9 Natural Ways to Stop Gnats & Fruit Flies

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

Related:

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Non-Toxic Pest Control for the Eco Home

7 Tips for Chemical-Free Pest Control

 

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137 comments

Magdalena J.
Past Memberabout a year ago

Thank you!

Magdalena J.
Past Memberabout a year ago

Thank you!

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Croweabout a year ago

For the past 4 days, we have been fighting a vast amount of fruit flies! I bought some pears and apples. I guess I didn't eat them fast enough, because the next thing I knew the dang fruit flies were every where!!
We didn't have any apple cider vinegar, so I used regular vinegar, a little sugar, and a little Dawn in a shallow bowl. I had also read to put some in a tall bottle - they can get in, but once in the soap, they can't fly back out.
It is working. Today, I have only seen 1 - hopefully he will find the lunch I made for him (LOL)!!

Fi T.
Fi T.about a year ago

No more chemicals

Kath P.
Kath P.1 years ago

Some bugs I put outside while others I zap. Thanks for some interesting ways to zap unwanted bugs.

Val M.
Val M.1 years ago

Noted

Charmaine C.
Charmaine C.1 years ago

Thank you. Unwelcome insect activity can be very troublesome and a practical or organic solution is useful. Much as I respect all life, invasions of insects are not practical in a home.

Joe B.
Joseph B.1 years ago

I agree with Carolanne. This article disappointingly fails to live up to Care2's general approach of Ahimsa, which means "Do no Harm," or Schweitzer's brilliant "Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben," which is "Reverence for Life."

I know some of you are rolling your eyes and saying "they're just gnats and flies," but nonviolence extends to ALL living creatures, not just humans and those pets we choose to bring into our homes. And if you really take time to examine this concept, you'll find it's not a hard and fast rule, but a principle by which to live life the most ethically.

The article does at least show that there ARE nonviolent ways of dealing with the hungry insects who find their ways into our homes, and points out that it's usually OUR fault that they're in there in the first place. But I am surprised to see Care2 allowing conventional ideas to creep into their pages.

Carolanne Powell
Carolanne Powell1 years ago

Life is as dear to the mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness & fears pain, just as one wants to live & not die, so do other creatures.....

Anna Ballinger
Anna Ballinger1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.