Ants may look cute in cartoons when they're snacking on food at a picnic in the park, but when those bugs are in your home, they're not so cute anymore.
Though you don't want to spend all your time squishing ants, you also don't want to spray harsh chemicals all over your house. That's why I asked pest control professionals for eco-friendly and family-friendly tips on the best ways to get rid of ants in your home.
*Keep Things Clean
Ants come into your home searching for food, water and shelter.
"It is imperative to keep crumbs and food debris to a minimum, and frequent vacuuming is a must," says healthy home expert Caroline Blazovsky of My Healthy Home, a website dedicated to improving the indoor air quality of homes across America.
"Cleanliness is the key to keeping pests at bay. The littlest food particle, and they may be in for the taking," she says. "Make sure foods with odors are stored in the refrigerator or in air-tight sealed containers."
Clean counters, floors and other surfaces with vinegar and water, which are good cleansers and natural bug deterrents. Don't worry about the odor -- you won't smell the vinegar once it's dry.
"Do not use cleaners that have fragrance-based smells that may attract pests," says Blazovsky. "Natural or unnatural scents may encourage bugs to come in if they leave behind a sweet odor."
Before you reach for a can of bug spray, consider natural pesticides. But keep in mind, "just because something is natural, does not mean it does not contaminate air quality or isn't harmful," says Blazovsky, noting that although citrus naturally deters ants, it emits VOC's, which end up contaminating your air.
Raid your cupboard and your fridge for some pest-fighting tools. Brightnest, a website dedicated to home maintenance and cleaning, suggests sprinkling cinnamon and leaving cucumber shavings at entryways where ants are present. Both foods are a deterrent for ants. They also suggest cornmeal. When the ants eat the cornmeal and then drink water, the cornmeal will swell up inside the ants, causing the pests to die.
Mix a simple household solution to spray away the ants.
"I kill ants with a simple solution of dish detergent in a spray bottle of water," says Kimberly Button, founder of eco-wellness website Get Green Be Well and author of "The Everything Guide to a Healthy Home." "Add four to six drops of detergent into a small spray bottle; add water; shake up; and spray on black ants."
Ant and pest control company Terro makes liquid ant baits that contain borax, "which is recognized by the EPA as being among the safest and least-toxic chemicals available to consumers," says spokesperson Carolyn Schinsky, also noting that borax "has an extremely low toxicity for people and animals, but ants are another story."
"When ants consume the borax bait, it interferes with their digestive system and gradually kills them."
You can make your own boric baits by adding two tablespoons of corn syrup with two tablespoons of boric acid. Place the mixture on index cards and leave them around the house.
While borax is a "slow kill," it gives scouting ants time to eat the bait and take it back to the nest to be shared with the queen and the rest of the colony.
*Make Your Home's Exterior Anti-Ant
Make sure your home's exterior isn't welcoming for ants and other pests.
"Plant life, trees and rotten wood near the home or foundation can create living conditions close to the house where pests can live and gain easy access into your home," says Blazovsky. She recommends clearing debris and planting trees and bushes away from the house.
"If you are storing firewood, make sure to store it at least 18 inches off the ground and away from the home," she says.
Getting rid of pesky ants can be annoying, but cleanliness, natural deterrents and homemade solutions -- that are easy to make and environmentally friendly -- will be a great help this season.