Can You Vacuum Ants? Here’s What Happens

If you’ve ever noticed a trail of ants marching across your kitchen floor, you probably wondered how to get rid of them. You might even be tempted to sweep them up in your vacuum to get them off your floor. They may disappear, but will they be gone for good?

can you vacuum ants

This article will discuss what happens to ants when you vacuum them and what to do with them after you’ve swept them up. We’ll also tell you what type of vacuum works best for sweeping up ants and give you a few alternative methods to get rid of the little pests for good.

Does Vacuuming Ants Kill Them?

So, do ants die when you suck them up with the vacuum? The answer is sometimes. Although many bug experts recommend vacuuming ants to remove them from the premises, a surprisingly small number of the bugs actually die when they’re vacuumed. 

To increase the odds of the little vermin dying in the machine, you should also suck up a little cornstarch to suffocate them. Sucking them up with the hose is the best way to kill ants.

This way, most of the ants make it into the canister or vacuum bag for easy disposal if they’re not really dead.

What Happens When You Vacuum Ants?

When ants are sucked into a vacuum, they will slip through the machine mostly unharmed. Although some may die from the force of the suction or from hitting a solid piece inside the device, they are too small for a vacuum cleaner to damage them on the way in.

Once they are in the canister or the bag, they may die of suffocation, particularly if there is a lot of dust and dirt already inside.

What To Do After Vacuuming Ants

As we’ve mentioned, most ants make it to the vacuum bag or canister alive. That means you’ll need to empty the canister or change the bag immediately to avoid having the ants crawl out of the machine and reinfest your home.

You should do this in an outside trash can as far away from your home as possible. 

A great way to add to the number of ants that will die in your vacuum is to sweep up a product called diatomaceous earth directly after you sweep up the ants.

Diatomaceous earth (d.e.) is a powdered substance made from fossilized algae. This powder kills pests by drying out their exoskeletons.

It is entirely chemical-free and very safe in comparison to commercial pesticides.

What Type of Vacuum Works Best For Ants?

As stated above, using a hose to suck up ants is the most effective way to kill them with a vacuum. Corrugated hoses work best, so a ShopVac will be much more effective than your standard upright vacuum.

Use a crevice tool on the end of the hose to eliminate as many ants as possible. You can buy a little insect vacuum instead if you’d rather get rid of the ants humanely.

These smaller machines have a lower suction force that removes the insects without killing them, allowing you to release them outdoors, where they will no longer be a nuisance.

Are There Better Alternatives For Getting Rid of Ants? 

Although using a vacuum to remove ants from your home is a quick fix to your ant problem, there are other ways to remove them and ensure they won’t come back.

white vinegar for ants

Let’s take a look at some of the most effective ways to get the pesky creatures out of your home for good.

White Vinegar

Combine ¾ cup of white vinegar and ¼ cup of water in a spray bottle. Shake vigorously to combine, then spray the solution around your doors and windows to repel ants.

You can also add some vinegar to your mop bucket to enhance the repelling properties when you clean the floors.


You can make your own chemical-free ant traps using borax. Combine sugar, water, and borax to make a syrup, then put it in a container with small holes to allow ants to go in and out.

Place these containers anywhere that you notice ant activity. Much like a conventional ant trap, they will take this mixture back to their nest to share with the colony. You can expect results in about 24 to 48 hours.

Although it’s not nearly as toxic to humans and animals as the bait in conventional ant traps, you should still keep these traps out of reach of pets and children.

Diatomaceous Earth

It’s easy to kill ants with diatomaceous earth; you only need to sprinkle some of the powder wherever you notice ant activity.

This substance will stick to the ants and dry out their exoskeletons for effective elimination.

Essential Oils

Essential oils don’t necessarily kill ants, but the strong smell does repel them effectively. A few of the best oils to repel ants and other insects include peppermint, clove, lavender, cedarwood, and cinnamon.

To use, simply apply a few drops of your chosen essential oil to your door frames, window frames, and any areas where you notice ant activity. 

Thorough Cleaning Routine

Ants are attracted to food residues like sticky spills and crumbs, so keeping your home clean is an excellent way to keep the pests outside.

Clean up spills immediately and vacuum crumbs to make your home less attractive. Ants are also drawn to water sources when it’s hot out, so make sure you don’t have any leaky pipes or dripping faucets.

Seal Gaps

Ants are tiny and can get in through any crack or crevice. Make sure to look over your foundation a few times a year and check the outsides of your doors and windows, sealing any gaps you find.

Remove Ant Hills From Your Yard

Check your yard for ant hills if you struggle to remove ants from your home. Any ant hills you find can be eliminated with soapy water, borax, or diatomaceous earth.

Removing ant hills from your yard should help eliminate ants from your home.

Call An Exterminator

If you’ve tried everything you can think of and still can’t get the ants to go, you may need to call an exterminator.

I like to think of this as a last resort, as they will likely use poisons that are bad for the environment and bad for your health, but sometimes it takes the big tools to eliminate pests.

Conclusion: Is Vacuuming Ants A Good Idea?

When you find ants in your house, it’s only natural to want them gone immediately (the same goes with spiders!). Vacuuming ants can provide immediate relief to your ant problem, but it won’t remove them for good.

Most of the ants you vacuum won’t die, so you must make sure you empty the vacuum bag or canister in an outdoor garbage can immediately to prevent re-infestation.

Using a ShopVac with a corrugated hose and crevice device is your best bet when vacuuming up these vermin.

If you want to get to the root of your ant problem, there are other more effective alternatives to vacuuming, including:

  • Sealing all exterior gaps and removing ant hills from your yard
  • Thoroughly cleaning your home and eliminating water sources
  • Using essential oils to repel insects from your home
  • Using borax or diatomaceous earth to eliminate pests

If all else fails, you can call an exterminator to remove the pesky insects from your home.

Shauna Stone