A recent and annoying outbreak of gnats and fruit flies in my kitchen and adjoining family room nearly drove me to despair. The darn things seemed to be everywhere – hovering over the fruit bowl, perching on the edge of the kitchen sink, flying by me when I was cooking at the stove.
Swatting them with a fly swatter was futile. They’re fast little buggers, and tiny as they are, they easily zoomed out of the way before I could make contact. It didn’t make any sense to spray them with an insecticide, either. Toxic chemicals in my kitchen? No thanks.
Still, I had to do something before the small outbreak turned into a swarm. Here are the 9 natural ways I got rid of every single pest. Maybe they’ll help you, too.
1) PUT ALL FOOD AWAY. Gnats love any food that’s available to them, whether it’s raw, cooked or waste. I immediately put all fruit and veggies in the refrigerator and tightly closed bread bags and cracker boxes. Cookies went into a sealed cookie jar. I cleaned off oil bottles and honey jars so there were no drips to attract hungry bugs.
2) THAW FOOD IN THE FRIDGE. Rather than thaw frozen food on the kitchen counter, I put it in the refrigerator. I let frozen bread and cookies thaw in the microwave or in the bread bin, both of which close tightly.
3) CLEAN. CLEAN. CLEAN. I’m as guilty as the next person of leaving dirty dishes in the sink – unless I’ve got gnats. That unwashed milk glass or the plate covered with drying pasta sauce couldn’t be a bigger invitation to a gnat party. At the very least, rinse food off all dishes before you leave them stacked, though it’s better to rinse and put them in the dishwasher if you have one. Also, clean up spills and crumbs on counter tops and on the stove. Gnats don’t care where their food is, as long as it’s there.
4) TOSS THE OLD FLOWERS AND REPOT THE PLANTS. Toss the old flowers and the stale water they may be standing in. Also, gnats often take up residence in the top couple of inches of soil in a plant pot. If you have potted plants, take them outside, get rid of the top two inches of dirt, and replace with “clean” dirt (perhaps from a garden center, as opposed to your own garden).
5) DEFUMIGATE YOUR DRAIN. The drain in the kitchen sink is a favorite spot for gnats: it’s dark, dank and often full of food morsels. If you have a disposal, put a piece of lemon in it and run it through. Then, add a few drops of vegetable oil. The oil will coat and kill any remaining gnats.
6) SEAL SCREENS AND CRACKS IN DOORS AND WINDOWS. Gnats seem to appear out of nowhere, but they could be getting in through small tears in a screen or through cracks in a door or window. You can get a screen repair kit at your hardware store, as well as caulk to seal up the cracks. In a pinch, use duct tape.
7) COVER TRASH CANS. You’ll need a trashcan with a lid and a plastic bag that ties tightly. If you compost, don’t leave a compost pail in the kitchen. I actually keep my compost in a covered container in my refrigerator until I can get it down to the compost pile.
8) SET SOME VINEGAR TRAPS. Get a few small empty jars, like those for jam or baby food, or some shallow bowls. Put 4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in the bottom. Swirl in several drops of liquid soap. Leave the jar lids off (some people put the lid back on and punch holes in it so the bugs can still get in, but not out). Put the jars or bowls on your kitchen counter or wherever you see the most gnats. The gnats will be drawn to the smell of the apple cider, but once they land in the mixture, the soap will make it impossible for them to escape. Trust me, these non-toxic traps work like a dream. I set them out one night and the next morning, all the pests were in the bowl of cider!
9) SET SOME STICKY TRAPS. Spread some bright yellow index cards with a little honey and tape them to a window frame or other easy-to-see spot. Once the gnats alight, they’ll have a hard time leaving.
Gnats are nasty, but they don’t have to make you naughty. These tips worked for me. If you have others, please share!
Image credit: AngryJulieMonday via Flickr