Get Rid Of Ants With A Handy Item From Your Medicine Cabinet

Comic strips showing ants hauling away picnic food 50 times their size may elicit a chuckle in the moment, but there's nothing funny about similar situations unfolding in your kitchen in real life. Don't let their size fool you, tiny ants can cause big problems if you ignore their presence. Moreover, since the little nuisances are social insects, seeing one or two crawling on your kitchen floor often means there's an entire colony close by. Fortunately, the key to evicting ants from your home is a handy item conveniently found in your medicine cabinet: Vicks VapoRub.

Grabbing Vicks' unmistakable cobalt blue container when suffering from a cough or minor body pains is routine therapy in many households. The topical salve features a familiar petroleum jelly-like texture and an even more recognizable minty scent. Its distinctive odor comes from a mix of camphor and methanol as well as eucalyptus, cedarleaf, turpentine, and nutmeg oils. In humans, the medicated vapors stimulate olfactory receptors to soothe coughs. For ants, the powerful medicinal odor irritates their sense of smell and forces a hasty retreat.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University found ants have "400 distinct odorant receptors," a number four to five times that of other insects like the mosquito and honeybee. This highly acute sense of smell is beneficial to homeowners looking for affordable ways to keep ants at bay. Consider Vicks VapoRub yet another weapon you can add to your ant-repellent arsenal along with cinnamon, vinegar, and pepper — all kitchen staples that will keep ants out of the house.

How to use Vicks VapoRub against ants

The first step in maximizing the VaporRub ant-repellent hack is to scout out points of entry. Once you positively identify where the six-legged insects are gaining access to your home, you can strategically apply the Vicks bait. Ants gravitate to food sources as well as damp environments where they can nest. It's the reason you may observe heightened ant activity in your kitchen or bathrooms. Look for cracks in walls, gaps in foundation, holes in floors, and poorly sealed windows. Otherwise, if you have time, watch for an ant trail and follow the direction they're coming from to pinpoint their hiding spot.

Once you've located ant hotspots, coat the areas with a liberal dose of Vicks VapoRub. Either use your finger or a plastic knife to evenly spread the ointment over cracks or plug openings. Be sure nothing obstructs access to the goopy liniment as ants need optimal exposure to the mentholated fumes in order for them to be effective.

Another option is to keep a container of Vicks in your kitchen and when you spot ants crawling near your microwave, refrigerator, or trash can, scoop a heaping portion of Vicks VapoRub onto a cotton swab and place it in their path. The ants will scurry in the opposite direction, you can pursue their trail, then construct a barrier by piling generous amounts of the gelatinous medicine in and around their point of departure.

Tips when using Vicks VapRub as an ant repellent

Pet food dishes are magnets for ants. However, applying Vicks VapoRub to the bowls' exterior to keep crawling pests away is a bad idea. According to Poison Control, the medicated ointment is not safe to consume. If your pet inadvertently licks large amounts of Vicks from an area you've treated, they may experience nausea, vomiting, or seizures due to the product's camphor-containing ingredients. Likewise, Vicks VapoRub shouldn't be openly applied to parts of your house where young children crawl or play as they are at an increased risk for toxicity.

While you can use ants' olfactory sensitivity to your advantage by using Vicks as an insecticide, the ointment's medicated fumes don't last for an extended amount of time. Vicks' website lists the effectiveness of the cough suppressant's vapors to not exceed eight hours. Meaning, as an ant repellent, Vicks is a temporary solution. More long-term fixes include sealing cracks and gaps in your home's foundation with caulk or epoxy and polyurethane foams.

Finally, rifling through your medicine cabinet for a container of Vicks that's been sitting in there for who knows how long will not generate impressive repellent results. The ointment is most effective as a DIY ant deterrent when it's fresh and the mentholated vapors are at their prime. Each jar of Vicks features an expiration date. Using the product past that date would be an exercise in futility as ants likely won't find unscented VaporRub as off-putting.