If ants are invading your home and you don’t want to use harsh chemicals, home made Borax Ant Killers may be the answer, but how effective are they? I decided to test five of them to find out!
Using more organic ant killer remedies is something that many environmentally conscious homemakers have an interest in. The results of my ant killer test may surprise you. Read on to see which of my baits worked the best.
Are you looking for things that we can do to protect the environment in small ways? Making home made products to keep pests away is one small step in that direction.
When the warm weather arrives, so do the ants. Terro is a commonly used retail ant killer and I decided to test commonly used borax ant killers against this product to see how they fare against the popular retail product.
The Gardening Cook is a participant in the Amazon Affiliate Program. This post may contain affiliate links. I earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you if you purchase through an affiliate link.
Why are ants in the house in the first place?
Ants enter your home though small holes, gaps and cracks on the exterior surface of your house. If you can seal off any places where pipes enter the house in a better way, you will go a long way towards keeping the ant infestations down.
Also keep tree limbs pruned so that they don’t hang too closely or touch the house. Low hanging or touching tree branches are a favorite way for ants to make a trail inside, as are wires and cables that attach to the house.
In the warmer months, ants enter the house looking for food and water. The cleanliness of your home is important, particularly the kitchen counters and floors.
Every so often, my kitchen gets a trail of ants in it. No matter how much I try to keep it clean, they seem to reappear, especially when it rains.
During dry times, I don’t see them much. We had a big rain storm this week, so now I have the task of getting rid of ants.
Homemade ant killers
Many homemade products do just as good a job as the retail products that you buy in stores. Things like disinfectant wipes and liquid soap can be made at home for a fraction of the price of store goods.
There are all sorts of home made ant killer recipes available online. Some say to use just apple cider vinegar, some suggest honey, and some swear by sugar.
Others say that confectioner’s sugar or peanut butter are the answers. Some say to water the ingredients down, some say not to do this. It gets very confusing at times.
One thing that is consistent, no matter what the homemade ant killer remedies suggest as a base, is that most also have Borax as a additional ingredient. The amount of Borax suggested varies from a lot to just a small amount.
Borax is a great all around household product used for cleaning. But it has dozens of other uses too. I recently made a Borax Weed Killer for Creeping Charlie for my lawn that works great!
And of course, I have tried the ant killer gel Terro that you can buy at Home Improvement stores which is pricey to say the least. With all the confusion, I knew it was time for my own tests so that I could see what works for me and what doesn’t.
Borax Toxicity to Pets
With any of the products tested, one must take care using it around animals and small children. Even though Borax is natural, this does not mean that it is safe.
Borax is toxic to bugs, plants and fungus. It is can also be toxic to pets and people.
Pets are also at risk because of accidental exposure and the possibility that they might consume the product. For this reason, people with pets should avoid using products around the home that contain borax.
Contact with borax can cause irritation of the skin. Inhalation of borax by your pet could cause shortness of breath and coughing fits so care should be taken when using it.
Keeping Ants out of the house
One of the best ways to control ants is to prevent them from coming into the home in the first place. This might seem as though it is easier said than done, but there are lots of things that you can do to keep ants out of the house.
Do you have a problem with ants? If you do, I’m sure the first thing you think is to call the exterminator or see what is available for poisons to get rid of them.
But wait! Before you do that, save yourself some time and trouble, and the chemicals, by reading my experiences with these homemade Borax Ant Killers.Got ants in the house? I tested five Borax Ant Killers to see if they performed well against the retail product Terro. Find out which works best at The Gardening Cook. 🦟🦗🐜 Click To Tweet
Testing Borax Ant Killers against the Retail product Terro
In testing the effectiveness in killing ants, I tested store bought Terro against Borax mixed with natural products as well as against Apple Cider Vinegar.
Testing Store bought Terro Ant Killer Liquid
My first course of treatment was the conventional Terro ant gel sold at hardware stores and at Amazon.com. I tried a different variety of it when I lived in Australia and it worked beautifully.
But every brand that I have tried here in the US gave me so-so results at best. Terro was the one most mentioned as effective so I tried it. Terro has borax as a main ingredient too.
Terro was pretty good at attracting the ants, but it needed replacing daily so it was the most expensive.
At this point I decided to try home made ant killer remedies. Researching all the remedies showed me one thing clearly.
The main ingredient for all the home made versions of the ant killer is Borax, as in 20 Mule Team Borax which can be found in the laundry aisle of most supermarkets, or if you cannot find it, you can Buy Borax on Amazon here.
Although Borax was used in each remedy, it was used a bit differently in each test and with widely varying results.
