No room in your house is more private than the bathroom. There’s a reason why it’s often the only room that has a lock on the door! If there’s one place where you really want to be alone, it’s the bathroom…
Which is why it’s so upsetting to find you’re sharing it with ants. Sadly, finding ants in the bathroom is a surprisingly common occurrence. Along with ants in the kitchen, the bathroom is one of the most likely places you’ll find ants inside your home.
If you find ants inside the bathroom, you’ll want to get rid of them fast. Forget about temporary fixes – you’ll want a solution that works to permanently keep these creatures away.
Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to return your bathroom to be an ant-free zone. In order to achieve this goal, it’s important to understand why ants are showing up in your bathroom in the first place.
Read on to find out how to get rid of ants in your bathroom.
Why are Ants Attracted to your Bathroom?
Normally, people expect to find ants in their kitchens more than anywhere else. The presence of food is typically what brings ants into a home from outside. However, the kitchen isn’t the only place that’s attractive to ants. Here are some of the reasons you may find ants in your bathroom.
Like all living creatures, ants need water to survive. In their natural habitat, they get this from rain, dew, and groundwater, as well as from certain foods they eat.
The inside of our homes can also present ants with opportunities to find a reliable source of water. This is particularly important in hot, dry climates or during times of drought, and ants may come inside just to get something to drink.
A dripping faucet can provide ants with a water source, but they can also find all the water they need in the condensation that collects on the outside of water pipes.
Also, water leaks can give them something to drink. Even something as simple as old caulking around the tub that lets water collect can be enough to attract ants.
Ants don’t like extremes of weather any more than we do. Sometimes, large numbers of ants will come inside just to avoid bad weather. This often happens in the fall as the weather gets cold, and ants come inside to stay warm.
Ants can find their way into bathrooms because of all the pipes that lead from the bathroom to the outside of the house.
Heat and drought can also drive the ants inside, not just for water, but also for the shelter your house provides. Once ants have discovered a source of food, water, or shelter, they will return to the nest, creating a pheromone trail all the way.
This allows other members of the colony to follow the trail and find what the initial ant found. One scout can quickly turn into a whole army of ants in your house.
A Nearby Ant Colony
Because of the way ants forage, you can find a few workers almost anywhere. Finding one or two ants inside your house may mean nothing more than that a couple of foraging workers are scoping out the surrounding area.
However, if you see more than that, it’s possible that the ants have found something they like inside your house and that more are on their way. It may also mean the colony is nearby.
If you see large numbers of ants in the bathroom, it’s possible that the colony lives inside your house. This often happens in bathrooms because of water leaks. You may even have water damage behind a wall or in the ceiling you’re unaware of.
Water-damaged wood makes an ideal place for carpenter ants to set up a new colony inside your home. If you suspect this could be the case, read more about the signs of carpenter ants in your home.
Steps to Getting Rid of Ants in Your Bathroom
1. Eliminate all food and water sources
The first step to dealing with ants in your bathroom or anywhere else in your home is to address why they’ve come inside in the first place.
Check your house for leaking pipes or even a leaking roof that can give the ants a source of water and a place to nest. Next, clean the areas where you’ve seen ants with a household cleaner. This will destroy the pheromone trail that leads the ants inside.
You can also use vinegar in a spray bottle for an effective yet environmentally friendly solution.
Most of us don’t have any food sources in the bathroom, but it never hurts to give the place a good clean. Do the same for your kitchen, as food spills may be attracting the ants inside through the bathroom.
Next, check the caulking around tubs, shower enclosures, and other areas. Worn-out caulking allows water to collect and even enter the walls, which can attract ants. Strip out and replace old caulking to create a watertight seal.
If possible, you may also want to get underneath the bathroom and check the subfloor to make sure there are no water leaks. If you can get your hands on a moisture meter, these can be extremely useful tools to determine if there’s a water leak in a wall or somewhere else you can’t immediately see.
Don’t forget the drains! Gunk can often collect in the drains of sinks and showers, and this can be attractive to ants as both a food and water source. Clean drains out with a 1:1 mixture of baking soda and vinegar to remove this attractant.
2. Seal Off Exterior Access
Ants are primarily outdoor creatures. Although Pharaoh ants nest almost exclusively indoors and carpenter ants often build satellite nests inside houses, most of the time, ants in your bathroom are ultimately coming from outside. Therefore, making it impossible for them to get in will help solve your problem.
Check the caulking around your windows and the weatherstripping around doors. Broken or missing window screens can also allow ants easy access to your house in warmer months when your windows are open.
