How to get rid of gnats, once and for all

Because they’re gnat welcome in your home!

Published June 10, 2021 7:59AM (EDT)

 (Bobbi Lin / Food52)
(Bobbi Lin / Food52)

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Gnats are the bane of my existence, truly. I swear they invade my home at least once a year, whether it's because I forgot an old banana at the bottom of the fruit bowl, didn't clean out the garbage disposal well enough, or even just brought home a new plant that had them hiding in the soil. I then, reluctantly, spend the next few weeks trying to banish them from every nook and cranny of my home.

In the grand scheme of things, gnats are pretty harmless — fruit flies and fungus gnats don't bite (though some other varieties do), but they always seem to be hovering in your face or flying around your food. If you're sick of seeing these little bugs all around your home, here are some tried-and-true methods to get rid of them, as well as ways you can prevent them from coming back.

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Know your gnats

There are a few types of small flies and gnats commonly found in homes, and each of them is attracted to different things. If you figure out what kind are plaguing your home, you'll be able to get rid of them more efficiently.

First of all, there are fruit flies, which are attracted to ripe, rotting, or decayed fruits and vegetables. They also like smelly trash, garbage disposals, and open bottles of alcohol. These little brown bugs can often be found hovering around your fruit bowl, and they're more common in the summer.

Next up, there's the fungus gnat, which I have personally battled many times as a houseplant lover. These obnoxious little flies lay their eggs in soil, and they're quite common for nursery plants, meaning you can easily bring them home without knowing. These gnats are black, and you'll typically see them hanging out on the soil of your plants or around the rim of planters.

Finally, there are drain flies, and as their name suggests, these bugs live in drains, sewers, and septic tanks — pretty much anywhere you might find stagnant water, as that's where they lay their eggs. They have larger wings than the other two types of gnats, and their bodies are furry, similar to a moth.

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How to prevent gnats them in the first place

It's not too hard to get rid of gnats, but the tricky part is keeping them from coming back — all it takes is one overripe apple for them to make themselves at home again! In general, the cleaner you keep your home, the less likely you are to have gnats. This means storing food in sealed containers and getting rid of overripe produce. You'll also want to invest in a tightly covered trash can, and clean out your sink, drains, and garbage disposal regularly.

For fungus gnats in particular, letting your plants dry out in between waterings can help to prevent the bugs from laying eggs. Some people also recommend sprinkling a layer of diatomaceous earth on top of soil to keep gnats away.

If you're really serious about making your home a no-gnat zone, you may also want to seal cracks and crevices around your doors and windows, repair any ripped screens, and patch any cracks in your home's foundations.

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5 ways to get rid of gnats quickly

If you have a gnat infestation and don't have the time or luxury of prevention, there are several ways you can eliminate these flying nuisances — many of which involve simple pantry ingredients. Of course, you'll also want to figure out what attracted them in the first place and get rid of their source of food to stop them from reproducing.

1. The classic apple cider vinegar trap

Apple cider vinegar's sweet smell is appealing to gnats, so you can use it to make an easy trap. Pour a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into a bowl or jar, then stir in a few drops of dish soap. The bugs will be attracted to the sweet liquid, and the sticky soap will prevent them from being able to fly away. Some people also like to mix in a little sugar, as well, to really up the sweetness.

2. Lure them with ripe produce

If you're dealing with fruit flies, you can use their favorite snack against them. Place a piece of ripe produce, like an apple slice or mashed banana piece, in a bowl and cover it with a plastic wrap. Poke a few small holes in the plastic, and once the flies crawl inside, they won't be able to get back out.

3. Put empty wine bottles to good use

The next time you finish a bottle of red wine, leave it on the counter with dregs in the bottom to help trap gnats. They'll crawl inside because they're attracted to the smell and won't be able to get back out. Some people also like to mix in a few drops of dish soap, but I've found the alcohol works pretty well on its own.

4. Flush drains with bleach

If fruit or drain flies are hanging out in your pipes, you can use a diluted bleach solution to kill them and any eggs. Mix ½ cup bleach with a gallon of water, then carefully pour it down the drain. Flush with plenty of hot water, and repeat as necessary.

5. When in doubt, use sticky traps

When I have a particularly bad fungus gnat infestation, I turn to sticky traps to capture the dozens of bugs flying around my plants. Gnats will get stuck to the yellow paper — just be prepared to be grossed out by how many you catch.

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By Camryn Rabideau

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