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How to Get Rid of Gnats


May 30, 2020 by Barbara Zito

Gnats are harmless, but they're not exactly welcome guests in your home. There's some good news, though: You can get rid of them with easy-to-find ingredients that you might already have on hand.

Are they really gnats?

For our purposes here, we're going to call those little flying creatures gnats, but in actuality, they may be one of three types of bugs:

  • Fruit flies
  • Drain flies
  • Fungus gnats

Let's take a closer look at how to tell them apart.

Pest type What they look like Favorite spot to hover
Fruit flies Roundish brown flies with red eyes. Kitchen
Drain flies Fuzzy with moth-like wings Sink and tub drains
Fungus gnats Black with long legs Potted plants

Now that you've had that short entomology lesson, let's get down to sending these problem pests on their way.

What you'll need

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Bleach (and gloves/mask to protect from fumes)
  • Dish soap
  • Overripe fruit, like a rotting banana
  • Wine or beer (trust us)

Get rid of what's bugging you

Now you're ready to take on those gnats, wherever they might be in your home.

For kitchen pests

First off, if you've got overripe food sitting out with a swarm of fruit flies hovering about, it's time to get rid of the fruit or at least put it away in the fridge. Next time you bring fruit into the house, be sure to give everything a good rinse to flush out any -- yuck -- fruit fly larvae that might be hanging out.

Try one of these two ways to say goodbye to gnats in your kitchen:

  1. In a bowl or jar, mix a little bit each of apple cider vinegar, water, sugar, and a few drops of dish soap. (There's no exact recipe here, just mix some of it up. If you've got a pungent smell, you're on to something.) Even easier, mix together some wine or beer and dish soap. The smell is intoxicating for gnats and will lure them in. The common denominator here is dish soap. That's because it's a surfactant -- like other detergents, dish soap breaks up the surface tension of the liquid so that the gnats will sink into the liquid.
  2. It might seem counterintuitive to leave fruit out in the open when you have gnats aflutter, but you can trap them with the very thing that lured them into your home in the first place. Grab a mason jar, mash up some rotting fruit (a banana will do) in a bit of vinegar, and press some plastic wrap over the top of the jar. Poke a few holes in the top -- the gnats will fly in and won't come out.

For bathroom/sink pests:

Got gnats in the tub or a sink? You may have some residual nastiness in the drain that's causing them to congregate. First, address any clogs with liquid drain openers -- call a plumber if anything is really backed up. That might solve the problem on its own, but if not, try this:

Put on a mask/gloves and open a window to protect yourself from the bleach fumes. Mix a gallon of water with 1/2 cup of bleach and pour it down the drain. You might have to do this several times for it to work, but this should stop drain flies.

For houseplant pests

Don't dump the house plants just yet. Fungus gnats like humidity, so hold off on watering for a bit to dry out the soil. If you can't do that without offing your plants, then repot them in fresh soil.

Anywhere else

While the bowl of catnip for gnats (gnatnip?) might be best left in the kitchen, the mason jar trick is portable enough to work in other parts of your home. If you're not keen on the sweet smell of bananas or fruit elsewhere, then try the wine/dish soap mixture in the jar instead.

If you've only got a couple of gnats and are feeling a little playful with your pest take-down techniques, try this: Get a spray bottle and fill it with a cup of water, a tablespoon of vinegar, and a bit of dish soap. Then, start spraying gnats. It's like a real-live video game in your own home!

The bottom line

The thing to remember is that while gnats are super annoying, they are harmless. They can't bite, so there's no risk of any disease being spread. Still, eww! These tips should keep them out of your house.

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