Pest Control: Getting rid of Ants

As many tenants and owners know, ants can be a huge and annoying problem when they start invading your home. Especially during the warm summer & fall months we get a lot of complaints about ants, as they start looking inside for food. Here are some tips to Get Rid of Ants Naturally, if these don’t work, try ant traps and sprays, and then call your property management company for more pest control options.With over 12,000 species of ants in the world, only a small handful of them insist on invading our homes in search of something tasty from either the sweet foods or flesh and greasy foods.[1] Ants commonly found indoors include the Argentine ant, the pharaoh ant, the thief or grease ant, the pavement ant and the odorous house ant.[1] And if you’re really unlucky, you might have the carpenter (red) ant, an ant insistent on destroying the wood that holds up your house, so get professional help fast in that case!

However, it would be unbalanced to see ants as bad on the whole. Most of the things ants do are good for us and the environment, including eating the larvae of fleas, spiders, bed bugs, flies, silverfish and clothes moths.[1] From that point of view, aiming to control them and prevent them from accessing your food is a better approach than seeking to completely eliminate them and natural approaches are best for this purpose. For the ants you need to control, there are some very easy, natural and effective natural methods to either ward off or remove ants from your home areas.

Method 1: Taking care of the advance scouts

  1.   Heed the scouts. The first signs of ants in your kitchen is a warning to you. These are the scout ants checking out your kitchen for signs of suitability to invade and their job will be to return back to the nest to inform the other ants that your kitchen is blooming with potential.[1] Waste no time in getting to work cleaning your kitchen, sealing all food and removing all sources of sticky, sweet, greasy and flesh foods from their access.
    • Don’t leave out any dirty dishes. Wash all dishes as they’re used or place them into the dishwasher and shut the door tight. Wipe down all of your cupboard and benchtop surfaces with vinegar; this cleans, disinfects and leaves a nasty smell as far as ants are concerned. Remove all sources of garbage and keep the kitchen bin shut tightly. Rinse all recyclable containers before putting them into storage.
    • Sweep and vacuum the kitchen area daily.
    • Rinse off any jar, container or bottle that has a sticky or leftover residue. In particular, check jam/jelly jars, sauce bottles, pickle bottles, cordial bottles and honey and syrup containers. Place your honey jar and any other very ant-attractive foods inside a bowl of water (see How to keep ants out of honey and How to keep ants away from cat food for more details.
    • Seal every food item in containers. The containers need to be of the sort that ants cannot get into. Be relentless about this for 3-7 days. The ants, having nothing to eat, will go elsewhere. This works because the ants are following the chemical trails left by other ants, who did find food.
    • You may also need to seal fragrant items such as cleaning powders, deodorants, and the like in case these attract the ants’ initial attention. Just be alert to any congregations around non-food sources.

Method 2: Preventing access

  1.   Seal off all entrance areas. As part of your big kitchen clean, do some of your own scouting work. Can you tell where the ants are entering the house? Follow the first ants to see where they’re entering and leaving from. Seal all the entrance holes that you can find using silicone caulk, putty, glue or plaster. Temporary methods can include petroleum jelly or poster tack. If you use a temporary sealant (such as poster tack), only do so until you can purchase a more permanent solution, as it will deteriorate over time and open up the gap again.
  2.   Load the soapy water. Soapy water will both kill the ants it hits and it will destroy their chemical trail, preventing more ants from following in their tracks.[1] This cheap and easy method consists simply of putting one teaspoon of liquid dish soap into a spray bottle and filling it with water. When you see ants, spritz them and that will be it!
    • Additions to the water for added potency include mint oil or citrus peels or citrus rind oil.[1]
    • Adding soap to water barriers can make them even more effective than simply using the water.

