Ants can be persistent pests, invading your house in search of food and water. While commercial chemical repellants can be very effective, peppermint oil is a natural and fragrant way to discourage them from entering your home and becoming a nuisance. Though peppermint oil won't kill the ants or destroy their nests, it can deter them in a natural, nontoxic way, making it a good choice for kitchens and other indoor areas.
Foraging for Food
Ants often enter homes in search of sweet and greasy food particles, so kitchens and storerooms are especially susceptible to infestation. Scout ants enter through small cracks and crevices around windows, doors and foundations. If they find a good food source, these scouts then return to the nest -- leaving an invisible chemical trail of pheromones for other ants to follow. Worker ants follow the trail from the nest to the food source and then carry food particles back to the nest to feed the larvae.
Peppermint Oil as a Deterrent
To successfully control ants in your home, you need to remove their food source by storing attractive food items in closed containers and cleaning up grease and spills, and it's also important to break the scent trail the ants are following. Ants rely on chemical signals to navigate toward food and their nest, so removing their trail with soap and water, or using negative signals or repellents such as peppermint oil will disturb the chemical trail and discourage the ants from coming back.
You can buy peppermint oil at most health food stores or online. Using a fine-mist spray bottle, mix 2 to 3 tablespoons of peppermint oil with 1 quart of distilled water or a combination of half distilled water and half high proof alcohol, which helps better disburse the oil. Shake well, and spray liberally around suspected entry points; pay special attention to areas around doors and windows. Do a small spot test on a hidden area first to make sure the spray doesn't damage surfaces. Spray along baseboards and under sinks and cupboards as well. Drops of peppermint oil can also be placed on cotton balls and tucked in areas of possible entry.
While regular applications of peppermint oil will help to deter most ants, it's best when used in conjunction with other ant control methods. Different types of ants require different methods, you should identify the type of ant you're dealing with before deciding on a plan of attack. Successful eradication of nests and being diligent about removing food sources will help ensure your home stays ant free.
A former wedding coordinator and floral/event designer, Wren Smart took her skills as an artist and designer on the road where she attends events and showcases her crafts. Smart is the author of the blogs wrenscottagenest.com and fortheloveoflillian.com where she writes about home care and showcases her DIY and craft projects, and is a regular contributor on Hometalk.com.