5 Natural and Effective Ways to Get Rid of Ant Hills in Your Yard

Close up of tiny household thief ants feeding on sweet
© Mathisa/Shutterstock.com

Written by Alanna Davis

Published: September 12, 2023

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Ant hills may look unassuming, but that’s because you’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Ant colonies can burrow deep into the Earth, sometimes reaching depths two to four meters below the surface. Because ants build their homes underground, it can be difficult to tell how large an ant colony has grown at first glance. If they have taken up residence in an inconvenient place, it’s best to dispatch them before they continue to expand. Here are some natural but effective ways to eliminate pesky ant hills. 

1. Soapy Water

Tetramorium immigrans ants foraging

An average ant hill can be home to 20,000-100,000 ants.

©Bradley Rentz, CC BY-SA 4.0 – Original / License

Dish soap and water may not seem like they would make an effective ant killer, but when combined, these two ingredients create a deadly solution from which ants have difficulty escaping. Prepare a large pot of your solution and pour it carefully down the anthill’s opening, ensuring to fill it up with as much liquid as possible. As the ants try to escape, the waxy layer on their exoskeleton gets worn away by the soapy water. This layer is responsible for preventing water from entering their bodies, so once it is broken down, the ants will drown and sink. 

2. Boiling Water

Water boils in a stainless steel pan on a gas stove.

You’ll want to boil at least two gallons of water to pour down the anthill for the best results.

©VladK213/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Pouring blistering hot water over an ant will immediately kill them. This makes this method easy, quick, and nearly free. However, it is not recommended to do this if the ant colony you’re dealing with is located on your lawn or in your garden. The high temperature of boiling water will almost certainly kill off any plants it comes into contact with. This solution is ideal for ant hills in paved areas like driveways. 

3. White Vinegar

Vinegar being poured from a bottle into a glass bowl

Harmless to children and plants, vinegar is an excellent choice of natural insecticide.

©iStock.com/Michelle Lee Photography

White vinegar has a wide variety of purposes. You may not have known its effectiveness as a natural insecticide. The acetic acid in vinegar naturally occurs, making it safe for use in your garden. It’s also especially effective against ants! Combine equal parts water and white vinegar to prepare this mixture. You can spray this over areas where ants are seen or pour the solution into the ant hill directly. Vinegar is also occasionally used with water and dish soap, so feel free to add it to any of the above solutions we’ve discussed. 

4. Carbonated Water

Seltzer

Carbonated water is most effective against shallow ant colonies.

©Birke / CC BY-SA 3.0 – Original / License

Although not as popular as the other methods we’ve discussed, carbonated water is used as an insect killer. The carbonation in drinks like seltzer and tonic water will displace the oxygen in the colony when poured down the opening of an ant hill, suffocating the ants underground. This is especially useful for killing the queen, who lives beneath the surface. Once the queen is taken care of, the rest of the colony will be easier to dispatch and have a decreased chance of recovering. This method is best used against smaller ant colonies that haven’t burrowed deeply underground.

5. Essential Oils

dried herbs and essential oils

A wide variety of essential oils are useful as natural insect repellents.

©botamochi/iStock via Getty Images

It’s no secret that the strong scent of essential oils can be used as an insect repellent, but did you know that they can also efficiently kill ants? Mix a few drops of peppermint, cinnamon, or citrus oil with water to dilute the solution. This method is effective because the potent scent of these essential oils significantly affects the ants’ regulatory systems. Dousing the unwanted anthills in this spray will disrupt their senses and suffocate them. If you don’t have a spray bottle on hand, you can pour this solution directly into the opening of the ant hill itself.

Final Thoughts 

Natural remedies can take a little longer to work, but they are undeniably much safer than chemical pesticides, which can linger long after their initial use. Don’t get discouraged if these solutions don’t seem to wipe out the colony on your first try. It’s best to repeat the process two to three times to observe the full effects. 

Natural SolutionHow it Works
Soapy WaterIt breaks down the ant’s exoskeleton
Boiling WaterImmediately kills on contact
White VinegarAcetic acid is toxic to ants
Carbonated WaterDisplaces oxygen underground
Essential OilsBreaks down the ant’s exoskeleton


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About the Author

Alanna is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering insects, animals, and travel. In addition to writing, she spends her time tutoring English and exploring the east end of Long Island. Prior to receiving her Bachelor's in Economics from Stony Brook University, Alanna spent much of her time studying entomology and insect biology.

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