Ants In Your Dishwasher? Here’s How To Get Ant-Free Dishes


Almost 70% of American households rely on automatic dishwashers.  If you’re reading this article, you likely own a dishwasher and are experiencing ant infestation issues! 

In this article we’re going to look at ways to get ants out of your dishwasher and living areas. 

First of all, should you even be concerned about ants? 

YES – and this is why:

  • Ants live in large groups You may only be seeing a handful now, but wait a while … soon you’ll be running an ant motel!
  • As they scurry around, ants spread bacteria and contaminate food sources.
  • Some ants release a nasty smell when stepped on or disturbed.
  • Ants depending on type can sting or bite.  Allergic reactions are rare, but can be very dangerous.
  • A common house ant, the pharaoh ant, has been linked to bronchial conditions and respiratory allergies.
  • The wood munching types of ants will destroy a home from the inside out, one bite at a time!
  • Ants nest in your appliances because they’re nice warm spots, but they do damage to electronics – costing you money and causing you stress.
  • The Nuisance Factor – having ants all over your dishes in the dishwasher or scurrying up your legs is just no fun.
Don’t worry, no close-up images of ants in this article. Just nice, clean dishwashers!


NO.  For you to rid yourself of ants on a long term basis, you have to seal off their points of entry and remove their access to food and water sources.

We’ve put together a guide for you with easy ‘no more ants!’ solutions below:

How to Solve Ants In Your Dishwasher: 8 Causes & Solutions

♦ Food smells in the dishwasher→ Pour at least 1 cup of vinegar down the dishwasher’s drain.  This will mask food odors and sanitize the drain
Food particles building up in the dishwasher→ After cleaning with vinegar, run the machine on an empty wash cycle, this will remove dead ants and food build – up
♦ Ants have a nest nearby→ Lay down ant baits.  The ants will take these back to the nest and poison the colony.
Food and crumbs left out→ Good hygiene around the dishwasher is a must.  Put left overs away immediately.  Mix 1 cup distilled vinegar + 1 cup water for a cost effective & antibacterial cleanser for wiping down kitchen surfaces
Cracks or holes in the dishwasher→ Get a sealant from your local hardware and seal up holes in pipes, door seals etc.
Dishes left in dishwasher and not washed immediately→ Either wash dishes immediately OR if leaving dirty dishes in the machine shut the machine door tightly and make sure all cracks/holes in the plumbing are sealed off and kept in good repair.
♦ Ants coming from behind the dishwasher→ This is highly problematic as this could be signs of an ant infestation elsewhere in the home!  Lay down bait and ant traps or contact a pest control expert if the issue persists. Just make sure to keep the inside of the dishwasher poison-free!

Which Scents Do Ants Hate?

A little known secret weapon in the war on ants is SCENT. Ants communicate by pheromones – which is a type of scent they use to map a path to food and water sources. By covering over these smells with something like a vinegar solution, we can break the chain of communication so they don’t know where to go.

Essential oils are an easy way to get rid of ants… while making your home smell amazing

Here’s a list of scents to try:

  • Pepper.  Sprinkle cayenne or black pepper around your baseboards and behind your appliances to deter ants.
  • Peppermint.  Peppermint is offensive to many insects, so mix 10 – 20 drops of peppermint essential oil with 2 cups of water and spray the mixture around the windows and baseboards of your home.  Let it dry in place to keep ants away.
  • Tea tree oil.  Mix 5 – 10 drops of tea tree oil with 2 cups of water and spray problem ant areas.  Also, you can saturate cotton balls in tea tree oil and leave them where you’ve seen ants.
  • Lemon eucalyptus oil is another natural insect repellent.  Saturate cotton balls and leave in ant prone areas, changing them weekly.  Note:  Do not ingest lemon eucalyptus oil, and keep it out of reach of children and pets!
  • Vinegar.  Use undiluted vinegar or mix 50/50 with water.  Wipe the areas where ants are and let dry. 
  • Cinnamon leaf essential oil.  Saturate cotton balls with the oil and place in ant areas, or sprinkle powdered cinnamon for the same effect. 
  • Neem oil.  Often used in Indian households, this oil is best used undiluted, i.e. full strength.  Wipe a thin layer around ant prone areas.
  • Coffee.  Use brewed coffee grounds on a disposable item like a piece of cardboard, and place near problem ant areas.  Change weekly to keep the coffee smell potent.
  •  Hand soap.  Easily available in most homes, the soap will remove the scent of ant pheromones.  Use it on ant trails and around points of entry in and around your home.

Getting Rid Of Ants Around The Home

Besides being a nuisance, ants around the home can do significant damage, as we’ve covered so far.  Here are some things you can try to get rid of them permanently.

• Interior or exterior of the home* Diatomaceous Earth – Pest Control labelled, follow the package directions closelyD.E kills insects like ants through dehydration. It’s safe for dogs/cats.
• Exterior – place around ant nests* Liquid ant baitsTaken back to the nest and queen ant, so kills all the ants at the source.
• Interior or exterior of the home* Ant spraysForms a barrier and disrupts ant trails into your home.
• Exterior & garden* Outdoor ant repellentsCreates a barrier that ants won’t want to cross.
• Interior* Regular vacuuming✓ Removes crumbs & food scraps that are attracting ants.
• Interior or exterior of the home* Sealing trash bins✓ Removes the source of the ant’s food.
• Kitchen* Well sealed food containers✓ Eliminates food odors that attract ants.
• Exterior*  Cleaning roof gutters✓ Removes debris so that ants can’t build nests.
• Exterior* Removal of vegetation close to the home.✓ Stops ants building nests right on your doorstep.

How to Deal With Ants In Appliances Around The Home – Safely

NB: many products on offer for dealing with ants are dangerous/poisonous to humans.  Please take a quick look at these pointers and stay safe!

  • Choose the right product, and FOLLOW THE MANUFACTURER’S GUIDELINES closely
  • Ensure that kids, pets, and anyone non – essential to your pest control is out of the area during application of traps and poisons, and place these in areas where they won’t be a risk to anybody
  • When using poisonous or irritating substances, wear the appropriate protective gear – gloves, a face mask etc.
  • If the pesticide is in liquid form you may be splashed, so wear long sleeves, long pants and closed toe shoes during application
  • Always mix pesticides outdoors or in well – ventilated areas
  • Mix only the amount you need – this means no left over poison left lying around or having to be disposed of and forgotten
  • Be aware of the potential for a Pesticide Spill.  Have absorbent things like paper towels or a bag of kitty litter on hand to soak up a spill safely
  • Remove personal items like keys, toys, laundry etc. from the area to avoid contaminating these
  • When spraying pesticides outside, make sure that there is no wind and that your doors and windows are closed
  • Even if you wore gloves, wash hands and arms well after using any harmful substance

Hopefully this article has given you loads of tips and tricks for dealing with ants in the dishwasher and elsewhere.  Please follow our safety precautions and enjoy ant – free living in your home!

Hi there! I’m Craig, and I’m the founder of Appliance Analysts. When it comes to appliances and anything electrical, I’ve always loved opening things up, figuring out how they work, and fixing them. This website is where I share free advice from myself and our experts to help our readers solve their appliance/HVAC problems and save money. Read more