How to Get Rid of Ants in Dishwasher | A Complete Guide

Written by Thomas Matthews

Ants are one of the most common pests that can invade your home, and sometimes they can be really frustrating and annoying to deal with. You may find ants on the countertops, in your pet’s food bowl, or even in the dishwasher! You might think that a dishwasher is the last place you would ever find ants, but in reality, this is quite a frequent problem for homeowners.

To get rid of ants in the dishwasher first identify their entry points on the dishwasher and seal them. Then add boric acid or vinegar and run the dishwasher on an empty program and the problem will be solved. Finally, apply ant baits around the kitchen so you can get rid of the nearby ant colony.

There are several reasons why ants infest dishwashers, and we will go through the most common ones. We will also give you our detailed guide on how to get rid of ants in the dishwasher, and provide you with information on what to do to prevent this from happening again in the future. Let’s begin!

Why Are There Ants in My Dishwasher?

Why Are There Ants in My Dishwasher

Ants venture into homes in search of food and water, and the dishwasher is no exception. Usually, they invade when there is water collected inside the dishwasher or potential leaks in the pipework. Also, there is always food inside such as leftovers on the plates and cutlery that are very attractive to ants.

No wonder the dishwasher can quickly turn into the favorite place in your kitchen for ants to hang out as it offers everything they need in one convenient spot.

How Are Ants Getting in My Dishwasher?

Ants don’t need a lot of space to enter, for example, a tiny hole or a crack is enough for them to get inside anything, including your dishwasher. Also, check the back of the dishwasher, you will find plenty of gaps that ants could use as entry points.

They might be coming through the plumbing holes, through the side vent of the dishwasher, or through the lower kick plate. Not to mention that most people leave the dishwasher doors open quite often which make it easy for the nearby ants to pick up the smell of food and head over to the dishwasher. 

Ants Coming From Behind Dishwasher

In case there are ants coming from behind the dishwasher, especially if they are black or carpenter ants, this might be an indication that you have an ant nest inside of your home.

The ant nests can be located under the floor, under the dishwasher, or somewhere in the walls behind furniture. If this is the case, it will be more difficult to pin down the location of their nests.

This is why you should also consider calling a pest control company to deal with the problem especially if you are dealing with carpenter ants as they can build their nests inside the wood.

Ants Coming in Through Dishwasher | Sewer Ants in Dishwasher

Ants Coming in Through Dishwasher

If you see ants coming through the dishwasher, this is most likely a case of sewer ants. As food residue and grease build up in pipes and drains, plumbing areas then often attractive places for ants.

When it comes to the sewer ants, in addition to the steps we talked about earlier you will also need to clean the pipes and drains. One very effective and natural solution is to use baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water. Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by 1/2 cup of vinegar.

Now, wait until it starts bubbling and leave for 10 minutes, then pour 1 quart of boiling water down the drain. This will not only kill the ants inside but will also remove any food and grease residue that was stuck inside.

Can Ants Cause Damage to the Dishwasher?

Most often, ant infestations are more of a nuisance and they will not cause any real damage to the dishwasher. But if you are dealing with carpenter ants in the dishwasher, they might be nesting in the wall void behind it, or in any surrounding wood that is moist or rotten.

Carpenter ants leave piles of sawdust material as they are chewing through the wood, and their colonies can grow quickly. In a matter of weeks, they can become a serious problem if you don’t deal with them accordingly.

Type of Ants in Dishwashers | Identification

In order to get rid of ants in the dishwasher effectively, you need to know what type of ant you are dealing with. By identifying the exact species, you will be able to tackle the problem better and understand whether there is another underlying issue you need to handle. Let’s start!

Black Ants in Dishwashers

Black ants, as their name suggests have a black color, and depending on their size you can get an idea of whether you are dealing with little black ants or carpenter ants. The latter is significantly bigger in size.

Little black ants are about 1/16 inches and dark brown to black colored. Their main food source is other dead or alive insects, but they commonly venture into houses to search for food, as they are also attracted to grease and oil.

This is why it is common to find black ants in the dishwasher as there is plenty of grease residue inside. If you have a case of black ants in the dishwasher, use the above-recommended methods to get rid of them, and keep your dishwasher and kitchen clean at all times to prevent them from coming.

Related: How to Get Rid of Black Ants: A Complete Guide

Carpenter Ants in Dishwasher

Carpenter Ants in Dishwasher

Carpenter ants prefer moist and humid environments so the area around the dishwasher is the perfect fit for them. They establish their colonies in rotten wood and you can easily spot a carpenter ants infestation by the piles of sawdust material they leave behind.