Method 3: Using barriers and deterrents

  1.   Put up defensive barriers. There are a number of barrier methods that you can put into place to really terrify the ants and keep them at bay. Many of the products that form these natural barriers are probably already in your kitchen; they just need to be deployed properly. A barrier doesn’t need to be wider than a quarter of an inch (6.35mm) but it must be an unbroken line.[1] Be clear that barriers won’t work on ants already in the kitchen (indeed, you’ll be trapping them inside) but they will prevent any more ants from coming in. Some of the items with which to make barriers include:[2]
    • Powdered charcoal
    • A line of chalk
    • Turmeric
    • Cinnamon
    • Citrus oil
    • Black or cayenne pepper (hotter is best); or try red chili pepper
    • Vaseline (great for doors and windows)
    • Baby powder
    • Powdered cleanser
    • White vinegar and water
    • Desiccating dusts such as diatomaceous earth or silica aerogel.
  2.   Sprinkle around deterring odors. Ants dislike various scents such as peppermint and camphor and garlic. These can be used fresh or in oil form to disturb the ambiance of any area that ants have been making their way to. The great thing about these fragrant deterrents is that your own preferences for scent can be used to improve the household odors in general, all the while making your kitchen, pantry and other areas very ant-unfriendly. Here are some ideas:
    • Crushed mint leaves; and grow mint near the entrance areas. Dried peppermint is also effective.[3]
    • Garlic Clove (rub garlic clove over ant trail and ant entrance)
    • Lavender oil; and grow lavender near the entrance areas.
    • Oil of clove or crush cloves and sprinkle as a barrier.
    • Camphor.
    • Use laurel/bay leaves to keep the ants away from a specific food. Ants are especially attracted to sugar, paprika and flour. Put laurel/bay leaves in your sugar can, flour canister and paprika jar. You will be amazed!
  3.   Sprinkle Splenda where you see ants. This is not a danger to the kids, so it’s great for use where children congregate, such as at school.
  4.   Use coffee grounds. Empty coffee grounds on ant hills and along your house foundations. This safe material confuses the worker ants because they lose their scent trails. Thus the hatched young in the ant colonies have no food and starve. You need to be persistent and patient; it may take all summer at first but after a time, you won’t get ants in the house and the lawn will be mostly clear of anthills.
    • It is important to reapply grounds every year but that is what makes this safe, as there are no residue effects. Clean kitchens are also a must.
  5. Use dish soap with baking soda. Combine a small amount of Dawn dish soap and baking soda with water. Spread a thin line along area where ants are coming in. This is a great solution for dealing with ants on windowsills.
Method 4: Using baits

  1.   Create your own ant baits. You can buy ant baits but they’re chemical preparations that don’t fit well with natural attempts to control ants in the home. It’s straightforward to make your own ant baits and a particularly successful one is made using boric acid. A natural derivative of the mineral boron, boric acid is used in borax and some saline solutions. Boric acid is a stomach poison – when ants walk in it and then clean their feet or antennae, they ingest it. Bearing in mind that removing too many ants from your local environment can harm the good they’re doing in keeping down pests for you, here is how to make a boric acid bait:
    • Buy boric acid at the local drug store (it’s about USD$2 a bottle).
    • Pour about a tablespoon of real maple syrup (or anything you know ants love) on a flat plate or saucer.
    • Sprinkle the boric acid around the syrup so that the ants must walk through it to get to the syrup, you may even use a q-tip to ensure a good distribution of the powder around the the syrup.
    • Place wherever the ants are frequenting. Keep out of the reach of children or pets. Be patient as this method can take a week to take effect.[1]
  2.   Use food against ants. There are several techniques that can get rid of ants through their inability to digest the food or through expansion and death. It’s not very pretty to think about but these methods do work. As with all methods, put the bait food where the ants are appearing:
    • Use corn meal. This method is especially great around pets or children, as corn meal by itself is not poisonous. The ants will carry it home and try to eat it, but they can’t digest it properly. Be sure to put corn meal wherever you see that the ants like to frequent.
    • Put out cream of wheat (farina). Don’t cook it – use it raw. The ants eat it and it expands in their stomachs, killing them. Put the food somewhere you know there will be ants and just leave it.
    • Ants are extremely susceptible to caffeine. Leave coffee grounds (used works) where the ants are and they will carry it home and eat it. This method takes a few weeks to see.
  3.   Deal with carpenter ants in as natural way as possible. An invasion of carpenter ants is serious as they can damage your house structure. Be alert for their invasion – piles of broken wings can be one sign and it is longer than most ants.[1] You may also see their fecal pellets (these appear like sawdust) and they can sometimes be heard rustling in the walls. Some ways to deal with them include:[1]
    • Bait them. They like sugar, so you can turn this against them; use the boric acid method described earlier.
    • Vacuum their nests out of the wall if possible.
    • Have an exterminator drill holes in the wall and blow in diatomaceous earth, silica aerogel or boric acid. A professional exterminator specializing in natural pesticides can also use pyrethrin spray or boric acid baits of their own concoction.