And now for the Borax Ant Killer Tests!
Apple Cider Vinegar as a Cleaner with ants
Before I got into the ant killer tests, I wanted to at least minimize the amount of ants running around. I remembered reading that white vinegar is good for cleaning up after ants. “At least I will get the kitchen clean for a while” I thought. (patience is not a virtue of mine as you can see.)
I had no white vinegar on hand but did have a big jar of apple cider vinegar. I made a mix of 50/50 apple cider vinegar and water, put it in a spray bottle, and went to work.
I scrubbed all the counters, the sink, appliances – even my spice jars. When I finished, there was not an ant in sight right, but I knew that cleaning just removed the ant trail.
The ants will be back. Of that I have no doubt. Oh…and my kitchen smells like a salad now, which is not so bad, I guess.
I also have a nice big jar of apple cider vinegar which I have discovered makes a great, and inexpensive, cleaner. Although this is not an ant KILLER, it does a great job of keeping them off the counters for a while.
For a more permanent solution, let’s try some of the following ideas using Borax for ants.
How to kill ants with Borax
Borax is also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate and disodium tetraborate. It is a salt of boric acid. Powdered borax, such as that found in 20 Mule Team Borax is white and consists of crystals that dissolve in water.
The commercial product is partially dehydrated.
Why use Borax to kill ants?
When ants consume a borax bait, it interferes with their digestive system to such an effect that it gradually kills them.
The slow rate of kill gives the worker ants a chance to consume the bait and then head back to the nest to share it with the rest of the colony and then the queen.
Since one of the main ingredients in the retail Ant Killer Terro is Borax, it stands to reason that homemakers would try to come up with a DIY alternative that features it for killing ants, as well.
The following combinations of Borax and other ingredients were those that I used to test the home made ideas. In some of them, the amount of Borax is very large, in others quite small.
I tested some combinations that are sweet and some that are protein based to see if this has an effect.
Testing Borax ant bait using Sugar and Borax Dry
First on my list was a mixture of confectioner’s sugar and Borax in dry form. I just mixed equal parts of it and place it in a condiment lid to try out tonight in my test.
First results showed the ants completely ignoring the bait. The reason is simple:
This is the strongest mixture of borax, and the ants could easily detect it and stay away. Ants may be a nuisance but they are smart.
It turned out, in all of my tests, that the weaker concentrations of Borax worked better than strong ones.
Testing Sugar and Borax Wet
This test gave reasonable results (see below) compared to the Terro and is MUCH cheaper.
Testing Borax and Honey as an ant killer
The next home made recipe I tried was a strong combination of borax, honey, and water. A friend with a wonderful gardening blog, called Tending My Garden, swears by the honey and borax recipe.
The formula was made by combining 1/2 cup of honey, 1/4 cup of Borax and 2 tbsp of boiling water – another strong mixture. It made a gel which reminded me of my Australian concoction and I thought Eureka!
To be honest, I’m not sure I gave it long enough, but there were literally HUNDREDS of ants nearby and other than one or two ants they ignored it totally. (several hours of testing – at least 5 or more)
I decided that I had too much Borax in the mix and have figured out that it is pretty clear the ants will not eat it if it is too strong, so I added more honey but they still had no interest in it. I saved the mixture to test it against the other remedies in a longer test.
There are two kind of ants – protein and sugar ants. It could be that the ants in my house are fussy about their foods, since most of the savory ant killer tests didn’t work very well.
Testing Peanut Butter and Borax as a killer for ants
Next on my list of remedies was a concoction of a half teaspoon of Borax mixed into the peanut butter and made into a paste. Now the cook in me hopes this one works, since peanut butter is considered part of the food pyramid to me and I hope the ants will think so too.
This is also the easiest ant killer remedy to make.
I used low fat Jif peanut butter. I just want to kill the ants, not make them fat! This test had so so results but did not need re-baiting as often.
It is a good killer for ants that feed on protein though.
Questions about the Home made Borax Ant killer tests
Once I had all my mixtures together, my test now was to place the four home made mixtures side by side with the Terro Brand, down on my clean counters.
I placed them near the location of the earlier ant trail (before cleaning with apple cider vinegar) and gave them a good test that lasted 2 days.
I was a bit skeptical about the height of the condiment lids (only 1/4″ but the Terro was always put on a flat piece of cardboard.)
So I also placed five pieces of card with the mixtures on them too in case the ants were hampered by the height of the containers.
Doing this gave me a chance to find out about four things:
- Do the ants reappear after the apple cider vinegar cleaning? If so, how long did it take?
- Which of the four home made remedies works best at attracting the ants?
