottle in a cool and dry place.
The diluted oil can be sprayed on furniture, and into crevices and cracks to help with bugs. On a different note, if you have a moth problem, you can also pour a few drops of cedarwood oil onto a cotton ball, and place the oiled balls in your closet, on your hanger, or inside of storage boxes to protect from future moth invasions.
If you like the scent of patchouli oil, it is known to be 80% effective in killing ants, and also works effectively on mosquitoes, fleas, live, moths, and flies.
If you have ants outside, you can add several drops of the patchouli oil to a small cloth or cotton ball, and tuck into the corner of your garden, or in an affected area, to help repel them from entering. If you have an oil burner, you can burn the oil inside, which will provide long-lasting effects.
However, not everyone enjoys the smell of patchouli, so while it will work to repel ants and other insects, note that the scent can seep into the fabric of your clothes and furniture.
Essential oil spray to get rid of ants
Once you have determined which essential oil to use to get rid of ants, it is time to get started. First, you will want to create a spray so that you can effectively treat impacted areas. According to the ants.com website, use the following ingredients to create an essential oil spray to get rid of ants.
- 3 drops of orange oil
- 10 drops of tea tree oil
- 15 drops of peppermint oil (or cedarwood oil, if preferred)
- One-quarter cup of water
- One-quarter cup of vodka
Mix these items together and pour into a spray bottle. Note that the vodka is a critical part of the recipe as it works as a solvent that helps to blend the three essential oils. Store your spray in a cool and dry place, or use immediately.
Spray your oil mixture directly to the areas that are impacted by the ants. Make sure you also spray into cracks and crevices, which is where the ants are likely entering and exiting your home.
You may also want to purchase a caulk or sealant to plug those cracks and crevices to prevent future entry by ants.
Filling those spaces with a waterproof sealant can also help to keep excess moisture from getting into your home, which can create mold or mildew-related damage and can weaken structures.
Once the ants have died, it is important to thoroughly clean the affected areas. Use an ammonia-based window cleaner, or a soapy-water solution, and scrub down the areas where the ants were present.
Be sure to wear a pair of kitchen gloves and use a new, soft sponge, to avoid scratching the surfaces, and to ensure that any remaining surviving ants do not come into contact with your skin.
In many cases, the use of soapy water or window cleaners can be equally effective in ridding the home of ants, as it often kills them on contact. And, when you combine this post-eradication cleaning method with the essential oil spray, you will more likely be able to create a long-term solution.
If you like the spray approach and you enjoy experimenting with essential oils, you can play scientist with various oils that you have in your inventory. Just remember that the vodka plays a critical role to help mix the oils together, and is, therefore, a crucial ingredient.
Essential oils to get rid of ants – the cotton ball method
For those who want an alternative solution to using essential oils for ant removal, and want to avoid the need for a spray bottle or even the use of alcohol, there are other options. Try this approach as an alternate method.
- Gather peppermint essential oil, a handful of cotton balls, a vacuum, a dry mop, and a surface cleaner spray.
- Remove all food from the area to be treated, and dispose of containers that do not have a proper seal. For non-perishable items that do not come in packages with a solid seal, consider relocating those items to sealable containers.
- Vacuum the area to remove crumbs or other loose particle materials.
- Thoroughly clean the area with soap and water or with your preferred all-natural surface cleaner.
- Place a few drops of peppermint oil on a cotton ball. Before, wiping down ant entry points, test a less visible area, to ensure that the oil doesn't have an adverse reaction to the surface. Peppermint essential oil is very potent, and it can strip paint or mar surfaces if you are not careful.
- Once your test area has dried, and you are confident that you will not do any damage, add more peppermint oil to the cotton ball, and wipe down any entry points where you believe ants are coming into your home. Also, wipe down baseboards, wall outlets, air vents, etc. Reload your cotton ball, or apply peppermint oil to a fresh cotton ball as needed to ensure you are able to cover all necessary spaces adequately.
While peppermint oil and cedarwood oil are often the most effective essential oils for use as an ant repellent, you can also use the same approach as the above with tea tree oil, clove oil, lemon oil or orange oil.
However, clove oil will work the best when combined with another oil, as the eugenol in the clove oil does not have a residual effect. This means that the result will wear off as the smell will dissipate, not long after application. Lemon or orange essential oils work as a great complement to the clove oil.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint essential oil has several health benefits including: alleviating headaches and energizing the body.
Vivorific’s peppermint essential oil is: 100% Pure and natural, free from fillers, additives and harmful chemicals, vegan and kosher certified and sealed with tamper evident closure and Euro style dropper cap.
The risk of using toxic chemicals in your home
If you still haven’t bought into the idea of using essential oils to get rid of ants in your home, be sure to conduct thorough research on the harms related to various ant-control chemicals.
Liquid ant baits often use Borax as the main ingredient. While highly effective for ant extermination, Borax is highly toxic and can be dangerous for pets and small children.
If your child accidentally ingests boric acid (Borax), it is crucial to contact poison control immediately at 1-800-222-1222.
Acute poisoning can be experienced with just a small dosage of boric acid, and repeated use can lead to chronic poisoning. Symptoms of boric acid poisoning include vomiting (will be blue-green in color), diarrhea, and a red rash on the skin.
You may also see blisters or sloughing of skin, and victims can experience convulsions, can collapse, and can develop a coma fever.
Do you have any additional tips on using essential oils to get rid of ants which were not mentioned in the blog post? We want to hear from you so share them in the comments below.