How to Get Rid of Pesky Fruit Flies for Good, According to Exterminators

published Aug 28, 2023
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Credit: Erin Derby

We’ve all been there before. You’re in the kitchen chopping up fruit or veggies for a quick snack, when suddenly, you see a tiiiiiny dot buzzing about. Then, you see another… and another… and another. It’s official, the fruit flies are out to play. Before you know it, you’re groaning and researching how to get rid of fruit flies, snack abandoned in irritation. Maybe that’s how you got here, actually.

But how do you go about getting rid of these microscopic pests, anyways? There seem to be so many of them, after all. We asked experts for advice on how to get rid of fruit flies, and it turns out, removing these unwanted guests isn’t as difficult as it sounds. In fact, you might already have the necessary items to create the ultimate fruit fly trap within arm’s reach. But before we get into that, let’s get a little more background on fruit flies and why they seem to adore kitchen spaces. 

What Are Fruit Flies? 

Fruit flies are miniscule winged insects that love (and we mean love) fermented stuff. We’re talking beer, wine, vinegar, liquor, and, you guessed it, rotten fruits and veggies. What attracts them to the more sour things in life? According to the University of Washington, fruit flies can’t get enough of the aroma of fermentation, as it’s the same stench that leads them to food in nature. A delicacy for them, but often a nuisance for us. 

How Do Fruit Flies Get in the Kitchen? 

Marla Mock, president of cleaning company Molly Maid, says fruit flies can make their way into the kitchen in several ways, including: 

  • Through open windows and doors
  • Via produce you bring home from the store 
  • From half-empty juice boxes or beer cans 
  • Through your garbage disposal 

Yep — you read that last one right. Your handy garbage disposal could be a fruit fly haven, along with a dirty drain, mop bucket, or trash can. And if fruit flies find solace in your home, they could become a real problem, and quickly. Ben Hottel, an entomologist and the technical services manager for Orkin, told us that female fruit flies can lay close to 500 eggs, and those eggs can spur life within a day or so of being laid. From there, they can turn into full-fledged fruit flies within two weeks. If they aren’t taken care of, the cycle repeats, and your kitchen can become a fruit fly fest before you know it. 

How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies 

I’ve never met anyone who likes to see these tiny bugs buzzing around their kitchen. If you find yourself with the starts of an infestation and are looking to evict these red-eyed pests from your space once and for all, here are some methods to try ASAP: 

Method 1: Clean Your Sink 

One of the first methods to try for getting rid of fruit flies is to clean your sink to rid the area of eggs and larvae. You’d be surprised what a good, thorough cleaning can do — especially if you scrub every nook and cranny. Use your favorite sink cleaner, or if you want to go the more natural route, opt for baking soda and dish soap. 

One spot Mock says to make sure not to skip is the sink baffle, a.k.a. the rubbery black accessory that stops food and water from splashing up when the garbage disposal is busy disposing. “This often-neglected area is a haven for fruit flies, so clean it regularly,” she advises. To do this, throw on some rubber gloves, spray a paper towel with disinfecting spray, and thoroughly wipe both sides of the baffle. 

Method 2: Pour Vinegar Down the Drain

Fruit flies can breed in dirty drains — luckily, you can thwart their reproduction efforts by breaking down their humble (and gross) abode. Hottel says to pour white vinegar down your drain if you suspect some leftover scraps are lingering. It will help dissolve food debris naturally and can accelerate the breakdown of any fermented food lodged in that space, eliminating a fruit fly’s nutrient source. 

Method 3: Use an Enzyme Product to Clear Out the Drain

If a vinegar rinse or two doesn’t do the job, you may need a stronger solution for your drain. Shannon Harlow-Ellis, an entomologist and technical specialist at Mosquito Joe, recommends treating drains with an enzyme product to break down rotten food that may be lingering deeper than you can see. “This will destroy the eggs, larvae and reduce the food source,” she explains. 

Method 4: Make an Apple Cider Vinegar Trap 

This smart method Mock provides uses a fruit fly’s weakness against them: the delicious scent of fermentation. You’ll need some apple cider vinegar, plastic wrap, a fork, and a glass jar. Here’s what to do: 

  • Step 1: Add about an inch of apple cider vinegar to the bottom of a glass jar.
  • Step 2: Heat the jar in the microwave for 45 seconds.
  • Step 3: Cover the top of the jar with plastic wrap.
  • Step 4: Use the fork to poke a few small holes in the plastic wrap. 
  • Step 5: Place the mixture near a fruit fly hotspot.

Fruit flies will be drawn to the apple cider vinegar, but the plastic wrap will make it difficult for them to escape. The Kitchn editors also put the most common DIY fruit fly traps to the test and found that a very similar method was the clear winner.

