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How To Get Rid of Ants in the Kitchen

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Ants on a white porcelain plate with a silver spoon on a wooden table near a red coffee mug.

Author Image Written by Brenda Woods Updated 06/27/2024

Ants are some of the most common household pests, and their love for sugary, syrupy foods means that when they get indoors, they usually head for the kitchen. We’ll go over how to get rid of ants in the kitchen and keep them out once they’re gone.

Some ant infestations are too large or too stubborn for DIY methods. If that’s the case, or if you suspect you have carpenter ants, we recommend calling a pest control professional to help you get rid of ants quickly.

The video below will walk you through six ways to get rid of ants in the house or outdoors—and prevent future ant infestations.

Why Are There Ants in My Kitchen?

Food sources bring ants into your kitchen. There are thousands of species of ants, but the most common types you’ll find in your kitchen are pharaoh ants, pavement ants, odorous house ants, thief ants, and Argentine ants. That’s because these ant species are attracted to the sugar in food, especially noticeably sweet foods like honey and syrup. They also need water and can usually find it in and around a kitchen sink.

Importantly, ants leave behind scent trails that allow them to follow each other. This is how one or two ants can become a full infestation. The trailblazers leave a path of scent chemicals called pheromones, and other ants know to follow these pheromones to find food or water. That’s why you’ll often see ants marching in lines. Understanding this behavior is key to both finding where the ants are coming from and wiping them out.

Carpenter Ant Infestations

A less common ant species to find in your kitchen is carpenter ants. While most ants are nuisance insects, carpenter ants actually damage your house. These big, blackish-red bugs burrow through wood and can cause structural damage to your home quickly. If you see piles of sawdust or wood shavings, they may be digging nests near an exposed beam. We recommend you contact the professionals immediately.

Steps to follow

How to Get Rid of Ants in the Kitchen

According to the University of Kentucky Entomology Department, the biggest mistake that homeowners make when trying to get rid of ants is simply eliminating the ones they see with kill-on-contact spray. Here, we’ll break down four steps for getting rid of the whole colony of ants that are infesting your kitchen and then keeping them away.

Remember those scent trails that let ants march in formation? Use those to your advantage to track the path of the ants in your house. Make sure you follow the trail in both directions to see where they’re coming from and where they’re heading.

Simply eliminating the ants you see won’t do much good, since they’ll be replaced with more from the colony. This colony may be nesting in cabinets or appliances, behind walls, in door or window frames, or under floors. If you can actually spot the nest, you can apply insecticide directly to it to kill the infestation at its source. Make sure you use a non-repellent pesticide, since if you attempt to repel the ants at this stage, the colony will simply reform somewhere else.

Ants commonly nest in hidden places, so if you can’t access the nest itself, you should use bait stations to destroy the colony. Bait traps attract ants with the smell of food and get them to take a slow-acting poison back to the nest. Make sure to place these bait traps near the paths of ants as they travel back to the nest.

There are also bait gels that may be applied directly to the surface the ants are walking on. Remember, though, not to use bait and then attempt to spray the ants you see with an on-contact ant killer. You need those ants to take the insecticide back to the nest. Give the bait a chance to work. If one type of bait doesn’t seem to be attracting the ants, try another.

While you’re looking for the colony, make careful notes of the ants’ entry and exit points to your kitchen. You don’t want to seal them before the bait has a chance to work, but once you’re confident that the nest has been mostly eliminated, you can start ant-proofing your kitchen. Seal any cracks or crevices with caulk or joint compound. You can also put boric acid in crevices.

Here’s where a kill-on-contact ant spray will come in handy, but since it’s your kitchen, be careful. Read the directions on the pesticide packaging carefully, and don’t use toxic spray on or around your own food. Wash any surfaces or utensils that may have come into contact with the spray, and use common sense.

You may not want to use any synthetic chemical pesticides in your kitchen. Once you’ve treated the ants at the source, you can use some simple household products to get rid of stragglers. A mixture of water and a few drops of dish soap is quite effective for getting rid of ants on kitchen countertops, since the soap will break the surface tension of the water and trap the ants, making them easy to wipe away.

Similarly, equal parts white vinegar and water will disrupt the scent trail left by the ants, which means they’ll no longer have the equivalent of a neon sign directing them through your kitchen. Water and lemon juice may have the same effect. Wipe down all surfaces that recently had ant traffic. However, don’t take this step if you’re still using baits, as this will keep them from working properly.

Once you’ve taken care of the problem, do your best to keep it from coming back. Always store food—including pet food—in airtight containers, and never leave food or drinks uncovered. Some preventative measures are obvious, such as quickly cleaning up food spills and washing dirty dishes as soon as possible.

However, you also want to keep your kitchen sink as dry as you can, since moisture can attract ants. Sweep, mop, and vacuum frequently to get rid of fallen crumbs, and take out your garbage regularly. Use durable garbage bags to prevent holes and leaks, and seal the lid on your garbage can tightly.

What If I’ve Still Got Ants?

Some infestations are tricky since ants can hide in the smallest of places and multiply quickly. Luckily, professional pest control providers have the knowledge and technology to target even the largest ant nests. We recommend Terminix, which can provide you a free estimate for their ant control services if you enter your ZIP code here or call 866-569-4035. Orkin is another excellent choice, and you can contact them at 877-544-4104 or by filling out this simple form. Let the pros help you rid your kitchen of pesky ants.

FAQs About Getting Rid of Ants in the Kitchen

What's the fastest way to get rid of ants in the kitchen?

The fastest way to get rid of ants anywhere in your home is to call a licensed pest control technician to eliminate the infestation. However, if you want to do it yourself, finding the ants’ nest and applying insecticide to it directly will take care of the problem.

Why am I getting tiny ants in my kitchen?

Ants of all kinds are attracted to water and food—particularly sugary food. Make sure to clean up spills as soon as they happen and keep food in sealed containers.

How do I get rid of ants permanently?

After you have eliminated your current ant infestation, keep it from coming back by sealing cracks and crevices that ants use to get inside your home. Check window and door frames and around pipes, using caulk to seal any holes.

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