Can one erase ant scent trails?

I am making an effort to control ant invasions by blocking their entrances. It works okay, but they often find a new way to an old trail. I’ve tried washing the path with household cleaners with limited (no?) success.

Any suggestions for removing ants’ scent trails?

(PS… moderators, if this is an inappropriate post for the Forum, feel free to remove it)


One thing that works is that if you distract the ants by giving a food source outside (if you can find the hole on the outside) and then close the holes (both outside and inside) that should work.


Hmm, dishsoap has worked for me in the past, but I expect it varies with type of ant. Ants also don’t like cinnamon, so you can make cinnamon barriers, but that probably isn’t a good long term solution really.


I tried sprays like windex, 409, Ram cleaner etc. I was amazed in my old house to see ants following the same path I thought I sprayed clean the previous year! some of that trail was on the perimeter of a carpet. Still, their scents really persisted! :hushed:

Yes, I’ve successfully used powder barriers like cinnamon, baby powder, and baking soda as Ants cannot tolerate walking through ~any~ fine powder, I’ve learned. It works now, too, until they find another tiny crack somewhere and break in again.

I think they are in the walls here; I live in multi-family housing with basements, so I don’t really have a good plan for the exterior.


If you want to remove the pheromones from the trail rather than blocking the trail, it will work better to match the chemical properties of your treatment with the trail substance. It’s likely to be a mixture of aromatic molecules (such as pyrazines) that don’t actually get removed well by various aqueous cleaners (whether acidic, basic or neutral).

Instead, try the same kind of cleaner you might use if you were getting pinesap off your hands: “goo gone”, lighter fluid, paint thinner, olive oil, gasoline, a ceramide lotion like Cerave, etc.

Apply your cleaner with a clean cloth or cottonball or other applicator at least 3 times across the trail, using a fresh applicator each time (if you reuse a cloth, you risk spreading the pheromones rather than removing them) and ideally wiping off with a fresh blotter in between each application. Your cleaner probably does not need to “soak” on the surface, so it can be fairly fast to do.


I am going to try Goo Gone… thanks!


I find that strong essential oils work really well. I’ve often used them around windowsills to keep ants out and it’s almost always effective.

Gotta make a relatively wide swath (just smeared on with a folded paper towel) and it’s a good idea to renew it each week for a while as the aromatics eventually fade.

I’ll put a few drops directly in any opening I see the ants coming in from, and do the same from the outside too if I can find it.


Could it be that the trail route is favorable for reasons other than previous chemical signals, and they just re-establish it each year anyway?


I wondered that too, as it is the case in my house that the corner or the sink bench seems to provide entry, and there they tend to run along the sink/wall edge before branching out


I suspect that foraging ants randomly walking around have found a food or water source and created a new trail to the same place, rather than following the same trail

Either that or they are navigating to a certain place by vision or by smelling something other than the sent trail, I doubt the trails are wash proof

Do you have any idea about the type of ants?


Also, @jdmore

I suspect Argentine ants, very very small. (The one with the queen ant includes a super hero tale)

In my old house this happened numerous times over several years: Ants coming in the dining room ending up on the kitchen counter. Ants entered the same crack in the dining room baseboard, traveled to the rug and turned right, they followed the entire perimeter of the rug , then crossed into the breakfast nook across that room, and into the kitchen.

So, I would clean the trail and wash the path with household cleaners.

I just marveled that they ALWAYS went the long way around the rug, more than doubling the distance to be travelled. They never once turned left and took the shorter way to the kitchen. Eventually, I caulked the baseboard and ended that adventure.

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The edge of a rug can be 5+millimeters high, to a 3 mm ant, this looks like a 12ft high wall looks to a person, I often see ants walk around things they could just climb over.

The scouts probably walk around it just because they see it as an obstruction, then they find food in the kitchen, and go back to the nest the way they came, around the rug, leaving a scent trail for others to follow. I do not think you are having any problem washing away the trail, I think the ants keep making a new trail here because they see it as the path of least resistance to a food source, as long as the scouts wander around the house looking for food, they will find the kitchen and leave a trail


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