Erin has dealt with ants in the cracks of her driveway and in her back yard—here's how she defeated them.
Ants in the Yard or the Cracks of the Driveway
Every summer, I deal with ants in our yard. I find their little homes built up in our grass and cracks in the sidewalks. Now that we have two young boys, I've declared war on the ants. I did not want to use any harsh chemicals because our dog and both boys are in the yard every day (they would be outside all day long if we let them!).
So, I tried searching for natural ways to get rid of this problem. I've found a couple of different possible solutions, and have tried four different natural methods to get rid of the ants. I tried them each on different anthills in our yard or sidewalk. I documented how each worked, so I would know which way was the most effective and use that method next year.
I chose the methods for which I already had all the supplies. Before I outline the different ways, I will tell you a few different strategies I learned. These apply to each method.
- Mark each colony so you can locate it easily.
- When using a liquid, pour it at night when ants are less active.
- Use caution when using hot water or spices that may irritate pets.
- You may need to repeat the treatment since ants are very resilient.
Coffee and Cayenne Pepper
I loved this option because it was using something that I normally throw away. I took used coffee grounds and saved them for about a week and a half. If you don’t drink coffee or want to speed up the process, you could ask a friend or neighbor to give their used coffee grounds.
I put the used grounds in an airtight container and put them in the refrigerator so they would not get moldy. I have seen grounds get moldy after only a few days of being out at room temperature. Every day after the coffee grounds cooled, I put them into a container. I also added a few sprinkles of cayenne pepper. This is the part you want to be careful with so you don’t have a pet licking it up. This is also a reason to complete the process at night after your pet will no longer be in the yard.
After mixing the coffee and cayenne for about a week, I mixed it with water. I made the consistency runny enough so it would go down into the colony. I also used some chili flakes, thinking that would add some kick. I tried this one time but then realized I was either not pouring enough in or it was just not effective, so I moved to another option.
After I had tried the coffee and cayenne, I remembered this had worked for someone. The key to this process is to be extremely careful with the water because it can cause horrible burns if it touches your skin. This can also kill your grass. Most of our ants were along our driveway or in between cracks in cement, so I was not too worried about the grass.
First, I boiled the water. You can use a microwave or a teakettle. After the water is boiling, immediately pour it on the anthill. I poured it slowly so it would have a chance to run into the anthill and not just run all over the yard. I poured quite a large amount into each one; it was approximately two cups, depending on how large they were.
This worked really well, but I was nervous the whole time I was doing it. I didn’t like the idea of walking through the house with boiling hot water. We have two kids, so it goes without saying there is always something lying on the floor to trip over. That and the dog could prove to be very difficult to maneuver through when focusing on trying not to spill.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
Before starting this process, I took a wooden skewer (yes, one we use for shish kabobs) and shoved it into the hole in the middle of the anthill. After pushing it down as far as possible, I wiggled it around so it made room for me to put some baking soda. I wanted to get it down further, and without the larger hole, it would only lay on top of the hill.
After, pour baking soda down a little but not all the way to the top. It will foam up in the next step, so it is good to leave a little room. After pouring the baking soda in, pour the vinegar into the hole. This will cause it to foam and hopefully results in no more ants.
Cornmeal or Grits
This is not for those who care about the ants' feelings, just as with the boiling water or other previous choices. What will happen is the ants will carry this, just as they do any food, and they will eat it. They are not able to digest it, so they will not be able to survive after they eat it. This is similar to why people have stopped throwing rice at weddings—it expands in birds' stomachs.
Cinnamon can be sprinkled around near the anthills. This is the method to pursue if you would like a more humane way. The ants don’t take any mercy on my yard, or me so we don’t take any on them. I figure they would just take up residence in another spot in our yard. This would be a way that would hopefully move them to someone else’s yard, but I am looking for permanent solutions. This is a very easy way and would not be dangerous for animals.
Whichever way you chose, just remember to be careful to keep kids and animals safe. Also, make sure to be safe with the different ingredients. I am still waiting on results for a couple of the methods since it rained one of the nights after.
Based on what I have seen so far, I think I will stick with the boiling water. I will just make sure I complete the task when it is nap-time, or my husband can keep the kids far from my path. I don’t want to take the chance of a burn. I will also be more proactive and clear a path, and make sure I am taking the most direct route possible. I even thought I would use my oven mitt that is covered in silicone. That way, if any spills, I am protected.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Which option(s) have you, or will you try?
Jacob Vaughn on September 08, 2019:
Great article! One problem. I need to get rid of them humanely without killing them? I do not have a problem with them... except that when they are one my driveways and paths!?!? They spread seeds, are decomposers, control other insect populations, (catiplars, earwigs, grasshoppers, ect.) help areate the soil, and provide dinner for shrews, spiders, hornets, birds, and more. I just want them off my driveway and paths?!?! Help???
Irene sheridan on June 09, 2018:
I have used Grits on my patio to get rid of ants. This is the end best way to rid your yard of these pesky critters. After a few days I noticed an extremely large amount of ants gone. By the next season, none at all. It's been 3 years now and have to do it again. A few new ant hills but I know I can get rid of them. Now to do the driveway...
KARENLEE on February 08, 2018:
CHEAPEST BRAND OF SOAP POWDER OR FLAKES...
bernadette on May 12, 2016:
the cornmeal and grits sounds the best to me. I also pour kitchen salt in the cracks of the cement. Works for a while anyway.