How to Get Ants Out of Clothes: Simple Steps for a Bug-Free Wardrobe

Discovering ants on clothes within your closet can be an unsettling experience. These industrious insects are adept at finding their way into even the most unexpected places, including where you store your clean laundry.

When faced with an ant infestation in your clothing, the key to eradication involves understanding their behavior and the conditions that led them to your wardrobe in the first place.

Combating an ant infestation requires a strategic approach that not only removes the current opportunistic visitors but also prevents a future reoccurrence.

This means addressing the source of the attraction—whether it be scent trails from sweet spills or the allure of a dark, undisturbed space.

Several methods exist that can help sweep these pests out of your garments and keep your closet ant-free.

The use of natural repellents, such as lavender or peppermint, can discourage ants from taking up residence among your apparel.

In addition, targeted solutions like ant baits offer an effective means of removing ants by exploiting their social behavior against them.

The implementation of proper cleaning routines and preventative measures can ultimately protect your clothes from becoming unwelcome homes to ants.

Key Takeaways

Seal affected clothing in plastic bags to prevent ants from spreading. Bring the clothes outside and shake them out. Spray clothes with vinegar or soapy water.
Address the ants in your clothes by treating the surrounding area. Place ant traps along baseboards and in your closet.
Clean the house thoroughly. Be sure to remove any food scraps, garbage, and store your food properly in sealed containers.
Contact a pest control professional if the infestation is beyond your skills or if things seem to be getting worse.

Understanding Ant Behavior

To effectively remove ants from clothes, one must understand how these insects operate.

Ants are guided by their survival needs, employing pheromones to navigate and identifying attractants that lead them to establish nests close to resources.

The Pheromone Trail

Ants use a chemical communication system, with the pheromone trail being pivotal for navigation.

When a forager ant finds food, it secretes a pheromone to mark its path, guiding others to the source.

These trails are invisible to the human eye but are a crucial part of ant behavior, enabling efficient food collection and colony coordination.

Attractants That Lure Ants

Several substances can attract ants, such as:

  • Moisture: Areas of dampness attract ants, especially carpenter ants which seek out moist wood to establish their nests.
  • Food Stains: Sugary spills and food remnants, particularly protein and sweet-based substances, can lure ants into clothing and closets.

By addressing these attractants, the likelihood of ants invading personal items can be significantly reduced.

Very Dirty Kitchen with Lots of Dishes Can Lead to Pests

Common Habitats for Nests

Ants build nests in various locales, but they frequently opt for locations with adequate protection and proximity to food and water. Nests are commonly found in:

  • Soil
  • Wood, particularly if it is already softened by decay or moisture
  • Beneath stones or other covered environments

Carpenter ants, in particular, may establish nests inside wood, creating galleries for their colonies. Keeping spaces dry and clean helps mitigate the invasion of these unwelcome guests.

Initial Steps to Remove Ants

When dealing with an ant infestation in clothing, one must act swiftly and efficiently. Taking immediate action can prevent the ants from spreading to other areas.

Isolate the Affected Clothing

The first action should be to carefully isolate any clothing that has ants on it. This reduces the risk of transferring ants to other garments or parts of the home.

Place the affected items into a plastic bag and seal it tightly to prevent escape.

Shake Out Ants Outside

Next, take the sealed bag outside. Open it and vigorously shake out each piece of clothing.

Shaking outside ensures that no ants are released into the home. It helps remove most of the ants before any further cleaning processes.

Cleaning Solutions

When dealing with ants in clothing, certain household items can be powerful allies. Utilizing a vinegar solution, applying soapy water, or leveraging a borax mixture are effective methods that can clean and remove the ant infestation from your garments.

Using Vinegar Solution

Vinegar is a potent cleaning agent due to its acidity, which disrupts ants’ pheromone trails.

A simple vinegar solution can be made by mixing equal parts of water and white vinegar in a spray bottle.

Spritz the solution directly onto the affected clothes and then launder them as usual to remove both ants and the scent trails they follow.

White Vinegar in Glass Bottle

Applying Soapy Water

Soapy water acts as a natural deterrent and can suffocate ants due to its surfactant properties.

To utilize this method, mix a few drops of dishwashing liquid with water to create a sudsy solution.

Gently blot the stain on the clothing with this mixture, then rinse the garment to not just clean it, but also to disrupt the ants’ activity.

Leveraging Borax Mixture

Borax, a naturally occurring mineral, is a component of many detergents and can be fatal to ants.

One can create a borax mixture by adding a half cup of borax to a gallon of warm water.

Then, soak the infested clothing in the solution for several hours before washing. This will not only clean, but also help to eradicate the ants embedded within the fabrics.

Remember to exercise caution when using borax, as it can be harmful to pets and children if ingested.

Natural and Chemical Repellents

To effectively remove ants from clothing, one can employ a range of natural and chemical repellents. The selection includes essential oils known for their ant-repellent properties, diatomaceous earth for its abrasive effects on insects, strategically placed ant baits, and commercial insecticides for direct eradication.

