12 Powerful Natural Scents That Keep Ants Away

While fascinating creatures with complex societies and an undeniable work ethic, ants can become unwelcome guests in our homes and gardens. Their search for food and shelter can lead to annoying and harmful invasions to your property and plants.

Fortunately, after I did some research I found certain scents can deter these tiny invaders without resorting to harsh chemicals.

1. Peppermint

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Peppermint is more than just a refreshing aroma for humans; it’s a potent deterrent for ants. The strong, pungent smell of peppermint oil disrupts ants’ olfactory navigation, effectively masking the scent trails they use to communicate with their colony.

Applying a few drops of peppermint essential oil to areas where ants enter or congregate can create an invisible barrier they’re unlikely to cross. Additionally, peppermint has the added benefit of repelling other pests like spiders and mice, making it a versatile option for natural pest control.

2. Cinnamon

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Cinnamon’s warm, spicy scent is a delight in many culinary dishes but is a natural repellent for ants. The key component in cinnamon, cinnamaldehyde, affects ants’ sensory capabilities, preventing them from detecting food sources and warning signals from their peers.

Sprinkling cinnamon powder around entry points or using cinnamon essential oil in a diffuser can help keep ants away from your space. Beyond its ant-repelling properties, cinnamon can also enhance the ambiance of your home with its cozy and inviting aroma.

3. Citrus Peels

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The fresh, zesty scent of citrus peels, including those from oranges, lemons, and grapefruits, contains compounds that ants find repulsive. Limonene, a natural chemical found in citrus peels, is particularly effective in disrupting ants’ trails and deterring their advances.

You can create a natural ant-repellent solution by simmering citrus peels in water to extract the oils or by placing dried peels in strategic areas. This method not only keeps ants at bay but also utilizes kitchen scraps that might otherwise be wasted.

4. Vinegar

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Vinegar’s strong, acidic scent is unbearable for ants, making it an excellent tool for disrupting their scent trails and preventing them from entering your home.

A simple solution of equal parts water and vinegar sprayed along entry points, countertops, and baseboards can deter ants without toxic chemicals. While the smell of vinegar can be quite potent initially, it dissipates quickly for humans, leaving behind a clean and pest-free environment.

5. Coffee Grounds

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Used coffee grounds offer a double benefit; they’re a great way to recycle your morning coffee waste and a natural ant repellent. The nitrogen-rich compounds found in coffee grounds are considered toxic to ants, causing them to avoid areas where the grounds are spread.

Sprinkling used coffee grounds around your garden or at points of entry in your home can help keep ants away. Plus, coffee grounds can improve soil health, making them beneficial for your plants.

6. Clove Oil

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With its strong, spicy scent, Clove oil is another natural ant deterrent. The primary component of clove oil, eugenol, is a natural insecticide that can repel ants and even kill them on contact.

A few drops of clove oil diluted in water can be sprayed in areas frequented by ants or directly onto their trails and nests. The potent aroma of clove not only repels ants but can also freshen up your home with its distinct fragrance.

7. Essential Oils Blend

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Creating a blend of several essential oils can enhance the repellent effect against ants. When combined, essential oils such as lemongrass, eucalyptus, and tea tree oil produce a potent scent barrier that is particularly unappealing to ants.

These oils contain compounds that interfere with ants’ ability to communicate and navigate. Mixing a few drops of each oil with water in a spray bottle can create a versatile and effective repellent spray.

This blend not only keeps ants away but also leaves your home smelling fresh and clean.

8. Garlic

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Garlic’s strong aroma is not just a culinary staple but also an effective natural repellent against ants. The sulfur compounds in garlic give it its distinct smell and are highly unattractive to ants.

Placing crushed garlic cloves near entry points or infested areas can deter ants. For a more long-lasting solution, boiling garlic in water and spraying the cooled liquid in ant-prone areas can help keep them at bay.

This method also has the advantage of being safe and non-toxic for children and pets.

9. Diatomaceous Earth

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Though not a scent in the traditional sense, diatomaceous earth (DE) (ref) works by creating a lethal barrier to ants. DE is a powder made from the fossilized remains of tiny aquatic organisms called diatoms.

