How to Get Rid of Gnats and Fruit Flies in Your Home? 5 Expert Tips

Fact checked by Olga Sadouskaya, MD
Clinical Pharmacologist, Chief Medical Officer

Tiny gnats and flies can be real pests in any season, but they are most annoying in spring and summer when the weather gets warmer. You may notice them circling around rotten fruits, trash, and plants. Let’s find out what attracts these small insects and how best to get rid of them.

Most common types of gnats

There are several types of gnats you may find in your home or garden. Most of them are merely nuisance pests and are harmless to humans, but identifying them is crucial to finding the best solution to banish these tiny flies from your house.

Fruit flies

Fruit flies are tiny flies that can be a problem all year round. They are often found in the kitchen as they are attracted to ripened fruits and rotting food. They breed very quickly — one fruit fly can lay up to 500 eggs that hatch after a day. So the best way to prevent them from spreading is to keep your kitchen clean and store fruits and vegetables in the fridge or a closed container. Fruit flies are mostly harmless, but they can spread bacteria and contaminate food.

Fungus gnats

Fungus gnats, also known as houseplant gnats, are small grayish flies with very long legs. They like warm, humid environments and can often be found in compost and the soil of indoor plants, gardens, and greenhouses. They feed on tiny fungi and decomposing organic matter in the soil.

Fungus gnats are attracted to light, so you may also notice them near windows.

They don’t bite humans and don’t damage plants, but can cause an annoyance when flying around indoors. Since they thrive in moist environments, the best way to prevent them is to avoid overwatering your plants and to change the soil every now and then.

Drain flies

If you notice tiny gnats with furry bodies that look a little bit like small moths, you may have drain flies in your house. As the name would suggest, they usually live in drains, sewers, and anywhere moist with decaying organic matter. They feed on bacteria and are attracted to light and faint smells. Drain flies are harmless but can be an annoyance as they can sometimes cause a plumbing problem.

Midges

Midges are small gray flies that look like mosquitoes without a long, needle-like mouth — a proboscis. They live near water or swampy areas away from direct sunlight and usually fly in swarms. They are mainly harmless, although some species can bite humans and mammals. Non-biting midges live on nectar and sugary substances and die within five days. They primarily breed in spring and summer as they prefer warm weather and high humidity levels.

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Gall gnats

These tiny flies have long antennae and furry wings. Gall gnats are crop pests that can damage plants and interfere with their growth, but they don’t bite humans. Just like fungus gnats, you can usually see them near potted plants, especially if they were overwatered. Taking proper care of your plants is the best way to avoid gall gnats.

Why do you have gnats in your house?

​​You may be wondering why you have these tiny annoying flies in your home. Gnats usually get inside your house through an open window or door in search of food. Attracted by the smell of ripened fruit, decaying food waste, or moist soil, they can breed very quickly and become a problem.

A bowl of fruit that attracts gnats and fruit flies

You may also get gnats from the potted plants that have been outside. To check if your plants are contaminated, put a potato wedge into the soil. After a few days, take it out to check for larvae. Pests can get into your home with plants you buy in-store that are infested with gnats or their eggs. So it’s important to repot them and change the soil to make sure they are gnat-free.

In some cases, you can bring gnats into your home with unripe fruits, so make sure to wash them to eliminate any unwanted guests.

When is gnat season?

Gnats typically prefer warm, humid weather. They thrive in temperatures between 70 and 80 F. This means they are at their highest numbers in the summer. Still, as the weather gets colder, their activity generally decreases. Yet, gnats can be a nuisance all year round as long as they have a food source and a warm, moist environment to breed in.

At what temperature do gnats die?

A study of fungus gnats by Alaskan researchers found that they can survive in freezing temperatures from minus 25 to 60 F. So putting an infested pot out in the cold may not be effective to get rid of these insects.

Hot temperatures, however, can help eliminate the gnats.

Sterilizing your pots and soil with steam can kill harmful bacteria, gnat eggs, and other garden pests.

What are winter gnats?

