A swarm of gnats inside your home is a major nuisance — but it’s nothing compared to the $200 to $600 you’ll likely have to shell out if the infestation gets so bad you need to call in a pest control professional.
Luckily, there are easy and effective ways to stop these tiny winged creatures in their tracks and prevent them from coming back. We spoke with pest control experts to get their best advice for getting rid of all types of gnats.
What is a gnat?
Gnats are teeny-tiny flying insects that are often found in swarms and are known for their ability to hover in place. Three of the most common types of gnats found in homes are fungus gnats, fruit flies and drain flies. You’ll first need to get up close and personal to identify which gnats you’re dealing with in your home, in order to best understand how to solve the problem.
The good news is that while some species of gnats can bite and sting, the types most commonly found indoors are simply just a nuisance to humans, flying in your face during meal prep or during a dinner party. “In a recent study, we found most of ‘flying insects’ in homes are fungus gnats,” says Dr. Changlu Wang, who works in the Department of Entomology at Rutgers University, adding that fungus gnats “do not bite people or cause allergic reactions.”
While gnats are unlikely to go away on their own, they can be managed with a bit of vigilance and some basic home remedies.
How to prevent gnats
Generally speaking, gnats — along with many other pests — thrive in moist, humid environments, so you may want to consider running a dehumidifier in particularly dank areas of your home. “In damp basements, keep relative humidity below 50% and make sure bathrooms are well ventilated,” says Dan DiClerico, the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Home Improvement and Outdoor Lab director. “Just keep in mind that a dehumidifier won’t cure the underlying source of the humidity.” You’ll also want to fix any leaking pipes and make sure your home’s gutters and downspouts are channeling water away from foundation walls to keep moisture out.
Beyond that, the easiest way to prevent infestations in your home by eliminating the insects’ “food” source, which varies depending on the type of gnat:
✔️ Fungus gnats are usually found near houseplants. “Fungus gnat infestations are often caused by sources of damp soil, such as houseplants, or decaying or damaged plant roots,” says Dr. Jim Fredericks, a board-certified entomologist and senior vice president of public affairs at the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). To prevent fungus gnats, it’s important to regularly repot your houseplants in new soil and ease up on overwatering them.
✔️ Fruit flies feast on decaying fruits and vegetables. To prevent fruit flies in your home, rinse and dry your produce as soon as you get it home from the store, then keep it inside bins or in your fridge as much as possible. “By washing them and storing them properly, fruit flies can’t find that food source anymore,” says Chelle Hartzer, an entomologist with Orkin. Fruits that ripen quickly — like apples, grapes, melons, pairs, peaches and plums — can be kept in the low-humidity crisper drawer; produce that is prone to wilting, including leafy greens, carrots and broccoli, belong in the high-humidity crisper drawer. While bananas are best left on the countertop, ideally on a dedicated banana hanger, you can transfer them to the fridge once ripe, or peel and store them in the freezer in an airtight container.
✔️ Drain flies are usually found in kitchen and bathroom drains, garbage disposals and seldom-used toilets, since they prefer bacteria, sewage and gunk. To prevent drain flies, it’s important to clear and clean those plumbing lines frequently, especially during hot, humid summer weather.
- To clean drains, pour in a solution of equal parts baking soda and vinegar, wait five minutes, then follow with boiling water. Stubborn clogs might require a harsher treatment; Hartzer advises using a drain cleaner like Drano Max Gel Clog Remover to flush out the pipes. If the problem persists, an ongoing infestation may indicate a leak, so call a plumber.
- To clean garbage disposals, toss a dozen ice cubes in the chamber, plus 1 tablespoon of baking soda, a few lemon slices and 1 teaspoon of bleach. Turn the disposal on without running water until you hear the grinding stop. Then, with the motor running, flush with cold water for 30 seconds.
How to get rid of gnats quickly
While preventive measures will stop gnats at the source, sometimes it’s best to take immediate action. Here are the most effective ways to get rid of gnats, instantly.
1. Use a high-tech bug zapper.
We’ve found that plug-in traps can be extremely effective. Consider the Zevo Flying Insect Trap, a GH Seal holder that uses safe amounts of blue and UV light to attract gnats, fruit flies and mosquitoes. “I personally love the Zevo traps that have earned our Seal; I have them in my house all year round,” says Birnur Aral, Ph.D., director of the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Health, Beauty and Sustainability Lab. “We recently tested the latest version of the product and found it be even more effective at trapping gnats.”
2. Try a spray solution.
The Zevo Fly, Gnat & Fruit Fly Flying Insect Spray, another GH Seal holder, is also a good option. It uses geraniol and lemongrass oil, which are bio-insecticides that don’t need to be registered with the EPA, to kill gnats on contact. Though safe around people and pets, the spray must be handled properly; Zevo cautions against it coming into contact with eyes or skin, and the flammable liquid should never be used near electrical wiring.
3. Make a DIY vinegar trap.
One of the best and easiest methods is to set up a vinegar trap. There are a few ways to do this:
- Make a trap with apple cider vinegar and plastic wrap: DIY your own fruit fly trap by pouring a little apple cider vinegar into a glass or just removing the cap from the bottle. Cover the opening with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band. Then, poke a few small holes in the plastic. The fruit flies will enter but not be able to make their way out.
- Make a trap with a paper cone, vinegar and old fruit: Place a little vinegar and a chunk of very ripe fruit in a jar. Then, roll printer paper into a cone and stick it into the jar, placing the narrow opening down. The smell of rotting produce will help entice the fruit flies into the mixture, but the paper cone will make it difficult for them to escape.
- Leave out a bowl of vinegar and dish soap: Add three drops of dish soap to a bowl of vinegar, and leave it uncovered in problem areas. The soap cuts the surface tension of the vinegar, so the flies that are enticed by the vinegar will sink and drown.
4. Put out a beer or wine trap.
Along with vinegar, fruit flies also like the smell of wine. Leave out an almost-empty open bottle of old wine — the skinny neck will keep the flies trapped. The Old Farmer’s Almanac also recommends using stale beer to attract fruit flies.
5. Buy a sticky trap.
For a fail-safe trap, buy Aunt Fannie’s FlyPunch! on Amazon. The mixture includes sodium lauryl sulfate (a surfactant used in soaps) and malic acid (found in fruit). Just open the top, set it on your counter and watch the cycle of life unfold.
Caroline is a writer and editor with almost a decade of experience. From 2015 to 2019, she held various editorial positions at Good Housekeeping, including as health editor, covering nutrition, fitness, wellness, and other lifestyle news. She’s a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism and dreams of the day Northwestern will go back to the Rose Bowl.
Amanda Garrity is a lifestyle writer and editor with over seven years of experience, including five years on staff at Good Housekeeping, where she covered all things home and holiday, including the latest interior design trends, inspiring DIY ideas and gift guides for any (and every) occasion. She also has a soft spot for feel-good TV, so you can catch her writing about popular shows like Virgin River, Sweet Magnolias, Hallmark Channel’s When Calls the Heart and more.