Ants aren’t all that different from us. Like us, they are looking for food, shelter, and water. Remove their access to these resources in your home and you can greatly reduce their interest in making your home a permanent residence. Because like us, if they can’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll look for it somewhere else. And you want that somewhere else to be outside, in their natural environment. That is rule #1 in getting rid of ants.
1. Wipe up crumbs and spills immediately
Ants seem to start out on your floors and on your countertops. They are there because your crumbs and spills are there. Make a habit of sweeping up crumbs right away. Spills should be wiped up, and if sticky, should be cleaned with soap and water or another appropriate cleanser.
2. Keep food in sealed containers
Opened bags of chips, crackers, cereals, and other snacks should be rolled up tightly and kept closed with a clothespin or other similar device. Sugar and flour should be placed in airtight containers. Honey, maple syrup, and other sticky-sweet goodies should be stored in the refrigerator.
3. Dispose of garbage appropriately and regularly
Keeping food scraps in your household garbage is a huge no-no, especially in the summer. Invest in an outdoor composter and put raw food scraps in the composter, immediately. Raw food scraps include potato peels, banana peels, lettuce ends, carrot tops, and any other uncooked food. You can also toss your egg shells, coffee grinds and teabags into your composter. Make sure to keep your compost bin far away from home’s foundation. We like to use my grandmother’s method of eliminating cooked food scraps. In the summer, my grandmother would put cooked food scraps in a plastic bag and put this bag in the freezer until trash pick-up day. Any food scraps left in your regular trash are a homing beacon to hungry ants.
4. Keep pet food and water dishes clean
Your pet’s food bowl is easy-pickins for ants. Serve your pet only the amount of food that she will eat in one sitting. Any leftover dry kibble should be tossed or put back in the bag for tomorrow. Wet food leftovers should be treated like cooked food scraps (see above). Your pet’s water bowl should be cleaned regularly to avoid an accumulation of food residue or the stray bloated kibble. Your pet’s dry kibble bag should be kept in a airtight container.
5. Seal any cracks and holes on the outside of the home with silicone caulk
Silicone caulk is readily available at any of the big box home improvement stores. Your local hardware store is also likely to carry silicone caulk. Youtube can provide you with a quick tutorial, if you need one, on how to apply caulk to exterior cracks.
6. Repair holes or gaps in window and door screens
Big box home improvement stores sell screen repair kits, but truthfully they can often be a pain. Oftentimes, your local hardware store can be your best resource when you have a rip in a screen. Our neighborhood hardware store fixes screens for $2-$5 a screen. You take them out of the window, drive them down, and often can pick them up the next day.
7. Replace weather-stripping
Your doors and windows can provide easy entry for not only you and your expected guests, but also the unexpected and unwanted guests—ants. Inspect your doors and windows regularly and replace any loose or damaged weather-stripping. These materials are cheap and easy to use. In most cases, you roll it out, remove the backing, and just stick it on.
8. Repair loose mortar around basement foundation and windows
This is a task best left to the professionals. Surprisingly, masons are not as expensive as one might think. Look up a reputable mason, or get a good solid reference from a dependable source.
9. Keep tree branches and other shrubbery well trimmed and away from the house
This is another situation where you may want to call the professionals. We’ve all heard the stories about the neighbor who insists on cutting his trees himself, on a step ladder, with a chainsaw. Save yourself the trip to the emergency room (and the humiliation), and call a tree surgeon to trim your overhanging trees. You can likely take care of the low shrubbery yourself with a good set of hedge clippers.
Still have ants?
If ants persist, despite all your best attempts, a professional pest removal service will be your best bet. A good service technician can provide preventative pest control that can often be environmentally friendlier than you might think. Ants are smart and catch on pretty quick. Once they know your home is being maintained regularly, they will lose interest and look for their resources elsewhere.