How to Get Rid of Ants in the RV (Without Toxic Chemicals)
During my first football season with Starter RV, I was doing a lot of learning, mostly as problems popped up and I needed solutions. One problem was the appearance of ants in the RV and how do I get those ants out of the RV.
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Initial Attempts to Get Rid of Ants in the RV
When I first saw the ants in the RV, I thought it was due to the nature of tailgating – open a beer, leave the empty on the counter. Or the empty solo cup with sticky sugar soda residue. By the time morning came around, there would be ants everywhere. Yuck!
So of course, my first attempts at getting the ants out of the RV were pretty lame. Let’s pick up the trash and wipe down the counters.
At least they looked clean, right?
But by lunch time, the ants were back. So that counted as a failure.
Microwave and Oven were No Help
With little storage room in the RV, a lot of prepared foods were left on the counter and of course, the ants would find it like heat seeking missiles.
So I tried putting the food in a cool oven or the microwave, figuring no way could the ants find the food there.
There is nothing quite like opening up the microwave to see an army of those little things crawling everywhere. Just the memory makes my skin crawl, even today.
A Little Elbow Grease
I started searching for ways to kill the ants. Remember, as tailgaters, we are always on the move, from tailgate spot to home to a trip on the road. It’s not as simple as killing the ants around the base of the RV and being done. Nope, it’s a continual battle.
First step to getting rid of the ants in the RV: a really good cleaning of the RV and, in particular, the kitchen area where I was having ant problems. Side note: they never went for the dog’s food, just the kitchen area. I never figured that one out but I’ll take it.
I’m talking about taking every single food item out of the RV and the fridge. Cleaning everything with a household cleaner like 409. Get rid of all the lingering sugar and other residue that you can’t see. I cleaned the walls, the oven, the microwave. If it was a solid surface, it got cleaned. Under the stove burners had tons of crumbs. I didn’t have a toaster in the RV, but that is another area that is prone to have lots of crumbs leftover for the pesky little ants.
See Also: Tips for Dealing with RV Odors where deep cleaning is also recommended
It’s easy to let this go when it looks clean – just wipe down the counters occasionally. And with tailgaters constantly coming through, who knows what they spilled and didn’t properly clean up in all the nooks and crannies. I was amazed at what I found after just a few games of tailgating.
Pet Friendly Ant Removal
It’s no secret that I bring my dog Burdell with me on every RV trip. Seriously, the only times I have driven the RV and he’s not in it are when it is headed to or from the shop. And of course, I want to make sure that any products I use don’t hurt him. So I really did not want any kind of ant bait or sprays full of nasty chemicals for him and for me.
Also, as a general environmentalist, I hate using products that will destroy the environment. So my preference is to use products, when possible, that will do the job and not harm the environment. This is good for you, your children and your pets.
After I cleaned the RV with regular 409 type cleaner, I also sprayed the floors with a organic pest control spray. What probably did a lot of good was when I didn’t secure it properly and let it spill all over the floor. Oops! Even though it says it is non-toxic, I only used this on the floors and not the counters where the food goes. In any case, the areas that were treated have not had any more ants.
After searching the internet and Amazon, I found this Ultrasonic Pest Repellent with the added benefits of repelling mice, spiders, roaches, and rodents. It won’t work if you have rodent-like pets like gerbils. But the ultrasonic noise does not bother the dog at all.
When I’m home, the ultrasonic pest repellent is plugged into the kitchen outlet and the RV itself is plugged into the house. Since I don’t have a (working) inverter, the repellent only works during tailgates when the generator is running. But it has been enough to repel all critters from coming back for two seasons now.
While the particular model I bought is no longer available, there are additional repellers available from Amazon. Probably better than what I have but since mine is still working, I’m not upgrading yet.
See Also: Plugging Your RV Into Home Electric to find out how to keep the ultrasonic repellent working between trips
For those that are more stationary than your typical tailgater (or for those that are going to week-long baseball tournaments or camping trips), food grade Diatomaceous Earth has been effective for a lot of RVers. Diatomaceous Earth is a natural product from the fossilized remains of diatoms or algae. It can be used for a whole slew of things, like filtration, mild abrasives in toothpastes, liquid absorbent, cat litter, and even a stabilizer for dynamite.
For our purposes though, it is used as an insecticide. Diatomaceous Earth absorbs lipids in the exoskeleton, causing them to dehydrate. Gardeners use diatomaceous earth to prevent slugs from taking over. To prevent the ants from coming into the RV, sprinkle the diatomaceous earth around anything that touches the ground – tires, jacks, cables, power cords, hoses, etc. To get rid of ants already in the RV, you can sprinkle it around the areas the ants like to visit and in cabinets.