Online Rent Payments: the options

Cochrane Property Management, Inc. is a big fan of Appfolio property management software, which we have been using for almost 5 years now, and it keeps getting better. It allows us to provide our tenants and owners a lot of great money & paper-saving options. We really encourage all of our tenants to pay their rent online, and there are so many easy options! Check it out www.cochranepm.com

Renting is taking the place of buying

There are some really great articles and discussions going on about the housing and rental market right now. Younger generations, “millenials” are opting out of necessity to rent instead of buying a home. And renting can be more affordable and flexible in these economic times. This is a real opportunity for property management companies to step in and provide the quality rental units and customer service that new renters need and want. As a member of the CA Apartment Association, Cochrane Property Management, Inc. adheres to CAA’s Code of Ethics and Code for Equal Housing Opportunity

An article by the New York Times about young adults opting to rent: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/23/business/no-picket-fence-younger-adults-opting-to-rent.html?emc=edit_th_20141023&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=38734453&_r=1

A discussion about home ownership n NPR’s On Point: http://onpoint.wbur.org/2014/10/30/home-ownership-young-people-real-estate

Experian | Rent bureau: update

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Update Bulletin
Rental Tradeline Reporting Change

Through our software Appfolio, we are currently reporting residents’ positive rental payment history to the Experian consumer credit file, however there is an upcoming change regarding how rental tradelines will display on Experian credit reports.

What’s changing?
As of June 30, 2014, all active and newly reported leases will display as an “Open” portfolio type, defined as an account with one scheduled payment due that must be paid in full each month. In the past, rental payment tradelines typically displayed as an “Installment” portfolio type. In this type, the recent balance was determined by calculating the sum of up to 12 remaining lease payments, e.g., 12 months x $1,000. In certain cases, lenders misunderstood this value. Going forward, for the recent balance field, active and newly reported leases will now simply display the monthly rent amount on the lease, e.g., $1,000.

What’s not changing?
All leases closed prior to late June 2014 will remain as originally reported. These historical leases will display as a paid or closed account with a zero balance.

Click on the links here to view an updated resident brochure and sample tradeline that reflect the change in reporting. Please feel free to distribute these documents to your residents and let me know if we can help with any additional materials.

We hope that this change will be well received by you and your residents. We have heard your feedback and feel the change in reporting now represents a renter’s obligation on a lease more accurately. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me or anyone on the Experian RentBureau® team with questions.


What is a GFCI? 

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How to Lower your Plumbing Costs: Prevention

A big concern for all our owners is decreasing their plumbing costs, and the best way that we have found is prevention. A lot of it can be educating the tenants on how to treat the pipes with care. For example, we encourage tenants to clear their drains every so often with bleach, and ask them not to put certain types of food or grease down their disposals.

A lot of buildings also are dealing with old or outdated galvanized pipes and fixtures. Replacing the bad parts of the pipes or completely upgrading the pipes to copper and PVC piping is a good way of decreasing plumbing costs in the long term, though in the short term the cost will be higher.

But there is a
lot of property damage that can occur if your plumbing is not in good shape. Since that damage can come from leaks or pipes bursting, we also recommend checking that all angle stops and supply lines and any faucets or fixtures that are leaking are in working order. A simple thing like replacing the angle stops & supply lines is a great preventative measure.

However, the best long term solution is to do regular cleaning of the lines. Hydrojetting on an annual basis and doing camera inspections of the pipes is a way to do that.

Here are 5 benefits of using hydro-jetting to clean your drain lines:

Benefit #1: Complete Cleaning

Hydro-jetting is the ultimate technique for cleaning drains. The plumber injects the pipe with a high pressure water stream that cleans out all debris completely, leaving the pipe clear for water to flow through it without obstruction. Traditional snake-type drain cleaners break up the debris, which can re-clog further down the line, but the jet of water removes it completely. It also prevents self-healing clogs of substances such as grease from re-forming if some material remains.

