Gnats may be tiny and they may not bite or suck blood, but that doesn’t make them any less annoying than pests like horse flies and mosquitoes. In fact, for some, gnats may even be more of a nuisance as they, more than any other type of bug, seem to always find their way into our living spaces. Even more frustratingly, gnats are most often seen around the kitchen and dining room, the places where we prepare, serve, and share meals.
The last place where we want to see flying insects. The following guide is designed to help you better understand what gnats are and how you can get rid of them.
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Understanding the Gnat
Gnats are small flying insects that don’t bite but they do come en masse. The term gnat is a more general one but you may be more familiar with fruit flies or drain flies which are types of gnats. As these names suggest, gnats are commonly drawn to fruit and standing water, such as in your drain pipes.
Other things that can start a gnat infestation include dirty dishes, rotting vegetables, spoiled food, damp wood, and piled up trash. These insects are also, annoyingly, attracted to light, humans, and pets. But as annoying as gnats are when they congregate, they are better than other types of bugs for a couple of important reasons.
First, most species of gnats don’t bite and so you won’t have to deal with stinging or itching as you try to remove them (note, however, there is a type of gnat called the buffalo gnat which painfully bites and draws blood from humans and animals. The good news is that buffalo gnats are most generally associated with livestock and farms and so most of us won’t ever have to worry about them). Secondly, and what this article is mostly about, there are several clever and cost-effective tactics you can deploy to get rid of gnats the moment they start buzzing into your life.
As pest control giant Orkin notes, the keen sense of smell gnats have to find their preferred food sources is the exact tool many homeowners can use to trap and destroy them. Continue reading to learn some common and effective strategies of getting rid of gnats:
6 Ways of Getting Rid of Gnats
1. Go For a Deep Clean
The very first thing anyone should do when they see gnats congregating is to get their favorite all-purpose cleaner and put on their cleaning gloves. Remember, gnats are primarily attracted to old food particles, and so the best way to get rid of them is to get rid of their food source. As the esteemed regional pest control giant Western Exterminator Company notes, “The best way to avoid a gnat infestation is to regularly empty your trash, keep a clean kitchen and bathroom, and avoid over-watering plants.”
But not only will a deep clean help in preventing a gnat infestation, it will also help in reducing and eliminating current gnat problems. A good deep clean does this by removing their food and water sources and thereby forcing them to leave or starve. Start with the dishes and then make sure to clean all of the food stuck in your kitchen sink strainer or drainer.
If you haven’t done so for awhile or if this unit has a gunky smell, consider replacing the strainer or drainer. Next, clean the rest of your kitchen areas like your countertops and the sides of your refrigerator where liquids might have gotten spilled and stuck. Finally, take care of the trash — but don’t just stop at taking your most recent trash bag to the outside bin.
One of the most important steps of this entire process is to thoroughly clean your inside kitchen trash can as this is one of the most common areas in which gnats will leave their eggs and larvae (so they can feast on the ready supply of garbage when they hatch). So either give your trash can a good hosing off or use a cleaning spray and sponge to wipe down the insides. This will remove any eggs or larvae and help prevent future infestations.
For the next week, consider taking out the trash every night as a further precaution.
2. Create a DIY Apple Vinegar Trap
Now that you have set the stage for future success by doing a thorough cleaning, now it’s time to nix out any lingering gnats you have in your home. One fantastic trick that Consolidated Pest Control advises people to start with and a trick that has likely been in use for centuries is the apple cider vinegar trap. For this nifty trap, all you need is apple cider vinegar, dish soap. and a small dish.
Place the dish near the problem area you’re having with the gnats (such as by the kitchen sink) and then add a few drops of the dish soap. The grants will be naturally attracted by the apple cider’s sweet and fruity scent but when they fly down to feast, the bugs get trapped in the soapy mixture and drown. Depending on how big your gnat problem is, you might have to empty and replace this mixture twice a day for up to a week until your gnat problem is finally fished.
3. Use Ammonia to Flush Out Your Sinks
This is an adult-only, don’t have kids or pets around solution. Ammonia is toxic to humans, pets, and plants and so you should always keep this product safely out of reach and locked away where young ones and pets can get to it. Furthermore, ammonia should never be mixed with any other type of cleaner as it can readily become even more dangerous.
For example, mixing even a small amount of ammonia and bleach will produce the very toxic gas chloramine that causes chest pain, shortness of breath, and can make a person susceptible to respiratory tract infections. So, long story short, when following this tip, only use ammonia and do not use it if you just recently cleaned your sink with a bleach-based cleaner. But now with those warnings aside, we have to add that ammonia is highly effective at killing gnats when the source of the problem is your kitchen sink.
Gnats love kitchen drains and piping because they have both water and collected bits of smelly, rotten food. While the part of the sink you see may look clean and smell fresh, what you might not realize is that you have a small clog or excess food caught somewhere down the piping and that’s where the gnats are laying eggs and where larvae are hatching. By pouring just 200 to 250ml of ammonia down your kitchen drain, you can effectively wipe out an entire colony of gnats.
Ammonia works as it releases a gas that damages the tubes of larvae and kills adult gnats. If you find the gnats returning after a couple of days of this ammonia pour, then it’s likely just because you didn’t get the eggs. Simply repeat the ammonia process again and you should be in the clear.
Instead of ammonia, you can also use bleach. But when using bleach, you should first dilute it. Mix a gallon of water and a half cup of bleach in a large bucket and then slowly pour the mixture down the kitchen sink, bathroom sink, and/or bathroom tub drain.
