Do Coffee Grounds Repel Ants & Keep Them Away?

A homeowner using coffee grounds to repel ants

Using coffee grounds to repel ants is a method that many homeowners disagree on. Some say it’s highly effective, while others say it actually makes the problem worse!

So which is it?

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about using coffee grounds to repel ants and keep them away. As you’ll find out, the way you use them makes all the difference!

Do Coffee Grounds Repel Ants?

Ants are a common backyard pest that can wreak havoc on your garden and make your outdoor space a pain to occupy. No one wants to have a picnic or play outside when the risk of getting bothered by ants is high!

While you could use insecticides, those products can do more harm than good. Spritzing the ground with harsh chemicals could negatively impact you, your family, and your pets. Plus, there’s a good chance that those chemicals will kill your precious garden plants.

Terra Liquid Ant Killer, 12 Bait Stations

  • Kills common household ants including acrobat, crazy, ghost, little black, odorous house, pavement, and other sweet-eating ants
  • As worker ants discover the bait, they share it with the rest of the colony to eliminate them all
  • You should see a significant decrease in the number of ants visiting the bait stations within just a few days
  • Place stations near areas where you’ve seen ant activity

Luckily, there are many great natural alternatives; one of the most popular is coffee grounds. If you’re a coffee drinker, you produce fresh grounds daily. Instead of tossing them in the garbage, you can put those grounds to work!

Coffee grounds can and will repel ants. It’s a surprisingly powerful deterrent that works on one of the insect’s most valuable assets: Their sense of smell.

Ants navigate the world in many ways, but scent plays an important role. The average ant has about five times more odor receptors than other insects. They’re capable of establishing and following scent trails, detecting pheromones, and more. Plus, they have their antennae to understand their surroundings even more.

So, how do coffee grounds repel ants? This method works by throwing off their scent game! 

The smell of ground coffee is strong even to humans. Imagine what it’s like for a tiny ant! The odor is far too overwhelming for these tiny insects.

But contrary to popular belief, it’s not necessarily something they hate. Put a few tablespoons of used coffee grounds directly next to an ant tunnel entrance, and it won’t be long before the workers haul it in. The insects are strangely fascinated by the smell, and it’s not something they always avoid.

Some species will avoid it like the plague, but others will willingly pick it up and try to bring it back to the nest. What gives?

Like other foods, coffee grounds can be pretty appealing for ants. But once they’re around it, the tiny morsels of coffee make it impossible for ants to make it back home. That’s why coffee grounds are so effective at repelling ants!

The overwhelming scent effectively eliminates the established scent trail the ants need to make it back to the colony. When a worker ant comes across the coffee grounds, they suddenly “forget” how to go home. As a result, they often wander aimlessly until they die.

For that reason, many ant species will avoid coffee grounds like the plague!

Expert Tip: Now, putting the grounds next to an ant colony entrance is different. The ants are already close to home, so they don’t rely on the scent trail as much to find their way back. But everywhere else? It’s like an instant scent-eraser.

When using coffee grounds strategically, you can create scent boundaries that warn these pests to stay far away.

How To Use Coffee Grounds To Keep Ants Away

Using coffee grounds to repel ants and keep them away is pretty straightforward, but there are a few tricks to maximize efficiency.

We always recommend sticking with used coffee grounds. The dry coffee you just bought at the store isn’t going to cut it. Hot water brings out the aroma of the coffee, making it ultra-pungent for ants.

If you sprinkle dry coffee, many ants will try to take it back to the colony instead of avoiding it.

Many gardeners like to collect coffee grounds throughout the week. Instead of tossing them, put them in an airtight container. You can pop them in the fridge to avoid mold growth.

If you use single-brew cups, cut off the foil, dump the grounds into your container, and toss the cups.

Once you have a decent amount of coffee grounds, you’re ready to put them to use! The best way to use the grounds is to sprinkle them where you don’t want ants to go.

For example, you can toss the grounds around your garden to create a scent barrier. Alternatively, you can put a pile of grounds over a known ant scent trail. Whatever you do, apply the grounds pretty liberally.

Expert Tip: A light sprinkle of coffee grounds won’t be as impactful when it comes to repelling ants. Light dispersion can create a general “no-go zone,” but the smell might be too faint to deter all ants. For the best results, use a generous amount of the spent coffee.

