It's the question that many homeowners ask themselves at some point, but knowing how to get rid of fruit flies in the house doesn't need to be a challenge.
There are natural home remedies to get rid of flies from your home – some of which come from pantry staples that may already be hiding in your kitchen. However, if you've spotted a fruit fly, it's better to act fast. Despite their minute size, these creatures reproduce rapidly over a small period of time. And while they don't bite or feed on human blood, they are known to spread bacteria and other pathogens both on food and any surfaces.
Before you start experimenting with these solutions, it is important to check whether you are dealing with fruit flies, as the experts warn that these insect shares similarities with other pests that may need treating differently.
How to get rid of fruit flies in the house – expert-approved methods for quick success
It’s a good idea to be sure that the problem is one of fruit flies first, as drain flies and fungus gnats could be present. ‘Drain flies look like tiny black moths and can often be confused with fruit flies because both lay eggs in drains,’ explains Wesley Wheeler, owner of Bug Lord. ‘They have fluffy dark wings that are round and held flat on top of the body, and their antennae are fluffy and feathery like moth antennae.
‘Fungus gnats are roughly 1/8in (3mm) in size, and have a resemblance to mosquitoes (just smaller). They have long legs and a lackluster flying ability, so you may see them stumbling around and spending more time scurrying along house plants and windows.
‘Fruit flies on the other hand, are very quick and elusive, and are usually found in kitchens where there is ripening fruit and garbage. They can quickly be identified by their characteristically large red eyes.’
If your unwanted houseguests are the latter, here’s how to get rid of fruit flies.
1. Mix a homemade spray
One of the easiest ways to tackle fruit flies in your home is with a homemade spray – made from 14 drops of diluted lemongrass oil in a liter of water. 'Mix well, and using a spray bottle apply to any surfaces you notice fruit flies prefer,' says Jordan Foster, a pest management expert at Fantastic Pest Control.
2. Create a jar trap
Arguably the most famous method of all – the jar trap is a failsafe way to keep your fruit flies at bay. 'For this method, you will need a jar, some plastic wrap and a thing of interest for the pesky fruit flies like apple cider vinegar, old wine, overripe or fermenting fruit,' Jordan says.
Firstly, you should arrange the bait in the jar before covering it with plastic wrap. Then poke some small holes with a toothpick into the plastic wrap and leave the trap where you spotted fruit fly activity.
'The pungent smell will attract the fruit flies,' Jordan explains. 'They will manage to get into the jar through the small holes but won't be able to escape.'
Alternatively, instead of using plastic wrap, you can achieve similar results with a paper funnel. The expert recommends making a funnel with a small opening on one end, enough to have the flies go through. Then, place the funnel in the jar (with the wide side facing up and the narrow side pointing down) but be careful not to touch the bottom or liquid inside.
3. Leave a candle trap
For a more unconventional (but nonetheless effective) solution, Jordan suggests playing with the fruit flies' attraction to light. You will need to place the candle and secure it to stand up straight in the bowl before filling the bowl with water. Then ensure the rest of your room is dark, so the flame is the only source of light left to attract the fruit fly.
'When they get too close, the heat from the flame will scourge their wings. Unable to fly, they will fall into the water and drown,' Jordan explains.
So, knowing how to get rid of fruit flies in the house comes down to more than mastering cleaning tips (though this always helps in pest prevention).
How to stop attracting fruit flies
Prevention is better than cure, so think about the ripened fruit and vegetables in the kitchen which attract fruit flies. ‘Keep food that is in a pantry or on the counter covered or sealed,’ says Kimberly Baker PhD, director of the Clemson Extension food systems and safety program team. ‘Check fruit and vegetables daily that may be sitting out and dispose of any produce that is wilting or showing signs of mold. Some produce can be refrigerated to extend its shelf life a few more days.’
