Why Do You Have to Mix Water With Vinegar to Kill Carpenter Ants?

Carpenter ants are some of the most annoying and destructive pests to invade a home. Although they don’t actually eat wood structures, they still cause extensive damage that weakens the foundation of the house. To get rid of these pests, many homeowners often rely on a natural ant repellent first – like water and vinegar solution.

So why do you need to mix water and vinegar to kill carpenter ants at home? Most species of ants, including carpenter ants, dislike the strong scent of vinegar, which is why mixing it with water is enough to repel them. It’s important to note that while the vinegar messes with the scent trail and prevents them from returning, the solution isn’t enough to kill them. 

Ants and Vinegar: How Do Water and Vinegar Eliminate Carpenter Ants?

Pest infestations are a common household problem for many Americans. It’s normal to find a few ants scurrying in the kitchen and taking some bits of your leftovers now and then, but frequent ant sightings might be a sign of a much bigger pest problem.

Every participating pest management company in the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) study about ant infestation has already treated this type of pest problem in their area at least once. They shared that about 66% of the properties they treated involved eliminating carpenter ants.

While calling pest management professionals is the best way to get rid of the ants for good, it’s also normal for homeowners to try eliminating the carpenter ants in their house first using homemade remedies. And one of the most commonly used and effective natural repellents is the combination of water and vinegar.

However, this homemade solution might not be as effective as most people think. To learn more about how exactly they work in eliminating ants, here are things you need to know about the solution and how they affect the pests: 

Why Do Ants Hate The Smell?

Carpenter ants dislike strong scents like garlic, lavender, essential oils, and vinegar. These items might seem harmless for the nose of a human, but ants find these smells incredibly irritating.

But aside from its irritating smell, vinegar also affects the behavior of carpenter ants. As they walk around, these pests leave trails of pheromones that they use to communicate with other ants. They follow the line of pheromones to find their way to the nest and don’t bump into each other – which is also the reason why they’re always seen walking around in lines.

Since vinegar has a strong smell, the scent blocks the traces of pheromones left behind by other carpenter ants. This prevents some of the other ants from picking up where the trail goes with their antennae, making them panic and step back. 

How Long Can Vinegar Keep Ants At Bay?

Vinegar only remains effective for as long as the scent lingers. When the solution dries up, homeowners need to reapply the solution in the problem areas to keep ants away. However, it’s important to remember that vinegar shouldn’t be treated as the main line of defense against ant infestations. Calling a pest management professional might be necessary for a large-scale carpenter ant infestation. 

Will Vinegar Kill Ants?

The bad news is that vinegar doesn’t really kill ants the same way insecticides or pesticides do. The chemical composition of vinegar isn’t enough to poison ants. Homeowners can try drowning the ants in vinegar, but doing this with water only achieves the same effect.

This household ingredient is extremely effective in blocking ant pheromones and confusing the carpenter ants so that they lose their communication systems and pheromone trails. It’s simply a good ant repellent to keep the carpenter ants away, but it shouldn’t be used as a substitute for insecticides. 

Is Vinegar Safe For Eliminating Carpenter Ants At Home?

Many homeowners rely on water and vinegar in keeping carpenter ants away because making the solution is cheap and both ingredients are harmless for humans, pets, and ants. Vinegar only changes the behavior of ants but it doesn’t really kill them, so this household ingredient is your best bet if you’re looking for a non-lethal way to get rid of the carpenter ants. 

How To Make a Basic Vinegar Repellent

woman preparing water mixed with vinegar for and repel at home pest control needed

Although vinegar is a basic household item, it still comes in different kinds which makes it confusing for homeowners to find the best solution that works. Sometimes, they need to undergo trials and errors before deciding on the best natural repellent so it’s best to start with the basics.

  • Step 1: Find some white vinegar in your home and mix equal parts of vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Some people skip diluting the vinegar with water for a stronger ant repellent. Others mix some essential oil with the solution to enhance its effects.
  • Step 2: Look for the best spots to spray the water and vinegar solution into. Make sure to look for possible entry points like wall cracks, windows, baseboards, and doors.
  • Step 3: Re-apply the solution into the places where it has already dried. The smell eventually wears off after a few days, so it’s important to keep the scent strong by spraying the same areas with the white vinegar solution.

For more serious infestations that don’t go away with white vinegar, homeowners can try using a stronger solution by using apple cider vinegar instead. Preparing the solution is just the same as white vinegar. Aside from the usual problem areas like baseboards, windows, counters, and cabinets, spraying the apple cider vinegar solution directly onto the ants might help clear them out more quickly. 

Other Homemade Repellents For Carpenter Ants

essential oils to repel carpenter ants from home , pest control needed

Vinegar is one of the most effective and accessible natural repellents, but homeowners can also try other ingredients like: 

  1. Cinnamon

The strong smell of cinnamon or cinnamon oil also works in the same way as white vinegar in keeping carpenter ants away. The scent deters the pheromone trail that ants follow so make sure to dispense the cinnamon in areas where they frequently pass through. Applying the cinnamon solution directly to the nest of the carpenter ants might also help prevent them from causing even more damage. 