Then, sprinkle the grounds with water every few days. The coffee will eventually dry up. If you live in a warmer area, the coffee might not even last a day! As soon as the coffee is dry, many ants will move in to remove it.

Terra Liquid Ant Killer, 12 Bait Stations

  • Kills common household ants including acrobat, crazy, ghost, little black, odorous house, pavement, and other sweet-eating ants
  • As worker ants discover the bait, they share it with the rest of the colony to eliminate them all
  • You should see a significant decrease in the number of ants visiting the bait stations within just a few days
  • Place stations near areas where you’ve seen ant activity

Mist the grounds regularly to keep that aroma nice and strong. You can do this every few days for about a week or so. However, it’s always good to top off the coffee after that.

The Best Places To Use Coffee Grounds For Ants

One of the most significant advantages of using coffee grounds to repel and keep ants away is that it’s safe to apply just about anywhere outdoors. There are no chemicals to worry about or harsh fumes to avoid. Coffee grounds are all-natural, and the tiny remnants will decompose relatively quickly.

When they do, you might even experience some positive side-effects for a change! 

A woman keeping ants away with coffee grounds

The best place to use coffee grounds for repelling ants is in your gardens. Ants love to invade garden patches in search of food. If you have vegetables or fruiting plants of any kind, it’s only a matter of time until you see ants coming in to cause problems.

Place the coffee grounds directly onto the soil around each plant’s base. That’ll create a confusing scent barrier that ants will want to avoid.

As those coffee grounds decompose, they become a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. It feeds the soil and encourages plants to grow strong. While not all plants like high nitrogen levels, it’s usually not an issue if you don’t overdo things.

Coffee is a popular natural fertilizer, and the ant-repelling aspect is icing on the cake.

There are plenty of other places to use coffee grounds when repelling ants. In fact, it’s a great method for those who want to get rid of ants in their lawn. You can sprinkle the ground-up beans around the perimeter of structures ants like to use. For example, many homeowners place them around sheds or small storage structures.

If you have a patio or porch, consider putting coffee grounds near posts and steps. Ants often use the posts and steps to make their way onto the patio. Covering anything that touches the ground is a great way to keep them off!

If you have an issue with ants getting into your home, you can use the coffee grounds around doors and any other potential entry point.

As we mentioned, you can also use the grounds directly on known scent trails. Do that, and the ants will be so confused and thrown off by the odor that they can’t make it back to the colony!

Another option is to create a coffee ground circle around ant hills. Putting the grounds on the hill is not a good idea. Having the grounds that close to the nest entrance won’t do much to deter the insects.

But if you form a circle of coffee a few inches away from the hill, that’s a different story! The pungent smell is enough to trap the pests in the nest.

Expert Tip: Generally, it’s best to stick to outdoor applications. You can use coffee grounds to repel ants anywhere outside without experiencing too many issues. But this isn’t a technique you want to utilize inside your home.

Putting wet coffee grounds on the floors or walls will only lead to mold, rot, and other headaches. So, this is a strictly outdoors-only solution for dealing with ants.

Will Coffee Grounds Kill Ants?

If you’re looking to kill ants, you might have to look for another solution. While coffee grounds do a fine job repelling these insects, it doesn’t kill them. That’s just a persistent myth left over from long ago.

Coffee grounds can force ants out of their existing colony and relocate them elsewhere. That might be why many folks think that the grounds kill ants. But they’re still around. Hopefully, they’ve moved somewhere they don’t cause a problem!

Technically speaking, ants can eat coffee grounds. As mentioned earlier, some will bring the grounds to the nest if they can. Coffee is so effective at repelling ants because it throws off their sense of smell and erases scent trails.

But if the ant isn’t using any of that to find its way back home, they could bring it back to the nest and consume it later. The fine consistency is actually perfect for sharing amongst the colony.

Using coffee grounds strategically is a must. You can keep the ants away from your garden or even create a scent barrier to prevent them from entering a structure. However, the coffee grounds won’t kill the ants directly.


As you can see, coffee grounds do repel ants. However, it’s important to apply it properly if you want to see results!

If you’ve been having some trouble getting this method to work for you, feel free to let us know. We’ll help you brainstorm!

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