Finding ants in your home is no picnic. At certain times of the year, they seem to arrive in steady streams, scouting out snacks along the kitchen counter or traveling from one unknown location to another using your home's interior as part of their path. While the best way to stop an invasion of ants is to find out how they're getting in and block the holes, some strong-scented substances, such as peppermint oil, temporarily deter them. In the meantime, removing any items that may attract these pests helps minimize the amount of time they spend in your home.
Clean Up Messes First
If ants are abundant in one area of your home, there's a good chance they've found food. Much like when ants find a piece of fruit or a potato chip dropped on a sidewalk, they invite all their friends along for the feast. Wipe up any crumbs, put away foods that might attract ants, and clean up spilled substances, such as maple syrup or jam, as sugary foods attract some ant species. Cleaning up any food particles and spills immediately after they happen helps cut back on the chances of ant infestations. Even if ants do come indoors during rainy weather or like clockwork in early spring, they won't stick around as long if there's no reason to stay.
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Stopping Ants in Their Tracks
Ants rely on the pheromone scent trail left by other ants to figure out the best path to whatever interests them, such as a tasty food source. When you've spotted more than one or two ants in your home at the same time, you might see quite a few of them traveling specifically along a baseboard, the window frame, or behind the sink. Once they've established a trail, you'll keep seeing ants along this path until it's disrupted.
Clean the areas with the most ant activity using a household cleaner suitable for the surface, such as an all-purpose cleaner or a mix of equal parts vinegar and water for a laminate countertop. Erasing the scent trail confuses ants, so you're less likely to find a plethora of them in the same area once you've cleaned.
Peppermint Oil to Deter Ants
Peppermint essential oil emits a pure peppermint fragrance with no additives, and it's entirely natural. Some pests, such as mice, don't care for the aroma at all. For ant control, the peppermint scent disrupts their ability to locate the ant pheromone trail. Add 10 to 20 drops of pure peppermint essential oil to 2 cups water in a spray bottle, place the sprayer top securely on it, and then spray the areas where ants travel with a light mist of the peppermint water. Don't spray it on surfaces that may be harmed, such as delicate antique furniture.
If you suspect ants are entering from a general area but can't find the particular entrance, soak the top of a cotton ball with straight peppermint essential oil and then set the cotton ball on a small plastic lid or similar item, setting them together in the suspected ant entrance area. For instance, if you think they're entering through a window or near the patio door, place the cotton ball nearby. The downside to using fragrances as repellents is that the scent eventually fades. Respray surfaces with the peppermint mist as needed and add more oil to the cotton balls when you no longer notice a strong peppermint aroma.