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Ants in Your RV? How to Get Rid of Them & Keep Them Out

Ants in Your RV? How to Get Rid of Them & Keep Them Out

Ants in RV living spaces can be a real problem — one that many RVers have encountered from time to time. 

Depending on where you camp, you may have had ants get into your rig. Maybe you nailed ’em and then didn’t think much more about it. But maybe you found yourself with a significant ant problem that required more serious attention.

In this post, we’ll share several natural ways to rid your RV of ants and keep ’em out. We’ll also cover a few hard-hitting methods of eliminating a colony that’s set up camp inside your RV.

Let’s do this!

How Do Ants Get Into an RV?

The short answer to this question is any way they can!

Ants can find their way into an RV through any tiny crevice available or even on your shoes, clothing, or pets.

They can be on low-hanging branches above your campsite (no, they don’t always remain on the ground) and find their way into your rig via the roof.

The same is true from underneath. They have numerous paths into your rig from the ground, and any part of your RV that touches the ground is a highway for ants.

Your sewer hose, jacks, water hose, power cords, etc. are all routes into your rig for ants. 

How Do I Keep Ants from Getting Into My RV?

There’s no way to close up an RV tightly enough to keep ants out.

The trick is to avoid making your rig attractive as a food source. Because food is all they’re interested in.

The first order of business is to make your rig as boring and unattractive to ants as possible.

Make No Food Sources Available

All ants care about is food, so it’s the main reason they’ll try to get inside your RV.

You may have seen our post on how to keep invasive mice out of your RV for good. We mentioned that the first line of defense is not making food available to attract mice in the first place. The very same is true for ants.

If you spill soda or juice on the floor, for example, clean it up immediately with your favorite cleaner or a 50/50 mixture of vinegar & water.

Keep a spray bottle of cleaner handy, because leaving a sugary mixture on your floor or countertop is a sure way to advertise your rig as a great place for ants to congregate.

While crumbs are always an attractive food source, ants love sugar and have a highly sensitive radar for finding it.

Cleaning up spills and small messes is key. Sweep, wash your hard-surfaced floors, and vacuum, vacuum, vacuum. Check out our our vacuuming tips, and if you don’t have a vacuum for your rig, check out our post on the best RV vacuums for all sizes of RVs.

And don’t forget the garbage! Keeping trash inside your RV is a great way to attract ants and other critters, particularly if it contains food particles. Take out the trash as often as possible.

Food storage is also important. You’ll also want to store foods in glass jars or plastic containers. Any foods that aren’t in your fridge or freezer are available to ants (and mice)! 

Storing food items in airtight containers is your best bet to stop them from attracting ants. They can find their way into plastic bags even if you think they’re well-sealed. 

Airtight containers are camping investments that pay off over and over again. Buy ’em once and use them for years. Keeping ants, mice, and other pests out of your RV’s living space is well worth the effort and expense.

Here are a couple of the most highly-rated choices on Amazon:

Airtight Food Storage Containers with Lids for Kitchen Organization 14 PC - Plastic Kitchen Storage Containers for Pantry Organization and Storage - Cereal, Rice, Pasta, Flour and Sugar Containers
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Rubbermaid 10-Piece Brilliance Food Storage Containers for Pantry with Salad Dressing and Condiment Containers and Lids, Dishwasher Safe, Clear/Grey
  • Rubbermaid Modular Food Storage Containers can hold pasta, baking ingredients, or other pantry staples; save space and keep pantry organized
  • Great for pet food; easy to clean and scoop food from, and tight lids keep out moisture and humidity

Use Outside Barriers

If you’re camping in areas with lots of ants, you may want to set up a few barriers to entry.

Here are a few methods RVers have used to keep ants from “crossing the line” to gain entry. 

Chalk

This will only work if you’re parked on a hard surface, but many RVers swear by the chalk line. 

You simply use chalk to draw a circle/rectangle around the perimeter of your RV and ants supposedly won’t cross that line. 

This won’t repel any ants you already have on board. But, apparently, it creates a barrier that ants are likely to avoid.

If you’re staying for a while, you’ll need to replace your chalk line if it rains.