Winter gnats are active year-round. But you are more likely to notice them in the colder months when they start to swarm to attract mates. You can encounter them in areas such as riverbanks that are warmed up by the sun. These flies are sometimes called ghost gnats because of the reflections their wings give off in winter sunlight. Winter gnats don't bite; they feed on decaying vegetation in gardens and forests. Still, they may follow you around, attracted by the heat you produce. Sometimes electric lights may draw them indoors, but they won’t do any harm.

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Why do gnats fly around your face?

Even though most gnats don’t bite, they can be quite annoying. If you think fruit flies are attracted to you and notice them flying around your head, there may be several reasons for that:

  • Sweat. Gnats are always looking for moisture, which they can find in your sweat and tears.
  • Soaps and perfume. Gnats are attracted to fruity or sweet smells. So opt for fragrance-free shampoos and lotions if you don’t want bugs to fly in your face.
  • Breath. Gnats like the smell of bad breath and the carbon dioxide people exhale. They may even fly up your nose!

How to get rid of gnats and fruit flies in your home

We’ve covered different types of gnats and what attracts them. Now let’s find out what you can do to remove these tiny pests from your home.

1. Clear your drains

The best way to eliminate drain gnats is to deep clean your sink in the kitchen and bathroom. You can use a special product designed for drains, or try one of these homemade solutions:

  • Pour boiling water into your sink and shower drain once or twice a week.
  • Mix half a cup of salt, baking soda, and vinegar, pour the mixture down the drains, and rinse with boiling water.
  • Pour a cup of plain or diluted bleach into your drains.
Cleaning the drains to prevent tiny gnats in house

2. Use apple cider vinegar

Mix a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, a tablespoon of sugar, and a couple of drops of dish soap. Put the bowl with this mixture where you have a gnat problem. Attracted by the sugar and apple cider vinegar, gnats will get trapped and eventually drown.

3. Set a fruit trap

This type of trap works best for fruit flies: put a piece of rotting fruit in a jar, cover it with plastic wrap, and poke a few holes in it. The smell of fruit will attract the gnats and they will get trapped inside the jar — you can then dispose of them in any way you see fit. Don’t have any fruit? That’s ok: you can also use a bit of fruit juice or wine to draw the flies in!

4. Clean your backyard

Gnats often gravitate towards things like decaying leaves, rotten fruit, and wet soil. To eliminate their breeding ground, remove any fallen leaves, cut grass, and fallen fruits from your garden, and check for any contaminated soil, leaky pipes, and puddles. Use a microbial insecticide or pesticide on any contaminated soil and make sure not to overwater your lawn and flowerbeds.

5. Hire professionals

Sometimes professional pest control services can be your best option to get rid of a lingering gnat infestation. They have the expertise and specialized products to dispose of adult gnats as well as their eggs and larvae. If the pests won’t leave your home no matter what you do, consider hiring professional exterminators.

How to prevent gnats

Once you have gnats in your home, it can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks to get rid of them. Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to keep any type of pests under control:

  • Keep your fruits, vegetables, and leftovers in the fridge.
  • Wash the dishes after eating and take your trash out regularly. Food waste is a perfect breeding ground for gnats.
  • Immediately clean up any spills, especially fruit juices or alcohol.
  • Rinse your recycling before throwing it in the trash and regularly clean your trash cans with bleach or other heavy-duty cleaning product.
  • Clean your drains with bleach and fix any leaks.
  • Avoid overwatering your plants and change the soil regularly to prevent fungus gnats.
  • Make sure there are no gaps around doors and windows to prevent gnats from getting in.

Keep your home gnat-free by adopting these everyday habits and taking a proactive approach to cleaning your space.

Key takeaways

Gnats thrive in warm, moist environments and are attracted to decaying food and other organic matter. You may notice tiny gnats flying around your fruit bowl, sink, trash can, or plants. Once in your house, they can be quite difficult to get rid of. The best way to keep gnats at bay is to eliminate things that attract them. Regularly clean your drains, take your trash out, rinse your recycling, store fruits and vegetables in the fridge, and avoid overwatering your plants.

July 27, 2022