Baby Safe Ant Control—kill ants, not your kids

It’s been over a month since our second annual ant infestation began. Last year, we tried to live with it. This year, I couldn’t stand it.

Can I tell you why I hate having ants? It makes me feel dirty. No matter how clean my house is, there are germ-bearing vermin infesting my carpet. To make matters worse, this year we had three different points of entry and possibly three different colonies: the fireplace, the side door and the back door. And to top it all off, it was apparent that the largest colony wasn’t invading from outside they were coming . . . from . . . inside . . . our . . . house! Just like the phone call in that campfire story! (You know the one, right?) To be technical, they lived underneath the house, in a rather inaccessible place, so there wasn’t really a way to go to the source to poison them

So I searched all over the Internet for a baby-safe way to kill ants. I got suggestions from my friends and readers (thanks!) and family. I tried several before finding one that worked for me. Note: some methods don’t kill ants, they just try to keep them from coming into your house (here I’ve marked them as a “deterrent”).

  1. Windex (didn’t work for me this time around, but it worked for MommyZabs, who indicated it was a deterrent)
  2. Bay leaves. Didn’t work for me. (deterrent)
  3. Vinegar. Didn’t work for me, but it worked for my aunt. (Well, okay, if I drowned them in it, then it worked. I think it’s mostly a deterrent.)
  4. Suggestions I didn’t try:

  5. Raid (“RAID?!”), cordoning off the area from baby.
  6. Grits (oh, that’s what they’re for! Yeah, I’m Southern but . . . yuck.) or cornmeal
  7. Borax syrup, though I can’t imagine that’s good for your child.
  8. Talcum powder (including baby powder) or chalk (mentioned by Millennium Mommy; deterrent)
  9. Honey or water traps (scroll down on the page)
  10. Soapy water in a spray bottle (deterrent, unless you drown them)
  11. Cucumber peels (deterrent)
  12. Cloves or mint leaves/tea (deterrent)
  13. Cayenne pepper (deterrent)
  14. Citrus oil (deterrent)
  15. Lemon juice (deterrent)
  16. Cinnamon (deterrent)
  17. Coffee grounds (deterrent)
  18. Garlic (deterrent) (#9-17 source)
  19. Yeast, mixed with sugar to form pellets
  20. Mint (even in toothpaste; deterrent)
  21. I was once told that a big pile of sugar will kill ants for some reason, too. Definitely didn’t try that one. WikiHow says that you can kill them with a mixture of salt and sugar.
  22. Finally, our method: buy poisonous ant bait (the kind they carry back to the nest) and set it out at night. Put the ant bait out of reach during the day and keep baby, cat, etc. away from the area for a day or two afterwards. For us, this killed the ants after one night!

What else have you tried that helped get rid of your ant problem?

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34 responses to “Baby Safe Ant Control—kill ants, not your kids”

  1. Karen (Miscellaneous Mum) says:

    I can vouch for talcum powder, but only really as a short-term solution as they do get used to it.

  2. bellevelma says:

    We tried pretty much your entire list minus the ant baits before hiring a professional pesticide company to kill them. I didn’t want to go that route with the expense and all but my next door neighbor was and I was worried that would leave me with even more ants. I’m glad we did because it took care of the problem.

  3. Lynnae says:

    I’ve tried a lot of your suggestions, and the only thing that’s worked for me is Terro (one of the products that the ants bring back to their nest). I keep mine in the corners behind the refrigerator and stove, and in the bathroom at the back of the under-the-sink cabinet. My kids are a little older than your son, though, and they know not to touch the stuff.

  4. Deb says:

    We had ants this spring and ended up going the professional route too – even with the cost it was just the easiest way for us to get rid of them quickly and since they were in my kitchen around the sink (no matter how clean I kept it – yuck!), I wanted them gone ASAP!

  5. Jordan says:

    We were really lucky not to have them in the kitchen—I’d definitely be a bit more proactive with ants in there.