Utilizing Essential Oils

Certain essential oils act as natural deterrents to ants due to their potent aromas. Notable among these are:

  • Peppermint oil: A strong scent that ants find overwhelming.
  • Tea tree oil: Its powerful fragrance disrupts ant trails and habitats.
  • Lavender: Beyond its pleasant smell for humans, it acts as an ant repellent.
  • Eucalyptus and Cedarwood: Both oils create an inhospitable environment for ants.

To use, add a few drops to a spray bottle filled with water and lightly mist affected areas.

Applying Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a fine powder that can mechanically eliminate ants by damaging their exoskeleton upon contact.

For application:

  1. Sprinkle a thin layer of food-grade DE in and around the infested clothing.
  2. Focus on potential entry points and areas where ants are commonly seen.

Remember, DE is most effective when dry.

Setting Up Ant Baits

Ant baits offer a strategic solution by attracting ants with a toxic bait that they carry back to the colony, thus addressing the source of the infestation. When setting up baits:

  • Place baits in areas of ant activity but away from children and pets.
  • Be patient, as it may take some time for the baits to impact the entire colony.
Terro Liquid Ant Bait Still in Box on White Background

Using Commercial Insecticides

When natural remedies are insufficient, commercial insecticides and pesticides can provide a more aggressive approach to ant control.

Choose products labeled as “ant killer” for targeted action.

For safety and effectiveness, follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully and ensure proper ventilation if applying the insecticide indoors.

Prevention Strategies

Effective ant prevention in clothing involves several key strategies that focus on denying ants access to your closet, maintaining high standards of cleanliness, proper food storage, and controlling humidity. These measures can significantly reduce the likelihood of an ant infestation.

Sealing Entry Points

To prevent ants from accessing clothes, closely inspect your home for doors, windows, and other potential entry points.

Seal any cracks and address thresholds that may provide easy access for ants.

Using silicone caulk or weather stripping can be effective in closing these small entrances.

Maintaining Cleanliness and Order

Regular cleaning plays a crucial role in ant prevention.

Use a vacuum cleaner frequently to eliminate ant attractants such as crumbs and dust.

Organizing clothes properly and minimizing clutter in your closet can also deter ants by removing their preferred hiding spots.

Storing Food Appropriately

Ants are attracted to food sources, so it’s important to store food properly in the kitchen to avoid attracting them to your home.

Keep food in airtight containers and never leave food items open or unattended for long periods, especially sweet or sticky substances that are highly attractive to ants.

Controlling Indoor Humidity

High levels of humidity can attract ants seeking water.

Implementing preventive measures, such as using dehumidifiers and ensuring good ventilation, can reduce moisture levels and create an environment that is less appealing to ants.

When to Seek Professional Help

When dealing with ant infestations, sometimes the problem extends beyond simple home remedies. There are specific instances where one should consider the expertise of a professional exterminator for efficient and safe resolution.

Identifying Major Infestations

A major ant infestation can be identified by several clear signs.

If one notices large numbers of ants, notably carpenter ants or odorous house ants, routinely inside their clothing storage or home, it might be time to seek professional help.

Carpenter ants are particularly destructive as they can cause structural damage.

Should one find sawdust-like material, which is a sign of their nesting, or if there is a persistent ant presence despite all efforts to eradicate them, a professional exterminator should be contacted.

Choosing a Pest Control Service

When selecting a pest control service, make sure to choose companies that have a positive reputation and proper credentials.

They should offer an inspection to determine the extent of the ant infestation and suggest a plan tailored to one’s specific situation.

The service provided should include information on the type of ants present, the severity of the infestation, and the methods they will use to eliminate the problem.

Carpenter ant infestations, in particular, require more specialized treatment.

Always ensure that the pest control service is licensed, and ask about the safety of their methods, especially if there are children or pets in the home.


Dealing with ants in clothing can be a frustrating experience, but understanding effective methods to address the problem can lead to a pest-free environment.

It’s essential to maintain a clean closet and to regularly inspect for signs of ant activity. Homeowners can use natural deterrents such as cucumber slices or cotton balls soaked in lemon juice or peppermint oil as a preventive measure.

When an infestation is present, the use of ant bait traps can be an efficient solution. These baits are designed to attract ants, which then carry the poison back to the nest, eventually eliminating the colony.

For persistent problems or larger infestations, individuals may consider contacting professional pest control services.

Simple, practical steps can significantly reduce the occurrence of ants in clothing:

  • Ensure food and sweets are stored away from closets and bedrooms.
  • Seal any potential entry points ants might use to gain access to the home.
Photo of author
Sean is the founder of Conquer Critters. With more than 17 years of experience in dealing with various pests, he is passionate about spreading his knowledge to help everyone manage their pest problem in the fastest, most effective manor possible.