What Smells Do Ants Hate?

Ants are a worldwide nuisance, especially in the summertime. Being so small allows them to walk through even the narrowest openings and, no matter what we do, these tiny pests seem to always find a way to sneak into our kitchens.

Fortunately, there are several smells that ants truly hate. Certain essential oils can create an atmosphere that ants simply can’t bear to enter.

But what are they, and how can you use them to keep ants out of your home?

Which smells do ants hate the most? (Natural solutions)


Lavender contains linalool, a compound that has been found to effectively repel mosquitoes, ticks, and all sorts of other bugs. The smell of lavender seems to be universally hated by all forms of insect life, and could also help to keep ants away from your home!

Other plants that contain linalool (and may also, therefore, repel ants) include basil, oregano, thyme, and mint.


One study found that cineole, a compound found in eucalyptus, is highly effective for repelling red fire ants.

This compound is also found in rosemary, sage, and mint, so these aromas may also effectively repel ants.


Ants detest peppermint! In one study, researchers finding that 100% of red ant nests treated with mint granules were completely abandoned within 5 days of treatment.

Peppermint plants and oil have a strong odor that ants can’t tolerate, and could be used to keep the insects out of your house.


Garlic is delicious, has multiple health benefits, and is a key spice in cuisines all around the world. Yet another benefit of garlic is that ants reportedly can’t stand the smell, making it an inexpensive and effective bug repellent!

Other plants in the garlic family (like chives and onions) are also thought to repel ants, so it could be worth adding these to your garden, too.


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Cinnamon is another strong-smelling spice that can send ants running, as studies have shown. The cinnamon essential oil was found to have both repellent and insecticidal effects against ants and can be used to secure an ant-free zone in your home.

Cayenne Pepper

Like other insects and pests – ants dislike the smell of cayenne pepper. The active component of chili peppers is capsaicin which is an irritant for mammals, insects and humans.

Just sprinkle the cayenne pepper powder around the source of your ant problem or mix it with water to flood the anthill and repel ants naturally.

How can you use certain smells to keep ants away from your home?

Plant herbs in your garden

Cultivating an herb garden is not only great for adding fresh flavor to your cooking; it can also help to keep ants away. Many ant-repelling herbs (like lavender, chives, and mint) are easy to grow at home and can bathe your house in a scent that sends ants running.

Make an essential oil-based repellent spray

Making an essential-oil-based spray at home is easy. Simply mix 10-20 drops of lavender, thyme, or mint oil with a few cups of water in a clean spray bottle and spritz the mixture around ant-prone areas to repel the insects.

Repeat the process every couple of days for continued protection against ants.

Keep ants out with an essential oil barrier

Sprinkling a line of drops of your chosen oil can create an effective ant barrier that the bugs will not cross. This is a great way to stop ants from crossing the threshold of doors and windows in the exterior of your home.

However, you will need to repeat this process every few days, as essential oils are quick to evaporate.

Use reed diffusers and candles

Reed diffusers and candles are both effective ways to disperse the scent of essential oils around your home and can help to repel ants and other types of insects.

Set out dishes of essential oils

Perhaps the easiest way to harness the ant-repelling power of essential oils is to leave them out in dishes around your home.

Pour 20-30 drops of your oil of choice into a small bowl or saucer, and leave it by an ant entry-point (like a door or window) to have them heading back the other day. Keep an eye on your dishes, and replenish them every few days, or as the oils evaporate.

Scatter garlic cloves

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Ants have a big problem with the smell of garlic, so a few well-placed cloves may help to keep them away. Leave garlic cloves in areas where ants are likely to get in (for example, by windowsills and doorways) to send them back the way they came.

Use cotton balls soaked in essential oils

You can take advantage of the ant-repelling properties of essential oils (like peppermint essential oil, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and lavender) by soaking cotton wool balls in your oil of choice and leaving these dotted around your home. Place them by potential ant entry points (e.g. on windowsills) if you want to keep the insects out!

Other ways to prevent ant infestations

Keep your kitchen clean

The number one reason why ants come indoors is in search of food.

Keep in mind!

If you’re in the habit of leaving dirty plates and utensils in the sink or neglecting your trash, you’ll attract every ant in the immediate area!

Stay on top of your cleaning, and dispose of food waste properly to avoid an infestation.

Block off ant entry points

Being so small, ants can get in through the tiniest of cracks. It’s not possible to completely seal your home against bugs, but you can certainly make it harder for them to get in with bug screens and door sweeps.

How to get rid of ants naturally (Step-by-step guide)

Let’s take a look at what the process of ant extermination would look like if you would choose to take it into your hands.

1. Decide on the mixture

Whether you choose to put a few drops of peppermint essential oil into your mixture or sprinkle cayenne pepper – stick with it for a few days to analyze and see the results.

2. Identify the type of ant & find an ant nest

Finding the ant nest is crucial if you want to get rid of ants permanently and identifying the ant type will allow you to decide on the best bait to attract ants or repel them from your windows, doors and inside the house.

3. Erase the ant trails

With a mixture, spray around the corners and surfaces where you see ants coming or going to the food source. It’s essential to remove these scent trails to increase the chances of ants not coming back.

4. Analyze the success and decide on the next steps

You have managed to get rid of ants? Good for you! But if you still see them around entry points and they haven’t disappeared – you should look into ant baits or chemical-based solutions.

Frequently asked questions

1. Do ants hate the smell of vinegar?

Vinegar most likely will repel ants but not really how you might think. Even though ants hate the smell of vinegar, vinegar similar to lemon juice interferes with ant pheromone trails which “erases the invisible path” ants are following. 

Note: Carpenter ants pheromone trail can last few days so it’s essential to deal with them as fast as you can.

Dilute the vinegar with water in the proportions of 50/50 and spray it around the entry points of your house where the ants might come in.

2. What do ants hate in general?

We have mentioned all of the most common known scents ants dislike in this article so make sure to try them out when moving to chemical solutions.

Other ant repelling scents we have heard but not tested are coffee ground, black pepper, baby powder, borax and citrus peels. 

3. Do ants hate the smell of lemon juice?

Just like vinegar – lemon juice can get rid of scent trails (pheromone trails) which can cause confusion between ants on where to go.

Mix the lemon juice with water and spray around the area where the ants can be found.


Ants are found all around the world, and frequently invade homes in search of food. Fortunately, there are several smells that ants can’t tolerate, and which may help to keep these pests out of your kitchen.

Cinnamon, lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint, and garlic are just some of the scents known to disgust ants, and all can be used to your advantage.

Planting ant-repelling herbs (like peppermint and lavender) and using essential oils derived from cinnamon and eucalyptus can all effectively reduce the number of ants on your property.



the commercial ant baits i use are a boric acid/ sugar sol’n. what should be used for ants attracted to fat? if i left a hard boiled egg on the counter, on a plate, or an uncooked pork chop, they’d be swarming in minutes with ants .


    You can give Gourmet Ant Bait Gel a try. It should work on protein and fat loving ants as well.

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