    I gotta learn not to mention the ants; I posted this last night and this morning, the back door ants had returned! More poison tonight, I guess.

  6. Summer says:

    We’ve tried most of what’s on your list. We end up using chemicals in the yard, even though i would rather we didn’t. The bacvkyard is a giant anthill every year, meaning we can’t play out in it and they invade.

  7. Megan at Sortacrunchy says:

    I have absolutely no advice for you, mama. Just wanted to say I loathe and detest ants with the same white-hot intensity you do!

  8. MStar says:

    Wow! So I’ve got an ant infestation, and I’m pretty passionate about finding a “natural” route. I thought baby’s mamas!!! The must be pretty hard core about this topic!

    I was super surprised to find that I didn’t find the answer here. So I kept looking.

    What I found, I thought might be appreciated here.

    It’s called Diatomaceous Earth. It’s uber tiny (though I’d still keep it out of reach), microscopic in fact, shells of organisms called diatoms. They live at the bottom of the ocean and when they out grow their shell, the shed it. Well these magical little shells are like razors to an ants hard exterior. It pierces their shells in multiple places and makes em ‘bleed to death’ (or what ever seeps out of their shell). It sound harsh… but all of killing is harsh.

    Here’s a few linx for you to check out yourself. It’s not expensive either! Which is rad.

    This stuff kills FLEAS too!!!

    I’ll blog again once I try it and let you lovely ladies (and men, I’m sure) know how it worked.

    http://www2.yardiac.com/long.asp?item_id=1301&promo=google&gclid=CMLa1qqjt40CFRVlYQoda0YHEw

  9. Corey says:

    So glad that something worked. I haven’t had this problem yet, but I will make sure I come back here if I ever do. :)

  10. Jenny says:

    Its that time of the year again.. and like many of you I have tried almost everything on the list.. even the grits which supposedly if they eat them and drink water will make their stomachs expand and they die. only thing i found that works in Terro.. its a pain because you still see ants for a few days but it is the only thing that works if they are coming in under the house. They carry the stuff back and it kills the ants in the nest..I have 3 kids 5 and under so i have to watch what i use..

  11. Jordan says:

    I’ve heard good stuff about Terro, but like you said, you can’t use it where kids can get it. I can’t remember what brand of poison we ended up using (#21 on the list), but we actually used the left over traps again this year and so far, they haven’t been around for a couple days… Knock on wood.

  12. organic insecticides says:

    I’ve tried EcoSMART and they’re giving away free samples if you give them feedback on your experience.

  13. Stephanie says:

    this site is great perfect advice but everything doesent

  14. Dagmar says:

    We are just getting invaded again. Diatomaceous earth does keep them away – they really don’t like it. However, be careful about breathing it in (it is an inhalation hazard). We tend to use it on the outside of the house. Last time it worked, hoping to repeat the success again today.

  15. betty r. says:

    my husband insists on spraying ant poison in the house. now i don’t like ants either but this is kind of scary – esp since we have a 17 month old who plays around the house. my question: is ant poison only dangerous if you actively drink a bunch of it? or is it bad to breath, have it on your hands, etc? i can’t find any info on this. thanks in advance!

  16. Jordan says:

    You know, I’d recommend asking poison control (800-222-1222).

  17. Di says:

    I read on astray recipes that equal parts potato flour and powdered sugar will kill the aunts and it is completely safe for children. According to them the sugar brings them to it and the flour dries them out…has anyone ever tried this? I don’t know if it really works becasue I haven’t tried it

