5 Methods for Getting Rid of Ants (& When You Shouldn’t)

Insecticides can kill more than ants and bugs. Try these natural, DIY methods to rid your garden of ants that've become a problem.

Updated August 15, 2023
red fire ant worker on tree

Ants have quite the reputation for such small creatures. While most ants aren’t that harmful to your gardens, there are some that’ll make pruning and caring for your plants difficult. In those cases, it’s safer for your puppies and plants to know how to get rid of ants in your garden using these easy DIY methods.

5 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Ants Infesting Your Garden

When winter finally breaks and the first few plants start to sprout, it feels like we’ve gotten a new lease on life. We wouldn’t trade sunny summer days for all the sun lamps in the world, but neither would ants. Ants can ruin your summer bliss by infesting your gardens and infiltrating your kitchens.

When those pesky ant trails start popping up in your garden beds, don’t head to the store for some hardcore insecticides. Instead, try some of these natural methods for killing or displacing ants first.

Pour Baking Soda in the Anthill

Baking soda, like a surprising number of household ingredients, will suffocate ants. The best way to use baking soda to kill them is to find the mound and make a little hole to pour the baking soda in. Then you can sprinkle it over the mound, waiting a day or two to see if it gets rebuilt and you need to try again.

Quick Tip

Mix in powdered sugar or another sweetener to entice ants to bring the baking soda deep into the mound and feast on it.

Pour Boiling Water on the Mound

It’s almost Pavlovian how people will see an ant bed and grab their water hose to blast it into oblivion. But regular water won’t fully kill the mound, and you’ll probably see new ones pop up in a few days.

Instead, boil a pot of water. Gently rake at the mound to expose the underground tunnels and pour the boiling water in the holes. Go slowly or else the water will run off the top and not reach the colonies underneath.

Leave Artificial Sweeteners Out

Use ants’ instincts against them by leaving out a few plates of artificial sweetener—like Splenda—near the mound for them to feast on. These artificial sweeteners have compounds that’re neurotoxins to ants, killing them after they’ve been ingested.

This is what we like to call a bait and wait kind of solution. While it works wonders, you will have to wait a few days to really see if your baits have been effective.

Make a Barrier Using Vinegar

Vinegar is a DIYers best friend; there’s practically nothing it can’t do. Ants aren’t big fans of vinegar’s smell (and honestly, neither are we), so spraying some around your garden beds will create a barrier that ants won’t want to cross.

The only downside is that vinegar evaporates pretty quickly, so it won’t keep the ants away forever. Therefore, it’s a great option to use in tandem with other at-home ant-killing methods.

Toss Ground Cinnamon Around Your Garden Beds

Much like vinegar, ground cinnamon is another thing ants don’t like. So, if you create a barrier between your plants and the ants with cinnamon, they shouldn’t cross it. This is also a creative alternative to other at-home methods that involve killing ants instead of directing them away from your garden.

If the Ants Persist, Go for the Stronger Stuff

When you’re using at-home methods for getting rid of ants, you run the risk of it not being as effective as artificial insecticides. But if you’ve tried multiple different methods over time and they’re not clearing up, then you’re going to have to use something stronger.

Of course, you can use a conventional insecticide to kill the colony. Or, you can use diatomaceous earth (a human-safe powdery substance) that’ll dehydrate and kill the ants over a few weeks’ time. Lastly, you could buy ant baits and leave them for the ants to off themselves with.  

Ants Get a Bad Rep and Won’t Destroy Your Garden

We’re just as likely as you to leave tiny black sugar ants alone if we find a handful of them outside because they’re not going to bite or sting us. Interestingly, most ants aren't as insidious as fire or carpenter ants are, though they do have their downsides.

Some ants are attracted to the sweet sap and insides of your plants, veggies, and flowers, so they might deposit sap sucking bugs like mealybugs, which can hurt your plants. Similarly, they might disrupt your plants’ root systems if their tunnels get too big.

But on the whole, most ants (besides leafcutter ants) won’t do serious damage to your garden. Because of how difficult they are to get out of your house once they make their way in, people assume they’re a problem everywhere. But they’re really not.

@texasgardenguy Benefits of ANTS in YOUR GARDEN! #tiktokfarmer #antsoftiktok #plantlover #texasplants #LinkBudsNeverOff #gardentok #backyardgarden #plantsoftiktok Campfire - Charmer & Klay

Ants are born to live outside, and so we should respect that they’re just trying to make a home, even if it’s an inconvenience to us. But if you start getting a mountain of ants—especially ones that sting—you can always use these methods to get rid of them.

Learn to Love Your Ant Neighbors

When it comes to the outdoors, you have to accept that it’s the bugs’ and critters’ domain. Instead of trying to eliminate all the outdoors from your outside garden, try co-existing with them and directing bugs like ants away from your beds. In most cases, ants, like many insects, are more of a visual blight than a harmful one, and you should leave the killing times to the ants who’ve decided to take over.

5 Methods for Getting Rid of Ants (& When You Shouldn’t)