The microscopic sharp edges of DE can cut through the ants’ exoskeletons, leading to dehydration and death. Sprinkling DE around entry points, in garden beds, or on ant paths can effectively control ant populations.

Since DE is non-toxic, it presents an environmentally friendly option that doesn’t rely on harsh chemicals.

Random Tip: If you have, or are thinking about getting backyard chickens, I love using diatomaceous earth for chicken dust baths.

10. Lavender

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Lavender, with its soothing scent, is not only beneficial for humans but also acts as an effective repellent for ants. The fragrance of lavender disrupts ants’ scent trails, making it difficult for them to navigate and communicate.

Placing dried lavender near windows, doors, and other entry points can help keep ants away. Additionally, growing lavender plants around the perimeter of your home can create a natural barrier against ants while adding beauty and fragrance to your garden.

11. Bay Leaves

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The scent of bay leaves is another natural deterrent for ants. The essential oils in bay leaves, particularly eucalyptol, are unappealing to ants. Placing whole bay leaves in cupboards, drawers, and pantry areas can help protect your food items from ant invasions.

This method is especially effective in kitchen areas where food is abundant, and ant invasions are more likely. Bay leaves are a safe and non-toxic way to repel ants, and they offer the added benefit of being a culinary herb that can be used in cooking.

12. Tansy

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Tansy is a flowering herb that can serve as a natural ant repellent when planted around the home or garden. The strong fragrance and toxic compounds in tansy leaves effectively keep ants and other pests at bay.

Planting tansy in strategic locations around your property can create a living barrier against ants. It’s important to note, however, that tansy can be toxic to pets and livestock (ref), so it should be used with caution in areas accessible to animals.

Safe Application of Natural Repellents

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When employing natural scents and substances to repel ants, it’s essential to consider the safety of everyone in your home, including pets and plants.

Here are guidelines for the safe application of natural ant repellents:

1. Diluting Essential Oils

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Essential oils are potent and can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil (like coconut or olive oil) or water before application.

A general guideline is to use about 6-10 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil or water. This precaution helps prevent potential skin irritation and ensures the scent is not overwhelmingly strong for indoor use.

2. Using Around Children & Pets

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Children and pets are more sensitive to certain natural substances. For instance, peppermint and tea tree oils should be used cautiously, especially around cats and dogs, as they can be toxic if ingested or inhaled in large amounts.

Always keep treated areas ventilated and ensure that ant repellents are out of reach of children and pets. Consider using citrus or cinnamon in areas frequented by family members and pets, as they are generally safer.

3. Applying Diatomaceous Earth

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Diatomaceous earth (DE) is an effective mechanical ant deterrent but can irritate the lungs if inhaled in powder form. When applying DE, wear a mask and gloves, and avoid using it in windy conditions.

Apply DE directly to ant trails and entry points in a thin layer that ants can’t avoid. Keep pets and children away during application and until the dust has settled.

4. Testing for Plant Sensitivity

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Before using any essential oil or homemade repellent spray on plants, test it on a small area first. Some plants may be sensitive to certain oils or acidic solutions like vinegar.

Wait 24-48 hours to observe any adverse reactions. This precaution ensures that pest control methods do not inadvertently harm your garden or indoor plants.

5. Avoiding Overuse

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Natural doesn’t always mean harmless. Overuse of certain scents, especially in enclosed spaces, can lead to discomfort or health issues for inhabitants. Use the minimum effective amount of repellent and increase gradually as needed.

Ventilation is crucial to dispersing overpowering scents and ensuring a pleasant living environment.

6. Storage & Disposal

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Store any homemade repellent solutions or essential oils in labeled, sealed containers out of reach of children and pets.

Dispose of old or unused repellents according to your local waste management regulations, especially regarding essential oils and plant matter, to prevent accidental ingestion or environmental harm.

Adhering to these safety guidelines can ensure that your use of natural ant repellents is effective and harmless to your loved ones and pets. The goal is to create a safe, ant-free environment without introducing new risks or discomforts.

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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.