how to get rid of ants in dishwasher

How to Get Rid of Ants in Dishwasher: 5 Effective Solutions

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We’ve all experienced that gut response of surprise when opening the dishwasher expecting cleanly washed dishes but instead discovering an ant infestation taking over the interior. As unsettling as it seems, ants can find their way inside our appliances like dishwashers in search of food and water sources. Getting rid of these ants in your dishwasher as soon as possible is key before the problem escalates and gets out of hand.

In this comprehensive blog post, I’ll walk you step-by-step through understanding why ants are attracted to dishwashers, preventative maintenance tips to deter future ant incursions, How to Get Rid of Ants in Dishwasher or colony living inside, and pro tips to keep ants from returning or coming back after eliminating them once. With some diligent troubleshooting tactics and proven pest control methods, you can quickly reclaim a sparkling clean, ant-free dishwasher environment.

What Attracts Ants to Dishwashers

Ants are resourceful little insects and your dishwasher offers a few key things they’re looking for:

  • Food: Ants are attracted to any food residue, grease or particles left on your dishes or the interior parts like the filter. This becomes an inviting food source.
  • Water: Ants need moisture, so the standing water, high humidity and internal tubes or mechanisms become primary water sources for thirsty ants.
  • Shelter: The enclosed cavity, wiring and filtration system offers perfect little nooks and crannies for ants to hide and even build nests to hatch eggs.
  • Warmth: The heated cycles and internal warmth from the dishwasher’s machinery are appealing nesting spots for cold ants seeking refuge.

Understanding exactly why ants are trying to move in can help you troubleshoot and block the infestation at the source.

Next I’ll go over why it’s so important to take care of ant invasions as soon as possible. Leaving them alone can compound issues over time.

Why It’s Important To Get Rid of Ants

Seeing a swarm of ants crawling around your dishwasher can obviously be upsetting and disgusting. But beyond just the creepy factor, leaving an ant infestation unchecked can lead to further problems:

  • Contaminated Dishes: Ants walking around your plates, cups and cutlery brings bacteria and pathogens along with them. Any dishes used after an ant incursion are no longer clean and sanitized.
  • Damaged Parts: Over time, ant nests constructed with dirt, debris and biological materials inside the mechanical parts of your dishwasher can cause clogs. This can lead to leaks, mold growth and electrical shorts.
  • More Ants: Existing ant trails secrete pheromones which signal other ants to follow. And if a nest with eggs is established inside your appliance, even more ants will soon arrive.

Stopping ants quickly prevents contamination risks and further infestation issues. Checking under and around your dishwasher is the next logical troubleshooting step.

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How to Get Rid of Ants in Dishwasher: 5 Effective Solutions. Image Credit: Canva

Inspecting Under and Around Your Dishwasher

Ants don’t materialize out of thin air inside your appliances. There are access points where they enter from the surrounding environment. Carefully inspect under and around your dishwasher for potential cracks and gaps ants could be using:

  • Check where drainage tubes, water lines and electrical wiring route in and out underneath for unchecked openings. Any cracks in floors or walls near these access points are vulnerabilities.
  • Inspect the baseboards, cabinets and countertop edges next to your dishwasher. Look for separation gaps, holes drilled for plumbing lines where cables pass through, or tiny cracks in the sealant or caulking.
  • Verify door seals and gaskets form a tight closure when latched. Warped, dried out or cracked seals allow ants to march right into the interior.

Finding where and how ants are entering allows you to literally close off their access by sealing holes and gaps. But there still could be an active swarm inside to eliminate first.

Okay, time to walk through pro tips and homemade remedies for getting rid of ants living in your dishwasher once and for all!

Ant SpeciesIdentifying TraitsBehaviorsNesting Areas
Carpenter AntsLarge, black ants up to 3/8” longBurrow into and nest in damp wood; ant trails visibleDead trees, landscaping mulch, structural timbers
Argentine AntsVery small dark brown ants up to 1/8” longThousands per colony swarm food; love sweetsSoil, potted plants, gaps in exterior walls
Pharaoh AntsYellowish-red tiny ants 1/16” longNests have multiple queens and rapidly multiplyKitchen counters, bathrooms, appliances, wall voids
Odorous House AntsBrown or black ants 1/8”–1/4″ longStrong rotten coconut odor when crushedOutdoors in soil, leaf litter; indoors in walls near moisture
Various ant species table

Method 1: Using Ant Killer Sprays and Baits

Ant killer sprays or liquid baits formulated specifically for indoor kitchen use can be highly effective solutions:

  • Apply inside your dishwasher: Check product instructions, but typically a spray application across interior surfaces like the tub walls, door and along the bottom metal filter area helps kill active ants inside. Reapply every few days for 1-2 weeks.
  • Treat entry points: Use these targeted ant killer chemicals around any access areas identified under or near your appliance during inspections. This flushes out pathways and poisons ants at the source.

