The Best Essential Oils To Repel Ants

by Charity Dykstra November 18, 2020

The Best Essential Oils To Repel Ants

We’ve all had the experience of leaving out fruit or unwashed dishes overnight only to find a trail of ants swarming the scene in the morning. With the doors and windows firmly shut, it’s hard to imagine how so many ants could have made their way into your kitchen.

After you’ve cleared the ant infestation from your home, you need to find a way to repel ants before they strike again. If there is a particular “ant season” in your area you can also find ways to help repel them so they don’t strike  at all.

If you have pets, children or allergies, you’re probably hesitant about using potentially harmful chemical sprays and traps for repelling ants. Luckily, you can also use pure essential oils to get rid of ants in your home, at picnics and beyond.

In this short guide, we’ll cover our 4 favorite essential oils for repelling ants.

What Attracts & Repels Ants?

As you may already know from experience, there are plenty of ingredients that attract ants. The tiny insects have incredibly powerful senses of smell, and they may be attracted to:

  • Sugar (including candies and jelly)

  • Pet food

  • Water

  • Flowers

This list is not exhaustive. Ants can swarm just about any food product!

How do such tiny insects find sustenance so quickly?  Ants leave a pheromone trail in their wake as they search for food. If an ant finds something tasty in your home, it will retrace its steps and strengthen its scent trail, attracting other ants to follow it towards the food source.

Because ants are drawn to food and its scent, the first line of defense is cleanliness. When ants are active in the summer months, it’s important to do the dishes right after eating, especially at night to avoid an ant invasion! 

However, beyond simple cleaning, there are some natural ant repellent aromas.

Have you ever wondered why ants are drawn to flowers? Many plants have evolved to attract pollinators with their enticing, floral aromas. However, other plants’ aromas serve to protect them from insects and pests.

  • Most plants have terpenes, unique aromatic compounds that help the plant survive—and some have insecticidal and insect-repellent properties.

  • Essential oils are highly concentrated distillations of plants’ unique aromas and essences. If a plant repels ants in nature, its essential oil may have an even stronger ant repellent effect.

What essential oil repels ants? Next, we’ll go over our favorite essential oil recipes for preventing ant infestations.

1. Cinnamon Leaf

Does cinnamon keep ants away?  Cinnamon is the first and most potent remedy for an ant issue.

If you’re trying to clear an ant infestation, you may find online tips and tricks that recommend placing cinnamon sticks near windows or sprinkling cinnamon near doorways.

It’s easy to wonder,  does cinnamon repel ants? The short answer is  yes, it can.

  • Cinnamon has ant-repelling properties

  • At high concentrations, it is also an insecticide

  • Finally, cinnamon can interrupt ants pheromone trail

However, it all depends on the type and concentration of cinnamon that you use. A study in the  International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications found that high concentrations of Cinnamon essential oil at 20% potency does significantly repel ants.

  • Cinnamon sticks and powder may have a much lower concentration of effective terpenes, especially as they dry out over time.

  • On top of that, sprinkling cinnamon powder can leave messy orange stains around your home.

This makes Cinnamon essential oil a much better choice for dealing with ant trails.

It’s safe to say that Cinnamon Leaf essential oil benefits include repelling ants. However, because this substance is so highly concentrated, we do not recommend using straight essential oil. Instead, create a safe, effective ant spray.

Cinnamon Leaf Essential Oil Ant Spray

To create a potent ant-repellent spray, combine the following in a 4 oz spray bottle:

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 1 tsp Cinnamon Leaf 

Mix to combine and spray liberally around doors and windows. 

Keep in mind that exposure to Cinnamon oil may not be safe for pets including cats and dogs. If you have a furry friend, use this spray  outdoors rather than inside your home.

You can also use your spray around garbage cans, planters and other items that may attract ants.

Essential oils evaporate over time. During the height of ant season, spray daily. Once your problem is under control, use it weekly as a preventative measure.

In addition to potent Cinnamon Leaf, there are several other essential oils to repel ants. As an added bonus, many of them have additional properties that can keep away mosquitos, flies and other summer bugs.

2. Peppermint

If you’re looking for a gentler everyday solution to your ant problem, Peppermint essential oil may be the key. While Peppermint has an aroma that most people enjoy, it’s quite unpleasant to insects and known for its ability to repel mosquitos.  A 2007 study in the  Journal of Entomological Science  also found that this oil also demonstrates insecticidal activity against fire ants. 

While more studies are needed on common household carpenter ants, this oil’s proven bug-repellent properties make it a go-to oil for ant invasion.

3. Lemongrass

You may already know that Citronella is a great bug repellent. The lemongrass plant is also rich in compounds including citral and citronellal that can ward off insects of all kinds. These properties make Lemongrass one of our favorite oils for repelling the following pests:

  • Mosquitos

  • House flies

  • Ants

In addition to its bug-banishing properties, Lemongrass’s bright, lemony and slightly floral aroma make it uplifting and energizing—a perfect addition to your kitchen.