Benefit #2:  Residue Removal

Toronto drain cleaning using a hydro jet removes all substance residue from the walls of the pipes. Substances that commonly block drains include:

  • Sand
  • Soap
  • Grease
  • Ice
  • Mud

All of these are capable of leaving residue behind after they are broken up, which is often left caked to the sides of the drain. It’s impossible for the snake to reach the walls of the pipe, so the residue remains there for additional material to cling to, causing future blockages. The high power jet of water blasts the residue out, either at the same time as the debris or shortly after it has cleared the initial blockage.

Benefit #3:  More Maneuverable

Cleaning drains can be a risky business, because many of the homes have aging infrastructure and pipes that are rusted and could do with replacement. However, when your drains are blocked all you want is to remove the clog, preferably without damaging the pipe. Hydro-jet cleaning uses a pulse flow, which allows the hose more maneuverability inside the pipes. This enables the plumber to target the site of the blockage and by-pass areas that may be vulnerable to damage, and is particularly useful for moving around tree-roots when those are the reason for the clog.

Benefit #4: Banishing Bacteria

Bacteria that settle in your drains cause an endless array of problems. From harboring disease through to causing foul odors, bacteria are responsible for many issues. The hydro-jet method of drain cleaning removes all bacteria and leaves the drain pipes squeaky clean and fresh. If you’re experiencing odd smells coming from your drains, there’s a strong possibility that hydro-jet cleaning will make a huge difference.

Benefit #5: Saving Money

The greatest benefit of using hydro-jet cleaning for your drains is the financial benefit. This method of cleaning gets the drains so completely clear and fresh, that a once a year cleaning goes a long way. After cleaning the pipes with a high pressure water stream, your plumber can conduct a camera inspection of the pipes to make sure they are completely clear. This type of detailed cleaning secures your pipes against clogs and saves you money on drain cleaning in the long term.

Saving Water: Kitchen and Bathroom Faucets

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According to tips found on www.home-water-works.org there are two basic rules to follow to save water in your kitchen and bathroom faucets:

  1. Shut off faucets whenever possible; and
  2. Make sure your faucets don’t drip or leak.

Faucet water use accounts for 15-18% of the overall water consumption inside the typical household of four persons.  An average American household of 3 uses between 18.1 and 26.7 gallons per day for all faucets (bathroom, kitchen, and utility sink).  This amounts to between 6,600 and 9,750 gallons per household per year for faucet use.  The main difference between a house that uses 9,750 gallons and 6,600 gallons per year is the flow rate of installed faucet aerators.  Reduce the faucet flow rate; save water.

Reduce Flows, Save Water and Energy
The aerator (the screw-on tip of the faucet nozzle) restricts the maximum flow rate of water from the faucet. New kitchen faucets are usually equipped with a 2.2 gpm aerator.  Bathroom faucets can have aerators that restrict flow to 1.5, 1.2, 1.0, or 0.5 gallons per minute (gpm).  Basic bathroom faucet aerators start at about $1 each and prices go up depending on the features you select.  Because hot water is frequently drawn from faucets, reducing flows also reduces hot water use which means energy savings.

Low Flow Bathroom Aerators = Water and Energy Savings
A basic bathroom faucet aerator is inexpensive and one of the most cost-effective water efficiency measures. It is always a good idea to bring your old aerator (and any associated washers) to the store with you when you purchase a new one to ensure that the new aerator will fit on your faucet fixture.

The water, wastewater, and energy saving benefits you get from installing new faucet aerators is primarily determined by your current aerators. But since faucet aerators are cheap and the water savings are well documented, it’s a safe bet that you will pay for your aerator investment in less than two years.

Take Care in the Kitchen
Reducing the faucet flow rate in the kitchen below 2.2 gpm is easily accomplished by replacing the aerator, but the water savings may be somewhat limited.  Many faucet uses in the kitchen are not discretionary.  For example, filling a pot with water to make pasta.  Regardless of the faucet flow rate, the volume of water needed to fill the pot is the same.  Reducing the flow rate of the kitchen faucet saves water and energy, but also results in longer wait times to fill fixed volumes and can also reduce effectiveness for hand-washing to dishes.