I don’t recommend using outdoor or more heavy duty pesticides internally or near kitchen surfaces, as the fumes or residues could contaminate dishes or countertops later.

Using contained, commercial ant killer chemicals also minimizes the mess versus some homemade applications I’ll cover next. While still effective, vinegar, boric acid or Borax solutions tend to require more effort to implement and clean up after use.

Method 2: Cleaning With Vinegar

White vinegar is a natural home remedy you likely already have in your pantry. Thanks to its acidic pH level, vinegar dissolves grease and also kills ants on contact.

Running dishwasher cycles with heated vinegar both sanitizes the interior and poisons ants simultaneously. The steps are simple:

  • Inspect and remove any dishes, food particles, visible ants or debris first.
  • Pour 2 cups of white vinegar into the bottom of your empty dishwasher.
  • Run a full Normal cycle with the hottest water temperature setting. The heated vinegar steam permeates throughout, coming into direct contact with the ants to fatally compromise their exoskeletons.
  • After the cycle finishes, use a damp cloth soaked in a 50/50 vinegar-water solution to wipe down the rubber door seals, interior surfaces and along the bottom filter. This lifts and removes any dead ant bodies, trails or lingering residue.
  • Check under and around for entry points to reseal. Monitor for ant activity over the next 10-14 days and repeat vinegar treatment if needed.

The nice thing about this method is the vinegar wash also breaks up any built up grease, limescale or soap scum hiding out inside your dishwasher hoses, pump and lines – leaving everything sparkling!

Now let’s explore a homemade bait option using Borax and sugar.

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How to Get Rid of Ants in Dishwasher: 5 Effective Solutions. Image Credit: Canva

Method 3: Using Borax and Sugar

This tactic revolves around tempting ants with a sweet treat that secretly contains deadly Borax as the secret ingredient.

Borax is a natural mineral powder typically used as a laundry booster. But when ants ingest it, they die shortly after returning the tainted food source to feed their colony. Here’s how to put this delayed reaction takedown into action:

  • Mix 1 cup of white sugar with 1-2 teaspoons of Borax powder in a small bowl or container with a lid. The proportions don’t need to be precise – just combine both ingredients thoroughly. The sugar lures them in, while the odorless, tasteless Borax poisons ants so they can’t return home after the feast.
  • Place small piles of this mixture in areas around your dishwasher like the floor, countertop crevices, along the baseboards or under the appliance itself. Just sprinkle a bit – you don’t need huge amounts.
  • Ants search for food by first following established pheromone scent trails from the colony. So even placing bait piles near ant access points found during inspections can eliminate them passing through enroute inside your dishwasher.
  • Leave bait piles in place for 1-2 days maximum before sweeping them up. This gives worker ants ample ‘discover’ time to bring contaminated sugar back to feed the waiting colony. As the Borax takes effect, it will drastically reduce the population size. Deploy more bait as needed until ant trails disappear.

This affordable kitchen pantry method avoids directly handling pesticides or having to scrub down the dishwasher again afterwards like liquid sprays or vinegar washing necessitate. So there’s definitely advantages for an indirect approach letting the ants do themselves in!

Now let’s look at adjusting appliance settings and sealing up access points.

Method 4: Adjusting Water Temperature

Cranking up your dishwasher’s normal operating temperature is an easy internal adjustment that can kill ants with heat while also improving sanitization:

  • Refer to your owner’s manual for specific steps based on make and model. But typically, you can access a technical settings menu and change the water heating baseline from the 130°F-140°F common default up to 140°F-150°F instead.
  • Only run full loads on the highest heat dry cycle once adjusted. This ensues maximum exposure time for the boosted temperatures to penetrate throughout the cavity, equipment and interior hoses.
  • The hotter 140°F-150° range surpasses what ants (and their eggs) can endure. It also amplifies the sanitizing effects for dishes and cutlery inside each wash cycle.
  • Over time, consistently running super heated cycles will wear out ants trying to adapt and nest inside. Warning though – higher heats increase energy bills somewhat. But longer term, this added heat makes your appliance fully inhospitable.

Now let’s make sure cleaned dishes stay that way after unloading.

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How to Get Rid of Ants in Dishwasher: 5 Effective Solutions. Image Credit: Canva

Method 5: Sealing Cracks and Entry Points

Once underlying nests and ant colonies are handled, take preventative steps to seal up vulnerabilities around your appliance perimeter. Ants persistently search for access, so blocking them is key:

  • Caulk or sealant is your best friend here. Score waterproof, flexible caulk matching your existing countertop or flooring color if cosmetics matter in visible areas. Clear silicone works fine for concealed spots like under or behind the dishwasher against walls.
  • Go over every crack, gap, hole and seam identified earlier during inspections and lay down a smooth caulk bead filling them in. Pay special attention to edges along flooring, pipes, electrical lines and ventilation gaps. Don’t leave any noticeable openings unfilled that sneaky ants could still use.
  • For larger gaps up to 1 inch across, use steel wool as a backing layer first before sealing over with caulk. This expands your sealing powers across wider problem areas.
  • If ants have been entering via warped, dried or cracked door seals, these rubber gaskets can be replaced fairly readily on most models. New seals range $10-30 typically and are held in place with retainers or tension bands. Just match specs when ordering and watch some YouTube tutorials for your specific dishwasher.
  • For openings used for wiring or plumbing, apply tacky silicon sealant around edges after passing cables or pipes through access holes during installation. This keeps the portal sealed up water-tight but still allows utilities to function as intended without compressing lines.

