For several decades now, vinegar has been considered to be a multipurpose household agent.
For one, you can use it to cook delicious delicacies like apple pie, crisp chicken, and pickled onions.
Likewise, you can also use vinegar to kill weeds, cook, and wash almost anything.
In fact, vinegar is the propeller agent behind many life-saving hacks for many homeowners. One of them is the use of vinegar to kill pests such as fleas, mites, lice, ticks, and even ants.
However, not all these life hacks actually work as advertised. In earlier articles, we debunked the misnomer that vinegar can be used to kill lice.
In this one, we’ll like to explore another golden life hack. Hence, the question; does vinegar kill ants?
But first, let’s ask:
Are Ants Afraid of Vinegar? If No, then Does Vinegar Attract Ants?
You see, ants have two superpowers; a good sense of smell and the ability to make pheromones.
Combined, these two qualities allow ants to detect several spectrums of odors.
One of the most powerful scents that ants detect is called Pheromone.
Basically, this pheromone is like a cocktail of different chemicals with a unique aroma. Interestingly still, each aroma produced is unique to every ant.
Once released and interpreted, these scents shape their behavior. Likewise, it also determines the way one group of ants interacts with their ordinary family members, their queens, and individuals from other species.
Now, vinegar, like ants, has a unique antiseptic smell. When ants come in contact with this smell, it interferes with their ability to detect and interpret the smell of their pheromones.
As a result, the affected ants lose coordination and might lose contact with other members. As such, they hate the scent of vinegar and do their best to avoid it.
So, we can say that ants are in no way attracted to vinegar. In fact, they tend to run away from any traces of vinegar. It’s better safe than sorry, right?
READ MORE: How Long Do Ants Live?
What Other Smells Do Ants Hate?
Since ants rely mostly on their sense of smell for survival, anything that interferes with that would cause inconvenience for them. As such, any substance that would deter ants must have either a pungent or peppery smell.
Common examples of substances like this are essential oils which have a smelly compound called Linalool.
So, oils like lavender oil, cinnamon oil, mint oil, and peppermint oil will work as good ant repellents.
In fact, one study from 2004 revealed that within 5 days, mint oil will drive away all red imported fire ants within an ant colony treated with it.
Other substances include the Eucalyptus plant, spices like Garlic, diatomaceous earth, and red pepper.
Does Vinegar Actually Kill Ants?
The simple answer to this is yes; vinegar can kill ants when used the right way.
But of all the types of vinegar, white vinegar and apple cider vinegar are the most widely recommended ant killers.
Since vinegar is readily available in nearby stores, this is one of the cheapest ways to get rid of ants. To use vinegar to kill ants, mix it with water in equal ratios.
Afterward, you can then apply to surfaces with ant trails. Such places can include kitchen cabinets, tabletops, floors, and even carpets.
A short while after application, you will no longer perceive the scent of the vinegar. Ants, however, can still smell it. Hence, it will repel them from these areas to their nests.
If you locate the nests, apply the mixture in larger amounts on the colony. This scent of the vinegar will trap them and cut them away from their food supply. Eventually, starvation will be their agent of death.
From that, we can see that vinegar itself does not actually kill the ants. Instead, its scent only wards them off.
However, if the right amount of vinegar is strategically applied to an ant mound, the strong smell can trap the ants and cut off their food and water supply. This is what eventually kills the ants; not the vinegar.
Does Vinegar Kill Ant Eggs?
There might just be a chance that vinegar can kill ant eggs.
The reason is a bit technical. But bear with us here as we explain.
You see, most eggs have shells that contain calcium carbonate and vinegar contains a weak acid. Back in science classes, we all know that this calcium carbonate, when dissolved in acids, dissolves to form carbon dioxide.
So, when you dissolve ant eggs in vinegar, there’s a chance that the eggs dissolve to liberate carbon dioxide. If that happens, then vinegar may indeed kill off the embryo in the egg.
That sounds good for anyone battling with an ant infestation, right? Well… for now, there’s no scientific backing to any of this. But you can try it out by pouring diluted vinegar on ant eggs and see for yourself.
