How to get rid of ants in your backyard — 5 methods pest control pros use

Quickly get rid of ants in your backyard with these experts tips

Colorful garden in backyard with grass
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You'll want to learn how to get rid of ants in your backyard so you can kick back with a cool drink and a snack without an army of ants finding their way into your sandwiches.

Our pest control and lawn experts reveal the five best ways to eradicate ants from your backyard, and the step-by-step process to follow to apply their solutions well.

Get rid of ants trailing around your outdoor space easily and quickly with these simple methods.

The 5 ways to get rid of ants in your backyard

As the weather hots up, you'll want to keep pests out of your home and nixing them from your backyard is a great way to put distance between you and the bugs, which often head indoors during hot or wet weather, looking for food, water, and shelter.

Where our experts have recommended products, we've matched their suggestions with highly-rated products from trusted retailers.

All prices were correct at time of publication.

1. Boiling water and dish soap

White SMEG tea kettle on a stovetop

(Image credit: SMEG)

A water and soap mix is a non-toxic, cheap, and easy way to get rid of ants in your backyard and prevent them from becoming an ant problem in your kitchen

Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love, says, "If you've ever run over an ants' nest with your lawnmower, you know destroying the mound doesn't result in much beyond very angry ants. Doing this is a great way to get swarmed, especially when dealing with fire ants. Unfortunately, to get rid of an ant nest in your backyard you'll need to resort to some dirtier tactics.

"The easiest of these is to mix three parts boiling water to one part dish soap. Rake the top of the mound away to expose the primary tunnel system, then use a funnel to pour the boiling water mixture right into the heart of the nest."

Classic Dawn EZ Squeeze Dish Soap, available at Walmart, will do the job (and the upside-down bottle makes it that much quicker to use).

2. Borax acid powder

A wooden scoop with laundry powder in it

(Image credit: Canva)

If the soap and boiling water method doesn't quite work for you, Jeremy recommends pouring borax powder (such as Walmarts Duda Energy borp5 Fine Powder Boric Acid, which comes in a resealable bag and works well to get rid of roaches too) into the nest. 

Jeremy adds, "Within 48 hours you should see no more ants."

You can also make boric acid bait traps. Dr Daisy May, veterinarian, says, "Though the powder can be toxic if ingested in large amounts, placing boric acid bait traps in strategic locations is an effective way for the ants to transport the bait back to their colony. Check them frequently and replace them as needed."

Dr Daisy warns that consistency is key. 

"Ants are incredibly persistent," she adds, "so you'll likely need to repeat treatments for a couple of weeks to fully eliminate them. I also advise treating in the evening when ants are most active."

You can make a bait mix by mixing one part borax with three parts powdered sugar and placing it near ant trails where workers will carry it back to colonies. Just make sure to keep children or pets away.

As for the time of the year, it is most effective to get rid of ants in early spring or late winter since this is the time before their reproductive cycle, explains Andy Kolodgie, co-founder of Property Leads

Andy says, "The treatments may require application after every two weeks until the issue is resolved. Remember, it is important to keep your yard clean to avoid any possibility of the pests finding food and other things that they can use to build their nests."

We have a rundown of great patio cleaning products from The Home Depot.

3. Baking soda and sugar bait

Baking soda in glass bowl with wooden spoon

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you don't have any boric acid, swap it for baking soda instead, which is a common cleaning and cooking ingredient often forgotten in the back of our pantries.

Brett Bennett, director of operations at PURCOR Pest Solutions says, "Combine baking soda and powdered sugar to create ant bait. Place it inside a small container and place it near their ant trail, and that will kill them pretty effectively."

All you need is a 1:1 ratio of the two ingredients.

4. Diatomaceous earth

A meadow garden with yellow, purple, blue, and white flowers dotted all round it and green grass in between it

(Image credit: Getty Images / Jacky Parker Photography)

Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring sedimentary rock powder that is non-toxic to pets and children when used properly. Dr Daisy says it works by disrupting the waxy outer layer of ants' exoskeletons with its microscopic particles, which leads to dehydration and ultimately eliminates them.

She says, "Simply sprinkle a light coating along ant trails and nests. I've seen good results reapplying diatomaceous earth every few days until the ants are gone. I've found the most effective approach is using this substance as an initial broad treatment. 

"Then, once that starts to make an impact, follow up by hitting any remaining ant trails directly with a vinegar spray solution and strategic boric acid bait traps. This one-two-three punch has helped me reclaim ant-free spaces time and again.“

I've personally tried this method with ants in my small backyard in the UK and it works brilliantly. You can also use it to get rid of roaches in the kitchen. Try the Garden Safe Insect Killer Diatomaceous Earth available on Amazon, for eliminating ants, mealy bugs on plants, fleas, German cockroaches, beetles, and aphids. Please note this will not work on carpenter ants.

5. Vinegar

Homemade citrus spray with half-cut citrus fruits in the background

(Image credit: manyakotic/Getty Images)

Besides using vinegar to clean, you can make a pungent solution to ward off ants. 

Dr Daisy says, "Ants really dislike the smell of vinegar. Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Saturate areas where you see ants entering your yard. Reapply after it rains. As a veterinarian, I appreciate this is a very pet-friendly way to create an ant barrier."

We recommend having a stash of white cleaning vinegar at home as it's such a useful item to have. Ants also hate the smell of citrus so you can throw some peels in your mix (just one way to clean with citrus peels) to double up the potency.

If you need something more powerful, gardening pros also love the Cutter backyard bug spray.

Meet the experts

headshot of Jeremy Yamaguchi from Lawn Love
Jeremy Yamaguchi

Jeremy Yamaguchi is the CEO of Lawn Love, helping homeowners find quality, reliable lawn care. Specializing in technology and using industry experience, Jeremy intends to revolutionize the lawn care industry.

Dr Daisy May, a blonde white woman, is pictured smiling in green medical scrubs
Dr Daisy May

Dr Daisy May is a veterinary surgeon and pet care writer, who splits her time between the USA and UK. She graduated with distinction from the University of Liverpool in 2019 and has since focused on providing quality veterinary advice. Her writing has been previously featured in Vet Times, Your Dog Magazine, and The Kennel Club.

Andy Kolodgie a white man in a baseball cap and moss green t shirt
Andy Kolodgie

Andy Kolodgie is a real estate professional with years of experience buying, maintaining, renovating, and selling properties. He is well-versed in various property treatment methods, their application, and the optimal cadence for effective results, including backyard pest control. His work involves not just buying homes, but ensuring they are in the best possible condition for sale.

Brett Bennett

PURCOR Pest Solutions is proud to be one of the fastest-growing pest control companies in the United States — bringing some of the most trusted pest control names in the industry into one. PURCOR's pest professionals are equipped to offer you brilliant protection and service using advanced pest control methods that require fewer applications.

Now you've sorted the creeping ants on the ground, learn about getting rid of flying ants, which are known to exit their nests and swarm around homes and backyards on hot and humid days.

Punteha van Terheyden

Hi! I'm editor of Real Homes. I've been a senior journalist and editor for magazines and the UK national newspapers for 16 years, specializing in consumer, real-life, and lifestyle articles. I have a BA in English Language and Communication and am also founding editor of Lacuna Voices, an independent platform. I love to cook, add character to my newly-built home, try my hand at DIY projects, keep my collection of plants alive, and make memories with my little family of three. For Real Homes, I specialize in articles on pest control, DIY, declutterring and cleaning.