Carpenter ants are fairly large, especially compared to little black ants. Their length varies from 1/4 to 3/8 inches, and they are usually dark brown or black colored. If there are carpenter ants in your dishwasher, you need to locate the nest and eliminate it, as their colony can quickly grow in size. If left unattended, a carpenter ants colony can reach up to 50 000 inhabitants in just a few weeks.

Related: How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants (Without an Exterminator)

Sugar Ants in Dishwasher

Sugar ants is a term used to describe different ant species that are attracted to sugar and other sweets. They invade kitchens in search of sweet bits they can carry back to their colonies.

Related: How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants in the House | A Complete Guide

Other Types of Ants

There are many different species of ants in the United States and knowing which type has infested your house can give you an edge when it comes to fighting them. We have created an ant identification article for the most common ants that invade houses. The article has pictures and detailed descriptions of each species.

It is fairly easy to get rid of ants in the dishwasher if you just follow our step-by-step guide. In some cases, if your problem with ants has really progressed, consider calling professional ant exterminators. They will solve your ant problem in one day but if you have decided to solve this problem on your own, try to rigorously follow our instructions.

Related: How to Get Rid of Ants | Safe and Effective Methods

How to Get Rid of Ants in Dishwasher: Step-by-Step Instructions

Ants in Dishwasher

There are several different methods you can use to get rid of ants in the dishwasher. We recommend you use all of them for maximum effect. Now let’s start with our step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Pour Vinegar Down the Dishwasher’s Drain

Vinegar is a natural pest control solution you can use to get rid of ants in the dishwasher. Ants are mainly attracted to your dishwasher because they can smell the food particles on the plates. Using vinegar will not kill the ants in the dishwasher but it will mask the smell of food and will sanitize the drain.

Pour at least one cup of vinegar down the drain to get rid of ants in the dishwasher as well as any food residue. Combining borax with vinegar also works. You can also use vinegar with borax to spray or wipe the insides of the dishwasher each time after a wash cycle is finished to prevent ants from coming in.

Step 2: Run the Dishwasher on an Empty Cycle

After you have thoroughly cleaned the dishwasher’s drain and insides with vinegar, now you need to run an empty wash cycle. This will ensure that there are no ants left inside, as well as food leftovers.

Step 3: Inspect Your Home and Find Where the Ants Are Coming From

Now that your dishwasher is safe you need to perform an inspection of your home to find out where the ants are coming from and locate their nest. It will be much easier to deal with the infestation and prevent it from happening again if you eliminate the nest completely.

To locate the nest, follow the ant pheromone trails. In most cases, their nest will be outside the house, but depending on the type of ant, the nest can be located inside the home as well.

Step 4: Applying Ant Baits

After finding an ant nest and their most common trails it is time for ant baits. Ant baits work slowly but their end results are amazing. When the ant finds the bait it will carry it back to the nest. The bait consists of two things, a type of food that ants like and some form of poison. After the ants in the colony (including the queen) consume the bait, this whole process will result in the death of their entire colony.

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Step 5: Keep the Ants Out of the Dishwasher

Keep the dishwasher and the surrounding area clean, dry, and tidy. Remove any leftovers from plates, pots, and cutlery before putting them into the dishwasher to make sure that no food is stuck inside. After the cycle is finished, use a clean cloth soaked in vinegar to wipe the inside of the dishwasher to ensure the smell of food is well-masked.

In addition, you can use diluted peppermint essential oil to spray the dishwasher inside and out. They dislike the smell of peppermint and it will keep them away. Make sure that there are no cracks or holes in the dishwasher or close to the wall that ants could use to enter. If you find any holes that ants can use to enter seal them as fast as you can.

DIY Ant Bait | Easy Homemade Solution

These ant baits can easily be prepared by mixing borax and powdered sugar (1:3 ratio). Now place these baits around your dishwasher, and next to any ant trails that you see. Wait for the ants to carry the bait back to the nest. After a while, the rest of the colony will be poisoned.

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Another way to prepare ant baits is by mixing a spoonful of peanut butter, 1 tbsp of sugar, and 1 tsp of borax. This bait is effective because some ants are attracted to grease while others are to sugar. Now place the mixture next to the ant trails and close to the dishwasher.

List of Sources

Potter M., Ant Control for Householders, University of Kentucky

Ants, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

A Guide to House Invading Ants and Their Control, N.C. Cooperative Extension

Ujiyama S., Tsuji K. (2018), Controlling invasive ant species: a theoretical strategy for efficient monitoring in the early stage of invasion

Thomas Matthews
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