Are Ant Killers Safe to Use?

Spraying for ants? We've got insight. Here's what to know about toxic and nontoxic ant killers

The lowdown on safe ant killers

While there is little so disturbing as walking into your kitchen to find a bowl of fruit or a plate of cookies swarming with ants, when we reach for a can of ant spray, most of us experience a second disturbing thought. How safe is the pesticide we are about to spray? The fact that ants usually invade the kitchen where we prepare, eat, and store food makes this an even greater concern. Are these pesticides safe to spray in our kitchen? Is there a safer alternative?

Should Pesticides Always be Used to Control Ants?

According to the Pesticide Research Institute, there are several non-toxic and even chemical-free ways to rid your home of ants, leaving chemical pesticides as a method of last resort. Pesticides can be a danger, especially to homes with small children and babies who spend periods of time on the floor and frequently put their fingers in their mouths. According to the EPA, sprays and foggers guarantee exposure to pesticide ingredients through inhalation of the droplets, and contamination from toxic over-spray.

The first step in getting these pesky invaders out of your home is to identify which of two types of ants they are. If the ants are coming into the house through a window or door crack, then they likely have a nest outdoors and are raiding your home in search of food. If they are coming from cracks in the wall or from outlets, cabinets, and floors, they may be coming from a nest inside your home, in which case you may need to destroy the nest at its source.

Most invasions of ants are of the first type, foraging ants seeking either food, or shelter from unfavorable outdoor weather conditions. These types of ants can be stopped using non-toxic methods.

Non-Toxic Methods of Controlling Ants Indoors

Wipe down counter tops after an ant invasion, preferably with a strong citrus, or mint scented cleanser. Ant scouts leave a pheromone trail behind them to mark the way to food so that other ants can follow the trail. Careful cleaning of your counter tops or any ant invaded surfaces, can erase the pheromone trail and prevent further raids.

Other things you can do to prevent an ant infestation include storing food in airtight containers and keeping indoor trash cans emptied or tightly closed.

Keep mulch, plants and other moisture trapping substances a distance away from the outer walls of your home.

Use natural products to make your home unappealing to ants. Ants strongly dislike cinnamon. Sprinkling cinnamon on counter top corners, near window seals and around doors will make your home smell wonderful to you, but the ants will hate it. Cinnamon will help prevent ants from seeking food inside your home.

Ants can also be repelled by cayenne pepper, vinegar, cream of tartar, salt, and perfume. They can be killed by spraying them with a half and half mixture of soap and water. Window cleaner is also a less toxic option than pesticides and it kills invading ants on the spot.

Another good counter tactic to remove ant invaders is to place non-toxic bait traps such as dry, instant grits around your kitchen. Ants will eat the grits which will then swell in their bodies and kill them.

A mixture of molasses, sugar and yeast will also kill ants, while being safe for humans. The yeast causes gases to rise in the ants who die because they cannot expel the gas.

Finally, following the ant trail back to the nest and then destroying the nest with boiling water, or water mixed with cayenne pepper to destroy the nest and the ant queen hidden deep inside. Killing the queen is necessary, because otherwise she will produce more ants to rebuild her colony.

Are any Chemical Pesticides Safe to Use to Kill Ants Indoors?

Ant killing gels are a good option if you need to combat ants with a pesticide. Gels are easy to squirt directly into cracks and crevices without contaminating other surfaces, and without spray droplets spreading through the air.

Ant baits are another relatively safe option because the poison is contained inside the baits and cannot contaminate other surfaces. Be certain to keep them out of reach of children. According to the Environment, Health, and Safety Online, bait brands should be switched out frequently in order to keep ants from growing immune.

When ridding your yard of ants, chemical pesticides can be used with relative safety as long as children and pets are not exposed to the area for 24 hours.

While ants are certainly pests, fortunately they rarely damage structures, and are generally harmless with the exception of the stinging fire ants found in some parts of the country.

Resources— Pest StrategiesEnvironment, Health and Safety Online, Pesticide Research Institute