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What Repels Flies? Natural & Clever Ways To Repel Flies

A house fly sitting on the edge of a red fly swatter.

Fly infestations can be difficult to manage. There are many natural ways to repel flies to prevent an infestation from forming to begin with.

What repels flies? Flies are repelled by many plants including peppermint, pine, lavender, rosemary, thyme, and citronella. Natural repellent sprays can be made with a variety of essential oils. Flies are also repelled by yellow light bulbs and light reflecting off of bags filled with water.

There are several ways you can repel flies in and outside of the home. Let’s take a look at ingredients they hate along with DIY remedies you can make with those ingredients. 

Natural Fly Repellents

There are certain odors that flies seem to despise. Lucky for us, the earth is filled with plants and foods that flies can’t stand. Use these to your advantage to keep flies at bay without having to use harmful chemicals.

Note that while the following scents repel flies, if you already have a serious problem, more drastic measures may be required. If this is the case, be sure to read our article “How to Get Rid of Flies.” You’ll also find our guide to purchasing the best fly traps to be extremely helpful.


  • Peppermint and many other mints, like spearmint, can deter flies. In a study published by Nature in 2016, researchers determined that peppermint oil repelled flies most effectively amongst 12 tested essential oils, proving effective even 6 days after application. 
  • This result is great for residents: either peppermint-based products or the plants themselves can be used as a fly deterrent. And for humans, the plants have a nice scent that you can smell when walking by, so it’s a great plant to put on your porch!


  • Pine is a common scent around the holidays in the United States and is a great way to get rid of flies. The pungent oil will send flies far away but it will give your home a wonderful woodsy scent.
  • This study from Environmental Entomology demonstrated that pine oil had a significant repelling effect on house flies.


  • Lavender repels flies whether it’s dried, in oil form, or planted by the door.
  • There is a unique finding hidden in this Nature study, however: while lavender essential oil was highly effective at repelling flies 1 hour and 6 hours after introduction, its effectiveness waned by the 24 hour mark. It still demonstrated a strongly significant difference as compared to having no lavender oil.
  • With this finding in mind, it is likely best to use lavender in forms that remain pungent for the duration of their use. For example: growing the plant (so the scent never dissipates) or relying on an actively burning candle with the scent. Don’t expect particularly old, dried forms of lavender to remain effective. 


  • Rosemary has a strong scent that will keep flies away, as evidenced by this 2020 study of a rosemary essential oil extract in Poland. An additional study from Pest Management Sciences showed that rosemary oils have a negative impact on mosquito reproductive cycles, so this plant can do double-duty for your home!
  • This nature study noted that the effectiveness of the essential oil for repelling adults (not larvae) wore off in about 24 hours.  This suggests that oil-based solutions are likely to only have a short-term impact. For best impact:
    • Plant rosemary by your doors or wherever you typically find flies. Rosemary lasts all year long in places that don’t receive hard freezes and some varietals grow to be bush-sized.
    • Use candles with this scent to repel flies during the time the candle is burning.


  • The oil in citronella grass can repel mosquitoes and house flies. The plant itself won’t repel them, but you can crush the leaves and rub them on your skin or use an essential oil mixture.
  • This study from Nature demonstrated that Citronella had a significant effect on repelling flies! And like rosemary above, Pest Management Sciences demonstrated that citronellal (the key distillate in citronella essential oils) inhibits mosquito reproductive cycles.


  • Thyme’s effectiveness as a mosquito repellent seems to grow as time passes! The Nature study showed that it didn’t have a very strong repelling effect in the first hour it was applied in essential oil form. However, from hour 6 onwards, it was a highly effective repellent.
  • This finding suggests that grown, live plants should be good for keeping flies away, and even dried or essential oil versions should be effective. That said, generating the scent through a candle may not have a fast impact – you’d need a slow-burning candle generating the scent for some time before you’d see an impact.


  • Flies can’t stand the scent of basil. Planting them in pots by doors, windows, the kitchen, and other areas you usually find flies can be a great way to keep flies out. 
  • Basil plants are great to keep in the kitchen because they’re a cut-and-grow type of plant – cut off what you need, and it will grow some more.


  • Flies can’t stand the scent of cinnamon. Sprinkle it around the room to keep them out.
  • The cinnamon will act as an air freshener, so it’s a pleasant way to keep flies out. If you choose to use this method, be mindful of guests who might be allergic to cinnamon.

Citrus Peels

  • House flies and mosquitoes steer clear of citrus peels because of the scent.
  • Zest, juice, peels, and oils from oranges, lemons, limes, and all other citruses are useful for repelling.
  • You can sprinkle zest around the garden, leave peels on the table, or rub peels on your skin.
  • Be careful about this method because it can be counterproductive – fruit flies are attracted to rotting fruit, and the peels will definitely draw them into your home.
  • If you choose to use orange peels, don’t leave them out for longer than a day, and be sure to throw them out in an outdoor garbage can away from your home.


  • Cloves are a potent spice that you’ve probably tasted around the holidays in eggnog and gingerbread houses.
  • Cloves are also used in many Indian dishes. They’re almost spicy, and the scent is quite strong.
  • Many people don’t like the smell of cloves, and flies certainly don’t like it.
  • Leave dried cloves out to repel them or sprinkle a powdered version of it around. You’ll most likely ward off people, too, since the scent is powerful.