- Does the retail Terro brand work better/worse than the home made baits?
- Does the container make any difference?
- Does the concentration of Borax matter?
I left these dishes down for 48 hours to give them a good test.
The results of the Borax Ant Killers Test:
Each test gave different results but the effect of each one allowed me to draw some general conclusions.
Apple cider Vinegar
One of the most interesting things about this test was the apple cider vinegar results. I got two completely ant free days after wiping down the counters with it. (there were hundreds of ants before I did this.)
I knew they would be back but was impressed with the length of time. Just wiping the counters with the spray might be enough to deter ants in general.
The cleaner didn’t do anything to actually kill the ants, but I use it now to at least keep them under control if I get an infestation while I am waiting for them to eat the bait I use.
I would recommend this apple cider and water mixture as a good deterrent, but not a good ant killer.
The Borax Ant Killer Test Findings
The results are in! This is the way my dishes looked after three days and the thorough vinegar cleaning. All baits had some ants eating the test product and some worked better than others.
Results of the Peanut butter and honey Test
The Borax mixed with honey was the least effective test. Peanut butter was better but still not too great. Neither attracted many ants even when the baits were left for several days.
Since the honey mixture had a strong concentration of Borax and the peanut butter a lighter one, this made sense. In general, ants avoided mixtures with too much Borax.
The honey test formed a skin on the surface, and the peanut butter got somewhat hard. This could account for the ants not being attracted to either mixture, at least in the later days.
Results of the Sugar, Confectioner’s Sugar and Terro Test
These baits were much more effective. The sugar water and Borax attracted a good number. Not as many as the Terro bait, but still a respectable and it is a much less expensive option.
It is not surprising that it placed second, since it is closest in the texture of Terro and also had a lighter amount of Borax in it.
The Confectioner’s sugar and Borax was a big dud. It was just too strong a mixture
Notes on the Results of the Ant Killer Tests
None of the home made Borax ant killers remedies were as effective as the Terro Ant Bait. Remedies in order of effectiveness in attracting the ants (from most effective to least) were:
- Sugar Water and Borax (effective but not exactly a close second)
- Peanut Butter and Borax
- Honey and Borax
- Confectioner’s Sugar and Borox (dry) – an abysmal failure! It did not attract the ants at all since it was far too strong!
All of the liquid baits (honey, sugar water and Terro) formed a film on the top which required re-baiting each day.
The containers mattered!
Only the peanut butter and borax in the raised cups had any effect at attracting the ants. Even so, all of the flat traps performed better.
The peanut butter required less replacing of the bait since it did not form a film but it did get somewhat firm.
And finally, wiping down the counters with Apple Cider Vinegar and water repelled the ants for about 3 days before they reappeared.
NOTE: The honey and powdered sugar traps had a larger concentration of borax in the mix than the others. Obviously, the ants are not as attracted to it if there is too much borax. The ants will pretty much ignore any baits with a lot of Borax relative to the total amount of the bait.
After 48 hours, many of the ants returned. Because it had been a full two days, I replaced the liquid baits since they had a “skin” over them and I wanted the test to be fair. (The peanut butter and dry baits were fine.)
I gave the baits a few more days to really test them all. The second test gave me a much longer time without ants reappearing. So my take on this is to make sure to leave the baits down long enough of the ants will be back!
It may be worth testing some of the stronger mixtures with a less concentrated Borax amount to see if they work a bit better.
Winners of the Borax Ant Killers Test:
The winners of the test by a mile were #1 Terro and #2 (second) Sugar water and Borax. Because of the difference in cost, my choice for the future will be the Sugar water and Borax. Even though it is a bit less effective, it costs so much less and that makes it worth it to me.
None of the baits, including the Terro, had fantastic results but Terro was by far the most effective. After 5 days of testing the baits, the Terro (best at attracting the ants) still had ants feeding on it:
Be prepared – for any of these tests – once the ants find the solutions, more of them will probably show up. However, within a day or so, there will definitely be less ants.
Over the course of just a several days, the majority of the ants will be gone (although as stated above, not completely in my experience.)
Also, note that your results may vary depending on the type of ant that you have a problem with. For me, it was the tiny black sugar ants.
Borax Ant Killers remedy in an Outdoor Spray
Now that I have the ants under some reasonable sort of control inside, I decided to make this mixture that I got from an Australian YouTube video.
I plan to spray outside where I see the ant trails on the windows, etc.
I hope that doing this outdoors will keep the majority of the ants OUT of the house. For this mixture, I used the following which is a combination of two of the remedies above but more diluted:
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp borax
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 cup of boiling water
Combine the sugar, honey and borax in a cup. Fill the cup with boiling water and mix well. Allow the mixture to cool and add to an old spray bottle.
