How To Get Rid Of Ants Without Killing Them | Complete Guide

You want the ants out of your living space, but crushing them or spraying them with pesticides seems too cruel. Isn’t there a better, more humane way to remove them from your home?  Yes, there is!

To get rid of ants without killing them, you can use natural repellents like cinnamon or lemon juice. You can apply these wherever you see ants. In addition, be sure to remove ant trails, for which you can use soapy water or water with a few drops of vinegar.

If you remove their food source, they will have no reason to stay and will move on. This means thoroughly checking all of your home’s food and water sources, from cleaning up messes to ensuring that everything is stored correctly. 

Getting Rid of Ants Without Killing Them: Step by Step Guide

Step 1 – Address the Reasons Why Ants Have Invaded Your House

Cover each of these points to ensure that the ants don’t continue to find food in your home.

Check All the Food Stored in Your Home

This includes any food stored in your pantry, on your countertops, in drawers, and your cellar or garage. Be sure that these items are sealed up completely.  Any opened food should be stored in sealed plastic bags or plastic/glass containers. 

Be sure to check unopened goods and ensure that the packaging isn’t damaged. Once all food items are correctly stored, check the outside containers for any drips or food residue. 

To be safe, use warm soapy water to wipe down the outside of food containers. If you can, store fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator. If you have pet bowls in the house, be sure to empty and wash them after each meal for your pet.

Clean Your Home Thoroughly

Getting Rid of Ants Without Killing Them Step by Step Guide

First, wipe down all the countertops and tables in your home. Use warm soapy water to ensure that any stuck-on food is removed completely. Also, check your oven, microwave, and toaster inside and out for crumbs or food residue. 

Then, use a mixture of 50% vinegar and 50% water to spray and wipe down countertops.  This will ensure that all pheromone trails are erased. 

Note: If you have marble or granite countertops, skip this step, as vinegar can damage these surfaces.

After you’ve wiped down all surfaces, vacuum your entire home thoroughly. Use an attachment to get into cracks and crevices where food crumbs might be hiding. Don’t forget the couch and other upholstery.

Take out the Trash

Even small traces of food on packaging can attract ants to your garbage can. Empty your kitchen trash can daily to avoid allowing ants to find it, and keep an eye on the trash can itself. It’s a good idea to regularly wipe the inside and outside of your trash can to keep it free from food residue.

Physically Remove Ants Without Killing Them

This can be difficult to do since ants are so tiny and fragile. Use a dustpan brush or broom with soft bristles. Brush over the ant/ants slowly and gently. 

They usually get caught up in (or hang on to) the bristles. You can take the brush or broom outside and shake it rigorously to remove the ants, or just leave it outside for a short time, allowing the ants to crawl off.

Ant Exterminators

Step 2 – Use Ant Deterrents

Several products deter ants but won’t kill them if you use them properly. Let’s look at these options and how to use them in more detail.

Orange Guard

Orange Guard is a great product if you want to effectively deter ants from your home without harsh chemicals. It contains an ingredient called d-Limonene, a fancy way of saying orange peel extract. 

However, be careful not to spray this product directly on the ants, as direct contact with the wet product will kill them. Simply spray it around ant entry points or anywhere else you have found ants in your home. 

As a bonus, this product also deters other insects, like cockroaches and fleas, and is safe to use in any part of your home, including areas where food is prepared.

Mint Leaves

Ants do not like the scent of mint and will avoid mint leaves entirely. The great thing about mint is that it’s easy to grow and smells great. Bundle mint leaves together and place them inside cupboards and other places you have found ants wandering your home.

Eucalyptus, Peppermint and Citrus Oil

While these oils smell pleasant to us, ants hate them! Drip 4-5 drops of oil onto a cotton ball and place it inside cabinets, cupboards, or any other areas of your home where you see ants. Replace the cotton ball every two days to ensure the scent stays strong.


Vinegar is not just effective in removing pheromone trails, and it also works as an ant deterrent! Use the 50% water and 50% vinegar mixture to wipe down kitchen surfaces (except for marble or granite). The vinegar scent will help deter ants from visiting the area again.

Step 3 – Make Sure Your Doors and Windows Are Sealed Properly

We all know how tiny ants are; they can fit through even the smallest cracks around doors and windows. Do a quick check around the perimeter of all your doors and windows. If you see any cracks, seal them using caulk or weather stripping.

More Reasons Not to Kill Ants

More Reasons Not to Kill Ants

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to kill the ants in your home, here are a few more reasons not to. We have also written a separate article on how dangerous ants are. Read both of them and make up your mind.

They Are Good for Your Garden

While ants are building their nests underground or searching for food, they are aerating the soil. Aeration means creating tiny holes in the soil, allowing air, rainwater, and other nutrients inside. This produces healthier soil which is more likely to grow hardy grass and flourishing plants.

Related: Ants in Garden: Are Ants Good for Plants in Your Garden?

They Are a Valuable Part of Your Local Ecosystem

Ants are an essential food source for some animals, making them a crucial part of the food chain and ecosystem. If you care about the environment, you probably also care about ants.

Ants Are Fascinating Creatures

If you spend even a short time observing ants, you’ll begin to understand just how fascinating these tiny creatures are. If simply watching them doesn’t convince you, here are a few intriguing facts about ants.

  • Ants are, concerning their size, one of the strongest animals on the planet.
  • Ants take good care of their young, feeding and tending to them until they become an active part of the colony.
  • Ants injured outside the nest don’t have a great chance of survival. Remarkably, some species of ants will find their injured comrades and rescue them – carrying them safely back to the nest where they can recover.

Can Ants Cause Danger to Your Health?

While ants are not aggressive animals, you should still be aware of potential risks when dealing with an ant infestation. While it is not common, ants can transmit diseases such as salmonella and E. coli. 

This is why it is so important to dispose of any food that may have come into contact with ants and to store food properly. Ants can also bite or sting, which can cause problems for people who may be allergic. 

If you or someone you know gets bitten or stung by an ant, pay close attention to the bite location and any unusual symptoms that indicate an allergic reaction, such as swelling or difficulty breathing. 

If this happens, contact professional help immediately. Another potential concern regarding ant bites or stings is the possibility of infection. In the case of a bit or sting, keep the area clean and be sure not to scratch. Scratching could cause tears in the skin and introduce bacteria into the bite, which leads to infection. 

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

List of Sources

Got ants? Safer ways to prevent and eliminate this common home pest, Metro News

Some Natural Pesticide Alternatives, Sonora Environmental Research Institute

Cremer, S., Ugelvig, L. V., Drijfhout, F. P., Schlick-Steiner, B. C., Steiner, F. M., Seifert, B., … Boomsma, J. J. (2008), The evolution of invasiveness in garden ants, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen

Ants Are Ecologically Beneficial, Iowa State University

Jessica Tay Ying Ling, Ants Can Feed Plants, Arizona State University School of Life Sciences

Farji-Brener A., Werenkraut V., The effects of ant nests on soil fertility and plant performance: a meta‐analysis, Journal of Animal Ecology, British Ecological Society