4. Cedarwood

Cedarwood is a well-known insect repellent. Cedar trees have to develop strategies for warding off bugs to reach their towering heights! 

The aroma of cedar is used to keep bugs at bay around many households:

  • Cedar chests and closets are known to save cashmere and wool from moths

  • Cedar shaving pet litter can keep insects away from your pet’s droppings

  • This wood is even known to repel cockroaches

The same properties that stop other pests also make Cedarwood essential oil a promising ant repellent.

We have several oils derived from cedarwood trees. To repel ants, we suggest Cedarwood Around the World, which combines the pest-repellent properties of cedarwood trees from China, the U.S., Nepal and Morocco. 

Ant Repelling Essential Oil Recipes

How can you use these other potent oils to ward off ants?

It all depends on when and where you expect to encounter them. Below are our two favorite sprays for keeping ants away whether you’re indoors and outdoors.

1. Anti-Ant Counter Cleaner For Everyday Use

Essential oils are highly volatile substances that are prone to evaporation. That means that one-time use is unlikely to get rid of your ant problem—but consistency may help rid you of those pesky insects for good!

We recommend an essential oil cleaner in areas that may attract ants (kitchen, bathroom, etc.)

When your counters carry the faint aroma of Peppermint, Lemongrass and Cedarwood, it’s that much less likely that bugs will transgress their borders.

Combine essential oils with antibacterial, insect-repellent white vinegar to create an everyday ant deterrent spray that does double duty cleaning your counters  and  banishing bugs from your countertops.

Add the following to a 16 oz spray bottle:

  • ¼ cup distilled white vinegar

  • 1 ¾ cups distilled water

  • 10 drops Peppermint 

  • 10 drops Lemongrass 

  • 10 drops Cedarwood Around the World 

  • Preservative (manufacturer’s recommended amount)

You’ll notice that we recommend using distilled water and vinegar. These products have been filtered to remove the salts and minerals that can otherwise accumulate in tap water (and commercial vinegar). That makes them more likely to deliver a streak-free shine along with natural ant repellent properties.

This oil should be safe for use around most pets (unless they tend to lick your countertops). If you’re unsure, consult with your veterinarian.

2. Pest Defy Spray For Picnics

Ants can also be a nuisance when you’re enjoying the great outdoors. Instead of wiping down the local picnic table with your homemade counter cleaner, we recommend using an essential oil spray to keep ants at bay.

Our Pest Defy synergy blend combines:

  • Lemongrass

  • Cedarwood

  • Citronella

  • Geranium

This powerful blend can help keep away ants, mosquitos and flies, too! Place 25-30 drops in a spray bottle with 1 oz 190-proof alcohol and 2 oz distilled water and spray liberally around your picnic blanket before you start dining.

Grow Your Essential Oil Knowledge

Does Cinnamon repel ants? Which essential oils are good for cleaning? Here at Edens Garden we’re committed to educating and answering all your burning essential oil questions on our blog. Whether you’re just getting started on your essential oil journey or you already use them in your day to day life, we’ve got you covered.


  1. Tim’s Pest Control. Top 3 Things That Attract Ants Into Your Home.
  2. Kasim, Nur Nasulhah et al. “Extraction and Potential of Cinnamon Essential Oil towards Repellency and Insecticidal Activity.” International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications 4.7 (2014).
  3. Wiltz, Beverley et al. “Deterrency and Toxicity of Essential Oils to Argentine and Red Imported Fire Ants.” Journal of Entomological Science 42.2 (2007).

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December 20, 2021 at 10:18 am

This is awesome! I mixed lemongrass, peppermint, cinnamon leaf, and Texas cedar wood. It smelled like Christmas and worked great! I suggest this very much

Edens Garden

August 9, 2021 at 10:48 am

Hi Mark! Yes, solubilizers are great in water-based products where oils are added. A few natural solubilizers are Caprylyl Capryl Glucoside, Sulfated Castor Oil and Coco Glucoside. The amount used will depend on the manufacturer you purchase the solubilizer from. If you’re using this around plants, we suggest spraying on the soil rather than the plant itself.

Mark J Miller

August 9, 2021 at 7:59 am

Hi Charity and Bella,

1. Would a solubilizer or an emulsifier make the above ant and bug deterrent recipes more effective, and if so, what would you recommend, keeping the recipes natural or organic, and in what quantity?

2. Ants are sometimes attracted to nest in my potted plants. Does the water and cinnamon recipe have an adverse impact on plants if used occasionally to water the plants (to repel the ants)? Would a solubilizer or emulsifier aid this application?

Thank you!
Mark Miller

Edens Garden

April 8, 2021 at 4:09 pm

Hi Karen! Try 190 proof grain alcohol. This can be purchased online or at a liquor store, depending on where you live. Add 4 oz of alcohol to this recipe.

Karen Blase Talbot

April 8, 2021 at 10:38 am

One of the ingredients In the recipe for anti ant counter spray is preservative. I am unsure of what this is or what it means. Can you please provide more information on what a preservative is and more importantly, when it can be found? Thank you.