  18. Cindy says:

    We are going nutts with the ants! The liquid ant baits work best. We haven’t been diligent enough though and now after 12 years of half-hearted attempts at eliminating them we’re considering professionals. I’m reluctant because we have five cats inside and I care for another five ferals outside! So now it’s war! We’re getting tons of indoor and outdoor baits and bombarding them everywhere. (They are everywhere!) To keep the innocent animals safe, I’ve purchases cheap food storage containers, cut holes on the sides at the bottom and put the baits inside the closed containers. I then put a handful of rocks in the container to weight it down. In the house, we wedge the containers where the silly cats can’t start batting them around like hockey pucks. The war isn’t over, but the enemy is thinning. My husband is a bit concerned that if we don’t truely kill the entire colony, we may be creating resistant ants. Good point. But I’m not convinced that even the pros kill them all. We know they live in our walls. How gross is that!?!?! The disadvantage to the bait is that the first day or two things might get WORSE as they discover this exciting new source of food. But don’t spray them. Let them eat the bait. Watch the bait. If the ants start to thin out make sure it isn’t because they’re running out of bait. Put another one down if you need to. You want them to stop coming even though there is bait available. That means there are no ants left to go to the bait!!! This is California and when it’s hot the ants are everywhere. We have to put all the cats’ food dishes in plates of water – inside and outside. Be careful with the various types of liquid ant baits. Some are easy to spill if you don’t watch how you’re carrying it. It’s pretty sticky and very toxic. The food storage containers are a big plus. Good luck. Hope this helps someone.

  19. Jordan says:

    Cindy—love the idea of the boxes!

  20. Missy says:

    Cindy – brilliant idea! The annual ant parade is starting and I’ve been searching for a safe solution for 4 years. Thank you!!

  21. Cheryl says:

    Thank God I am not the only one who is passionate about killing ants!!! My husband is a landscaper who thinks I am absolutely out of control with my ant obsession. I cannot STAND them. They make me feel like my house is dirty too and I am obsessed with cleaning. I dread the beginning of spring because I know they are coming and what do ya know…. here they are… UGH. I have a 3 year old and a 21 month old. I have sprayed some botanical spray which works awesome by HOT SHOT but I guess its not taking care of the nest. So, we have sprayed around the outside of the house and put out ants baits in the house. I have to get better at NOT spraying them. I just want them to GO AWAY!!!!

  22. Tom says:

    ants do not carry human diseases and as far as we humans know, nobody has gotten sick from a disease that has used ants as a vector.

  23. Kathy says:

    Be very careful with the D.E. As it is an inhalation fish, and NEVER use the pool kind-per Richard Fagerlund, aka the Bugman

    Chalk – never buy ant control chalk. has been found to be super toxic to people (often an import from Asia)

    The Bugman says pbj mixed with boric acid, but this has to be kept from kids.

    When Martha Stewart had a very strong mint spray on the Mkt. Here in CA, it worked beautifully….then disappeared.

  24. Kathy says:

    Oh, gee, I meant inhalation risk!! Did not proofread . iPad fills in odd words.

    Another suggestion: MAX brand bait stations. The pros use these and they work, but they charge an arm and leg for them. They may be available on line. Still have to make sire the children don’t pick them up and suck on them….ugh!

  25. Tommie says:

    I have heard if you blend an orange up and spray your counter tops or anywhere ants are, it will kill them and prevent them from coming back. I know that Orange glow works, but you don’t want to use this where children or animals can get. I left mine over night around my kitchen sink and on counter and they were gone. Just make sure to wash the counter with soap and water really good before you place any food products in the sink or on the counter.

  26. Tommie says:

    Here are some websites about oranges. I stated in the other post to use an orange, it is the orange peel you will need to use.
    http://www.ehow.com/how_5541255_use-orange-peels-kill-ants.html

    http://www.gardenguides.com/93597-use-orange-peels-kill-ants.html

  27. dena says:

    Terro Liquid Ant Baits are baby safe. My son drank one when he was 18 mos old. I called the poison control # and they said it’s the only one on the market that is non-poisonous to humans & animals.

  28. Jordan says:

    Really? Wow! We had those and while the poison seemed effective, it seemed like a lot of the ants drowned in there instead. :\

  29. MSL says:

    I have had great success with pouring clorox directly on the threshhold. The great thing about clorox is even if injected, it won’t make you sick unless you drink more than 3 cups. It evaporates within 24 hours, but the ants don’t come back. Good luck!

