Do Dryer Sheets Repel Ants?

May 6, 2008 by · 15 Comments  
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Airstream RV Blog – Ant Infestation! from Sean Michael on Vimeo.

In the annals of philosophy, there exist certain eternal questions. These issues have been pondered and debated for centuries by the great thinkers.

What is the meaning of human existence? What is the ideal relationship between the individual and the state? Is there a universal truth, or is truth relative? And finally: do dryer sheets repel ants?

It’s the latter question we shall address today.

During our honeymoon adventure, Kristy and I camped in Malibu. Much like Thoreau at Walden Pond, we were besieged by ants. The Malibu campground appeared to be situated upon a normal hillside overlooking the Pacific. Indeed, it looked like a posh celebrity playground; Matthew McConaughey’s own famous travel trailer was parked just a few sites down.

But we soon discovered that we were parked upon the world’s largest ant mound. In Malibu we had ants in our kitchen, bathroom, living room, and bed. When I emptied the water tanks, ants were coming out the sewer hose! I kid you not.

It’s hard to be precise, but I’d estimate we had 23,472,822 ants inside our RV. To combat the Great California Ant Invasion, we employed a strategy so innovative, so groundbreaking, so…stupid? that it had to come from the Internet. Our solution: fabric softener sheets.

Sooner or later, every person on earth will receive a spam email containing a list of “alternative uses” for dryer sheets. If the entire list is true, then dryer sheets are the greatest human invention since the wheel. Dryer sheets, the email claims, make for a wonderful ant repellent.

So we bought a box of fabric softener sheets, and distributed them throughout our trailer.

After a couple of days, we could draw some conclusions. Did the dryer sheets repel ants?

My answer to this great philosophical question, is “Nah — not really.”

When we first laid out the sheets, I thought I detected a slight decrease in insect behavior. But I think the ants were merely taking a siesta.

After a few hours, I noticed some ants simply crawling right over the sheets. They just didn’t seem to be affected by them very much.

When we left Malibu, the ant problems ceased. And I was generally unimpressed by the ant repellent properties of dryer sheets.

But I had to wonder: would unscented dryer sheets have worked better? And thus, the great philosophical question remains essentially unanswered. Perhaps we shall try again this camping season…


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15 Responses to “Do Dryer Sheets Repel Ants?”

  1. Wayne Bowen on May 7th, 2008 9:01 am

    The video implies the sheets worked but the post says emphatically they did not. Confusing.

  2. Sean on May 7th, 2008 10:15 am

    Sorry, Wayne. The video was shot a few moments after placing down the sheets, when optimism was running high. It captures a moment in time. As sure that if someone had brought a video camera to the Alamo, they might have caught Davy Crockett in a moment of optimism too. But we all know how that turned out. :)

    As for the dryer sheets, they’re just not a panacea for ant problems. Our problems ceased as soon as we left Malibu, but not before.

  3. Carol on May 7th, 2008 12:25 pm

    Ah, but the scented ones do freshen the whole RV :-)

  4. Sean Michael on May 7th, 2008 12:34 pm

    Yes, I must say that our RV now has a lovely fresh scent. We are still digging dryer sheets out of every nook and cranny.

    Another ant-combatting tip is to sprinkle Comet cleanser around the perimeter of your RV. Supposedly ants don’t like Comet either! But that’s a topic for another blog. :)

  5. Rickie on May 7th, 2008 9:16 pm

    when we closed camper for the winter, we put several dryer sheets in our camper to keep mice out. It worked. We have done that for 15 years.

  6. Jim on May 7th, 2008 9:36 pm

    I parked my new motor home in a stroage yard not knowing that the man hole under it was a haven for ants, i moved my motor home and still have an ant problem, i check it every week and continue to find both living ( and running ants) as well as dead ant carcases throughout the coach….i’m at a loss as to how to kil the little @#$#@* Ant ideas?

  7. Sean on May 8th, 2008 1:07 pm

    Jim, the Malibu campground advised that we sprinkle Comet cleanser on the ground outside our trailer. But again, the results were decidedly mixed. Once the ants got inside our RV, they seemed content to ignore our efforts.

    I’ve had good success at our house with Amdro fire ant killer. Also, there’s a spray product called “Home Defense” that seems to keep away the creepy crawlies. Your motorhome might benefit from these products.

    And if all else fails…just start tossing in dryer sheets. ;)

  8. Holly on May 10th, 2008 3:50 pm

    Used uncented dryer sheets have worked for my mother and I many times a longggggg time. Repeat, the dryer sheets work best and not immediatly, after they’re one time use in the dryer. Meaning, after setting the dryer sheets out to work, we must wait 24 hours. Cannot speak of experience parking on top of an ant hill,( to my knowledge) but we place them under the legs of our outside eating table, as soon as we park and with never having a problem with ant visitors during our camping adventures. Perhaps it’s not because of the dryer sheets, though like I said before what ever works works. We are not pestered with the ants.

  9. Jason B. on May 12th, 2008 1:11 pm

    Great post and great info. I’m always looking for alternatives to chemicals so I will have to try this.

  10. Jim on May 12th, 2008 7:10 pm took me another week to find this blog again (i’m new here)…i’ll look into the home defense and amdro…I’m really tired of sharing my coach with these pests..I’ll even try the dryer sheets just to add my results to this…thank you everyone

  11. TKBowers on May 17th, 2008 7:59 am

    Here’s what Linda Cobb, author of Queen of Clean, recommends. “For ants on the counter, wipe down with undiluted white vinegar. To prevent ants from coming in the house or getting into cupboards, sprinkle dried mint or red pepper where they are entering the house and in the cupboards.”

    The next one is my personal favorite.

    “To get rid of anthills, pour 3 gallons of boiling water down them. This is best done when the ants are active and near the surface.” You go girl! ” Do not do this close to flowers or they will die too.”

  12. Sean on May 18th, 2008 12:12 am

    Ha! The boiling water treatment sounds a little medieval. I’m not too sure about the pepper and mint either. But for some inexplicable reason, the white vinegar sounds promising! Perhaps if we dip our dryer sheets in vinegar… :-)

  13. Rick L on June 10th, 2008 4:29 pm

    When we lived outside of New Orleans in the fifties, we would pour gas on the anthills and light it. No more anthill, (for a while, anyway). Have even used it here in VA recently. Yeah, they’re moving north.

  14. Sean on June 13th, 2008 4:42 pm

    Rick, I will keep that treatment in mind, although with the cost of gasoline it might be cheaper to go with boiling water. :)

    Really, that Amdro stuff seems to work well. I just haven’t tried it in an RV.

  15. Jim Hammer on September 14th, 2009 5:06 pm

    The dryer sheets seem to keep the mice away except for the one that appears to live behind the stove. I mixed comet, boric acid, and DE since all three were recommended to keep ants out. This was not a huge success. I’m considering poring vodka on the sand hoping the ants will get drunk, have a rock fight and kill each other.