Ants don’t belong anywhere in our homes, yet they always seem to find a way indoors during the warmer months of the year.
I’ve had ants in my shower, laundry room, and kitchen pantry.
However, one of the most annoying spots to have an ant infestation has to be ants in the dishwasher!
There’s something about little insects crawling on my silverware that turns my stomach.
Thankfully, I’ve figured out how to get rid of ants in the dishwasher effectively.
You start by figuring out where these little pests are gaining entry and sealing these places.
Follow this up with vinegar down the dishwasher drain and place bait for ants around the kitchen.
In this article I’m going to provide you with all the steps you need to eliminate ants from your dishwasher for good.
These are ant control methods I’ve learned from personal experience — and they work!
How Do Ants Get There Anyway?
Before we dive into the methods I use to eliminate ants in your dishwasher, I think it’s important to understand why these pests are there in the first place.
The truth is, ants are attracted to your dishwasher for the same reasons they are attracted to your kitchen pantry or your garbage can.
They simply smell the food and water in these specific areas.
You read that right, I said “smell”!
In fact, ants actually have 4-5 times more odor receptors (which are on their antennas) than any other insect.
Generally, ants will invade a dishwasher when there is water collected inside or when there is a leak in the plumbing that feeds into the dishwasher.
Ants also venture into these machines to eat the food that’s leftover on your dishes and cutlery.
In other words, a dishwasher can be a paradise for ants and a nightmare for you once they move in!
How Do They Get in?
Ants only need a tiny crack or hole to be able to enter anything, including your dishwasher. This is why you should inspect the machine regularly and seal any holes/cracks you may find.
Some additional spots ants could use as entry points include:
- The gaps behind your dishwasher
- The side vent
- The holes in the machine where the plumbing comes out of
- The lower kick plate
You could also be attracting ants with the scent of food by leaving the door to the dishwasher open for too long.
How to Get Rid of Ants in the Dishwasher
Now that we’ve discussed why and how ants get into your dishwasher, I’m going to share with you my favorite methods for getting them out!
PRO TIP: For the best results, I recommend using all of the techniques listed below.
Step 1: Use Vinegar (and Boric Acid)
You might not know it, but vinegar is a natural solution for pests, including ants in your dishwasher!
I mentioned this before, but ants become attracted to your dishwasher because they can smell the food residue on the dishes inside.
Using vinegar does not actually kill the insects in the dishwasher (ew!) but it can help mask the scent of the food inside while cleaning and sanitizing the drain at the same time.
For maximum effectiveness you should pour one cup of vinegar down the dishwasher drain. Personally, I combine the vinegar with boric acid for good measure.
I also use the same combination to wipe the insides of my dishwasher after each wash cycle is finished to prevent any ant infestations in the first place.
Step 2: Let The Dishwasher Run without Anything in it
Once you’ve cleaned out the dishwasher drain and interior with vinegar, you should let the dishwasher run on an empty wash cycle.
This will get rid of any remaining ants that were left behind in the last step and any leftover food residue too.
Step 3: Do an Inspection of Your Home to Find the Original Entry Point
Once you’ve gotten rid of the little pests in your dishwasher, you need to find out where they’re coming into your home and find their nest.
Otherwise, you run the risk of dealing with an infestation in your dishwasher again (or somewhere else in your home).
Most ant nests are located outside the home, but near it.
Step 4: Place Ant Baits Around Your Kitchen
Because ants love your kitchen, it’s a good idea to place ant baits throughout the space. You can also place them near the original entry point.
Ant baits are really effective, but can work slowly. This is how it works:
- The bait (which is basically ant poison disguised as food) attracts the ant
- The ant crawls inside the plastic casing that houses the bait and carries it back to its nest
- The ant will usually bring this back to the queen and the rest of the colony.
- The queen and the whole colony eat the poison and die.
Keep in mind, some ants will only be attracted to certain types of bait. This means you’ll need to know what ant species you’re dealing with before purchasing the bait itself.