Don’t buy the fancy “dustless” type of chalk… for this purpose, the dust is desirable.

White Chalk 12 Count
  • Product Type:Writing Instrument
  • Item Package Weight:0.022 Pounds

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth is composed of organic minerals from seawater. Unfortunately for ants, it’ll kill ’em by literally drying them out. For this reason, you’ll see Diatomaceous Earth listed in our section on how to get rid of ants as well!

You can keep ants from entering your rig by sprinkling Diatomaceous Earth around and under the RV as well as on your power cord, sewer hose, water line, tires, jacks, etc.

But beware of the fine dust in this stuff. While it’s supposed to be safe around pets and humans, it’s best to wear a disposable mask to keep the fine dust from irritating your throat, airway, and lungs when you’re putting it out.

And, like the chalk, if  it gets wet it’ll need to be replaced.

Safer Brand 51703 OMRI Listed Diatomaceous Earth - Ant, Roach, Bedbug, Flea, Silverfish, Earwig, & Crawling Insect Killer
  • Say Goodbye to Bugs – Kills a variety crawling insects including roaches, ants, fleas, silverfish, earwigs, bedbugs, and more
  • Attracts and Kills – Made from diatomaceous earth and selected baits, this powder causes insects to dehydrate and die within 48 hours after contact

Vasoline

RVers in areas where ants are a real problem are often advised to put Vasoline (or any generic petroleum jelly) around the great ant highways into the rig.

These would include the top of the sewer hose where it enters the rig, power cords, jacks, and other common entry points.

The idea is that even if ants make their way up your sewer hose, power cord, jacks, etc., they’ll hit the Vasoline barrier and not make it inside.

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Vaseline Petroleum Jelly, Original, Packaging may vary ,. 13 Ounce (Pack of 3)
  • DEEP MOISTURIZER: Vaseline Healing Jelly Original is clinically proven to protect, help heal, and lock in moisture for dry, cracked skin.
  • SOOTHING JELLY: Vaseline's white petroleum skin protectant heals cracked hands and dry skin and protects minor cuts, even on the most sensitive skin.

How to Get Rid of Ants in an RV

If you’ve already got ants in your RV, there are a number of things you can do to get rid of them.

First, a couple of notes…

Pheromone scent trails are how ants communicate to let other ants know where the goods are. They produce and emit chemicals that they leave in their path as they move. The trails lead directly to the food sources they find and mark their territory.

If you need to get rid of an existing ant problem, you can’t kill the ants in your rig because the pheromone trails they’ve left behind will attract more ants. So, when you’re cleaning the rig, you also need to clean up those trails.

You can wash off pheromone trails with soapy water or with a mixture of white vinegar & water, followed by your choice of deterrents.

Let’s take a look at several ways to deal with ants in an RV, beginning with what we always prefer: natural options. These are safer for rigs with pets and children, so they score high in our book.

At the end of the section, we’ll also include some high-powered chemical methods for getting rid of ants if you don’t have pets or children in your rig, or if natural methods don’t do the trick.

Baking Soda + Confectioners Sugar

Some RVers report good luck getting rid of ants using a combination of baking soda and confectioners sugar. 

The sugar attracts the ants to your homemade ant bait, and the baking soda eventually kills them. 

Mix the sugar and the baking soda, and they’ll eat both and be pushing up daisies.

You can put the mixture (or any of the other substances below) on a flat piece of tin foil or paper plates (just be sure to cut plates in half to provide easy access).

Cinnamon

If ants come into contact with plain old food-grade cinnamon, it can kill them. It’s best to prevent the ants from coming on board in the first place. Stopping an ant infestation before it starts is better than having to rid your rig of them after they’re already a problem.

Cinnamon also smells good and isn’t toxic to pets or humans.

McCormick Culinary Ground Cinnamon, 18 oz - One 18 Ounce Container of Pure Ground Cinnamon Powder Perfect for Professional Use and Baking Cakes, Cookies, Pies, Custards, and Puddings
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  • ROBUST FLAVOR: This ground cinnamon powder has a sweet and warm flavor and a beautiful, earthy color; as one of the oldest spices, cinnamon appears in...