Method 5: Create a Vinegar Trap 

Out of apple cider vinegar? No problem — you can use regular white vinegar to get rid of fruit flies, too. Grab a glass jar, vinegar, a piece of paper, and two chunks of ripe banana. Here’s what to do: 

  • Step 1: Pour some vinegar into the glass jar (enough to cover the bottom) 
  • Step 2: Place the chunks of ripe banana in the jar 
  • Step 3: Roll the piece of paper into a cone shape 
  • Step 4: Place the cone-shaped paper, narrow-side down, into the jar

The narrow end of the cone-shaped paper will lead fruit flies in, but the expanded end will trap them in the jar. Two quick tips for this method before you try it: 

  • If you don’t have ripe bananas, substitute it for any piece of ripe or nearly-rotten fruit you have. 
  • If you find the paper isn’t sealing the fruit flies’ fates, try using a lid with some small holes poked in it instead. Pop the lid on the jar, then use a hammer and a nail to poke holes in it. 

Method 6: Set Up a Wine Trap 

Wine lovers, this method’s for you. If you’re hoping to get rid of fruit flies, look no further than the wine rack. For this method, all you need is an open bottle of wine with a bit of wine in it and some dishwashing liquid. Here’s how to execute: 

  • Step 1: Leave about an inch or two of wine at the bottom of a bottle 
  • Step 2: Add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to the wine 
  • Step 3: Leave it out on your counter

That’s it! The fruit flies will be attracted to the wine, but the dish soap will bog them down. You can also do this with beer; just leave a beer bottle out with a swig or two of ale left in it and drop in some dish soap. 

Method 7: Use Herbs as Repellents 

We’ve established that fruit flies dig the fermented scent, but they really hate the aroma of certain herbs and plants, including basil, lavender, peppermint, and clove. If you have a fruit fly problem in the kitchen, try placing them around hot spots to shoo these bugs away. 

Method 8: Blow Them Away

Sometimes, you just need to let fruit flies know you’re not messing around. One way to do this? Blow them away — with a fan. Mock says you can use a portable fan to blow air around and disrupt the fruit flies’ paths, making it difficult for them to fly about and get to their rotten goods. 

How Can You Prevent Fruit Flies? 

Now that you’ve learned how to get rid of fruit flies, you may be curious about how to prevent them from coming back. Here are some tips for preventing these winged irritants from taking refuge in your home. 

1. Wash Your Produce 

Mock says washing fruits and veggies can help prevent fruit flies from entering your space. She says to wash them in warm water, then blot with them with a paper towel and leave them to dry in a clean area. Produce with tougher skin, like apples and melons, can be gently scrubbed with a vegetable brush. 

2. Throw Out Rotten Produce 

One of the most important things to do to prevent fruit flies is to ditch your rotten fruit and veggies. This fermented food is gold to fruit flies, so by getting rid of it, you’re removing the essential thing they need to survive (and thrive). “The fermenting fruit is what they are looking for to lay their eggs,” Hottel explains. “[Throwing out rotten produce] will stop the breeding, but would not get the adults, since the adults can live for a week or so.” 

3. Take Out Your Garbage Regularly  

Okay, so you threw out your rotten produce — yay! But don’t forget, it’s now in your garbage, and fruit flies can still find their way into trash cans. That’s why it’s important to take your garbage out regularly, especially if you toss out produce scraps frequently. Hottel says you shouldn’t let your trash sit for more than a week. 

4. Clean Your Garbage Disposal 

Garbage disposals are convenient tools for breaking food down, but they can also collect rotten scraps. If food is fermenting in your garbage disposal, it’ll attract fruit flies. Clean your garbage disposal regularly and clear it of rotting food to help prevent a fruit fly infestation; this will also help eliminate any funky odors coming from the disposal

5. Place Produce in a Clean Container 

Sometimes the key to preventing fruit flies is simply eliminating their access to produce. Mock recommends putting your fruits and veggies in clean bowls with lids to protect them from a dreaded fruit fly fate. You could also put produce in the refrigerator instead of on the counter to limit its exposure.  

6. Keep Your Kitchen Counters Clean

Spills and splatter happen in the kitchen. However, if they aren’t taken care of, it can turn into sticky, sweet residue that fruit flies can’t resist. Mock says to use disinfecting cleaning spray on countertops, tables, sinks, and floors to get rid of any buildup. She also says to make sure these areas are free of crumbs and food scraps nightly. 

7. Take Care of Beer Cans and Wine Bottles

If you leave beer cans out on the table, or leave an open bottle of wine on the counter with the last sip sinking to the bottom, get into the habit of taking care of them. As you now know, fruit flies dig beer and wine, so leaving these containers out could attract them to your kitchen. Before heading to bed, rinse out beer cans or wine bottles with water and properly recycle them. There’s no doubt that fruit flies are incredibly annoying creatures, and quite frankly, no one has time for their nonsense. If you find yourself at the mercy of these small bugs, don’t panic. Instead, follow the methods above to get rid of them and make your kitchen pest-free. If all else fails, contact a pest control expert for extra guidance. One way or another, you’ll say farewell to those irksome insects!