How to keep ants away: 9 ways to stop ants coming into the house

From using unfavorable scents to natural remedies, these are the most humane ways to stop ants coming into the house

Collage showing three natural methods for how to keep ants away from the house including herbs, vinegar and lavender plants
(Image credit: Future)

It's ant season, the time of year when the little critters seemingly appear out of nowhere and creep into our homes univited. If you'd rather keep the pests out of the house take note of these natural deterrents to tackle how to keep ants away for good.

After all, no one wants ants crawling along the kitchen countertops or around the window frames, so we've asked pest control experts for their professional advice on how to stop ants from coming into the house altogether – prevention is easier than having to get rid of ants once they are indoors. 

It doesn't feel right to suggest how to kill ants, so instead we're looking at prevention and how to stop ants from coming into the house using harmless remedies. Luckily like when looking to keep wasps away or get rid of flies, there are plenty of easy ways to do the job - as our team of pest control and horticulatural experts explain.

How to keep ants away: 9 natural repellants to try 

"Black ants build their nests near human habitats for one reason: food," explains Jonathan Kirby, a pest expert from NOPE! pest control products. "This hunger leads them into the home in search of crumbs and water. They also typically emerge during the warmer months between May and October, so a few simple steps now can be particularly effective in deterring ants and preventing infestation."

All the best ways to keep ants away involve utilizing their sense of smell. There are several plants, flowers, and essential oils with scents which ants are said to greatly dislike, so keeping them indoors is an easy way to deter the pests. Here are all the most effective natural methods...

1. Store food more efficiently

gray kitchen with floating wooden shelving with sealed food storage containers to show how to keep ants away in the kitchen

(Image credit: Getty Images | Mixetto)

As we've already touched on how ants will invite themselves into your home solely to find food. If you remove all access to food they will have no reason to step over the threshold at all. 

"Ultimately, the best way to deter ants from your home is to remove any food sources, as it’s food that tempts them to enter in the first place," explains Chloe Moore, horticulturist and blogger at Get Into Gardening. "Once they’ve found a source of food and laid a scent trail, the rest of the ant colony will follow it."

"Try not to leave any food out overnight. Ensure any jars and containers that do contain food are tightly sealed, and that leftovers are stored in airtight containers. Still, it’s best to store any leftovers in the fridge if you can," Chloe adds. 

There's never been a better time to look at how you organize the fridge and check over your organized pantry shelves, to ensure lids are on all jars and all food is stored in air-tight containers to stop the appeal.

"Ants love sugary foods, grains, and vegetables," explains Jonathan. "Keep any of these food packages tightly sealed to prevent attracting ants."

2. Keep surfaces clean

Like all pest control, one of the best places to start is by keeping your house clean. Not having sweet spillages to feast on will remove the temptation for ants to even enter your home.

"To deter ants, keep your house clean," advises Jordan Foster, a professional pest technician for more than 10 years and now as part of Fantastic Pest Control. "Ants are attracted to food particles, so you must keep your home clean and free of food debris. Spills and crumbs must be cleaned immediately."

When cleaning your kitchen, pay special attention to wiping over organized countertops, floors, and kitchen bins. Also, "If you have pets, always clean away uneaten food and never leave water bowls unattended for extended periods," adds Jonathan.

3. Seal any easy entry points

person caulking window cracks to show how to keep ants away

(Image credit: Getty Images | Banks Photos)

Like when looking to keep spiders out of your house it's imperative to seal up any small gaps around doors and windows that look inviting to an ant. 

"Ants are mini all-terrain vehicles, capable of taking advantage of the tiniest cracks to gain entrance into the home," says Jonathan. "Make sure you inspect and seal cracks or gaps in doors, windows, or walls that ants could use to enter the house."

"Seal cracks, gaps, and holes in your walls, floors, and windows with caulk, weather stripping, or other appropriate materials," advises Jordan.

4. Spritz vinegar

While you're cleaning with vinegar take note of using the solution to also deter ants from the house. "Not only does it work wonders in cleaning surfaces, but vinegar also messes with ants' scent trails, making it tough for them to find their way back," says home improvement and gardening expert Ivo Iv, founder of Decor Home Ideas

"Just mix water and white vinegar in a spray bottle, and you're good to go. And the best part? It's totally safe for you, your family, and your pets. But those ants? They just can't handle the smell." Spritz the diluted solution around windows and door cracks to deter ants from being tempered to enter the house.

