Ants are common pests, whether inside or out. Signs of the critters don’t mean your home is inherently dirty, but obviously, you don’t want these insects crawling around your home- that’s why we’re talking essential oils for ants today. 

Most types of ants live outside, but they easily find ways into your home to look for food and water. Spotting these pests inside your home means the chances are high that they set up shop in your yard. For this reason, you should probably target repelling ants both inside and out.

Some species, like carpenter ants, will also nest inside wooden structures. Over time, they can weaken wooden beams in your house and tunnel through trees in your yard. 

You should also remove any tempting food sources and keep your kitchen in particular as clean as possible. If you’re not already cleaning with essential oils, check out our article on 3 reasons to start cleaning with essential oils and watch this video to learn how to make an all-purpose spray with essential oils. 

Before you set out toxic traps or spray chemicals, opt to use essential oils for ants. They’re a natural and safer alternative – plus they are actually effective.

In this post, I’ll show you the best essential oils to repel and kill ants. You’ll even find recipes for aggressive fire ants and safe options for use on pet-friendly yards. 

The Best Essential Oils for Ants

Most essential oils for ants work because they have a strong scent that deters the critters from your home. Ants hate pungent smells, which interfere with the pheromones they use to communicate and coordinate with each other. Spreading essential oils around your home, inside and out, can mask the ant’s invisible trails and make it nearly impossible for them to return. 

However, some essential oils work better at pest control than others. Use the following best essential oils for ants:

Cedarwood: Studies show that cedarwood essential oil keeps ants from moving toward food if placed between an ant and a food source (1). Cedarwood for ants is also effective against aggressive types, like fire ants, which can be difficult to kill (2). 

Peppermint: A common insect repellant, studies show that the menthol peppermint is effective (4). 

Tea Tree: The strong smell repels ants, while the natural astringent kills them off 

Citrus oils: Orange and lemongrass are popular options. Both contain a substance called d-limonene that kills fire ants on contact (6). Lemongrass also masks trails that ants leave thanks to a high citronella content. 

Patchouli: If you want to kill ants rather than deter them from coming inside, research shows that patchouli essential oil can prevent a wide variety of common ant species, like black ants, and even has a high mortality rate (4).

Clove: Another excellent oil for ant control, clove oil interferes with the pheromone trails ants lay and even kills them. It’s a strong essential oil, so avoid using clove oil undiluted. 

Cinnamon leaf: Effective at repelling and killing black and red fire ants thanks to the strong odor and high eugenol content (5). Clean countertops, baseboards, and the kitchen windowsill with cinnamon oil.  

How to Get Rid of Ants

The easiest way to use oils on ants to create a spray. However, you can also make an ant repellent for the skin and use a cotton ball to swab the mixture along your body (or even your baseboards). 

To get rid of ants inside or out, you have a few options:

  • Essential oil spray: Combine a ¼ cup of water with 5 drops of peppermint, 5 drops of tea tree, and 7-10 drops of a citrus oil of your choice. Shake thoroughly and spray the mixture around your kitchen baseboards. 
  • Castile soap spray: An old remedy, castile soap is available in many natural health stores. Crumble up the soap and mix ¼ cup with a few drops of peppermint and a quart of water. Shake the mixture to combine well in a spray bottle and use it to kill ants on contact. 
  • Vinegar spray: Ants hate vinegar. Mix equal parts water with white or apple cider vinegar to spray around windows and doors, anywhere the ants use to get into your home. Include 5-10 drops of an essential oil you love to off-set the vinegar smell. 

Avoid the sun if using a blend on your skin as some citrus oils can cause photosensitivity. 

Pet-Friendly Ways to Get Rid of Ants in the House or Out

Ants aren’t always inviting themselves into your home to eat your food. Sometimes they’re after your pet’s tasty kibble. If this is the case for you, homemade sprays are a pet-safe ant killer option.

Lavender Oil & Ants

You may be wondering, “does lavender repel ants?”

The answer is yes. Lavender oil isn’t the most effective option, but it is safe for use around pets and young children. 

You can use dried lavender leaves outside to stop an ant trail or add the essential oil to a homemade insect repellent spray for indoor use. Sprinkle dried lavender anywhere you see ants or mix the oil with olive oil to spray ant paths. 

Citrus Oils & Ants

Orange and lemongrass are effective tools that are both safe for use around pets in small concentrations. Does orange oil kill ants? Yes, it’s effective both inside and out. The oil even kills fire ants and other aggressive types. 

However, don’t apply the oils directly onto your pet’s skin and make sure to avoid spraying the oil near their water bowl.

Castor Oil & Ants

Using castor oil is another non-toxic, natural way to repel unwanted critters in your garden without hurting them. It’s an excellent outdoor ant killer safe for pets and kids over two years of age. You can even diffuse castor oil, use it topically, and spray your pets to repel bugs. 

Effective DIY Ant Recipes

Ant Spray Essential Oil Recipe

There are many other DIY ant repellant spray recipes available. Like the above spray options, combine ¼ cup of vodka (or vinegar), ¼ cup of distilled water, and any the following essential oil combinations in a spray bottle:

  • 5 drops peppermint
  • 5 drops tea tree
  • 5 drops of citrus oil, like grapefruit, orange, or lemongrass

Spray up to three times per day until you notice the ants are gone. 

Alternative Natural Ways to Get Rid of Ants

If you’re new to diluting essential oils for topical use, you can use a Doterra ant spray called TerraShield. Diffuse a few drops on your patio or in your home to repel insects, or spray the mixture on your skin every few hours during outdoor activities. 

You may also be able to find poison-free ant traps that are inexpensive and safe for use around pets and children. Most options work by attracting crawling bugs into the sticky trap using pheromones. Where many essential oils for ants use a spray that works to keep the pests away, poison-free traps are much more effective at killing large infestations. 


  1. Eller, F.J. (2015). Field Test for Repellency of Cedarwood Oil and Cedrol to Little Fire Ants. Retrieved from:
  1. Science Daily. (2004). Get ‘Two Steps’ Ahead Of Fire Ants With Organic Control. Retrieved from:
  2. Taylor, Charles S. Science Today: Orange peel oil is the bane of insects. Retrieved from:
  3. Maia, Marta Ferreira, and Sarah J. Moore. (2011). Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing. Retrieved from:
  4. Cheng, S.S., et al. (2007). Terminating red imported fire ants using Cinnamomum osmophloeum leaf essential oil. Retrieved from:
  5.  Brown, Wizzie. (2019). Texas Agricultural Cooperative Extension. Natural, Organic, and Alternative Methods for Imported Fire Ant Management. Retrieved from:

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