Ahh, carpenter ants.
Those large, black and ugly ants have been the bane of my existence in the 15 years I've lived here. I live in a very woodsy suburb and my own property is certainly heavily wooded as well. Carpenter ants just seem to go with the territory.
Each summer, they find their way into my home. I've found them in just about every room of the house, but they are most often in the kitchen. Of course, this requires the kitchen to be kept meticulously clean. Dirty dishes can't pile up or it's just inviting trouble.
I've known for a while of at least one point of entry: a small crevice behind a hanging kitchen cabinet to the right of the sink.
I've tried chemical-laden Ortho sprays, but am loathe to use them due to their obvious toxicity. In recent years, I have been somewhat able to control ant infiltration by regularly sprinkling ant pellets around the foundation of my house outside. The stuff wasn't cheap. I ordered it from a website online. However, I had to time this so I was spreading the bait during a dry spell; rain will simply wash the bait away and waste my money. But, if I timed it right, I could usually count on being relatively ant-free (not 100%) inside the house for a period of a few weeks. But, once I start seeing an ant or two here or there, I must re-apply, and this is how it usually goes all summer long.
Here and there I've tried some less toxic alternatives, such as oil of peppermint right next to that kitchen cabinet, but this has not worked
Then, this spring, I completely by accident stumbled upon a 100% effective ant barrier. It's a common household product which I don't care to use for its intended use, but the item is so darn stinky that I thought I would give it a try.
You see, it's a very narrow crevice behind the kitchen cabinet where I've seen the ants coming in most often. For all I know, there's a giant hole behind the cabinet. I really don't know, but I do remember years back when I was replacing my kitchen stove that I found a large hole in the sheet rock behind the stove, about 6 inches in diameter! I didn't have time to close it up while the workman was there, and I wasn't really thinking about insect infiltration at the time, but I was thinking about cold air, so I did at last stuff a fistful of cellulose insulation in there before he positioned the new stove against the wall. So, it makes me wonder what kind of gap might exist behind the kitchen cabinet.
But back to my secret weapon against ants.
Have you guessed what it is?
It's Arm & Hammer Total 2-in-1 dryer cloths. I don't usually buy these things. They're so impregnated with chemicals that I'm reluctant to have them touch my skin, but I got a free-after-rebate offer, so I used it. When I opened up the box and sniffed them, I really couldn't bring myself to use them in the dryer. (And these days, I don't use the dryer much anyway.)
One day it hit me that I should try stuffing one of the dryer sheets in the crevice behind the cabinet. The thing just stunk like chemicals. So I took one and used a butter knife to wedge it up as far as it would go behind the cabinet. It was white, so it blended right in.
Carpenter ants, it turns out, have a strong disliking for Arm & Hammer dryer sheets, possibly more than me. Yes, the odor of the dryer sheet is apparent while I'm washing dishes at the sink, but after a week or so, the odor fades. But it still works to keep the ants away.
I have changed the sheet once every 3 or 4 weeks, just to be sure.
I have been so pleasantly surprised by these sheets. I have found very few ants anywhere in the house, and certainly not in the kitchen! I had assumed in past years that there were multiple points of entry. Now I'm thinking that it's entirely possible that ants meandered in via the highway known as Behind-the-Kitchen-Cabinet/Rt. 302 and crawled in various directions so that, when I discovered them elsewhere in the kitchen or even in another room, they fooled me into thinking they'd gained entry from some other location closer to where I found them..
Thank you, Arm & Hammer, for reducing the ant infestation inside my home by roughly 90%. No doubt it's due to the very special ingredients that make our clothes oh-so-toxic and artificial-smelling.
Have you found alternative or off-label uses for common household products?
A 100% Foolproof Ant Barrier
Ahh, carpenter ants.