Non-Toxic Ant Control

Let me just put it out there that if there is such a thing as reincarnation ... I'm in deep sh*t.
Particularly after this latest vendetta against the ants.

To be honest, I'm an overly-compassionate kind of insect killer ... I can't kill cockroaches, and I actually feel pangs of guilt when I crush a mosquito. But ants. You know, I'm fine with them outside - I know they're important to ecosystems and stuff. But trains of ants and ants and ants across the walls, up the walls, down the walls, into the walls, across the house. That I cannot stand. ARGH!!!!!

So, in my attempts to get these things under control using non-toxic means, I had to resort to:
  • chamomile
  • cinnamon
  • chili powder
  • lavender
  • peppermint
  • eucalyptus
  • borax + honey
  • borax + peanut butter
  • and chalk

It's been epic, let me tell you.

It's been a looooooong few weeks, with these ants. The painful thing is that they aren't particularly interested in food - just warm, happy nesting spots. Like my bamboo steamer. Or the bread maker. Or the space between the two sliding glass doors in the shower. Who can blame them? Winter's coming. It's getting snuggly cold out there at night, and I don't even have thousands of tiny eggs and a queen to tend.

I can't even in good conscience tell you I've 100% succeeded, because I'm still re-applying my ant control measures every couple of days ... and I still have a couple of ant trains. Just not in the dining room. (Out of sight, out of mind ... )

So, what's worked? I'll tell you what didn't work. Chamomile, cinnamon, chili powder, and peppermint did not work. Vodka did not work. White vinegar worked moderately. Borax in combination with tasty morsels of food did not work.

The ants and I were initially excited about borax + honey. Till they gave up on it 5 minutes later.

What worked? CHALK. I know, crazy. And I did look like a crazy lady colouring in my walls and door frames with good old fashioned white chalk. But you know what? Ants HATE the stuff. They won't walk across it, so it's a great way to 
  • stop ant trails in their tracks, and
  • block entry points (if you can find them - this is one of my sticking points)

I know, it's a bit of a fashion statement for the house - but if you have light coloured walls like we do, you'll hardly notice the chalked bits. I coloured in corners and edges and doorframes and windows and places where the ants were coming in or trekking through. Eventually when I have this thing under control I'll wipe off the chalk, yes. But till then? I look at it and fondly remember battles won.

My chalked dining room walls. Bet you could even do it stylistically ...

What else worked? EUCALYPTUS OIL. I love the stuff - it wins yet again. Pop it in a spray bottle in a 50:50 ratio with water, attack, and win back your walls (!). The spray technique works particularly well in combination with chalking, as the ant trails will bunch up at chalk-points and you can nail them with eucalyptus there. (Sorry, little fellas). Plus the house smells really nice, fresh, and sinus-clearing.

Non-toxic ant control. I wouldn't say it's easy - it's certainly not as easy as dumping ant powder or spraying your house - but it's a helluva lot nicer for you and the environment. What about you? Do you have any non-toxic ant remedies to confess share?
Amanda xx


  1. chalk hey? i never woulda thought of it. but in a similar vein i use bicarb to do the same job - the wont walk on it. but it doesn't get rid of them, just keeps them away from certain areas!

  2. I love your scientific approach to solving this problem! Once a PhD student - always a PhD student. You should totally write this up and submit for publication!!!!

  3. I heard that chalk works and I'm glad it is working for you. I've also heard that baby powder works.

  4. Ants, ugh. I found two in my kitchen the other day, and am feeling a little iffy about future incursions, so it's definitely great to know about the chalk and eucalyptus oil. Thanks!

  5. Yes, baby powder does work...but I like the chalk idea better. Easier to apply and less messy. Thanks for the idea!

  6. I like the baking soda idea for sprinkling in doorways - THANKS for the suggestion! But chalk is easier to apply to vertical surfaces for sure :)

    Happy ant hunting!

  7. PS - Lauren ... you don't work for Nature, or Science, perchance? Haha

  8. Ha ha - nope, Sorry Amanda, I work for The Lancet. Just kidding!

  9. Have you ever tried bay leaves? My mom swore by them growing up. She would crumble up the leaves and sprinkle them along the ant path. It's supposed to disrupt their pheromone trail or something. It always seemed to work pretty well. But the chalk idea is wonderful! Hopefully I won't have occasion to use it soon, but it's good to know!

  10. Bay leaves, no ... but my little ants were clever ones. Whatever I used to disrupt their scent trail was fleeting! Bay/cinnamon/chamomile/peppermint ... those might just work on less tenacious ant-types! :)

  11. My attempts:
    Cornmeal. I've been leaving it in a dish near the trail that's not in the way. Supposedly they can't digest it and take it back to the nest and share it.
    I've tried to just get after them when in the house but our backyard is over run! I sat on the grass for five minutes and had three on me. Luckly none of the at least 3 types seem bite much.
    vinegar and then boiling water on the hill I can see. Inside has been better but every few days new hills pop up. I want to stay natural for the kids, but I've been getting a bit discouraged. I will have to try eucalyptus oil.

  12. @marciabrady79Oops. totally forgot to mention that I tried cornmeal and boiling water in my failed attempts ... boy oh boy. Not sure how to tackle OUTDOOR ant problems!

    Good luck :)

  13. This may seem like a dumb question...but I blame the ants in my kids room for taking my thinking power...where do you buy eucalyptus oil?

  14. Hi Nicole,
    Here in Australia you can find it at any of the supermarkets - it's a little harder to find in the US but have a look in the natural health section of large supermarkets. You could definitely find it in natural foods stores, or even on Amazon. I just had a quick look. You don't need 'therapeutic' or anything, just 100% straight eucalyptus :)

  15. Here in the south we have had drenching weather and heat. With that, for the first time in over 5 yrs, I have had an influx of large red ants ( yes the biting kind) and also bees, in the house!.. look like the wasp family but different than I have seen before. I freaked out when I went into the kitchen a few weeks ago and there were about 20 of those bees and a mess of red ants during a huge storm.. Fighting serious disease and health probs I do not like to use bug killing chemicals, but also cannot handle bugs in the house. so I researched and found a natural concoction to kill those dear little critters... 1/2 cp water, 1/2 cp white vinegar, 3 large squirts dish soap, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. they hate it, so run the other way, but also if they go through it, within a few mins.. they are no longer with you...I go through the house daily spraying door ways, sills, sink edges, outdoor ledges etc. it is a little extra work but it so far, has kept them at bay, minus a few stragglers occasionally. I did notice outside the door that the little black ants didn't seem bothered , nor did they die, so if you have little black ants inside, not sure it will work on them.

  16. Every year we have a scourge of tiny black ants that demolish our apartment. What seems to work the most is cooking spray oil. Nothing else comes close although it is terribly messy. It helps to erase their trail markers and kills them pretty fast. I like that it is non-toxic as I get the kind you cook with. It is messy though and we still get ants every year. We think our apartment has them in the walls and/or underneath the building making it impossible to seal them out completely. I'm going to try the chalk next to see if it will also help.


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Thanks for commenting! Amandaxx