With that said, below are some bait recommendations that work for most ants that commonly invade houses:
T300B Liquid Ant Bait from TERRO
- Comes with 12 bait stations
- Bait stations are pre-filled and ready to go
- Specially designed to prevent bait from drying out
- Attracts all types of ants quickly and is quick to kill them!
Optigard Ant Bait Gel Box from Syngenta
- Can be used indoors around humid areas like your kitchen
- Bait is a powerful gel that can eliminate whole colonies fast – use if you have a BIG infestation!
- As a gel, it can be applied in cracks and other nooks and crannies very easily (great for kitchens!)
- Ants eat it, and return to their nest to die
Step 5: Prevent Ants from Returning
To keep ants from returning to your dishwasher, I recommend keeping the machine and the area surrounding it clean, dry, and tidy.
Here are some helpful cleaning tips to help you:
Cleaner Dishes Going in
Be sure to remove any leftover food residue on plates, silverware, pots, and pans before throwing them in the dishwasher. This will prevent food from getting stuck inside.
Wipe Down After Each Cycle
After each wash cycle, wipe the interior of the dishwasher thoroughly with a clean cloth that has been soaked in vinegar. This will mask the smell of any leftover food.
Deter with Essential Oil
Additionally, you can put diluted peppermint essential oil in a spray bottle and apply it to the inside of the dishwasher.
Ants hate the smell of peppermint so this is an effective way to make your dishwasher seem unappealing to them.
If you find any holes or cracks in the dishwasher itself or close to the wall it’s up against, seal them as quickly as possible.
You can use caulk or an epoxy-based putty stick.
Time for an Exterminator?
At times doing pest control yourself, no matter how many DIY tactics you try, just gets to be too much.
Maybe you’re out of time or the infestation itself is growing.
I get that!
There’s not an ounce of shame in calling a pest control pro who can come in and take care of business (and back up their service).
Ants getting in your kitchen and dishwasher is no exception!
I’ve used exterminators in the past, and these guys are hit and miss if you hire them blindly or take a neighbor’s word for it!
My favorite way to connect with a qualified service pro is to use a networking system like Networx.
Networx does the upfront “calling around” legwork for you; pre-screening and approving capable and trusting exterminators who are able to contact you immediately about your issue.
If you’re seriously over the never-ending ants and ready to hire an actual pro, get a local quote now (it’s free), to get the ants OUT and your clean dishes back!
Additional Steps You May Need to Take
Some ant infestations require additional steps (such as extra cleaning or hiring a professional pest control company).
These types of infestations include:
These aren’t your average tiny black ants you see at a picnic.
Carpenter ants are larger and nest inside your home where they can wreak havoc on your wood furniture and even your foundation.
If you have carpenter ants in your dishwasher, they will typically come from behind the machine.
Their nests can be located under the dishwasher, under the floor, or somewhere in the walls of your home.
Damage caused by carpenter ants can be costly and, in some cases, catastrophic, so you’ll want to address this quickly.
Consider calling a pest control company if you’re unable to address the infestation quickly.
If the ants are coming through the plumbing of your dishwasher, then you might be dealing with sewer ants.
The food residue and grease that can build up in drains and pipes are often what attract these types of ants, so you’ll need to clean both areas in addition to the steps I shared above.
If you want an effective way to clean out your pipes and drains and eliminate sewer ants, see the YouTube video below:
Can ants damage my dishwasher?
It’s not common for ants to cause any noticeable damage to your dishwasher, no matter how big of an infestation you’re dealing with.
With that said, if you have a carpenter ant infestation, this could lead to damage to the wall behind your dishwasher.
Carpenter ants burrow inside wood to create nests and grow their colonies.
Should I spray pesticides in my dishwasher to kill ants?
No, I don’t recommend spraying any pesticides inside your dishwasher.
These products contain harsh chemicals that could damage the machine itself and could be harmful to the health of you and your family’s health.
So… what to do if you find ants in the dishwasher? It’s simple if you follow the steps I outlined in this article.
As I mentioned, in some cases, you may need to take additional steps to get rid of ants (especially if you have carpenter ants). This could mean hiring a professional to do the job.
However, most ant infestations — in your dishwasher or elsewhere — can be handled completely on your own. Good luck!