Peppermint Oil

Ants don’t like strong smells, and peppermint oil is potent! Placing cotton balls with peppermint oil on them can get rid of ants as well as deter them in the first place.

Another reason to use a strong-smelling product like peppermint oil is that one way to neutralize pheromone trails is to overwhelm the scent with a stronger scent.

Peppermint oil is strong enough to distract ants from the pheromone trails left to bring them into your rig.

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Vinegar + Water

Vinegar (another strong-smelling product) is a great cleaner when mixed with water.

Using a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water can wipe out pheromone trails, but will do a great job of cleaning RV surfaces.

You can grab vinegar at your grocery store, but you’ll need a spray bottle to combine it with water and spray it around the rig.

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LiBa Spray Bottles (4 Pack,16 Oz), Refillable Empty Spray Bottles for Cleaning Solutions, Hair Spray, Watering Plants, Superior Flex Nozzles, Squirt, Mist Sprayer, Bleach/Vinegar/Rubbing Alcohol Safe
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Bay Leaves or Mint Leaves

Once you’ve cleaned with vinegar or another cleaner, you can place bay leaves or mint leaves placed around the RV as a non-toxic, completely natural ant deterrent.

If you’ve got a severe any infestation, the leaves likely won’t be enough. You’ll need to use the leaves in combination with cleaning and possibly other methods of ridding your RV of ants, depending on the extent of the problem.

Boric Acid or Diatomaceous Earth+ Sugar

Now we’re moving on to a few heavier hitters that aren’t as completely natural and non-toxic, so be aware of that as we move forward with more serious solutions.

We mentioned Diatomaceous Earth as an outside deterrent to entry. It can also be used to kill ants once they’re inside your RV, but remember – this is fine dust, so you’ll need to be cautious if you use it inside.

Boric acid combined with sugar is a suggestion we’ve seen repeatedly.

One way to use it to get rid of ants is to combine a teaspoon of boric acid with 4 teaspoons of sugar in hot water.

Mix the boric acid with the sugar first, and then dissolve in about a cup of hot water. Stir until the mixture is dissolved, and then douse cotton balls with the mixture and place outside (near nests especially) and, if necessary, inside your RV.

This will kill ants and also deter them from setting up shop in your rig.

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1 Pound Boric Acid Fine Powder - 99.9% Pure Fine Powder - Highly Effective Multi-Purpose Anhydrous 1 Pound Bag - Industrial Grade Strength
  • Boric Acid: Pure Boric Acid Powder is also know as hydrogen borate, it can be used as a naturally occurring all purpose cleaner.
  • Fine Powder: Our resealable 1 pound bags are perfect for storing Boric Acid Powder in a safe and secure way

Borax/Boric Acid + Honey or Sugar

You can also mix boric acid (or Borax, which you may be able to find at your local grocery or big box store) with honey or sugar.

This mixture will attract (sugar or honey) and then kill (boric acid or Borax) ants.

Combat Max Ant Killing Bait Stations

A few commercial ant bait products have been successful for some RVers who don’t travel with pets or children. Just remember to use these in conjunction with a good cleaning process and food storage practices. Be sure to read any precautions in the instructions.

This one from Combat comes in the form of ant cups that can be strategically placed around the RV. 

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Combat Max Ant Killing Bait Stations, Indoor and Outdoor Use, 6 Count
  • Kills the colony.
  • Provides long-lasting ant killing power

Terro Liquid Bait

Terro’s liquid ant bait is relatively popular as an ant killer, but it can literally attract ants into your RV, so it’s best to use it outside the rig.

TERRO T300B Liquid Ant Killer, 12 Bait Stations
  • Attracts & Kills – Kills common household ants including acrobat, crazy, ghost, little black, odorous house, pavement, and other sweet-eating ants
  • Kills the Ants You See & the Ones You Don't – As worker ants discover the bait, they share it with the rest of the colony to eliminate them all

Hot Shot Indoor Fogger

And finally, if you have a severe or persistent infestation of ants in your RV, you can have the rig fogged or do it yourself with a product such as this one from Hot Shot. 