Also, look for anywhere a pipe enters your home from outside. Drain pipes and water pipes are often what allow ants access to bathrooms. Seal up any holes you find with weatherproof caulking.
Look for cracks in the foundation of your home, since ants often nest in soil and can easily use these cracks to get inside.
3. Use Ant Baits to Kill the Colony
Once you’ve addressed how the ants are getting inside and what’s making your home attractive to them, it’s time to focus on killing any ants that may still be inside. This is especially important in the case of carpenter ants, Pharaoh ants, and odorous house ants that may be nesting inside the structure of the building.
One of the safest and most effective ways to kill an entire ant colony is to use a poison ant bait. It’s especially useful when the colony is hidden inside a wall, under the tub, or somewhere else you can’t get to it.
Baits are designed to work relatively slowly. You’ll need to give them time to spread through the whole colony, and it could take a week or more to kill the nest entirely. However, baits are very effective because of the way they spread through the entire population.
It is possible to make your own ant bait by combining Borax with sugar water. Borax is widely available in grocery and hardware stores as a laundry detergent booster, but it’s also a potent poison for ants. You can mix it with sugar water and leave it in liquid form in bottle caps around the bathroom.
Alternatively, you can soak up the liquid with cotton balls and leave those wherever you find ant trails. The ants will suck the moisture out of the cotton balls. Although borax is generally safe, it’s best to keep these bait stations out of the reach of pets or kids.
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making your own bait, you can also buy commercial ant baits such as those made by Terro, Raid, or Maxforce. These baits come ready to use and are usually contained in secure bait trays that keep pets and non-target animals away.
You can even buy outdoor bait stations that are resistant to weather so that you can target ant colonies that are outside of the home.
If you have an especially large colony, a professional-grade bait product is a good idea. Often, these baits use more powerful pesticides and contain baits that are specially formulated to be more attractive to the ants, thereby getting quick results.
This is especially true in the case of carpenter ants since this species is notorious for not taking to bait particularly well. A good bait to use is Maxforce Fleet, which is labeled for use against carpenter ants as well as other species.
4. Exterior Treatment of Your Home
The next step to getting rid of ants is to tackle the outside of your home. Most of the time, this is where the ants will be coming from, so it’s important to focus on the outside as well as the inside.
You can treat the exterior foundation of your home with an appropriately labeled pesticide that will create a residual barrier. This barrier will either repel or kill any ants that try to cross it long after the pesticide is dried.
One of the best residual pesticides on the market is Talstar, which provides long-lasting protection against many different species of ant.
Mix the pesticide according to the instructions on the label and use a sprayer to apply it 2 to 3 feet up your exterior walls and 2 to 3 feet out from the walls. Not only will this kill ants, but it will also get rid of most species of crawling insects. This treament can remain effective for up to three months.
If you prefer a more natural solution, you could try sprinkling diatomaceous earth outside your home. This naturally occurring mineral comes in the form of a fine powder. When insects crawl across it, the jagged edges lacerate the exoskeleton, causing the insect to dehydrate and die.
The trick with applying diatomaceous earth is not to use too much. You want a fine coating that ants and other insects will able to walk across, not big piles that they will just avoid.
It’s a good idea to use a duster to give you the fine coating you want and apply it in a 2 to 3 foot band around the house. Be aware that you may have to reapply after heavy rain.
5. Ongoing Monitoring
Once you kill the ants both inside and outside your home, you may feel like declaring victory, but it’s important to stay vigilant. No matter how many ants you kill, there’ll always be more ready to take their place.
Sealing up gaps and cracks in your home to stop them from getting in is probably the best long-term solution, but you’ll want to keep an eye out to make sure you can get on top of the problem if it recurs.
Be vigilant about your food. Make sure all the food in your home is stored in ant-proof containers. This also applies to pet food, since ants will happily eat anything you leave out for the dog or cat. Also, remember to clean up any food spills as soon as they happen, especially of sweet things.
Stay on top of moisture problems as well. Keep the caulking in your bathroom in good repair to prevent leaks. Inspect on a semiregular basis to make sure no leaks have developed in your bathroom. Create a schedule for drain cleaning to remove this ant attractant too.
What Kind of Ants are in Your Bathroom?
An ant is an ant, right? Not necessarily. There are thousands of different ant species, and the behavior of species varies. This is important because it can affect how you get rid of the ants.
What works on one species may not necessarily work on another. That’s why it’s important if possible to correctly identify the ant species you’re finding inside your home.
Plus, knowing the biology of the species of ant you’re dealing with can help provide solutions to your problem. Different species have different preferences for food, water, and habitat, so knowing what species they are can help you make modifications that will make your home less attractive to the ants.
