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how to get rid of gnats indoors

how to get rid of gnats indoors

how to get rid of gnats indoors

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how to get rid of gnats indoors
how to get rid of gnats indoors

Gnats are the bane of my existence, truly. I swear they invade my home at least once a year, whether it’s because I forgot an old banana at the bottom of the fruit bowl, didn’t clean out the garbage disposal well enough, or even just brought home a new plant that had them hiding in the soil. I then, reluctantly, spend the next few weeks trying to banish them from every nook and cranny of my home.


In the grand scheme of things, gnats are pretty harmless—fruit flies and fungus gnats don’t bite (though some other varieties do), but they always seem to be hovering in your face or flying around your food. If you’re sick of seeing these little bugs all around your home, here are some tried-and-true methods to get rid of them, as well as ways you can prevent them from coming back.


There’s a reason these little buggers are referred to as pests. Try a few of our easy solutions to banish them from every room of your house—and fast.


Although they can’t really harm you, gnats are certainly annoying. The mere presence of these pesky insects in your house can leave you feeling twitchy and wondering what brought them inside in the first place. Rotting fruit is a common culprit, but it isn’t the only one. Dirty dishes, trash bags with spoiled food, and even damp potting soil can cause gnats to congregate and drive you crazy.


The good news: There are a handful of clever tactics for how to get rid of gnats in your house that require nothing more than ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen cabinets, pantry, and fridge. What follows is a room-by-room breakdown of gnat-removal strategies that will help you fix the problem before it gets worse.


Know Your Gnats

how to get rid of gnats indoors
how to get rid of gnats indoors

There are a few types of small flies and gnats commonly found in homes, and each of them is attracted to different things. If you figure out what kind are plaguing your home, you’ll be able to get rid of them more efficiently.

First of all, there are fruit flies, which are attracted to ripe, rotting, or decayed fruits and vegetables. They also like smelly trash, garbage disposals, and open bottles of alcohol. These little brown bugs can often be found hovering around your fruit bowl, and they’re more common in the summer.

Next up, there’s the fungus gnat, which I have personally battled many times as a houseplant lover. These obnoxious little flies lay their eggs in soil, and they’re quite common for nursery plants, meaning you can easily bring them home without knowing. These gnats are black, and you’ll typically see them hanging out on the soil of your plants or around the rim of planters.

Finally, there are drain flies, and as their name suggests, these bugs live in drains, sewers, and septic tanks—pretty much anywhere you might find stagnant water, as that’s where they lay their eggs. They have larger wings than the other two types of gnats, and their bodies are furry, similar to a moth.

how to get rid of gnats indoors diy

how to get rid of gnats indoors plants


“It’s OK for them to be there in small numbers but it’s not OK when they become unmanageable,” says indoor plant expert Jason Chongu.

The tiny flying adults are mostly just annoying, but it’s the larvae under the soil that do the real damage. Baby larvae feast on fungus, algae and even the roots of your plants.

In small numbers they mostly just stick to the organic stuff in potting mix but in large numbers they can do some serious damage to a plants root system.

“Being consistent with your plant care is the key to managing them,” says Jason.

Read on for his tips on dealing with them.



Overwatering can attract fungus gnats

If you remember nothing else from this article, hang onto this tip: “Let the soil dry out between watering!”

Why? Gnat larvae love warm, wet environments so your overwatered indoor plant is like a little paradise for them.

Letting a finger-length of top soil dry out before you water again will help prevent or slow an infestation.


how to get rid of gnats indoors
how to get rid of gnats indoors

How to tackle a minor infestation


If you already have fungus gnats at home, you’ll need to take a multi-step approach to get rid of them. It’ll involve targeting the flying adults and the larvae under the soil.

“Everyone wants insects to disappear instantly, but it will never be instant,” warns Jason.

“It takes months to get rid of a pest once it’s in your house but with the right treatment it will settle itself over time.”


1. Move the plant

First things first: “Isolate the infected plant.”

“Normally it’s one plant that’s really infested so I always try and separate it out from others by putting it in a sheltered location outside,” Jason says.

It’s best to keep it isolated from other plants, especially pot plants, that you might have outside.


2. Invest in sticky traps or plants

Sticky traps or sticky plants will trap (and kill) flying adults. One adult can lay up to around 200 eggs, so this can slow population growth.

You can pick up sticky traps at hardware stories and nurseries.

Or if a plant takes your fancy, sundews (Drosera sp.) are a type of carnivorous plant who lure small insects like fungus gnats into their sticky leaves.


3. Use neem oil spray


Neem oil is an organic insecticide made from the seeds of neem trees and you can pick up a bottle pretty much anywhere that sells plants.

It’s sold as a concentrate (which needs to be diluted in a spray bottle) or in a pre-diluted spray bottle ready to go.

Jason recommends spraying the soil with diluted neem oil to deal with the larvae.

Soak the top 5-10cm of the soil with your neem oil spray about once a week for at least two months (or for one month after you stop seeing the flying adults). Outside of your neem oil soak, remember to let the soil dry out between watering.

Unlike many other pesticides, it won’t harm your pets or kill beneficial insects like earthworms.


4. Consider creating a soil barrier

Some people have also had success with adding horticultural sand (not the beach stuff) or small pebbles on top of their potting mix. This can prevent female fungus gnats from being able to lay eggs in the soil.

Jason says it’s not his preference because it can make it difficult to see what’s going on in the soil but each to their own!

how to get rid of gnats indoors
how to get rid of gnats indoors

How to Get Rid of Gnats in the House

Gnats reproduce in cycles and their populations can increase quickly, so you may need to use more than one method to get rid of them completely. Try these natural controls before you reach for pesticides or insecticides:

1. Gnat Trap

Gnats are drawn to the color yellow and can be trapped on special yellow cards covered with a sticky adhesive. For best results, use small cards or cut larger ones into small squares. Lay them on the soil in your potted plants or attach them to twigs or skewers stuck into the pots. Once the traps are full, discard them in an outside trash can.

2. Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth

DE, as it’s known, is an organic, abrasive powder you can buy to sprinkle over the dry soil in your plants. It will trap the gnats until they die from dehydration. Don’t apply it when the soil is wet, or it won’t work. To make sure the DE stays dry, you may want to put a layer of sand on top of your potting soil and then apply it, and water your plants from the bottom while using it.

3. Flypaper Ribbons

These sticky ribbons will catch gnats, but place them carefully around your house. They’ll grab onto almost anything, including your curtains, hair and furniture. Don’t use them outdoors, where they’ll trap beneficial creatures.

4. One-Part Water to One-Part Apple Cider Vinegar

Fill a shallow saucer with this solution and mix in a few drops of liquid dishwashing soap. Keep it near your affected plants. The gnats will fall into the liquid and the soap will keep them from escaping. Add fresh vinegar and water as needed until the gnats are gone.
how to get rid of gnats indoors
how to get rid of gnats indoors

5. Drench the Soil in Potted Plants

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a bacterium that occurs naturally in the soil. Bt var. israelensis (Bti) kills the larvae of fungus gnats. Follow the directions on your product to make a Bti drench and use it to saturate the soil in your potted plants. It will coat the plant roots without harming them and kill fungus gnat larvae that try to feed on them. You can find Bti formulated for houseplants and outdoor plants.

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Once the gnats are gone, let your houseplants or outdoor plants dry out slightly between waterings to discourage the adults from returning and laying more eggs. If you see gnats around the drainage holes of your pots, put small pieces of fabric over the holes — but make sure excess water can still drain out.
Also, remember to refrigerate fruits and vegetables, when possible, and throw away decaying or bruised foods in outdoor trash containers.


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