Fruit flies can often enter your home in your groceries. ‘Wash produce before storing,’ recommends former master gardener Kate Russell of The Daily Garden. ‘This removes many of the fruit fly eggs and pupae which may be present. The only exception is berries, which should only be washed just before eating.’
How to get rid of fruit flies by cleaning
When trying to get rid of fruit flies from your home, cleaning should be also be a priority. Clean up spills immediately and make sure bottles and cans are rinsed before putting them in the recycle bin. ‘I would suggest doing a monthly deep clean and then brief cleanings throughout the week, depending on how much you use your kitchen,’ says Megan Wede, co-owner of Done Right Pest Solutions.
Dry out mops, sponges and wash cloths after use, too, she advises. ‘Whenever these cleaning supplies don't get dried out well enough, bacteria and organic material will grow. Fruit flies are attracted to this bacteria and organic material.’
Pay attention to the garbage disposal as well. ‘Running the garbage disposal with water for longer than you normally would can help prevent fruit flies,’ she says.
How to get rid of fruit flies with apple cider vinegar
If you are a fan of cleaning with vinegar and they’re causing a nuisance in your kitchen, it's worth knowing that apple cider vinegar could be the answer to how to get rid of fruit flies.
‘Simply mix together about 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon of dish soap,’ says Kimberly Baker. ‘Pour the mixture into a small bowl, cup or Tupperware container and place near the source of the fruit flies. They will be attracted by the vinegar but will be unable to escape the mixture.’
How to get rid of fruit flies with a store-bought trap
If you aren’t getting anywhere with homemade traps, you might want to opt for a store-bought version – we like the Terro fruit fly trap.
Filled traps will work in a similar way to the homemade traps above. However, they tend to be less messy.
Flypaper is another option, that might be preferable if you have young kids. Put it up on the wall to lure and trap flies, and avoid any accidental spills on surfaces.
Why do I have fruit flies in my bedroom?
Fruit flies are most commonly found in the kitchen, due to their fondness for food. However, they can make their way into other rooms too.
‘Fruit flies don’t discriminate about where they get their nourishment – if they can find something to eat in your bedroom, bathroom or living room, they’ll stick around,’ explain the experts at Terro.
If you find you are getting fruit flies in your bedroom, hunt around for any forgotten food, damp spots or even a drink spill. If you have carpet, a drink spill that hasn’t been properly cleaned can be enough to attract them.
How long does it take to get rid of fruit flies?
If you have a full-blown fruit fly infestation, it can take anywhere between a few days and a few weeks to get on top of the problem.
Once you have gotten rid of the nuisance it is best to take preventative measures. Taking the trash out regularly and not leaving out overripe fruit can help avoid a future infestation.
Should I call an exterminator to get rid of fruit flies?
Call an exterminator to get rid of fruit flies if your efforts haven’t solved the problem. ‘If you try the apple cider vinegar trick and cannot get rid of all of them, or over time if they keep coming back and keep coming back and you've taken the previously noted precautions (cleaning and drying out washcloths and sponges), you may have a bigger problem,’ says Megan Wede of Done Right Pest Solutions.
‘Calling a local pest control company shouldn't be a last resort, but a good starting point. Often they will be willing to give tips and tricks to help you out. And of course, if you do not want to try the tips and you're fed up with the flies, they can come treat your home for fruit flies. Each pest control service should have a warranty for guaranteed service within that warrantied period.’
It's always best to keep flies out of the house in the first place, but once you have an infestation, the next best step is to deal with it quickly, and to maintain good hygiene. Getting rid of fruit flies is doable, it just takes persistence.
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Rebecca is the News Editor on Homes and Gardens. She has been working as a homes and interiors journalist for over four years. She first discovered her love of interiors while interning at Harper's Bazaar and Town & Country during my Masters in Magazine Journalism at City, University of London. After graduating she started out as a feature writer for Women's Weekly magazines, before shifting over to online journalism and joining the Ideal Home digital team covering news and features. She is passionate about shopping for well-crafted home decor and sourcing second-hand antique furniture where possible.
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