Ants are pesky little creatures that can make your life miserable whenever they decide to make your home theirs too. Ant infestations in your car, however, are particularly irritating and could even threaten your safety on the road. Here are some helpful tricks and tips on how to get rid of ants in your car and make sure they never come back.
However, before I dive into the tactics and strategies of ant warfare, let’s answer your most burning question:
What Are Those Ants Doing in Your Car in the First Place?
The answer is simple: food. Most ant species live underground or in anthills, so it is highly unlikely that they would have chosen your car to build their nest. That might sound somewhat reassuring, but, unfortunately, just because the ants don’t live in your car doesn’t mean that they are not there to stay. There are two main reasons why ants would linger around in your car.
1. They Are Searching for Food
Ants routinely send scouting parties in search of new food sources. Therefore, your car may have been invaded by ant scouts — which is by far the better option. With any luck and some precautions on your side, these scouts would not find anything of interest in your car and will soon be on their way.
2. They Have Discovered Food Sources in Your Car
Once ant scouts identify a potential food source, the colony sends workers to collect the food and bring it back to the nest. For the ants, this is a happy day, but for you, this only means trouble. An ant colony has incredible memory and persistence and won’t let go of a valuable food source easily: you would have to force them out of it.
Why You Should Worry If You Find Ants in Your Car
Yes, ants are irritating, and some people find them disgusting. They also sometimes bite, and while they are not venomous, their bites are unpleasant and can even be painful. These are not the biggest issues that come with ants, however.
You may be surprised to learn that the ants may have found a rather curious food source in your car, even if you never bring any sort of food or drink inside. Some new car models come with wiring insulation made from wood or soy, rice, corn, or peanut husks. These also emit a sweet vanilla scent when warmed up. This scent is undetectable to us — but not to ants.
If the ants start chewing up on your wiring, they can cause severe damage to your car and your budget and could even create health and safety risks when driving. That is why it is very important to get rid of ants as soon as you detect them and prevent further infestations.
How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Car
Now that you have some idea as to why there are ants in your car, let’s see what tools you could use to get rid of them.
Step 1: Identify the Ant Species
The very first thing to do, if you can, is to identify the ant species that has invaded your vehicle. Knowing who your enemy is could provide you with useful information on the best prevention methods for this particular species. So, do some research into the ant species that are endemic to your area, what makes them tick, and what doesn’t.
Step 2: Move Your Car
After you’ve read up on your local ant species, it’s time to get hands-on. The most important and easiest thing to do is to move your car from its usual parking space. You may have parked near an active anthill, next to ant-infested trees or bushes, or right on top of an underground ant colony. Removing the car usually cuts the ants’ access to it.
As a general rule, try to avoid parking near trees, bushes, tall grass, or mounds and heaps of sand of any sort. You may not see any ants or other insects around, but they can certainly see you.
Step 3: Clean the Outside of Your Car
Next, roll up your sleeves and prepare to get dirty. Give the outside of your car a thorough clean, paying special attention to the tires. As your car’s only point of contact with the ground, they are the ants’ bridge to the inside of your vehicle. Other important spots not to miss are under the hood, the undercarriage, and the wheel wells.
Make sure you use a potent chemical cleaner. While that may not be the most natural or toxin-free option out there, it will not only give you a sparkling clean exterior but will also break up the pheromone trails that ants use as pointers to the food sources inside your car.
Step 4: Clean the Inside of Your Car
After you’ve scrubbed your car’s exterior for dear life, move on to the inside. Start by removing any larger food sources you can see, such as wrappers, soda cans, drink cups, crumbs, leftover food, bottles, etc.
Then, vacuum everywhere. Key but tricky places to focus on include:
- Air vents
- Seat cracks
- The glove box
- The center console
- Under the floor mats
- The space under the seats
- The crevices around the emergency brake and gear lever
Next, clean the upholstery. You could also consider going to a self-service car wash or even have a professional do it to ensure a great result. However, if you choose to do it yourself, make sure you use high-quality car shampoo and scrub off any spills and stains, especially those from sugary drinks. Sugar is the ultimate magnet for ants.
To reach some tricky spots, such as air vents, you may have to use Q-tips dipped in cleaning solution. Your goal is to go through every nook and cranny, leaving no square inch unvacuumed and unscrubbed.
Finally, consider using car wipes to give everything a brilliant polish and get rid of any remaining smells, which may be attracting ants.
Step 5: Eliminate the Ants
The final and most important step is to physically eliminate the ants. There are many different baits, traps, and exterminating solutions you could use, both natural and chemical-based.
One natural, easy, and inexpensive solution is to line up your floor mats and any other spots where the ant trails are with double-sided tape. The ants will stick to the tape, and you will literally stop them in their tracks. The downside is that you would have to regularly replace the tape and dispose of the dead ants.
Mint, Salt, and Pepper
Alternatively, you could sprinkle mint, salt, and/or pepper inside your car. Ants abhor these smells and avoid them like the plague. The mint would also serve as a natural air-freshener. However, this solution comes with the obvious problem of making a real mess in your car.
You may also sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the floor and near the doors of your car. Diatomaceous earth is not toxic for humans and pets unless ingested but will kill ants almost immediately. Let the earth sit for around 24 hours and then clean it up using a damp cloth and a heavy-duty shop vacuum. Don’t use a regular household vacuum cleaner, as the earth could ruin its motor and filter.
Soap and Water
Mix soap with warm water in a sprayer bottle and spray them directly onto the ants and their trails. However, bear in mind that the solution may leave soapy residue and stains on your upholstery.
Vinegar, Lemon, and Boric Acid
Vinegar, lemon, and boric acid are all potent acids that both kill and disorient ants by breaking down their pheromone trails. You can use them separately or mix them with water and spray them wherever you’ve noticed any ants. Moreover, as a bonus, lemon solutions will leave a wonderful, citrusy scent in your car.
Boric acid is perhaps the most effective of the three, as it effectively kills ants by drying their exoskeleton. However, always be extra careful when handling boric acid. Store it out of the reach of children and pets and away from food or drink.
When all else fails, you can turn to chemical-based pesticides and insecticides. They come in many different forms ranging from ant baits and traps to liquid or spray solutions. However, make sure you always read the label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions and take safety measures. Only use such solutions overnight or whenever there is no one in the car and make sure you air the car for a few hours afterward.
How to Make Sure the Ants Never Come Back
It’s not enough to simply get rid of an ant infestation once. You also need to make sure they never come back. As with most things in life, when it comes to ants, prevention is key. Here are some crucial habits to form so that you never have to experience an ant invasion again:
- Do not eat in your car — and make no exceptions for anyone.
- Never leave any leftover food, crumbs, or food packaging in your car. Ever.
- Do not drink soda or other sugary drinks in your car, including alcohol. Stick to water and sugar-free coffee or tea.
- Be mindful of where you park your car. Avoid spots near trees, bushes, tall grass, mounds, or sand heaps.
- Always close the doors and roll up your windows when you leave your car, even for a few minutes.
- Clean both the exterior and interior of your car regularly. Try to get a professional clean at least once every few months.
- Use anti-ant car scents. There are plenty of natural and artificial options to choose from.
Ants are nature’s little cleaners and play an important role in any ecosystem. However, they are not the best candidates for carpooling. They can severely damage your car and endanger your safety on the road. With this in mind, make sure to always act swiftly to eliminate and prevent ant infestations in your car.