Coconut Oil

  • The fatty acids in coconut oil have been proven to be more effective than DEET when it comes to repelling flies and mosquitoes.
  • DEET is the controversial chemical found in many bug sprays; people argue against this chemical because of its harm to people and the environment.
  • It isn’t the coconut that’s effective, but the fatty acids inside the oil. Apply the oil to your skin or use it to make a repellent, and flies and mosquitoes should leave you alone.

Essential Oils

  • Many essential oils are effective at repelling flies because of their potent aromas. Some are more effective than others.
  • Catnip essential oil has been proven to be highly effective at keeping them away, but it might cause skin irritation for some people.
  • Other essential oils you can use include:

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE)

  • According to the CDC, peer-reviewed literature shows that OLE typically provides reasonably long-lasting protection. Apply it to your skin, and they’ll leave you alone for up to six hours.
  • PMD, the synthesized version of OLE (chemical name: para-menthane-3,8-diol) is an equivalent substitute per the Environmental Protection Agency’s measures.
  • Keep in mind that OLE is not the same as lemon oil eucalyptus.

Witch Hazel

  • Witch hazel is another scent that flies don’t like. You can mix witch hazel with eucalyptus oil or other oils and spray the mixture to keep them away. 

Other Fly Repellents

Boiled Malt Vinegar

When malt vinegar is boiled, the smell travels through the air and will keep flies away because they don’t like the smell.


Flies are sensitive to the smell of smoke. Whether it comes from the grill or a citronella candle, they won’t want to be around it.

Yellow Light Bulbs

Yellow light bulbs are reported to keep flies away. Flies are attracted to light, but if you use a yellow light bulb, you’re less likely to attract them.

How to Use These Repellents to Keep Flies Away

These DIY methods are easy and budget-friendly ways of keeping flies away from the home.

Of course, knowing where the flies like to congregate and where they attempt entrance to your home will help you use the following ideas more strategically. Find out more here.

Bag of Water

This isn’t the most effective way to keep away flies, but it might work.

Hang a bag of water in a sunny area. The light will reflect and will make it difficult for flies to see out of their many eyes, making them not want to fly in the area.

Citronella Smoke

Citronella candles are effective against mosquitoes and house flies. Neither likes the smell and will stay away from the area.

You can also burn a piece of camphor, which will have the same effect. If you’re at a cookout, the smoke from the grill should be effective, too. 

(This trick will also help keep pesky fruit flies away from your fruit salad at your next family cookout.)

Cloves and Lemon

Cloves and citrus are hated by flies, so use them both together to be sure to keep them away.

Cut a lemon in half and stick dried cloves into the lemon. You can place it in the center of the table or counter as a decorative way to keep flies out.

Remember that fruit flies are attracted to rotting fruit, so be sure to dispose of the lemon as soon as you’re finished with it.

DIY Mosquito Repellent

You can make DIY repellent with a variety of ingredients. There’s not really a wrong way to do it, so long as you choose ingredients that will repel flies. It’s a cost-effective way to keep flies and mosquitoes off of you, and best of all, you don’t have to worry about harmful chemicals.

To make a repellent, choose a base ingredient and as many additives as you’d like. Ideally, you should choose ingredients that are pleasing to you since you’ll be the one constantly smelling it. Make the mixture in a spray bottle so you can easily spray it where you need it.

Repellents can be sprayed on your skin, clothing, door and window frames, or on the ground near where you’re sitting. Be sure you and others aren’t allergic to any of the ingredients you use.

Base ingredients:

  • Vodka.
  • Water.
  • Apple cider vinegar.
  • Witch hazel water.


  • Essential oils.
  • Citrus juice.
  • Citrus zest.
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE).
  • Coconut oil.
  • Eucalyptus oil.

Dried Herbs

If herbs repel flies while they’re growing, they’ll be able to do so when they’re dried as well.

Take cheesecloth or a sachet bag, and fill it with dried fly repelling herbs like lavender, mint, basil, or cloves.

Use more than one for extra potency. Hang it up wherever you need to repel flies.

Diatomaceous Earth

  • Diatomaceous earth is more of a pest control method than a repellent, but it’s still worth mentioning. This stuff is notorious for killing bugs of all kinds. It’s a natural product made from fossilized remains that are found in the ocean. It contains silicon dioxide and comes in dust form.
  • The dust dries out flies and other bugs that walk on it, and its sharp edges cut open the fly’s exoskeleton. It’s harmless for humans, but it’s a death sentence for flies and many other bugs.
  • However, to be effective, diatomaceous earth must remain dry, and flies would need to be attracted to the dust collection to walk on it. This would require trap-building, which is why it’s more of a control device than a repellent on its own.

Final Thoughts

You don’t have to rely on harmful chemicals to keep flies away.

There are many natural ways and DIY methods to repel flies that don’t cost a fortune and won’t have any negative effects on your health or the environment.

Be sure to read all of our other tips, tricks, and recommendations for dealing with flies.


Does Citronella Repel Flies?

Yes! A study from Nature demonstrated that citronella had a significant effect on repelling flies!