What Does Vinegar Do to Ant Hills?
Anthills or nests consist of a tiny tunnel system.
If you carefully pour or spray the right amount of vinegar into these tunnels, the ants therein become trapped.
Once that happens, the ants will suffer from two things.
One, the liquid vinegar can drown some of the ants. Although, there’s a low chance that this will happen.
However, if the ants survive, the scent of vinegar will cause the ants to lose their grab on pheromone detection. This pheromone pivots their direction, coordination, and interaction with other ants.
If they can’t smell it, they lose their path towards a food source. If that happens, the ants in the nest can die of starvation.
Sometimes, people mix vinegar with boiling water instead when dealing with anthills. For the most part, this has proven to be quite effective.
This is because boiling water will kill most of the ants in contact.
As for the surviving ants, they would have to deal with the action of the vinegar as described above. So, with this method, more ants will die.
READ MORE: How To Get Rid Of Ant Hills.
How Long Does It Take Vinegar to Kill Ants?
Before you can start seeing any result of vinegar application on ants, you would have to wait for at least one hour, one day, or even more.
But the response rate depends on many factors. So, let’s explain a few.
As said earlier, vinegar itself cannot directly kill ants.
If any ants die after applying a vinegar solution on it or their nests, two reasons may be the cause.
For one, the components used to make the vinegar mixture can influence the activity. For instance, if you mix the vinegar with hot water instead, the ants may die instantly.
This is because the hot water, on contact, will kill the ants. For the ones that survive, the vinegar in the solution will either scare them off or induce starvation.
Secondly, the application procedure can influence the response rate. For instance, some people tend to first spray an identified ant colony with a mixture of sugar and baking soda.
The sugar will lure the ants to taste the baking soda. Once they do, the baking soda mix with acid in the ants’ stomachs.
This kills a large number of ants. If you spray vinegar acid afterward, it won’t be long before all the ants in the nests either run off or die off.
How Long Does Vinegar Keep Ants Away?
Since vinegar cannot directly kill ants, it is not a be-all-end-all solution for ant infestations. However, for as long as the scent of vinegar lingers, all ants will flee from your house.
For most humans, the smell of vinegar tends to ward off after about 3 -4 hours or even less. However, ants can still continue to perceive the scent for about 2 -3 days. Within that time frame, vinegar will keep ants away.
How Often Should You Spray Vinegar for Ants?
You see, there’s no specific frequency with which you can spray vinegar to kill ants.
But the thing is; there are specific levels of vinegar smell that can be described as overboard.
This is because, like ants, many humans and pets get irritated by the scent of vinegar. So, if you use it too much, you or your pet may not be able to withstand the smell.
Therefore, at any point you feel that the smell of the vinegar you’re using to deter ants is getting unbearable, then you’ve reached a threshold. So, you should stop until another time.
But generally, applying 5% vinegar about three times a day is still fair. You can consider sticking to this routine as well.
READ MORE: Different Types of Ants That Bite.
Does Vinegar Kill Ants on Plants?
Many species of ants get attracted to plants because of the cell sap they found in such plants. Luckily, there are many ways to kill these ants that infest our plants.
However, vinegar isn’t one of those methods.
Because as earlier said, vinegar cannot kill ants. But then, you can use vinegar to repel the ants and keep them from coming back.
To do this, mix water and vinegar in a 50:50 ratio. Apply the mixture to a small portion of the plant and wait for one day.
If you notice any burn sign on the plant, then vinegar would be a bad option for repelling the ants infesting such plants. If otherwise, spray the plant, not more than once a week to keep the ants away.
Another benefit of using vinegar here is that it can also help to control some specific type of weed. Of course, that’ll be a double bonus.
So far, we’ve made it clear that vinegar cannot directly kill ants. Though, it may just be able to kill ant eggs because of the reaction between the eggshell and the acetic acid in vinegar.
However, vinegar is a good ant repellent. This is because the pungent scent of vinegar disrupts pheromone detection in ants. As such, ants tend to stay far away from anything with vinegar!