This is a last resort approach, but it will kill most insects (including bed bugs!), so it’s worth a look if you’ve got a very heavy infestation.

You’d want to use a product like this when you aren’t planning to be on board the RV for a while.

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Hot Shot Indoor Fogger With Odor Neutralizer, 4/2-Ounce
  • KILLS ON CONTACT: Hot Shot Fogger With Odor Neutralizer kills on contact and controls heavy infestations – and keeps killing for up to 2 months.
  • KILLS HIDDEN BUGS: Creates a fine, penetrating mist that reaches deep into cracks and crevices to kill the bugs you see and kill the bugs you don't...

Have You Dealt with Ants in Your RV?

As always, we love to hear about your experience and what has (or hasn’t) worked for you.

Drop us a comment and let us know if you’ve had to deal with ants and how you successfully treated the issue.

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mot

Saturday 21st of January 2023

Mix mint jelly with diomatatious (sp?) Earth. Put in a small 1-2" diameter open & flat container. They come eat carry it home & every ant comes to the banquet to die. We've used this for 40+ years. Might put a small stick with a bit of bait on it so they can get into the goop.

Randy Edwards

Saturday 21st of January 2023

Don’t spray Off or Deet on your wallpaper! In a frantic moment this summer we sprayed Deet on ants on the wall. It did stop them on that pathway,but… led to a complete interior repaint project—-walls and cabinets. Now that’s finished, we love the new more modern look, but we wii try your methods next time. One more suggestion, notify the rangers and/or camp hosts of the problem. They were spraying sites’ perimeters when we left and probably could have done so even while we were there. Whew! Live and learn.—-fast and hard! Londoned

TheRVgeeks

Sunday 22nd of January 2023

Uggh! Thanks for that warning, Randy!

Marc Cultice

Saturday 21st of January 2023

We had a sugar ant invasion when we were camping at a friend’s house in Northern California. We got some Terro bait cups, put them where the ants were traveling, and left them alone for about 24 hours. We returned to many dead ants, but we were advised to leave them alone. Sure enough, the next morning, all of the dead ants were gone! They came and recovered all of the bodies and stayed away. We were quite amazed and relieved.

TheRVgeeks

Sunday 22nd of January 2023

Wow! Didn't know that ant colonies had their own morticians! That's amazing! Thanks for sharing, Marc!

Matthew

Saturday 21st of January 2023

Interesting article. We had an ant problem a couple years ago. It was a huge mess. They were everywhere. Had to remove bunk plywood and they were there by the thousands. We first noticed them when we opened our slide. They were on top of the slide while it was stored so we went to cleaning. We had to fog the fifth wheel, about a dozen times before we became ant free. Now when we put camper back in storage, it gets fogged while we put the cover on. The residual does a good job of deterring any other creatures from entering while in storage. What a mess that was.

TheRVgeeks

Sunday 22nd of January 2023

Oh boy, @Matthew! Definitely sounds horrible. Glad you got rid of them!

Judy Bowen

Saturday 21st of January 2023

We had a sugar ant infestation in Georgia!!! When we pulled in we were advised of the prevalence, but were meeting family there so we left the rig as soon as we arrived without spraying the exterior and hoses. 2 hours later on return, the whole inside was moving! I have NEVER seen so many ants! Raid, Hotshot, Tarro vinegar and water, then finally diatomaceous earth, in and around the perimeter. We drove these ants across the US! After each application was down a day, I cleaned the dead bodies with soap and water, then sprayed again for a week as we traveled westward. Thankfully we didn’t have any animals with us. Oddly enough, they did not get into any food. For near 2 weeks, I was ready to just burn our rig! We had an infestation of moths in northern Nevada early on in that trip, killing at least 50 a night in our rig. We transported them east! I used the electronic racket on them, but the ants were just too much. Lesson learned, prevention is the best solution!

TheRVgeeks

Sunday 22nd of January 2023

Ugghh, @Judy Bowen! Sounds like a nightmare! So glad you got that infestation beaten down!

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