I personally don’t like spreading it around the RV when I’ll be using it, like during football season. It feels dirty even though there isn’t a lot of it around. Instead, it’s definitely something to do before you put the RV into storage for any length of time. It’s a great offseason ant prevention technique. Once the diatomaceous earth gets wet, it will no longer be effective. You’ll need to retreat after a rainstorm. Thus, it may be more effective inside the RV where it is less likely to get wet. Another reason it is great for offseason storage.
Bonus: diatomaceous earth is also effective against bed bugs and fleas!
Food Storage to Prevent Ants
Once you’ve got the ants out, you want to keep them from coming back. One of my biggest recommendations is to keep your food in airtight containers. Make sure they seal up tight too. I’ve had ants get in normal tupperware containers.
I highly recommend the Snapware and Sistema containers. In addition to being airtight to keep out ants in the RV, they make it easy to load and unload for a weekend trip. You can carry a bunch of these containers and not worry about spilling food all over the place. I avoid the glass Snapware because they are heavier and liable to break when someone drops it on the asphalt parking lot.
I now use these containers in both my bricks and sticks house and my RV. They are great to stack, making organization easy. And of course, being airtight, they are great at keeping the critters out and the food fresh.
In addition to the food storage, I’ve also got two airtight pitchers that I bring filtered water in from home. This means I’m not drinking out of the freshwater tanks on the RV trips. Since the pitchers sit in the fridge, it also means cold water for those hot days. Even if I don’t have enough ice. The locking clips help keep messes to a minimum as we drive down bumpy roads in Atlanta.
I also use an airtight dog food container to keep the ants away from the dog’s food. Since I’m usually only taking a weekend to a week’s worth of food, there is usually enough room to throw a few toys or treats in on top. The snap lock lid keeps Burdell out of the treats until I’m ready to give them to him.
Corral Dirty Dishes
One of the best ant prevention tips I have for you, I stumbled upon by accident. I had been organizing the cabinets in the living area and the bedroom with new plastic storage tubs. I had an extra one leftover that ended up on top of the dog crate for the next tailgate.
Once we got to the tailgate, of course, we were cooking and use dishes. Being that it is only a weekend away, I didn’t want to bother with doing dishes. Instead, they normally pile up in the sink. But for some reason, we ran out of room. Empty storage tub to the rescue! I threw the dirty dishes in the tub and snapped it up. Guess what? No ants the next morning! Not like it was before when there were cups left in the sink.
The weathertight storage boxes are also great for storing items in your RV basement compartments. I store extra toilet paper, paper towels, and other paper products in one. Without having to worry that the paper products are going to get soggy or taking up valuable storage space inside.
Other Tips to Prevent or Get Rid of Ants
Some RVers recommend a mix of Borax soap and sugar water sprayed around the outside of the RV. The sugar attracts the ants who then carry the Borax back to the colony and it kills them there. You can also soak cotton balls with the mixture and leave them around the RV. Others have mixed Borax with peanut butter for similar results.
Borax is also a major ingredient in Terro ant bait.
Just know that Borax is toxic if ingested by pets, so keep it away from your four legged friends. May be another great solution for storing your RV.
Keep Your Water Tanks Clean
One important thing to remember about ants is that they aren’t just looking for food but also water. One thing that I’ve seen from other RVers is an ant infestation around the sewer pipes and their water tanks. Make sure that you regularly dump your tanks and keep them clean. Make sure you aren’t putting any food down into the gray water tank either. Remember to drain your tanks before putting the RV into storage!
Roaches also love the black tank. Yuck!
Miscellaneous Tips to Keep Ants Out of the RV
- Walk around your RV. Make sure that there are no tree limbs touching the RV. Or tall grasses. These are easy access points for ants.
- PineSol seems to be a favorite for killing ants on the spot and getting rid of their scent trails for the other ants to follow.
- Ants also hate vinegar and lemon. So cleaning with a vinegar-water solution with lemon juice or lemon essential oil will do wonders.
- Baking soda is also effective to keep ants out.
Also, don’t forget to clean the grill really well. Especially before you put it back in your RV basement storage. Seriously, these things are like ant magnets.
How Do You Get Rid of Ants in the RV?
Let us know what your best tips for getting rid of ants in the rv. Comment below!