By Lori Bongiorno
More from The Conscious Consumer blog
Getty ImagesIt's definitely unnerving to see a line of ants marching across the kitchen floor. But you don't need to hire an expensive professional exterminator or spray toxic chemicals to banish nuisance ants from your home.
Pesticides can harm your family's health as well as your pets'. Plus, they don't get to the root of the problem.
Instead, try these tips for preventing ants from entering your home in the first place and banishing them once they get there. (Carpenter ants are a more serious problem, so make sure that those aren't what you're seeing in inside.)
Keep the ants from coming in
Seal cracks or holes where outdoor ants are entering the house. This will require less than an hour of your time and an inexpensive tube of caulk. It's also a good idea to trim the branches of trees or shrubs that touch your home so that ants can't crawl in through windows and doors.
Sprinkling cinnamon, cayenne pepper, or cloves where ants enter or gravitate to can deter them from moving in. Bay leaves, fresh mint, or peppermint tea bags also work well.
Starve the ants
You'll need to be a fastidious housekeeper while you're trying to get rid of ants because they feast on the tiniest crumbs or drops of water. If ants can't find anything to eat or drink, they will leave.
Keep food in containers with tight-fitting lids. Wash and dry dishes immediately. If you need to leave dishes in the sink, submerge them in soapy water. Wipe down your counters thoroughly. Sweep or vacuum up crumbs often. Take your garbage outside regularly.
Don't leave pet food and water dishes out overnight. If you need to, then place bowls in pans of soapy water.
Fix dripping faucets, leaks, and eliminate any standing water.
Banish ants from your house
Mix a teaspoon of liquid soap and water in a quart-size spray bottle and spray areas where the ants are active. This will drown the ants and destroy the chemical trails left by worker ants so it will prevent more ants from invading your home. Vinegar and water should also do the trick.
The Natural Resource Defense Council recommends making your own ant traps from a mixture of borax, sugar, and water. Be careful with these if you have young children or pets because it's not safe to ingest. Ants can't digest cornmeal properly so that's another way to get rid of them -- sprinkle it around holes or ant trails.
If all else fails and you decide to go for pesticides, use baits in closed cases instead of sprays.
You can also try to locate the nest and destroy the colony. Place honey or syrup on cardboard along ant trails and follow the thick trail of syrup to the nest. If the nest is outside, pour one or more pots of boiling water over it.
Indoor nests can be vacuumed up with a HEPA filter. Add a little cornstarch to the bag to suffocate ants, and dispose of the bag outside of your home.
Environmental journalist Lori Bongiorno shares green-living tips and product reviews with Yahoo! Green's users. Send Lori a question or suggestion for potential use in a future column. Her book, Green Greener Greenest: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-smart Choices a Part of Your Life is available on Yahoo! Shopping and Amazon.com.