Most ant problems — especially those teeny tiny sugar ants that are attracted to the sweets in your kitchen — can be quickly solved with ordinary items you have around the house. Think of what follows as a kind of buffet to get rid of ants. You pick the solutions that meet your immediate need with items you have on hand.
MOP AND VACUUM
To get rid of ants, start by mopping the floor at least once a day. Mopping and vacuuming help to remove the ants' pheromone trails. Cleaning and mopping will also rid your home of the food and crumbs that attract the ants. Make sure you don't leave any dirty dishes in the sink, and empty the trash bin regularly.
SOAP AND WATER
If you have ants or other bugs around the house, pour a 50-50 mixture of Blue Dawn dish soap and water into an empty spray bottle, and keep it handy. When you see the insects, spray them with the mixture. Provided you really saturate those little critters, the soap actually breaks down their exoskeletons, and they die almost immediately. It's a cheap and easy cleanup.
ALL-NATURAL OUTDOOR BUG SPRAY
1 quart water
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile soap or other liquid soap
Instructions: Pour the water, garlic, onion and cayenne into a 1-quart jar. Allow steeping for 1 hour. Next, mix in the liquid soap. Strain through a sieve, and pour into a spray bottle. Note: This all-purpose insect spray remains potent for only one week, so use it up.
Another pantry staple is pepper. To deter sugar ants, sprinkle ground black pepper around the home's entry points to keep the ants from coming inside.
A 50-50 ratio of water to white vinegar can also deter ants. Use this mixture to spray on countertops, windowsills and high-traffic areas.
Spray any areas where ants are feeding or accessing your house with WD-40. The spray will kill ants and serve as a deterrent from further access for as long as residue from the spray remains. Not sure where they're coming in? Spray WD-40 along the outside perimeter of the house. They will not cross it because ants hate the smell of WD-40 (so do rabbits!). Repeat as necessary.
Get rid of ants by drawing a line around your home's entry points using ordinary blackboard or sidewalk chalk. The calcium carbonate repels ants.
If fire ants plague your yard or patio and you're tired of getting stung by those tiny attackers, a flowerpot can help you quench the problem. Place the pot upside down over the anthill. Pour boiling water through the drain hole, and you'll be burning them and their house for good.
To ant-proof your kitchen, you don't need insecticides or ant traps. Just give it the lemon treatment. First, squirt some lemon juice on door thresholds and windowsills. Then squeeze the lemon juice into any holes or cracks where the ants are getting in. Finally, scatter small slices of lemon peel around the outdoor entrance.
Scatter your used coffee grounds in the garden and around the outside of your house. Ants are repelled by the scent given off by the grounds, and, as a bonus, coffee grounds are good for your soil and plants.
This is my personal favorite way to get rid of ants because it is quick and sure. Make sure you are using food-grade diatomaceous earth — NOT the swimming pool version, which has been chemically altered.
Sprinkle the food-grade diatomaceous earth, or DE, outside around the perimeter of your home. You can also safely sprinkle it inside where you see the ants — along baseboards especially. Do not wet the DE or it will not work.
Once the ants walk in the fine powder, they'll die; the DE quietly destroys their exoskeletons.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary a Question." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of Debt-Proof Living, a personal finance member website and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living, Revell 2014. To find out more about Mary visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.