The best indoor ant killer
You know it's spring again when ants show up in your home. Regular household ants -- also called sugar ants because they're attracted to sweets -- won't do damage to your home or your health, but they're certainly annoying.
You can find plenty of indoor ant killers on the market in different forms, from sprays to baits. Besides keeping your house clean, we can help you find the right indoor ant killer to reduce or disrupt ant infestations. Our top pick is the highly effective Terro T300-3 Liquid Ant Bait. With Borax as its active ingredient, this bait gets rid of ants without any harsh chemicals.
Considerations when choosing indoor ant killers
There are three basic kinds of indoor ant killers: baits lure an ant and cover it with a gel-like poison to bring back to its colony. Traps take an ant prisoner on a sticky surface. Traps aren't as toxic as other methods, though not every ant will go into a trap. Sprays are the quickest method but can leave a residue on surfaces and an odor in your home. You can also find granules that kill ants, but they're best used outdoors.
Every product has an active ingredient that's meant to kill the ants. However, active ingredients vary by product, as does their strength. Pyrethroids are the most common active ingredient in ant killer. However, because they're so widely used, ants have become resistant to some strains of pyrethroids. Other active ingredients include chlorfenapyr, imidacloprid, and fipronil. These are moderately toxic active ingredients that affect termites and ants in the same way.
Repellent or non-repellent
Repellent ant killers work when they're detected by an ant, causing it to turn away and resist coming into your home. Non-repellent products are not detected by an ant, allowing it to come into your home where it's covered with insecticide, which it brings back to its colony, killing the other ants. Non-repellent ant products may work to eliminate more insects -- one ant covered in poison can work to kill off an entire colony.
The smell of some ant-killing products can be overwhelming, especially in spray form. There are products on the market with minimal odors that are better tolerated. Baits and traps are typically odorless.
A product with essential oils in it may be less toxic and give the ant killer a better scent, though the oils don't kill the ants. However, essential oils can be effective at eradicating the pheromone trails left by an ant.
Lower-priced indoor ant killers under $10 may have lower concentrations of ingredients. Consider indoor ant killers in the $15 to $25 range; they likely have higher concentrations of active ingredients. For best results, products over $25 are professional-strength killers, but they're also potentially more toxic.
Q. Why do ants come into my home?
A. Once a single ant finds its way into your home through a minuscule crack or hole, it lays a scent trail of pheromones for other ants to find and follow. It's not only food that ants find attractive -- one smart ant might sense a water or moisture source inside your home, like a sink drain, and march inside to find it.
Q. What exactly is a pheromone?
A. A pheromone is a chemical that ants secrete to communicate with each other. Ants produce a number of different pheromones; one of them is the scent that acts as a map into and around your home. The best defense against ants is to sanitize the surfaces where you've seen them crawling. By cleaning those surfaces, you're disrupting and removing the pheromone scent for ants to follow.
Indoor ant killers we recommend
Best of the best: Terro's T300-3 Liquid Ant Baits
Our take: With Borax as its active ingredient, this one offers low toxicity and is a highly effective product, but slightly pricier than other baits.
What we like: Inconspicuous traps can fit into small areas and easily slip under furniture. Baits last about two or three weeks in the home. Only good for sweet-eating ants, not for carpenter or fire ants.
What we dislike: If you're not careful when handling a trap, it could tip over and the sticky liquid poison could spill out.
Best bang for your buck: BASF's Phantom II Aerosol Insecticide Spray
Our take: A professional-strength spray best for cracks and crevices. Eliminates all types of bugs, not just ants.
What we like: Most ant sprays wear off, but this is a residual spray. That means it lays down a thin layer of powder, then turns into an invisible residue that continues working after it's dry.
What we dislike: Limit the surfaces you spray. The ingredients are too powerful to use near food preparation areas. You may need more than one can to complete the job.
Our take: If you're looking for a less toxic product, this spray is okay to use on fabrics and food-prep surfaces, and it's safe to use around your pets.
What we like: The lemongrass scent may be pleasant compared to other more toxic ant killer sprays. Other scents are available, including peppermint. The spray works on pests besides ants.
What we dislike: It's not the strongest ant killer out there.
Marilyn Zelinsky-Syarto is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.