Do you have a problem with ants in your home as soon as the warm weather arrives? I know that I do and I don’t like it at all. I decided to test 5 different Borax Ant Killers against the retail version called Terro to see which one works the best for me.
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.
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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
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 time.
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.
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.
Testing Borax Ant Killers against the Retail product Terro
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 for attracting the ants, but it needed replacing daily so it is 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
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 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. There is not an ant in sight right now, but cleaning just removes the ant trail. They’ll be back. Of that I have no doubt. Oh…and my kitchen smells like a salad now, which is not so bad, I guess. (and I 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 get rid of 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 as an ant killer?
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 as well.
The following combinations of Borax and other ingredients where 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. Some tests are sweet and some are protein based to see if this has an effect.
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. It turned out, in all of my tests, that the weaker concentrations of Borax worked better than strong ones.
Sugar and Borax Wet Test
My next attempt was a version with granulated sugar. This time I tried sugar with less borax and boiling water. I boiled it for 3 minutes and let it cool. This time the amount was 1 cup of sugar, 1 tbsp of Borax and 1/2 cup of boiling water – a much weaker concentration than the powdered sugar test. This test gave reasonable results (see below) compared to the Terro and is MUCH cheaper.
Borax and Honey Mixture Test
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. It was made with 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.
Peanut Butter and Borax Test
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. It is also the easiest 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.
Home made Borax Ant killers test
My test now is to place my four home made mixtures side by side with the Terro Brand, down on my clean counters near the site of the earlier ant trail and give them a good test. I was also 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 place five pieces of card with the mixtures on them too. This will give me a chance to see four things:
- Do the ants reappear after the apple cider vinegar cleaning?
- 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:
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.
The 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.
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. The honey also formed a skin on it and the peanut butter got somewhat hard. This could account for the ants not being attracted to it, at least in the later days.
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.
The Confectioner’s sugar and Borax was a big dud. It was just too strong a mixture
Ant Killer Test Result Notes
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 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. Only the peanut butter and borax in the raised cups had any effect at attracting the ants. 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 them 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, 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 it 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. 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.
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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Admin Note: This post first appeared on my blog in June of 2014 I have updated it with new photos and more detailed explanations of all the tests. Hope it helps with your ant problem!
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."