How to Get Rid of Ants in the Kitchen
By: Rita Stadler
Ants tend to migrate towards the kitchen because that’s where they find all of the food! When they find an entry into a kitchen space and come across a food source, they are most likely going to stay.
Help get rid of ants by deep cleaning your space and organizing the food storage areas as much as possible. Store foods in airtight containers. Clean the counters and other surfaces with a 50/50 vinegar-water mix that includes a couple of drops of dish soap. Then, use a botanical repellent to keep the ants from coming back. Stay Away® Ants & Cockroaches is a fast-acting, plant-based repellent that emits a scent that’s pleasant to people, but offensive to ants. It’s made with a mix of peppermint, lemongrass, and other oils and can be stored in cabinets and pantries to help keep the pests away.
Learn more information about the kitchen ant (same as regular ants), what attracts them, what they don’t like, and a real-life story about an infestation from one of our employees, below.
All About Kitchen Ants
From an ant’s perspective, there really couldn’t be a cozier place to call home than your kitchen. We’ve profiled this pest so you can understand their point of view which will help you get rid of them in your own home.
What They Like
- Junk food — These pests work out so much that they can eat whatever they want. Leftover take-out, sticky sweet soda on the floor, cake crumbs, and crushed potato chips. They like it all! You’ll often find ants in kitchen areas where food falls and isn’t likely to be seen, like under the stove, in the pantry, and in air vents.
- Moisture — Carpenter ants like damp areas, which is why you’ll often find them beneath the sink or even under laminate flooring.
- Pets — Pet food is like a 24 hour all-you-can-eat buffet for these pests.
- Girl power — Males are only good for one thing if you know what I mean, but female ants run the world!! The females supply the ant colony with food, maintain the nest, defend the queen, and take care of other needs.
What They Dislike
- Landscaping — Well-manicured lawns and grounds make it harder for ants to get inside buildings. Overgrown shrubs help them climb inside. Look around your house for any easy entry points and figure out ways to block them.
- Barriers — They are strong, but sensitive, and don’t like walking across certain substances, like chalk lines or diatomaceous earth.
- Strong smells — Their sense of smell is very acute, and while it comes in handy to help find food, perfumes or fresh-cut herbs can give them a real headache. That’s why scented repellents work!
- The Vacuum — Suck them up and let them back out into the wild where they should be.
- Cleaning up — Whether it’s the crumbs on your kitchen floor or a deceased housefly in the windowsill, these pests are like a non-stop cleaning crew.
- Sidewalk wars — Pavement ants are territorial. They usually nest outside and must defend their turf against other colonies — and they always win!
- Tending to the queen — Worker ants are sterile — only the queen can have babies, so she’s really important.
What Ants ARE Looking For
They will give you space in your home by keeping their nest outdoors, but they are looking for a good place to bring their crew of fellow workers into to clean up crumbs and any other messes they may find. If you leave any leftovers lying around, or some sweets sitting out, they will help themselves.
What They are NOT Looking For
Ants are not interested in perfectionism. If you missed a spot when you were sweeping, they’ll take care of it! If you’ve tried getting rid of them before and it didn’t work, persistence always pays off. They can’t stand it when they have to keep foraging for food and the areas keep getting more clean and organized.
Now that you know more about these pests and why they tend to reside in your kitchen space, hopefully, you understand what to do to keep them out. Cleanliness and proper storage are two DIY solutions that are key. Here’s a true story from one of our EarthKind employees about her harrowing journey to getting rid of her ant problem.
How I Got Rid of Ants in My Kitchen
By: Rita Stadler
If anybody should know how to have a pest-free home, as an employee at EarthKind, it should be me. Sadly, pest problems can happen to anyone and they are incredibly persistent. You don’t have to just deal with it, though, and you don’t have to resort to harmful chemicals or expensive exterminators, either. Here’s my tale about how I learned to get rid of ants in the kitchen for good.
Chapter 1: Ants Enter Homes Because of the Rain
Summertime in Florida is the rainy season. It was after 2-3 days of constant downpour that my 7-year-old informed me of ants crawling along the mopboard in our front room. Knowing that most are harmless, I didn’t even bother looking. Honestly, I forgot all about it until the next day when she told me they were still there. Observing the invading ants with my toddler, we found the tiny crack they were using as an entry point. I sealed the opening with silicone caulk and felt like a true pest control pro for remaining unruffled.
Chapter 2: They Stay in the Kitchen Because of the Food
A day later, my daughter reached for a banana on the kitchen counter and found more ants. My cavalier attitude was turning to frustration — I had just bought those bananas yesterday! Suppressing the urge to kill the little buggers, I watched them walk along my countertops and noticed they were coming from behind the stove. Fortunately, the ants were only under the stove and not inside the oven!
I cleaned the kitchen, steam mopping the floors, and wiping down every surface with a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water plus a few drops of dish soap. This got rid of every crumb, jelly smear, and drip-drop of juice my family of 6 had spilled, along with every pheromone trail the pests may have left behind. Even though the bananas were a total loss, looking around a sparkling clean kitchen left me with a sense of satisfaction.
But the next day, my worst fear came true. They were now in my pantry. My patience with this ant invasion had been exhausted. I was worried about how much food I’d have to throw out and realizing I couldn’t possibly use ant spray that close to my kids’ snacks.
Chapter 3: Ants Go Away When the Home Become Inhospitable
I knew what I had to do. For a long time, I’d been pinning pictures of Pinterest-perfect organized pantries and kept procrastinating the work. Now I had no choice.
I observed these six-legged savages and noticed they were coming out of a gap where the laminate flooring and the mopboard didn’t quite meet, then climbing up my wall and disappearing into a box. The box was a bag of candy corn I bought for half price after Halloween and then forgotten about. I hid it so no one would find my stash. Even though I had no idea it was there, these sweet-seeking insects had zeroed in on their food source and were executing a precise strike.
I took every single item out of my pantry and inspected it carefully. Anything that was already open, like sugar, flour, instant mashed potato flakes, etc… was placed inside a Ziploc bag or airtight container. The walls, shelves, baseboards, and floor got the vinegar treatment. Every single item (except the candy stash) was returned to the pantry shelves in an orderly manner.
And then, for the coup de grace to this ant infestation, I added a new Pouch Pod from EarthKind® and a pouch of Stay Away® Ants & Cockroaches. I hung the pouch pod from the top pantry shelf, and the minty herbal scent helped to keep the ants away.
I inspected the pantry 2-3 times a day afterward and didn’t find anything. The only reminder of my encounter is a neat and tidy space and the botanical scent of Stay Away®.