5. Use peppermint essential oils

As a much-loved essential oil peppermint is a welcome deterrent to also make a house smell good at the same time but ants dislike the smell of peppermint. "I stumbled upon this solution while searching for a solution that not only worked but also smelled great," says Ivo. 

"Mix a few drops of peppermint oil with water in a spray bottle, and spritz it around entry points like doors and windows. The strong scent of peppermint masks ants' scent trails and helps to keep them at bay. And get this - it doubles as an air freshener too." Win, win.

You can grab peppermint oil from most homeware stores and pharmacies. Mix around 10-15 drops into a spray bottle with a splash of water to spritz in problem areas. Spray the minty aroma around entryways and the perimeter of your home to deter ants from entering. Ants can also appear from under baseboards, so don't forget to spray those to ensure any ants hiding in the walls retreat rapidly. 

6. Mix a citrus cocktail

a spray bottle with a citrus solution to use for how to keep ants away

(Image credit: Getty Images | Wera Rodsawang)

Another strong scent that is said to deter ants is citrus. "Ants do not like citrus scents, such as lemon or orange. Citrus peels and essential oils can be used as natural deterrents," suggests Jordan.

"Get your spray bottle and fill it with one-third lemon and two-thirds water," advises Chloe, "then, just give it a good spritz around any doors/windows/cracks you’ve noticed ants entering through and repeating regularly."

It might be worth lighting your best-scented candle too, the more you fill the atmosphere with citrus aromas the stronger the chances of warding ants away.

7. Display potted Lavender

White rustic kitchen with a potted lavender to show how to keep ants away

(Image credit: Future)

As houseplants become the latest must-have accessories for most rooms it's handy to know the ones that can double up as a decorative measure to get rid of ants. "Lavender is not only known for its calming properties, but it’s also a natural insect deterrent, including ants," explains Suzie Wolley, product specialist at Serenata Flowers

"Potted lavender plants look lovely on a table or windowsill, and they’ll be sure to keep the ants away." The scent is not appealing to ants and therefore the thinking is that they will steer clear of any area boasting even a hint of lavender.

Of course if you’ve got lavender in your garden you can simply take a cutting and tie a bunch together and hang it in each room of your house. Not only will it smell beautifully fragrant, ants will be nowhere in sight.

8. Try kitchen herbs

kitchen with pots of herbs to suggest how to keep ants away naturally

(Image credit: Future)

Fill your kitchen with common cooking herbs to do more than season your dishes. "Similarly to lavender, herbs such as thyme are also an effective ant deterrent as well as a tasty addition to many meals," says Suzie. "Easy to grow inside, keep it in the kitchen and it’ll stay ant-free. There’s also nothing more satisfying than picking a few sprigs off your own herb garden to add to your favorite recipe."

"The aromatic oils in basil are known to repel not only ants but other bugs such as spiders, summer houseflies, and mosquitos," says Evie Lane, a gardening expert from Primrose garden nursery. "It can also be used to make a DIY bug-repellant spray if mixed with witch hazel – simply spray the mix onto a surface and give it a wipe down.  The herb can be grown in any area of your home, as long as it gets access to direct sunlight for 4 to 5 hours per day."

Evie adds: "Rosemary is faintly scented for the human nose but releases an intense odor to ants. Make sure you’re growing it indoors though - rosemary is less cold tolerant so will thrive in a standalone pot in a warmer environment."

9. Choose Chrysanthemums

Open window with a potted pink Chrysanthemums to suggest how to keep ants away from the house

(Image credit: Getty Images | Reelene Bai Ou)

Whether planted in flowerbeds and window boxes near the house or displayed as part of a bouquet in a vase Chrysanthemums are the cottage garden plant of choice if you're looking to keep ants away. 

