Home » Fly Removal Tips & Tricks » What Smells Do Flies Hate? Natural Scents To Keep Flies Out!

What Smells Do Flies Hate? Natural Scents To Keep Flies Out!

Close up view of a house fly with a yellow background.

You don’t have to rely on chemicals and traps to get rid of flies that are plaguing your home. Even though flies love garbage, they’re quite picky, and certain smells will make them stay out of the room.

So what smells do flies hate? Let’s take a look at how to get rid of flies with the power of plants along with methods you can use to distribute the scents.

Plants and Herb Smells Flies Hate – Top Recommendations

There are many non-natural scents and light sources that flies find offensive and will naturally avoid. We discuss those thoroughly in our article “What Repels Flies?“.

Here, though, we focus on just the plant and herb smells flies hate.

If you are suffering through a major infestation, head on over to our complete fly elimination guide and check out our most highly recommended fly traps.


  • 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.

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.



  • Evidence shows that cinnamon oil has a fly repelling effect. Beyond that, when applied directly to house flies at 10% concentration, it killed 100% of flies!
  • Given the repellent effect of the scent, natural cinnamon is another great way to keep flies out and your home smelling great. Light a cinnamon-scented candle, leave a few cinnamon sticks out, or sprinkle the powder around to fill the room with the aroma.

Plants and Herb Smells Flies Hate – Additional Options

These options don’t have peer-reviewed evidence (that we can find!) supporting their use, but we’ve seen reports from users and web commenters that they felt these plants and herbs helped repel flies.


  • Basil is an herb that’s frequently used in cooking. Sweet basil is a variety that flies seem to hate the most, so you should grow it in your kitchen window if you have a fly problem and love to cook.

Bay Leaf

  • The bay leaf, or bay laurel, adds a lovely flavor to soups and other dishes, but the scent will drive most flies away.
  • The scent it gives off isn’t very strong, so it may not always be effective. This herb will also ward off roaches, moths, and mice.


  • Camphor comes from an evergreen tree called a camphor laurel, native to several Asian countries. Humans have used it for insecticidal and medicinal purposes for centuries.
  • The wood can be burned to produce smoke to make flies go away, much like a citronella candle.


  • Catnip has been found to be almost as effective as DEET when it comes to repelling mosquitoes. For best results, use it in a large area instead of rubbing it on the skin.

Cayenne Pepper

  • Cayenne pepper is a spicy way to keep flies and other insects out of your home. You can use the ground peppers to make a repellent, but be careful to keep it out of your eyes.


  • The peels of citrus fruits are appealing to humans, but not to house flies. You can leave the peels out to repel flies or use citrus-scented cleaning products or candles.
  • Peels attract fruit flies once they begin to rot, so be careful not to leave them out for too long.


  • Cloves are super aromatic flower buds from a tree that is native to Indonesia, often used in cooking. Many people don’t like the smell or flavor of them because they’re so strong. The scent also deters flies.
  • If you don’t mind the smell, you can leave dried cloves out to keep insects out of the room.


  • Eucalyptus is often used in oil form to repel flies. You can make your own natural repellent with it or use the scent to repel them.

Sweet Woodruff

  • Sweet woodruff, or wild baby’s breath, is a flowering plant that’s frequently used in German dishes, jellies, and teas. If you plant it outdoors, it will keep flies away.
  • If you live in an area with deer, this might help deter them as well because they don’t like to eat this plant.


  • Tansy has a long history of repelling insects. People buried relatives with it to keep insects away from their remains.
  • In the colonial period in America, tansy was often worn in shoes to prevent malaria and meat would be rubbed with the plant for preservation purposes.

Where to Place the Plants

Place the plants in the list above wherever you have a fly problem. We recommend the following areas for best results:

  • Doors and Windows: Flies can make their way into your home when you open doors and windows, even if it’s just for a second. If you plant fly repellents near these openings, you’re less likely to find them coming inside this way.
  • In the Garden: The garden or patio is an ideal place to plant these plants if you spend a lot of time outdoors. It’s difficult to have a cookout or enjoy the sunset when flies are buzzing around your yard. Plant a variety of these plants all over for the best results.
  • In the Kitchen: The kitchen is a common place for flies to hang around since there’s an abundance of food scraps.
    • Keep herbs in a bright window or in a hanging pot in a sunny corner of the room.
    • Keeping a pot of fresh herbs or a dish of dried herbs near the stove is a good way to keep flies out of your cooking. 

Flies can live quite a while (find out exactly how long here) when conditions are ideal and food is abundant, like in your kitchen. It’s much easier to repel them than to deal with a big problem later.

How to Put Herbs to Use

The listed plants can usually be used in three ways: as essential oils, dried, or as potted plants. Use whichever method works best for you.

Essential Oils

  • Lavender, eucalyptus, and catnip essential oils are great ways to keep flies off.
  • You can apply them directly to your skin or clothing as a homemade bug spray, or you can add them to water in a spray bottle to spray around the room.


Dried herbs and spices can be just as pungent as fresh herbs, sometimes even more so (like with cloves!). Here are some examples of how to use dried herbs and spices as repellents in the home:

  • Leave dried herbs in a sachet or a decorative jar so it can function as both a decoration and a pest repellent.
  • Bundle dried leaves from a plant and hang it in a corner of the room or near a door.
  • Added powdered plants like cinnamon or cayenne pepper to water and spray around the room, or sprinkle the powder lightly throughout the room.

Make sure nobody is allergic to the plants you’re using if you choose to use this method. Those who are allergic to cinnamon can sometimes have allergic reactions just by smelling it.

Potted Plants

Potted plants are the most attractive way to keep flies at bay. Many of the plants listed grow well in pots.

Potted plants are versatile – you can move them around as needed and fit them into corners. They’re perfect for patios, porches, and sunny rooms. Potted plants typically need to be watered each week or every day, depending on the plant. Make sure you have easy access to water when you choose the destination for your potted fly repellent.

Be mindful of the places that flies are likely to enter your house (read this if you’re not sure) and try to place the plants accordingly for best results. Many plants will die in the winter if your area receives a hard freeze. You can bring your plants inside or harvest the herbs before they die.

Once you harvest them, you can dry them out and employ some of the suggested uses of dried herbs. Potted plants are a handy two-in-one method.

Final Thoughts – What Smells Do Flies Hate?

There are many natural smells that flies hate but humans love. Surround your home with these plants for a beautiful way to keep flies out of your home. 

Flies generally hate pungent smells that we associate with cleaning. Peppermint, pine, rosemary, and citronella will surely keep flies away from a room and will prevent them from coming back. Other scents that may repel flies include basil, catnip, lavender, cayenne pepper, and lemongrass.

If you are fed up with flies and are ready to go on an all-out attack against them, don’t miss our entire series of articles dealing specifically with flies.