10 Frugal Ant Control Methods


It’s time for our annual invasion of the ants. Every spring the tiny black ants make their way into our home. It doesn’t seem to matter that we won the war last year, they come back to try again. They are determined to get into the house to see what they can find. They launch an assault for a few days, we fight back, and then they give up and go away. But those few days are a challenging battle. Over the years I’ve learned a few tricks that make the battle easier to win, without dousing the house in Raid or calling an exterminator.


When an ant eats a grit, the grit expands when it hits the water in their digestive tract. This expansion kills the ant. (They literally explode, but you probably didn’t need to know that.)Leave a small pile of grits where the ants are coming in the house. They’ll eat some and take some back to the nest where others will eat it and die. If you’re leaving grits outside, make sure it’s not supposed to rain or dew heavily. Once the grits are wet, they’re already expanded and the killing property is gone. Grits are also effective on fire ants and other kinds of ants.


Cornmeal works the same way as grits.


Oatmeal works the same way as grits.

White Vinegar

Vinegar won’t kill ants, but it will erase the chemical trail that the ants leave behind for others to follow. When you see a trail of ants, go behind them and wipe down the surface with vinegar. Any coming in after you do this will have a hard time finding the trail.

Clean Up

This is the most obvious solution. Find whatever the ants are after and clean it up, seal the bag or box, or get rid of it. Sometimes they’ll come in and there will be no obvious attractant to be found, but if you can find what they’re after, you can deter them.


The easiest way for me to clean up an ant trail is with the vacuum cleaner. I suck them up and then erase the trail with vinegar. You can either empty the bag/canister immediately or you can place a small piece of a flea collar in the bag or cup to kill the ants. This is also a frugal way to control fleas if you have pets.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice, like vinegar, is a trail eraser (and it smells nicer than vinegar).

Remove The Easy Access

If you have trees or shrubs that touch your house, trim them back. The ants can easily get to your house from the branches. This is especially important if the tree/shrub makes sap or nectar that will attract the ants. They seem to figure, “Hey, we’re already here, let’s just take the short trip across this branch to see what’s in the house.”


This won’t kill ants, but ants will avoid cinnamon. You can lay down a cinnamon barrier at their entry point and they won’t cross it.

Diatomaceous Earth (DME)

This powder, derived from a naturally occurring rock, will dehydrate and kill an ant that walks through it. Lay down a DME barrier at their entry point. In small amounts, DME is safe for use around pets and children. Do not use in wet environments as this will deactivate the killing property.

Ants are a pain, but as insects go most of them are harmless. You’ll probably do best to employ at least two of these methods to quickly solve your ant problem. For example, I set out grits to be sure that the nest is killed and I also use a barrier method like DME or cinnamon. If I see a trail, I’ll also use a trail eraser and the vacuum cleaner. The more methods you employ, the faster the ants will either die or give up. The good news is that you can control ants safely and effectively without resorting to expensive, toxic sprays and bug bombs.

(Photo courtesy of Lindspetrol)

This entry was posted in Frugal, Housing, Personal Finance and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to 10 Frugal Ant Control Methods

  1. bben says:

    I have been using the Diotomatious earth. It works against any crawling bug and not just ants. Roaches, earwigs, some spiders etc. Any bug that comes in contact will soon die. Much safer, much less expensive and also much longer lasting than insecticides. It is so fine it sifts under the baseboards and so safe it can be used around food, pets & children. It is even supposed to work for bedbugs – I don’t know for sure since I don’t have them – maybe that’s because I dusted the bedroom when I first moved in and once or twice a year since then.

  2. S.K. says:

    This myth will forever be with us. Ants are not killed by grits or cornmeal. This is a myth which came about because cornmeal or grits are often used as the carrier for the chemical bait/pesticide. An adult ant cannot swallow an entire girt or grain of cornmeal so therefore it cannot swell up or explode in their digestive tract. Carefully check the facts before writing please. Best bet – Visit reliable sites and read articles written by entomologists. DME is an excellent way to keep ants from coming into the house or on the patio.

  3. Jennifer says:

    S.K. — I have used grits extensively on ants over nearly twenty years and I can tell you that it does, indeed, work. It may be an old fashioned remedy, but it is not a myth. It works.

    If I get a chance this summer I will try to post pics of an ant mound post-grits.

  4. Kate says:

    I have also used baby powder around my kitchen baseboards to deter ants from crawling up. The powder is so fine that it is hard for them to cross. I also place a few drops of peppermint extract on a cotton ball and put a few of them around the house (under the fridge, under the toilet, close to the crack in the air unit) which deters almost any critter.

  5. aajayunlimited says:

    I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but it does work. I used a combination of honey and cornmeal–mixing it together really well. Using the honey was bc the ants weren’t attracted enough to the cornmeal by itself. Be sure to use more cornmeal than honey(at least 5 to 1–making sure to leave enough of each to feed all the invaders). It does work, but you may need to attract the ants to the cormeal first. Do not let allow the mixture to get wet at all; none of your ingredients(attractive agent included) can contain water; be contaminated by water; or have an ingredient that contains water! To my understanding, the chemical reaction that is supposed to happen in their bodies happens within the bait before it can be eaten and no harm may be done!

  6. aajayunlimited says:

    Oh, And you must be patient; it can take a week to 3 weeks to get ’em all! The good thing is that there are no chemicals and the ingredients are readily available at any store in any location. I’m from remote Mississippi, so I know how hard specific ingredients are to find at times–sometimes impossible without the online delay or paying extra for rushed shipping(not to mention that not all people have credit cards). But…honey and cornmeal can be bought at any grocery store without any drama or delay. I’ve heard that baking soda with an attractive agent works, too.

  7. Sue says:

    Why has no one mentioned Borax mixed with higly concentrated sugar water. Of course you will have an ant farm for a few days, but the little devils take it back to poison the nest. Try it, seems to work for me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *