It's a bug in the hardware
April 3, 2016 7:09 PM   Subscribe

I have a great multi-function printer that we discovered was covered by ants. How do I get the ants out of it so I can bring the printer back into the house?

I have this HP printer. We discovered a bunch of ants on it so I took it outside. I opened the lid and found dozens more under the lid. Fun so far, right?

I wiped off all the ants I could see but then dozens more started coming out from under a panel in the lid (the white foam panel that provides the background for scanning) and I gave up and decided I just had to sell the thing. I don't want an ant infested printer in the living room, and there's no way I can tell where all the ants are and how to get them out. I figured I'd sell it on Craigslist or so and let someone else figure out how to deal with it.

Then I looked up the printer on Amazon and discovered it sells for $550 new (I got this from a former employer for free). So I hate to sell an expensive printer and only get $20 or $50 for it.

So what would you do? Try to get the ants out somehow? Spray it down, let it dry out, and see if it works? Sell it (and for how much)?

(We did find out where the ants are coming from - another issue to deal with.)
posted by kdern to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
Vacuum wait. Vacuum wait. etc. The wait can be minutes, not necessarily hours. Repeat the vacuum wait routine every day or so for a few days. In between put it in a plastic bag with a bunch of desiccant pouches. I suggest the bags and desiccant to let the ants die of dehydration. Apparently ants can live months without food but only a day or so without water.

I had a hot water kettle where ants nested one day (in the electronics, not the water reservoir). Persistent vacuuming fixed it in a day.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:19 PM on April 3, 2016

Call an exterminator. I'm going to go ahead and assume you have Argentine Ants? I tried every DIY solution - nothing worked - the exterminator was instant and magical.

An exterminator will know how to fix your printer. I bet you can just do nothing and wait for the infestation to resolve.

Specifically, remove the ink (possibly a food source or attractor?) and wait for the pesticide to kill off the nest that is likely in your yard or walls. With the nest gone, your ants will die off. Then you can vacuum them out of the printer, or use compressed air. You could also bag the printer and set off a chemical fogger, but that might be overkill and the printer might never be the same.
posted by jbenben at 7:20 PM on April 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

You could also remove the toner cartridges, wrap the whole thing in a black plastic bag, and set it in the sun somewhere to roast for a day. More humane might be to stick a brick of dry ice in the bag and asphyxiate them for a day.
posted by nickggully at 7:35 PM on April 3, 2016

If I were you, I wouldn't just suffocate the ants, because then you might have a bunch of dead ants under the scanner glass and who knows where else, that you might not be able to remove. I'd vacuum and observe for few days. Yes, the ink might be tasty to them, so remove that too.
posted by hydra77 at 8:11 PM on April 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'd stick the printer into a bag you can tie closed, and either spray a ton of insecticide in or use dry ice to asphyxiate them, then vacuum them out.

(Ugh, sorry bout your printer.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:16 PM on April 3, 2016

There's very likely a nest in there. Open up all the parts til you find it, and vaccuum it all away. It'll be full of tiny little maggoty larvae guys and you need to get them too. Definitely don't kill or freeze or fry the ants in there- their little bodies will rot and it'll be so gross. Oh how do I know, you ask? Because I found a nest in a bar of soap on my pantry shelf. IN A BAR OF SOAAAPPP WHICH IS MEANT TO BE SO CLEANN
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:33 PM on April 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

Whenever I have had ants in something (including a giant bag of dog food), I place the item in the hot sun. Usually takes 20 minutes for the ants to clear out. I imagine the printer is black, so it would hear up especially fast, making it very undesirable for the ants.
posted by Vaike at 8:42 PM on April 3, 2016 [5 favorites]

Terro is a really good ant-killer. Spray it on tissues and stuff them into every crevice. Place in sun, maybe, too.
posted by theora55 at 11:54 AM on April 4, 2016

After getting rid of the colony in your printer, you will want to deal with the nest that the colony branched out from.

The most effective method I know uses sugar syrup laced with borax. Dissolve half a cup of white sugar and half a teaspoon of borax crystals in half a cup of boiling water. Bottle the syrup in a screwtop jar, let it cool, and keep it in the fridge.

Any time you see an ant trail coming inside the house, track the trail back as close as you can to the actual point of entry, then place an upturned milk bottle cap full of the syrup nearby. Smear a few drops of syrup across the trail with your finger to disrupt the scent tracks and force the ants to explore a little bit. They will start to cluster around the drops, then a few of them will find the bottle cap. Within an hour, you will find that the trail no longer extends past the cap, and there will be a huge crowd of ants around it and quite tremendous amounts of traffic between there and the outside.

All those ants are loading up on syrup and taking it back to the nest to share around. After two or three days, most of the syrup will be gone and the whole nest will be dead.

If you've got meat-loving ants rather than sugar-loving ones, add a bit of beef stock powder. For fat-loving ants, cream a little syrup half-and-half with butter.

Borax mixtures like this are beaut because you don't end up with dead ants inside the house, and in the quantities you use to kill ant nests, they're non-toxic to you and your pets (though if you have pets, you'll probably want a cover over the syrup reservoir to eliminate competition).
posted by flabdablet at 12:04 PM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Although I would use Terro on the floor near the printer, I would not put the sticky sugar-based liquid actually into your printer.
posted by blueberry at 9:40 PM on April 5, 2016

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