  30. Sherri says:

    Just got here from reading Young House.

    In Florida, where ants are plentiful, Terro is the BEST! Takes a few days, but it is not poisonous so not a concern for the dogs or children.

    Also, Terro has a great staff online who responded to my numerous emails quickly throughout the infestation.

  31. Vivian says:

    I’ve used borax for years, and it seems to work very well. You have to make sure you get the kind that doesn’t have anything else IN IT to make sure it is safe for pets and children, but when you find it (I buy it online in bulk), then you can sprinkle it around the perimeter of your house and it seems to work very well. If you have a problem with fleas and want a natural solution, you can work it into your carpets with a broom. When I lived in Hawaii with my cats, and the fleas out there were so bad, that’s what I did since we had feral cats around and the fleas came indoors. I don’t have to worry about that now, but I do sometimes work it into the cracks in the house in areas where ants are a problem. I don’t have small children, but I do have immuno-supressed cats and the borax doesn’t seem to bother them at all.

  32. Cindy says:

    I am so glad I stumbled onto this website. I’m a new mom and we just moved into a house with ants that seemed to appear for no reasons. Knock on wood nothing in my kitchen so at least I know I am not THAT filthy! My husband sprayed outside and there are. I ants anywhere so hes guessing they are under the flooring. He’s bought the Terro liquid but I am reluctant to use it since it says not to use around areas where there is food so there wouldn’t be any cross contamination but for my one year old EVERYTHING that can fit in his mouth is food. Is it really baby safe?
    We ve used bleach to clean the house and there no ants for a week. It’s driving me CRAZY because they like to crawl on my newborns crib and I found them stupid ants in her hair and collar. I am so afraid they are going to crawl into her ear. My worse fear is to look in on her and she is covered with ants. We are are contemplating raid fumigation though the raid ant hotel did not work at all. I heard Grants Kill Ants is suppose to work really well

  33. Dan says:

    The fastest and easiest way I have found is to take a pot of boiling water and dump it on the hill. Instantly kills the nest by boiling /cooking them alive as the ant hill absorbed the heat and keeps it in. The only draw back is that it will kill the grass at that spot and you will have to wait for it to grow back. Overall I feel this is a decent trade for a natural and instant ant killer.

  34. Danielle says:

    Oh I am SO right there with you! I detest them. My husband doesn’t care so much since he grew up with annual infestations and learned to live with it. Me? Oh, heck no! This is our first spring in our new house, and omg, the ants have been AWFUL! But not just ants. Wood roaches!! To be clear, these are the ones that just come in when it’s too wet or too hot/dry. They are not the ones that colonize in your home. Silver lining? Oh! And SPIDERS!!!! We’re surrounded by woods, so I guess I should have expected it =/ Anyway, we had an exterminator come out TWICE in one month, and we’re still having issues with all three pests. I managed to get the ants under control with Raid ant bates for the time being, but the roaches and spiders are still a problem. I definitely don’t recommend the bait traps if you have small children though. My just barely one year old got a hold of one today and put it in his mouth. Luckily my 3 year old started screaming at me that Noah had something in his mouth and I got to it before any serious damage was done. Bella knows they are dangerous, and being the mother hen that she is, she jumped into action right away. Thank God for that. Still, to be on the safe side, I called poison control. They told me the worse that could happen if he consumed a large amount of the poison was an upset stomach and maybe some mild skin irritation if he got it on his face and hands. Lesson learned! No more bait traps. I just hope the ants don’t come back. I tried all the natural “deterrents” with absolutely no luck. They marched right through my vinegar/cinnamon/pepper barrier. I’ve even tried waiting at their entry point with the vacuum! I guess I figured if I killed enough of them, they would stop coming. I was wrong =/

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