Gnats are amongst some of the most irritating household pests. They might not do a great deal of damage, but they can be a nuisance in your kitchen and on your houseplants.
Here, pest control experts explain how to get rid of gnats with this pantry essential.
Although you can buy gnat traps online, there are few as simple and as effective as simply using white vinegar.
How to get rid of gnats with white vinegar
First, it is important to identify which pests you have in your home. Vinegar will work best for fruit flies, the most common gnats we find in our homes, but won’t work as well when getting rid of fungus gnats, points out Tom Dobrinska, a board-certified entomologist with Ehrlich Pest Control.
‘The term “gnat” is a generic term that covers a variety of small flies. Many of these “gnats” are not attracted to vinegar traps and may not be breeding in the kitchen area of the home. If your pest control professional identifies these “gnats” as fruit flies, then and only then, can we consider using vinegar traps as a tool to capture the adult fruit flies,’ he says.
A quick way to identify fruit flies: they look like very small, brown house flies, with rounded bodies and wings.
1. Create a white vinegar trap
To make a vinegar trap, add a pool of white vinegar into a transparent dish and cover with a tight layer of Saran Wrap, says Tom Dobrinska, pest control expert and entomologist. You can also add a small spoonful of sugar to make it more appealing. Poke several small holes into the surface of the wrap, with a sharp pencil, and set it where the flies are buzzing.
‘The holes on the top will allow the adults to enter, but will not allow them out,’ Tom explains. ‘There are also commercial vinegar traps as well,’ he adds. ‘These will help eliminate the fruit flies one at a time.’
2. Solve the problem with a spray solution
A spray solution made of equal parts white vinegar and water is a great addition to a white vinegar trap if you want to get rid of swathes of gnats flying around in the air or landing on your surfaces, suggests Sholom Rosenbloom, pest control expert and owner of Rosenbloom Pest Control.
Persistent spraying with help to repel the gnats and discourage them from returning,’ Sholom explains. Just make sure to wipe the spray away from areas it has settled such as walls and countertops afterward to prevent drawing gnats away from the trap.
Sholom Rosenbloom is a pest control expert and owner of Rosenbloom Pest Control in Baltimore, MD. The family business is made up of trained professionals and was voted 2021s top local business in the state, having provided top pest control services for over 23 years.
3. Clean down surfaces with vinegar and water
Given that gnats are drawn to sweet substances and rotting food smells, cleaning with white vinegar is a great way to prevent gnats and discourage them from entering your home, says Marc McDermott, pest control expert at Pest Source.
‘Regularly clean your kitchen counters, sinks, and other surfaces with white vinegar to scrub away sticky food residue and cooking smells that may lure gnats in to find a breeding ground,' he advises.
Why white vinegar works to get rid of gnats
There are two main reasons why white vinegar is so effective at killing gnats, explains Marc McDermott, pest control expert. First is the potent smell, with white vinegar being incredibly attractive to gnats and flies.
‘The acetic acid in vinegar mimics the smell of overripe fruits and fermenting substances,’ he explains. ‘As natural food sources for gnats, this smell draws them in and tricks them into falling into the liquid and drowning.
‘On the topic of lethality, the strong acid works to break down their exoskeleton,’ Marc continues. ‘This causes them to dehydrate and die. It is an excellent non-toxic method for around the home.’
Some experts suggest that other vinegars may be even more effective at this, however. ‘Apple cider vinegar is a little more appealing to gnats than white vinegar, although both will do the trick,’ says Megan Wede, pest expert and co-owner of Done Right Pest Solutions. This vinegar is a little sweeter, making it more alluring to passing flies.
Why you may have gnats
There are several reasons why you have flies in your home which are easy to identify and remove. Treating the source of the flies will often help to prevent them coming in the first place.
1. Overripe fruits and vegetables
Fruit flies get their names from their natural attraction to fermenting or overripe fruits and vegetables. Not only are these perfect food sources but ideal places to lay eggs and breed. As a result, any older fruits and vegetables you have laying around are offering fertile grounds for fruit flies to swarm your home, says Marc McDermott, pest control expert.
2. Poor sanitation
Cleaning a kitchen is important for both your food hygiene and for preventing a whole range of pests. If you have neglected to mop your floors, or left some sticky spillage on a kitchen counter or inside a cabinet, you will be attracting gnats – even if it is unknowingly.
‘Fruit flies are also attracted to drains and garbage disposals for this same reason,’ says Megan Wede, pest control expert. ‘Treating these sinks and drains with vinegar will kill off the organic material growing and produce a cleaner scent to your home.’
3. Damp cloths
An unfortunate downside to using reusable dishcloths and towels in our homes is the fact they need washing thoroughly and regularly in order to keep them hygienic and remove bacterial growth. If this isn't done, the smell of the cloths and the developing organic matter could be attracting gnats.
‘If you've ever left out a dish rag over the middle of your sink and smelled it, it probably smells gross and musty. This is the smell of organic material growing on the dish rag,’ explains Megan Wede, pest expert. ‘Fruit flies are attracted to this smell since they eat organic materials.’
How long does it take to kill gnats with vinegar?
Killing gnats with vinegar can take some patience but there are some things you can do to help expedite the process. Adding sugar to the vinegar mix, for example, will help to draw the gnats in and encourage them to fall into the liquid. You can also speed up the process by placing the trap close to where the gnats are buzzing. Common spots are often the kitchen, around windows, and you will also want to look into getting rid of gnats in plants in your home, since this is another place they gather.
Do gnats like the smell of white vinegar?
Gnats are naturally drawn to the smell of white or apple cider vinegar, making these solutions ideal for making traps around your home and garden. The sweet smell lures them in and downs them, coating their wings so that they are unable to fly away. The result? Far fewer gnats bothering you.
Getting rid of gnats with vinegar is a game of patience, as is any other form of pest control. Using white vinegar is a great affordable way to trap and kill gnats without having to use more expensive sugary drinks like Coke or lemonade.
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Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.
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