Now that access points are locked down, let’s shift gears and talk about how better day to day habits keep ants away for good.

Ant Killer Sprays/BaitsEffective poisons, some formulations safe for kitchen areas, limited cleaning after useChemical/pesticide concerns for some people, possible ventilation needed to avoid contamination
Vinegar WashNon-toxic option, dissolves build-up, safe for kitchen areasLabor intensive prep and cleanup, need to take care of entry points separately
Borax & SugarVery affordable, avoids pesticide chemicalsMore time consuming than sprays, some mess cleaning it up after
Adjusting TemperatureUtilizes built-in appliance function, enhances sanitizationIncreases electricity usage and wear on unit over time, limited compatible models
Sealing Cracks & HolesStops ants at the access source, wide DIY sealing optionsCan involve some work sealing Numerous gaps and openings
How to Get Rid of Ants in Dishwasher: 5 Effective Solutions Table

Additional Tips for Prevention

Altering some usage patterns, cleaning regimen and maintenance practices helps prevent future ant invasions after eliminating existing swarms:

  • Take care loading dishes: Make sure all food scraps, crumbs and residues are removed from plates, bowls and utensils before washing. This removes the attractive food source ants go wild for from the onset.
  • Wipe interiors frequently: Use a damp microfiber cloth to quickly wipe out the door gaskets, tub walls and metal filter areas every couple weeks. This removes any new food bits before ants detect them.
  • Address appliance issues: Fix any leaks immediately and inspect/replace seals regularly to keep the internal cavity secured. Any dripping or excess moisture fuels ant nesting build outs.
  • Leave door cracked open: Allow better ventilation for the dishwasher interior to fully air dry after cycles complete. This prevents excess ambient humidity than can permeate surroundings where ants traverse.

Staying vigilant with monitoring for new ant trails, nurturing better loading and cleaning habits, and getting leaks fixed quickly goes a long towards prevention. But adverse ant problems can still crop up. Here’s when calling an extermination professional makes most sense.

When to Call An Exterminator

While several effective home treatment options exist for ant infestations inside your dishwasher and around kitchen areas, severe cases may require bringing in an expert:

  • If you discover carpenter ants sawing away and nesting in wooden structural elements adjacent to your appliance, consultation with an exterminator is recommended. They have commercial grade insecticides and precision treatment methods for handling carpenter ant colonies nested deep in walls, floor joists or base cabinets.
  • Certain ant species like Argentine ants require special bait plus added determination to fully eradicate due to the enormous colony sizes. Similarly, troublesome pharaoh ants demand experienced pest control methods for control and preventing dispersal.
  • Multi-home/enclosed community infestations also call for professional level coordination. Neighboring units likely require simultaneous interior and exterior treatments to prevent ants from simply relocating between nearby food sources to evade control efforts.

When ants persistently return and multiply despite your best solo efforts, bring in an expert!


Dealing with ants roaming around your dishwasher is admittedly creepy and concerning if contamination worries set in. But a bit of diligent inspection and sealing paired with vinegar cleaning, baits or adjusting heat cycles can typically remedy common ant incursions relatively quickly.

Implement preventative better loading and maintenance habits afterwards plus continue monitoring closely for new ant trails. Taking swift action when only a few scout ants first appear keeps infestations contained. But if ants return in full force or carpenter ant wood damage appears, don’t hesitate reaching out to a pest control specialist.

I hope these comprehensive tips give you confidence in reclaiming an ant-free dishwasher using safe, affordable home methods. Let me know if any sections need more detail or clarification! I’m happy to chat more about specific ant elimination strategies or prevention recommendations in the comments.

FAQ – How to Get Rid of Ants in Dishwasher

How do ants actually get inside a dishwasher?

Ants enter dishwashers through small cracks or gaps in the exterior housing, hoses, wiring conduits or along the door seals. Common access points are cracks in walls or baseboards next to the appliance, gaps around plumbing lines, or warped door seals. Once a few scout ants discover a water or food source inside and leave pheromone trails, other ants will soon follow.

Can ants damage the dishwasher or parts inside?

What’s the quickest way to get rid of ants – sprays or homemade remedies?

How do you keep ants from coming back after removing them initially?

When is a pest control expert required to fully eliminate an ant infestation?

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