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Are Ants Attracted to Sweat? (Yes, they Love the Smell)

Ants are attracted to sweat because of the presence of suitable amounts of salt in it. It also contains sugars that can attract ants.

Ants love salty foods just like they love sugary food. So, they can be attracted to body sweat as well as to sweaty laundry clothes.

Under normal circumstances, ants generally do not seek out sweat purely because other more lucrative food sources are available to them readily. But in certain conditions (especially when there is absence of salts in their diets), ants can be attracted to human sweat.

Are Ants Attracted to Sweat

Are Ants Attracted to the Smell of Sweat?

So why do ants get attracted to human odor? Well, body odor is an indirect result of sweating. The bacteria present in our skin breaks down the protein components of the sweat and thus produces a characteristic smell.

The smelling ability of ants is way more sensitive than that of the scent picking up ability of humans. Human noses are no match to the ant antennas as the latter can detect even the slightest trails of hydrocarbons and can analyze them even further.

Ants aren’t the only animals that get attracted to human sweat. Other insects like mosquitoes are also attracted to human sweat owing to the presence of lactic acid in them.

What Attracts Ants to Humans?

Ants are attracted to food items for their nutrition and not for their taste. So any bodily component that contains protein, sugar, salt, minerals can potentially end up attracting them.

In theory, ants can get attracted to human feces, urine, blood sweat and even tears as all of these contain a suitable amount of salt, sugar, and protein.

However, under normal household circumstances, you will rarely find ants getting attracted to these bodily secretions as they can find other viable food sources in the house more easily.

At times, depending upon the kind of nutrition they are deficient in, they can show attraction towards certain food items more than others.

For example, if the ants are deficient in salt (which is often the case for ants living far away from the ocean), they can get attracted to bodily secretions owing to their salty and mineral components.

Related Article: Do Ants have Teeth?

Why are Ants Attracted to Sweat and Body Odor?

Human sweat is full of nutrients. It is rich in urea, sugar, salt, and a variety of other minerals. Ants can be drawn to the smells of these minerals, especially if they are in need of them in their diet.

Even areas of dried-out sweat contain traces of salt which are potentially attractive to the ants.

Often (contrary to common belief) ants are more readily attracted to salt than to sugar as most ant colonies seriously lack salt in their diet. Salts play an important role in the normal functioning of the body and hence they get attracted to sweat which apart from salt also contains traces of sugar, protein, and other minerals.

Related Article: Are Ants Attracted to Coffee?

Why are Ants Attracted to Dirty Clothes?

Not only ants but a variety of animals ranging from mosquitoes, bugs, and rats can get attracted to a dirty pile of laundry. This is because our laundry smells like things that might be food to these animals!

Furthermore, dirty clothes often remain drenched with sweat, which is again a viable food option for ants.

The moisture content and the scent of the sweat rich in salt and sugar are enough to attract them.

Related Article: Are Ants Bugs?

3 tips to keep ants away from the closet and from sweaty clothes:

  1. To avoid piling up your weekly laundry in one place, especially out in the open, try to keep them in closed containers (e.g. laundry bags with lids!). Make sure that the pile of dirty clothes is washed at least once a week. 
  2. The majority of the household ants love moisture. So before putting washed clothes into the closet make sure they are totally dry. Even a tiny bit of moisture can attract ants and they can damage the cloth fabrics especially the areas that have food or sweat stains on them.
  3. Spread diatomaceous earth and ant baits containing boric acid around the house. Follow the instructions on any ant baits closely – do not vary from the label’s instructions.

Why are Ants Attracted to my Clean Clothes?

In case you find ants in your pile of new clothes, chances are high that your clothes are not properly cleaned and in fact, still hold remains of the dirt or body sweat.

Ants are highly efficient in picking up scents and even tiny traces of food or sweat on the clothes can end up attracting them.

So, make sure you are washing your clothes properly, using safe detergents. If there are food stains on your clothes, try home remedies for removing food stains before you try washing them.

Related Article: Why do Ants Build Mounds?

Why are Ants Attracted to Me?

Ants are extremely good at picking up smells. They are so good at this that scientists believe that they don’t miss many scents around them. So, yes they can smell you. If your scent is one that smells like foods they need, they will be attracted to you.

Ants can pick up chemical pheromones with the help of their antennas. This is important for the social life of ants. It allows them to minutely differentiate between members of various castes within their colony. It is also good for identifying intruders in their nest.

They use their strong and broad-spectrum scent to not only identify other ants but also for picking up food trails. So, at times, they can be drawn towards you, especially if you have bits of food or stains on your skin.

Similarly, excessive sweating can attract ants towards you, so long as the ants are currently in need of salts and minerals in their diet.


Ants are experts in picking up scents. Body odor plays an important role in attracting ants towards sweaty clothes. Sweat is not only rich in salt but contains loads of other minerals and proteins. Ants of certain varieties will be much easily attracted towards sweaty food sources than others owing to the deficiency of salt in their diet.

Basic steps of storing the sweaty laundry in a sealed bag, cleaning your clothes in the right way using heat and soapy water, drying them up properly before placing them in closet, all these can save you from ant related headaches especially for your sweaty clothes.

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