  1. Essential Oils

Essential oils disorient and deter carpenter ants by disrupting their communication channels and pheromone trails. Some of the most effective essential oils for naturally repelling carpenter ants at home are peppermint, lemongrass, tea tree, lemon, orange, cayenne pepper, clove, and cedarwood.

After choosing an essential oil to use at home, put a few drops of it into a cotton ball and leave it in the problem areas around the house. Another way is to apply the essential oil into a kitchen towel and wipe it on different surfaces where the carpenter ants might crawl. Essential oils can also be diluted into a solution or added into a water and vinegar mixture. 

  1. Baking Soda

Mixing baking soda with powdered sugar makes a simple yet effective ant bait. Just add equal parts baking soda with the powdered sugar and put it in a shallow dish. Make sure to leave the mixture in places with the most carpenter ant activity. The sugar attracts ants while the baking soda naturally kills them off. 

  1. Boric Acid

Boric acid is more concentrated than the borax found in the store-bought ant baits. This substance is used to kill off the carpenter ants because it dehydrates them once they ingest it. Boric acid is usually utilized by pest control companies, but homeowners can also use it and directly apply it into the entire colony – as long as they do it correctly with caution.

Although using boric acid is effective in reducing the ant population, this method requires precise application and identification of the ant colony. 

  1. Diatomaceous Earth

Food grade diatomaceous earth comes from crushed algae fossils that make a good natural pesticide. This abrasive material damages the exoskeleton of ants that come into contact with it, killing them in the process. Make sure to spread the diatomaceous earth near the colony’s nest or other places where there are carpenter ant activities. 

  1. Boiling Water

Another direct and effective method of killing ants is by pouring boiling water over the outdoor location of the nest. Just make sure to proceed with caution when doing this because it requires a few liters of hot water to kill the ants in their nest.

Adding soap, essential oils, or water-soluble pesticides makes this ant extermination method more effective. Like other natural remedies, this might also require homeowners to repeat the process a few times to completely get rid of the carpenter ants using warm water. 

How to Recognize Carpenter Ant Infestation

Carpenter ants are one of the most destructive ant species to ever invade a property because they attack the wooden structures of a home. It’s important to get rid of them immediately before they start causing irreparable damage or weakening the structural stability of the building. If you suspect a carpenter ant infestation at home, watch out for these signs of carpenter ant activity: 

Live Ants and Swarmers

Carpenter ants don’t hide when they’re foraging so it’s easy to spot a few lines of ants on walls and counters. They’re also larger than most ant species at 5/8 inch on average, but their size depends on their role in the carpenter ant colony. 

Carpenter ants are also easy to identify based on their heart-shaped heads and single node between the thorax and abdomen. If you happen to spot a carpenter ant swarmer, they have 2 sets of wings with one set extending longer than their bodies. 

Wood Shavings

Carpenter ants don’t eat wood like termites do, but they still damage wooden structures as they dig to create tunnels, galleries, and nests. They chew on the wood and push it out of the edges or openings so there’s a huge chance that there are frass or wood shavings near the baseboards or walls they attack. 

Rustling Inside Walls

Carpenter ant colonies usually house about 3,000 ants, but larger colonies may have a population of up to 100,000 ants. As their colony grows, there’s a chance that a homeowner hears the rustling inside the hollow walls or other wooden structures around the house. 

3 Ways To Prevent Carpenter Ants From Entering

Although vinegar and water solutions help in repelling carpenter ants, they might not be enough to eliminate the pests for good. The best kind of pest control is to have preventive measures in place, such as: 

Seal All Possible Entry Points

Carpenter ants exploit all the possible entry points they see just to enter a building so make sure that your home is sealed and protected. Apply sealants like caulk to close all cracks, holes, gaps, and crevices on the walls, windows, and other potential entrances. Check moist areas of your home like the basements, HVAC units, and dryer vents for signs of ant activity because ants might also use them to get inside. 

Keep the Home Clean

Carpenter ants sense when there is a nearby food source so make sure to discard all trash regularly and keep the house clean. Wipe all countertops and flooring for crumbs and spills so that carpenter ants won’t be enticed to enter the house. Seal all food in tightly closed containers and avoid leaving dirty dishes in the sink. 

Trim Bushes and Trees Regularly

Wood piles, old lumber, and dry bushes are some of the possible nesting places for carpenter ants outside the house so make sure to remove them as soon as possible. If there are branches and trees near the house, trim them so that they don’t serve as a way in for the ants. 

Professional Pest and Ant Control Treatments by Yale Pest Control

professional pest control worker for carpenter ant infestation

If the carpenter ants in your home don’t seem to go away, then the ant problem might be worse than anticipated. In such situations, it’s better to rely on a professional pest control team like Yale Pest Control to eliminate ants safely and effectively.

At Yale Pest Control, each of our extermination services starts with an accurate inspection of the property. After evaluating the level of carpenter ant infestation, we discuss our recommended treatment plan with the homeowner and make sure they understand everything to know about the extermination service. We also recommend preventive measures to follow that keep the carpenter ants at bay for longer.

For all your ant extermination needs in Connecticut, call us at Yale Pest Control for top-notch services at the right price.