Odorous House Ants
This is one of the species most commonly found in bathrooms. Also known as little black ants, tiny black ants, or sugar ants, these creatures are common throughout the United States and elsewhere. They get their name from the fact that when crushed, they give off a distinctive smell that some people compare to rotten coconuts.
These ants like sweet foods and the presence of candy, soda pop, honey, syrup, and other sweet things can bring them into a home. However, they also have high moisture requirements, and this will often lead to them entering bathrooms.
For this reason, they can sometimes be found foraging inside homes around water pipes, in bath traps, and in crevices around cabinets.
Another ants species commonly found inside homes is the carpenter ant. Although they are also black, these ants are much bigger than odorous house ants. Workers can be as big as half an inch in length. Finding an ant or two in your bathroom isn’t necessarily a problem, but finding multiple ants may be a sign of a larger issue.
Carpenter ants get their name from the habit of constructing nests inside damp, rotting wood. Unfortunately, these ants don’t make a distinction between a tree in the forest and a wall stud in your home. Seeing large numbers of carpenter ants in your bathroom or anywhere else inside the house may indicate that you have a nest indoors.
Carpenter ants have multiple nests. The main nest will usually be outdoors in an area with high humidity. Typically the nest inside the home is a “satellite nest”. This often happens in and around bathrooms where water pipes may leak and damage the building’s timbers, or where there is an issue with the roofing that lets water leak into the attic.
If you see winged carpenter ants in your bathroom, this is a bad sign that you may have a mature carpenter ant nest on your hands. Winged ants are the reproductive members of the colony, and in the case of carpenter ants, they are only produced by a colony that is at least three years old.
A carpenter ant nest left untreated can do extensive damage to a home, so you need to make sure you get rid of carpenter ants if you do indeed have them.
Another species that can be found inside bathrooms is the Pharaoh ant. These tiny creatures occupy the other end of the size scale from carpenter ants, with workers generally around one-sixteenth of an inch long.
They are so tiny, in fact, that you may not realize they are ants at first. They also have a yellow-red color which makes them quite distinctive.
Pharaoh ants are a tropical species that has spread throughout the US and beyond. However, they can only live outdoors in the hottest climates. They prefer to live entirely indoors.
Pharaoh ants can build a colony just about anywhere they find a void, so inside bathroom walls and underneath tubs and sinks make a great place for them to hide. They like to build nests in areas with at least 80 percent humidity, which makes bathrooms ideal for them.
Pharaoh ants are a great example of why it matters what kind of ants you have. Spraying Pharaoh ants with pesticides will usually make the problem worse. It will stress the colony, which will disperse and split into multiple colonies.
Pharaoh ant colonies have multiple queens, and so a single nest can become five, six, or more if you spray it. Before you spray anything to deal with ants in the bathroom, make sure it’s not Pharaoh ants you’re dealing with. The only effective way to deal with Pharaoh ants is to use an effective ant bait which the ants take back to the nest by themselves.
There are multiple species of fire ants, some of which are native to the United States and others, like the Red Imported Fire Ant, which are invasive. They get their name from their ability to deliver a painful burning sting.
Luckily, these ants ordinarily live outside, building their nests in soil. It’s possible to see some indoors if they are nearby and raiding your home for food or water.
Are ants in the bathroom dangerous?
No, ants in the bathroom are not dangerous. Ants don’t spread disease. And with the important exception of fire ants, most species don’t bite. Ants are more of a nuisance than anything else. Plus, if you have carpenter ants, there is the danger that they may cause structural damage to your home.
How did ants get into my bathroom?
Generally, ants come into your bathroom from outdoors. Check for gaps or cracks around your windows and doors, and make sure the weatherproof caulking is intact. Check where pipes enter the house and make sure that they are sealed tight to prevent ants and other creatures from getting inside. Plus, it’s a good idea to cut back trees and bushes that touch your house. Check your roofline; ants can often use tree branches to get into the attic of a house and spread from there.
Can ants come up through drains?
It’s very unlikely ants come into your house from inside your drain.
You may see ants emerging from the drain in a sink or bathtub, but that’s usually because they’ve gone down into the drain in search of food or water and then climbed back out. It’s hard for ants to crawl along the metal of a pipe, and even harder when that pipe is often flushed with water.
Plus, drainpipes have what’s known as a P-trap that holds a pool of water that ants can’t cross.
Often, ants will use the outside of waterpipes as a highway. Also, moisture collects on the outside of water pipes in the form of condensation which ants can drink. Following these pipes, the ants may emerge from the drain, making it look like they have traveled through the pipe when, in fact, they came along the outside.