Use the spray outside where you see the trails to keep ants from coming into the house in the first place.
It pays to stay on tops of ants outdoors. The imported fire ant is actually on the list of invasive pests identified by the US Department of Agriculture and the last thing you will want to do is get them in your house!
How does Borax kill ants?
The theory for the reason Borax ant killers work is that once it gets eaten by the ants, the Borax causes them to have gas build up in their systems. This is not something that an ant can get rid of like a human does. They die from the gas because they cannot expel it.
How Long does it take for ants to die from Borax?
This is not an instant cure since the Borax doesn’t work right away. The ants will take the bait back to their nest and it will be eaten by the other ants as well.
Whichever method you use, make sure that you put the bait directly in their path.
You will need to be patient. From my tests, it takes several days (about 4 or 5) for the ants to disappear completely.
Also, the ants may return in future. I find that every time we get a really big rain, ants are a problem in the house. So these baits may need to be re-used.
Now it’s your turn
Have you tried any of these Borax Ant Killers? What was your experience with the ant killer remedies?
Perhaps you have another, better remedy that works for you. Please leave your comments below.
Another use for Borax:
Borax is useful for all sorts of things in the home, not just for attracting and killing ants. Check out this post that shows how I used Borax to preserve flowers from my garden.
Thanks to one of our readers, Lou. Here is a YouTube video showing how to make borax/sugar bait traps for use outdoors. This ration is 6:1 (sugar/Borax)
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Would you like to be easily reminded of this post for Borax ant killers later? Pin the image below to one of your Pinterest household boards for easy access.
Admin Note: This post first appeared on my blog in June of 2014 I have updated it with new photos, a printable project card, and more detailed explanations of all the tests for the borax ant killers. I hope it helps with your ant problem!
Sugar Water Borax Ant Killer Recipe
I tested five different ant killers but this one was by far the most effective compared to Terro.
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 tablespoon of Borax
- 1/2 cup of boiling water
- Heavy Cardboard or lids of plastic condiment cups
- Combine the sugar, Borax and water in a saucepan on the stove.
- Boil for three minutes and allow the mixture to cool.
- Cut up some pieces of thick cardboard and place some of the mixture on each card.
- Place the card in the area where you see the ants.
- Replace if the mixture forms a skin over it.
- You should notice the ants eating the mixture. They will return to the nest and it will kill them.
- May need to be repeated if you have a heavy infestation.
The ants can detect if you use too much Borax in the mixture but are attracted to the sweetness of the bait.
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TERRO PreFilled Liquid Ant Killer II Baits, 3-Packs of 6 Baits Each
20 Mule Team All Natural Borax Detergent Booster & Multi-Purpose Household Cleaner, 65 Ounce, 4 Count
Tuesday 24th of May 2022
Hi thanks for sharing your experience. I use the Borax and Sugar method successfully all the time. I use about 1/3 ratio Borax to Sugar mix well then add water until runny like syrup. It works best when I pour some directly on the counter top and add more water with a teaspoon when it starts to dry out. I find that the ants lose interest as it gets dryer. Next I’m thinking of adding some glycerin to see if it takes longer to dry out.
Sunday 8th of May 2022
Excellent comments. Will try in a few. BUT I have fire ants in plantrs and at tree roots. I also am not known for my patience, so...will put both sugar/honey and salty peanutbutter with enough oil, maybe even some meat. Hopefully something works!
Wednesday 11th of May 2022
Hi Rebecca. I have not tried these remedies on fire ants, only on black ants. Please let me know if they work. I have fire ants in my yard too.
Sunday 8th of August 2021
Mix borax with maple syrup. Use very little borax, just enough to be effective. If the ants are a grease eating type, add a small amount of bacon grease (a few drops). Had a huge fire ant infestation in my backyard but poured a cup of this 1-2-3 formula (borax-maple syrup-bacon grease) down the hole and it sterilized them in two days. Effective on cockroaches also. In your home, just paint a blob on card sized paper or cardboard so it doesn't make a mess. Replace it in three days.
Sunday 18th of July 2021
As a beekeeper I think the idea of spraying honey flavored poison outside is not a good idea. Even without that consideration, ants aside from fire ants should be left on their own outside. Ants are generally beneficial insects.
Tuesday 25th of May 2021
One advantage to being a chewing tobacco user, the empty cans, with a few holes drilled in them make perfect ant hill bait sets. I put a little sugar water and borax in them and place them directly on outside ant hills. Works great and keeps other animals from getting to my mix. Refresh twice a week until activity is no more.