The Ins And Outs Of Making A Homemade Ant Repellent With Vinegar

  • Written By: Phil Hawes
  • Time to read: 7 min.

The truth is that ants are an essential part of your local ecosystem, but when they start to invade your home you need to act. We all know that insecticides should be used as a last resort, so this is why a good natural ant repellent can sometimes be a better choice.

In this article, I’m going to explore a very potent deterrent to ants that you probably have sitting in your pantry right now: vinegar!

Why Is Vinegar A Good Ant Repellent?

To be perfectly honest, vinegar is the best repellent for getting rid of ants if you’re looking for a cheap way to drive away these little pests. Ants are simple little creatures and use a scent trail to go from place to place. When they smell vinegar where they’ve laid a scent trail, they don’t like it. They get all confused because this smell is not only irritating but throws them off as to where they should go.

Vinegar is mostly acetic acid mixed with water. And though it doesn’t kill ants like you think it would, it does a great job at making them avoid going back to the same spot they visited before. This is because they use pheromones to track the scent that other ants have put on an ant trail.

You’ve probably noticed those impressive ant highways, sometimes even running through your home. All of that is built on a sense of smell. This “smelly-way” lets them know this will lead them to a food source, or back to their nest.

Spraying the trail where ants are marching not only kills their scent trail but it makes them so confused, that they can’t do their job. When new forager ants happen on the contaminated trail, they’ll also smell the vinegar and avoid these spots like crazy.

You can use vinegar outside as well as inside (assuming you can handle the smell) and it’s a great way to make a natural barrier to pests around your home.

This is why I spray along the edges of walls and around corners of a room with vinegar. Especially if you’ve seen ants walking in a line across your floors, spraying this path will surely make them avoid coming back again.

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Does vinegar work on all types of ants?

The honest answer is that I haven’t tried this on all types of ants but it does repel most of the more common species. If you are dealing with common pavement ants or even odorous house ants, then you should be able to use this natural repellent. The same is true for sugar ants and even fire ants.

However, when dealing with carpenter ants I would say that you should take more drastic measures. You really want to eradicate carpenter ants due to the damage they can cause, and a vinegar deterrent might be a costly shortcut to take. Just call a pest control company when dealing with these house-destroying little pests.

How To Prepare Your Own Ant Repellent From Vinegar

Over the years, I’ve experimented with making homemade vinegar ant repellent to see what works best. I have to say that white distilled vinegar is the cheapest and lasts a pretty long time in terms of keeping up its scent.

Even though you stop smelling the vinegar after a couple of hours or even a day, ants seem to be able to smell it. I put this down to their enhanced smelling ability but I honestly don’t know the biological reason for it.

This being said, I once used apple cider vinegar, but that was a total mistake since it left a stain. So, make sure that you pick up the right sort of vinegar at the store when you stop by. And this is the reason I use white vinegar, it’s water clear and it’s easy to dilute with water.

When I first tried using vinegar as an ant deterrent, I actually used my wife’s recipe for pickle juice (except without all the spices). This was a simple mix of 50% vinegar with 50% water. You can use 100% pure vinegar but it’s better to water it down so you aren’t using so much. It doesn’t cost much but a mixture helps a full bottle go a long way. Also, the smell won’t be so intense!

So, here are the two vinegar ant deterrent recipe’s I’d suggest you try:

A Super strong ant vinegar repellent mixture (3:1)

This is using 3 parts vinegar and 1 part water. I used simple plastic drink cups that I filled three times with vinegar and once with water.

After this, I put it into a spray bottle and mixed it with a shake or two. The spray bottle gives me an adjustable mist or a direct squirt for hard-to-reach areas. I use this mixture when I see there are more ants than usual. This works great in any season, especially during the summer.

Once-in-a-while ant vinegar repellent mix (1:1)

This is just a 50/50 mix with one big cup of vinegar and one bug cup of water. I find that you want the water to be warm so it mixes faster.

I add a couple of drops of clear washing soap just so I get the ‘napalm effect’ that helps stick the vinegar and water in place up on walls and edges of places where ants might like to go up and around.

How Does Vinegar Get Rid Of Ants Outside?

As soon as you’re using vinegar sprays outside, it’s a whole other ballgame- I have to admit. This is where ants are collecting their food and they are constantly on the move. I use this around the edges of my house using a portable pump sprayer. This uses air pressure with a hand pump and helps cover a lot of ground. Use it anywhere you don’t want ants to cross over or onto.

Spray at least 2 to 3 inches up the side of your house along the edges and especially around sidewalk cracks or gaps in the foundation. In the summer, I do this every couple of days when I notice ants are on the move again.

Don’t bother spraying it on top of an anthill, since this just makes them find a new hole to come out from. Just spray it where you want to draw that invisible boundary line they won’t dare cross.

If you’re fixed on killing the colony of ants because there are too many, you might need to call professional pest control to get the best results. Alternatively, if you want to do it yourself then you can check out my method for getting rid of ants for good.

How to make your vinegar repellent smell better – while staying effective

Where I live, there are a lot of orchard trees with lemons and oranges, so I’m sure ants are getting repelled by citrus fruits. I found a cheap bottle of this stuff called Green Gobbler that’s made from D-Limonene (Amazon). This stuff is great to add to vinegar mixes and sure makes the vinegar spray smell better. That doesn’t change anything for ants because they still smell the vinegar and also hate the citrus oil from the Green Gobbler.

It mixes really well with water and seems to last longer than two or three days. I suppose that adding regular lemon juice would work but concentrated citrus oil cleaners seem to work very nicely. I’m adding no more than a shot glass worth into my mixes when I use this outside. It tends to make my house smell like oranges if I spray it inside.

This is the cheapest method I’ve tried aside from using ant sprays which are very pricey. I also have a couple of dogs and a little kid, so I worry about these toxic chemicals. Vinegar and D-Limonene are completely bio-friendly so at least I know they’re not going to hurt my family or my dogs.

What Are The Drawbacks To Using Vinegar As An Ant Repellent?

If you’ve got an ant problem, the only downside is sticking to spraying every other day. Ants are oblivious little things that don’t give up. Once they find something they like, they’ll be back for more. So expect that you’ll need to grab a few bottles of vinegar for the seasons when they start showing up more often. If you can find Green Gobbler on sale, then buy a couple and save some money.

I’m not crazy about the vinegar smell so covering it with an orange smell works just fine for me. After it rains, you can just bet that the ants will be ready to start marching again. So keep that in mind if you’re living where it rains more often, you have to spray more often. I’ve also noticed that it tends to keep away annoying bugs like mosquitoes and gnats, and for some reason this also includes spiders.

Ever since I’ve used vinegar, it doesn’t attract anything I don’t want around my home. I do get that odd look from my neighbor who thinks I’m pickling something in my backyard from time to time. From what I’ve noticed, it doesn’t damage the paint on the house and certainly doesn’t kill the grass or plants. It’s actually great for killing weeds though! Besides that, there aren’t many negative things to say about using vinegar as an ant repellent.

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