How to Get Rid of Ants With Borax: The Old-School Insecticide

Ants are a great example of workers, but if their work is to steal food from your house, hardly is it worth your admiration. Instead of awe, you may rather experience curiosity about how to get rid of ants with borax (if you have some or have heard about this method).

Yes, indeed it’s possible, and borax is easily available. You will have to show some chef skills and take some security measures. Yet this method may be the most efficient of all you have tried. So, take that white powder (it sells legally) and protect your property with it!

Borax and Ants Guide

Will borax kill ants in your house? The answer is yes, but it requires some research, chemistry, and cooking skills from you. So, if you got some borax already, you can start making your plan of extermination of all those wall-eaters.

Here is a little introduction on how to kill the ants with borax and minimize risks for yourself, your family, and your pets.

What is borax?

You have probably heard the word, even if you didn’t exactly know what it was. Indeed, Borax (also known under similar aliases) has been familiar to mankind for so long that even the Ancient Egyptians were using it for mummification.

If the name sounds like a trademark, it’s partly because it was once, but the nearest to us origin of the word is the Latin boras, and in Europe, it was known as baurach, borrax, borrace, etc.

Today it also has lots of names (such as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate – all reflecting its formula Na2B4O7), but one is enough for most of us.

Fire ants lined up

This substance is incomparably simpler than most modern insecticides that contain a combination of various agents. So, killing ants with borax is widely practiced now as it has been for decades and even centuries. In the pre-industrial time, it was usually found at evaporate deposits of seasonal lakes.

As for its effect, borax is both poisonous and corroding. It kills ants from both inside, as they eat it, and outside, as their chitinous covers. When exposed to borax, an ant dies within hours. It’s not necessary that all the population is exposed.

Ants are inclined to cannibalize their dead, so when a group of ants consumes their dead fellow, they are doomed as well.

Of course, it depends on dosing, so you may need to repeat the procedure (the alternative is counting all the ants around and calculating the dose, and I’d rather spend that effort on my tax return).

Step by step guide on how to get rid of ants with borax

If you want to know how to use borax to kill ants, this is quite similar to how to use most chemical insecticides. The main difference is, though, that you will have to do a little cooking.

With borax and powdered sugar to kill ants is easier than with borax alone. So, the algorithm is the following:

  • track where ants dwell;
  • treat them with your mix;
  • wait until they are done;
  • repeat if they are not.

Vertical macro of fire ants

If there are few of them left, simply repeating this will do (but later new settlers may come to your property). If there are many, you’ll have to figure out a better location to lure them with your poisonous delicatessen.

How to find ant traces

It’s the easiest part of it. How do you know there are ants in your house? Probably you have seen them, and more than one random specimen. Their destination is usually where the food is, that is, your kitchen.

As you see ants going in columns to your kitchen, you must know they leave their home to find the food and then march back. So watch them and try to track where they route. You won’t scare them away: you are too big for them to see.

So, as you find your destination, trace them back to their nest. It may be an anthill near your house (though it’s less probable), and then you better just move it outside your property.

But if they have settled inside your house, there must be a hole where they finally go. Near that hole there is the best place to lay a lure.

What do you do with borax

If you have some borax right now, just look at it. Would you just eat that white powder? Ants won’t either. To make them, you need to deceive them into eating it with something sweet (imagine you need ants to vote for you… that’s the right mindset).

Borax and honey for ants will work too, but it’s a more common way to mix it with sugar and water because it’s simpler. Concentration is important because there is only so much an ant can eat.

ant with cubes borax

The easiest recipe of borax ant poison is the following:

  • Make a mix of borax, sugar, and water. Some may use borax just with honey, but it mostly turns out to be an excess: sugar attracts them just as well.
  • Prepare small cotton balls and soak them in the mix. They are necessary for the mixture to not dry out too soon.
  • Place these balls as close to the ants’ nest as possible, so they can smell it and reach it. Make sure there are no obstacles on their way (so don’t put these balls on trays or tables, better just leave them on the floor).
  • If you can’t see ants reaching the bait, place the balls closer to the hole.
  • Just let them consume it as long as they can. Some ants may die on the way. Don’t remove them: let them be consumed by other ants like they do.

We must notice here that a simple powder mix of sugar and borax won’t do the job. Adult ants do not eat solid substances at all: they can only consume liquids (that’s why some use honey – it easily dissolves. If you are curious, it takes 1 tsp Borax, 5 tsp honey, and the water is still required).

Solid foods are great for larvae; but, as adult ants will be dying in numbers right in the nest, they will have a lot to feast on. But to deliver them some charged gourmets, you need to provide enough liquid for adults.

How long do you have to wait?

Usually, it takes hours for the poison to kill an ant. But it’s not that simple. The process gets more complicated. While the first ants consume the concoction and gradually die, the others follow them. Not all ants will reach your bait.

