How to Get Rid of Gnats Naturally and Keep Them Away

Macro view of fungus gnats stuck to a yellow sticky trap

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Gnats are irritating little creatures that can crop up in your home looking for produce, flowers, houseplants, and any other exposed foodstuff to munch on. At worst, you can wind up with a pregnant gnat laying as many as 300 eggs in your house. So, if you have even the slightest gnat infestation, it's important to get rid of them fast.

Many will combat a gnat problem with harsh pesticides that fill the air with toxic chemicals. That isn't necessary. You can just as easily eradicate gnats with natural solutions like a bowl of vinegar or a piece of scrap paper slathered with honey.

Here are five ways to get rid of gnats naturally, plus tips for keeping them away for good. 

Eliminate Problematic Produce

Gnats generally go where there is fungus—and subsequent moisture. That’s why they’re attracted to the overripe bananas on your counter and the soft potatoes in your pantry.

If you do notice gnats hanging around unsealed produce, the easiest way to get rid of them is to simply pitch—meaning: compost—their food source. The same goes for food that could be stuck in your sink drains or spilling out of your trash can.

Make a Vinegar Trap

Even after you eradicate the source of your gnat problem, you can still have some lingering in your house. This vinegar trap is easy, effective, and made from things you probably already have at home.

Put a bowl of vinegar (white or apple cider vinegar is fine) with a drop of natural dish soap on a table, away from any food. Gnats are attracted to the smell of vinegar, so that will draw them into the soapy mixture. The soap works by breaking the surface tension of the liquid, ultimately preventing gnats from being able to stay afloat. Unable to escape the soapy reservoir, they eventually drown.

Light a Candle

Gnats are attracted to both light and vinegar, so they should flock to this ingenious DIY candle trap.

Put any old candle you have in a tray or shallow bowl. Fill the tray or bowl with vinegar and a drop of dish soap so that it pools around the candle. When it's dark, turn all the lights off and light the candle. The light should reflect on the vinegar solution and attract the gnats.

Turn Scrap Paper Into a Sticky Trap

Sticky traps work especially well for gnats crowding around your houseplants. You can fold up a small bit of sticky paper and stick it right in the soil where they're lingering.

Instead of buying conventional sticky traps made with plastic and chemical adhesive, simply take a strip of brightly colored paper (yellow, orange, and even white will register on the bugs' UV spectrum) and coat it in a layer of honey. The gnats will be attracted to the sweet smell of the honey, but once coated in it, they won't be able to fly away.

Make Your Own Natural Spray Repellant

Spray repellants are another solution many turn to that can contain harsh, air-polluting chemicals.

Make your own natural version by combining a cup of water with a tablespoon each of vinegar and baking soda, adding in a drop of dish soap. Shake the mixture in a spray bottle, and spray where gnats seem to congregate in your house. The solution is even safe to use (sparingly) around houseplants.

Swat Them

You could always kill gnats the old-fashioned way—by swatting them with a fly swatter or your hands. This is one of the more difficult ways to eradicate gnats because the insects are so agile and acrobatic. They can perform complex aerial maneuvers akin to that of a fighter jet.

How to Keep Gnats Away

When you no longer see clouds of tiny gnats gathering in your home, you can switch your focus to tackling the real root(s) of the problem. Here are some ways to keep the pests away.

  • Get rid of unsealed produce and cut flowers that are past their prime. Make sure, moving forward, that nothing moldy or mildewy is left out on your counters.
  • Clean out your sink drain with a natural drain cleaner such as vinegar, baking soda, and boiling water.
  • If you notice any spores growing in the soil of your houseplants or white powdery mildew on the leaves, you should tackle that infection first. It may require repotting the plant or trimming the affected leaves.
  • Do not leave fragrant traps like bowls of vinegar and honey-coated paper out all the time. This could wind up bringing even more gnats inside over time.
Frequently Asked Questions
  • What causes gnat infestations?

    Gnats are attracted to produce, fresh flowers, and houseplants. They might be more prevalent in your home if you have food in the sink, old food in the bin, or houseplants that are growing fungus.

  • Do gnats bite?

    Gnats can and do sometimes bite humans, even though their main interest is food and other organic matter. Their bites are very mild unless you have an allergy to them. Even so, bites should be cleaned immediately because of the bacteria gnats carry from things they've landed on.

  • Can you get rid of gnats without killing them?

    The only way to get rid of gnats without killing them is to repel them with scents they don't like: vinegar, vanilla, pine oil, peppermint, lemon, eucalyptus, and lavender. Even dryer sheets could help. Of course, the first line of duty would be to get rid of the infestation's root cause.

View Article Sources
  1. "Fungus Gnats and Shore Flies." University of Massachusetts Amherst Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment

  2. Chen, Chaoying, et al. “An Innovative Strategy for Control of Fungus Gnats Using Entomopathogenic Nematodes Alone or in Combination with Waterlogging.” Journal of Nematology, vol. 52, 2020, pp. 1-9., doi:10.21307/jofnem-2020-057