Just the scent of bleach can cause issues, so we strongly recommend wearing protective gloves and a mask before trying this get rid of flies technique.
4. Rotten Fruit + Plastic Wrap = Goodbye Gnats
This method of getting gnats uses some of the same principles of the apple cider trap but can be much easier to clean up. Here, you’ll start with a jar that you don’t mind throwing away, such as a cleaned out peanut butter jar. The jar can be plastic or glass.
Once you’ve chosen your jar of death, place over-ripened or rotten fruit at the bottom (browned bananas are particularly effective here). Then, grab your plastic wrap and cover the jar’s top completely, use a rubber band or an elastic hair tie to secure the plastic wrap tightly across the jar’s opening. Then, take a toothpick to carefully poke a dozen or so holes through the plastic wrap.
Now, all you have to do is place it on a table or countertop and wait. As with the apple cider vinegar, the gnats will be naturally drawn to the sweet and rotten scents of the fruit you used. Interestingly, while they will be able to make their way through the holes to find the rotten fruit, they will be unable to find their way out.
They thus become trapped and when you’re ready to dispose of them, you can simply throw the jar into a plastic grocery bag, tie it up, and toss the whole thing in your garbage can. No mess, no fuss. This fascinating yet sort of gross time-lapse video shows how the flies find their way into the jar but then become disoriented and unable to fly out.
5. Keep Them Off With Citronella
While you’re deploying one of the aforementioned techniques of removing gnats permanently from your home, you might also want a present-moment solution that will keep thee pesky flies off your flesh and away from your food. The problem is that while DEET and other heavy-duty commercial bug repellents are effective at keeping gnats away, you don’t really want these chemical-heavy repellents sprayed near your food. The good news is that you can make an effective home-made spray at home with just a few drops of citronella oil.
Citronella oil is one of the few compounds that flies like gnats absolutely hate and, best of all, its safe to be around even in tight areas like your kitchen. To make this spray, simply mix two cups of water per one tablespoon of citronella oil (you can also add a teaspoon of dish soap). Pour this mixture in a spray bottle and apply as needed on your body.
Citronella is safe for human and pet use and can also be used on your plants. You can also take advantage of citronella’s bug-busting properties by stocking up citronella candles and using them whenever you picnic outdoors. While citronella oil has been found to be the most effective natural compound to use as a spray, it isn’t the only one.
Some people find that lemon oil either used as a spray or as part of an essential oil diffuser set-up can repel gnats. You can also dilute rubbing alcohol in water and use that as a general around-the-house spray. Gnats will die instantly when they are sprayed with rubbing alcohol.
Of course, while that means instant good-bye bugs, it also means you’ll have to clean up each of the dead guys. That’s why this rubbing alcohol spray is often best used when you’re in the process of cleaning your home.
6. Check Out Your Houseplants
If you’ve cleaned your drains, hosed the trash can, and bleached your kitchen but still can’t figure out where the gnats are laying their eggs, then the next place to focus your energy on is your houseplants. Fungus gnats are a unique type of gnats that prefer to reproduce in soil and plant matter. If your problem is gnats that are reproducing outdoors and finding their way inside, then most pest control experts will advise for you to seek professional help who will lay out safe but effective outdoor pest control sprays.
If, however, your fungus gnat problem is sourced from indoor plants, then there are things you can do to eliminate the problem. First, fungus gnats like moist, soil-y environments. So when it comes to houseplants, they are most apt to congregate around plants that have been over-watered or have old soil that retains excessive water.
The best way to resolve both these source issues is to simply repot your plants using new soil and throwing the rest of the soil outside and far from your home where it can decompose naturally. Another common issue that can cause fungus gnats to congregate and breed is decaying plant matter. If you have an indoor house plant that is losing its leaves or has a dead and decaying branch, then gnats are very likely to find that rotten material and make it their home and breeding ground.
In fact, an infestation of gnats from dying leaves and branches can happen within just a few short days. Maybe you fully cleaned your home before going away for a Spring Break vacation, only to come home and find your living room and kitchen swarming with gnats. Fungus gnats are almost always the cause in situations where kitchen or bathroom sinks aren’t to blame.
Don’t Be Afraid to Call for Outside Help
Gnats may not cause physical harm but that doesn’t mean we want them in our living spaces. These tiny pests are certainly nasty and we hope the following above DIY ways of getting rid of these flying insects help resolve your current infestation. But if in the event they don’t, or if you did come home suddenly to a massive infestation that has you overwhelmed, then don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call for help.
Your local pest control and exterminator company is well-equipped and well-versed in dealing with all types of annoying and dangerous pests. Furthermore, if gnats have become a constant issue in your area, then only your local pest control team is likely to have the exact products you need for long-term solutions, such as laying out outside preventative sprays. In addition to preventing gnat infestations, many of professional pest control products are multi-purposeful so that you can keep your home and backyard free of gnats, mosquitoes, roaches, and more.
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When in Doubt; Know Others are There to Help
The information gathered here is thanks to resources and information from Florida’s Consolidated Pest Control, the national chain Orkin, and California’s Western Exterminator Company. While this article strives to be an effective general how-to guide, there will be regional issues in which the best protocol will be contacting your local pest control company for advice. For example, sand gnats aren’t like most species of gnats as they will bite and bite hard.
Luckily, they are primarily found only in a few areas and so your local pest control company will have the best information for getting rid of them and other regional-prone bugs efficiently and effectively.