On the other hand, those who die on the way or in the nest will be consumed by others, and they will be poisoned too. The poison concentration will be lower but in many cases, quite sufficient.

Fire ants feeding

In practice, it means you need to recheck for ants on their paths after three days of massive application of your mixture. If they are still here in numbers, it doesn’t mean borax not working on ants, it means you have provided too little. So, mix, soak, place, repeat.

Tips for those getting rid of ants in the garden

If the ants you want to exterminate live not directly in your house but in your yard, garden, etc., the principle of extinguishing them is the same. The sweet bait is equally attractive indoors and outdoors. Yet there are some differences you must consider too.

  • Outdoors, you cannot simply track all the ant routes. So you better apply the mix all over the place where you see ants. The chemicals will do their work.
  • The best way to apply borax mixture outdoors is by sprinkling it. This way, you can cover larger areas easier and quicker. You will need to make it more concentrated.
  • You will definitely need more borax. Much more. And you will need to repeat the procedure more than once, and maybe more times.
  • Don’t be afraid of extinguishing other insects around. Those feeding on flowers will not be attracted.

That’s how to use borax to kill ants. Simple, isn’t it? But don’t forget to follow the instruction as soon as you notice more than one ant where you don’t want them.

FAQ

Fire ant with head cocked

Though borax ant control has a long history, there are still questions caused by both new technologies and new living conditions, as well as our eco awareness. Let’s address some of them here.

Will sprinkling borax kill ants?

Yes, if you provide the right concentration. But as in the wild they are not so predictable and can migrate in and out of your property, you may have to repeat the procedure multiple times.

How do I calculate the quantity?

The recommended ratio is: 100 g sugar, 1,5 tablespoons of borax, and 350 ml of warm water. Mix it all to get one dose of the agent. If you use it indoors, it must be enough to soak cotton balls and lay them along the ant paths.

If you sprinkle them over your area outdoors, you may need to make more than one dose. Mix the ingredients thoroughly, without sugar-only parts.

Is borax toxic to dogs?

It’s toxic for animals, but not very much. To seriously damage or even kill a dog, you need to use a loooooot of it. For example, the median lethal dose of borax for rats is 2.66 g/kg (that is, about 1-2 g per rat).

A dog, even a small one, needs much more. Though the risk is low, you better keep your animals away while applying borax. Especially if you apply it systematically (which we don’t recommend). Even in small doses, though, it may cause irritation.

How long does borax stay in soil?

A single application, according to research, can stay for up to three years. If you use it systematically, it builds up in the soil. So you better not abuse it.

And I’d recommend you only (or at least mostly) use borax to kill ants indoors. But if you do it outdoors, you better put all the necessary effort to do the job so you don’t have to repeat it any time soon.

Which borax should I buy?

There isn’t much choice now. Though many tons of it are manufactured yearly, most of it is consumed by chemical industries. The closest thing to perfect is powder borax by 20 Mule Team, sold as a detergent booster and cleaner.

Since both Europe and the US found borax potentially dangerous for reproduction (though moderately), since 2010 in the EU, it’s not sold as a generic product; analogs are mostly meant for laundry washing and cleaning.

What if I combine borax and boric acid?

This combination is even deadlier for the insects. But you need to place borax and acid ant baits apart from each other because there are always ants that prefer one and those fond of the other.

Don’t Bore Us, Get to the Borax!

I hope Berry Gordy Jr. (God bless him for founding Motown Records!) does not mind if I alter his famous motto a bit. Just as much I hope you can also relax and listen to some good music after getting rid of these ants.

Have you already tried this method before reading this? Or are you revisiting this page after following the instruction? Anyway, if you have something to tell, to add, to share your own experience and impressions with borax and ants, welcome to the comments!

Also read:

References

  • Borax(Online Etymology Dictionary)
    https://www.etymonline.com/word/borax
  • BORATES Banned in the EU Without Exception(European Movement International)
    https://europeanmovement.eu/news/borates-banned-in-the-eu-without-exception/
  • Health Effects Support Document for Boron(United States Environmental Protection Agency)
    https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2014-09/documents/health_effects_support_document_for_boron.pdf
  • Knowing the enemy: ant behavior and control in a pediatric hospital of Buenos Aires(National Library of Medicine)
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4024480/
  • Music Industry Research: Less Talk, More Drops(Dav’s Jolly Journal)
    https://davsjollyjournal.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/music-industry-research-less-talk-more-drops/

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Nicholas Martin

Nicholas Martin

I am Nicholas Martin, and I am an entomologist. I combine the insect survey work with the consultation for private pest control agencies. My narrow specializations are both urban pests and agricultural pests. I studied their control over the previous 25 years. More about Nick

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