"Chrysanthemums are not only beautiful flowers, but they are also effective deterrents for multiple insects, including ants, as they contain chemicals that are toxic to insects," says Suzie. "Found in a vast myriad of colors, shapes, and sizes, they’re sure to brighten up the rooms whilst keeping ants at bay."

"Bright blooms of chrysanthemums contain pyrethrum, an ingredient frequently used in natural insect repellents," explains Evie. "The chemical repels ants, ticks, fleas, and even spider mites."

Does vinegar keep ants away?

Experts say vinegar is a great option to keep ants away. "Ants don't like vinegar's strong smell," confirms Jordan Foster, a pest control expert. "To deter ants, spray vinegar and water on surfaces or wipe down surfaces with a vinegar solution."

"The only downside? It doesn’t smell great for humans, as well as ants – but it does do a good job of keeping them away," adds Chloe Moore, horticulturist, and blogger at Get Into Gardening. "Grab a spray bottle and fill it with half water and half vinegar (any kind will do). Again, simply spritz it around any doors/windows/cracks you’ve noticed ants entering through."

ants carrying food scraps along a kitchen countertop

(Image credit: Getty Images | RHJ)

How do I get rid of ants permanently?

While all the natural methods above are suitable solutions to keep ants away if you have an infestation it might be time to call try professional pest control methods – but only as a last resort to a significant problem. "If the deterrents haven’t worked and ants are damaging your house, you might need to try a more impactful method," says Chloe.

"You can buy ant powders, sprays, and bait stations from most garden shops. While effective, they can potentially harm other non-target insects and animals, whilst having a negative effect on your garden’s overall health. In an ideal world, these would only be used for serious invasions," says Chloe.

"Generally, I prefer to stay away from pesticides and powders and opt for eco-friendly options that won’t harm other insects or wildlife. Boiling water is a simple yet effective ant extermination method – just boil your kettle and pour the water straight into the entrance(s) of the ant nest. You’ll probably have to repeat this a few times to kill off the entire colony."

"One of the most effective non-toxic ant remedies is the sugar and boric acid method. Mix one part of boric acid with seven parts of sugar. Dissolve the mix into a cup of water and mix well until it forms a paste. Place small amounts of this mixture next to each nest opening and repeat daily until the ants are gone."

However, in a time when all the garden trends encourage us to provide a habitat for wildlife, Chloe Moore, horticulturist, and blogger at Get Into Gardening says: "Be aware that, unless ants are particularly troublesome, it’s best to leave ants be. They’re a vital part of our ecosystem and can actually be beneficial for your garden – they aerate the soil, fertilize plants and improve soil structure, which can help your best plants to grow better."

What do ants hate the most?

Like most insect species ants hate strong smells, many of which are herbs and essential oils. Evie Lane, a gardening expert from Primrose, “Many don’t know that a lot of fragrant plants can do a great job of deterring creepy crawlies too. Ant-deterring plants have a strong odor so the aromatic fragrance not only keeps ants away, but they smell great in your home too.”

"Natural ant deterrants include vinegar, lemon juice, peppermint oil, and cinnamon," says Jordan. "If you want to discourage ants from entering your home, spray these products along their trail."

Why do ants suddenly appear?

One minute they're nowhere to be seen, the next they're everywhere – so why do ants suddenly appear? Jordan Foster, a pest control expert explains: "Changes in weather, food availability, or the presence of other ant colonies can cause ants to appear suddenly."

"Humidity changes may cause ants to relocate their colonies and that's why we are seeing suddenly more ants. When they discover a new source of food, ants will send more ants to collect it, resulting in a sudden increase in activity. Furthermore, new ant colonies may cause conflict with existing colonies, causing ants to appear suddenly as they defend their territories."

Tamara Kelly
Lifestyle Editor

Tamara is a highly experienced homes and interiors journalist, with a career spanning 22 years. Now the Lifestyle Editor of, she has spent the last 17 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, and it’s with these award-winning interiors teams that she gained a wealth of knowledge and honed her skills and passion for styling and writing about every aspect of lifestyle and interiors.

A true homes and interiors expert, Tamara has served as an ambassador for leading interior brands on multiple occasions, including appearing on Matalan’s The Show and presenting at top interior trend forecasting events such as the Autumn Fair and Spring Fair.