Fight & Control Pesky Houseflies With These Helpful Tips

From the first day of warm weather, every homemaker takes up arms against this most persistent form of pest life. Since houseflies do not bite, many people merely worry about them from the point of annoyance.

What’s important to remember though is that they aren’t just bothersome…they’re also highly effective disease carriers.

These insects breed in and feed on rotting animal or vegetable matter, garbage and in both human and animal excreta–all of which are swarming in germs and bacteria. Some of these germs they transport on their hairy legs. Others are nurtured in their digestive tract and are transmitted via its own excrement or discharges through the mouth. Read this article from the BBC about how filthy they really are.

For the sake of cleanliness and health, these nuisances need to be sent packing asap!

Here’s a tip sheet I’ve put together with some helpful advice and ideas for ways to combat them. For the occasional nuisance, a flyswatter or a rolled up newspaper will get the job done just-like-that ;).

If you’re looking for help controlling a larger population, you’ll find some effective DIY solutions here. Good luck!

Prevention Of Breeding

Sanitary disposal of garbage is essential. Use a covered can always, preferably one lined with newspaper to facilitate removal.

Wash out empty beer, gingerale and soda bottles, don’t leave dirty glasses or dishes laying about.

Never leave food uncovered, especially meat, fruit, sweets or preserves of any kind.

Follow the Cleanup & Prevention tips outlined in How To Get Rid Of Fruit Flies to make your home as uninviting as possible to these pesky critters.

Repelling & Killing Them Outdoors

Even when everything possible has been done to eliminate breeding places, flies in the home may still be a problem. Here are some tips to repel them and keep them from finding their way inside:

Screens: Screen all windows and doors. Make sure they fit tightly and mend any tears at once. You can patch them with small squares of similar screening or even paste tape over the hole if you’re in a pinch. Never ignore the gaps, as they are canny about finding openings.

Bags Of Water: Hanging clear plastic bags of water near entrances of the dwelling is said to scare them off. Why it works: the liquid acts as a lens and reflects movement and lights. This makes them nervous so when they see something moving nearby, they’ll scram. Source: Lifehacker.

Shiny CDs: Hanging these up too will work just like the bags trick above.

Cotton Balls: Attaching a cotton ball to the middle of an entrance is an old-timer’s method of control. It was believed that the flies are convinced the balls are moths or some predator so they won’t go near the area. Attach the cotton to the screen with a few quick stitches from a needle and thread, then once secured, pull out the cotton to make it big and fluffy. Another option is to hang them over doors and windows.

Cayenne/Hot Pepper Spray: A few ways to make this, combine 1 oz of hot sauce with 12 oz of water. Another option: 1/2 tsp Ground Cayenne per 12 oz water plus a couple drops of liquid dish detergent. Shake well before using and spray around entrances and doors. You can also just sprinkle a generous amount of powdered cayenne around the hot spots.

Garden Plants That Repel Them: Lavender, Basil, Mint, Marigolds.

Getting Rid Of Them Inside

If houseflies have gained entrance into the dwelling, here are some ways to deter them:

Cloves: Pack a halved apple, orange, lime or lemon with a bunch of whole cloves and leave this out in rooms where they seem to gather, they don’t like cloves this will repel them. You could also make an “air freshener” spray with vodka and several drops of clove oil.

Pennies: Place about a half dozen pennies in a clear drinking glass or jar then top with water. For some reason, they don’t like this! Either the copper irritates them or they think the pennies are a predator of some sort (which are magnified by the liquid/glass). Good trick for setting out on picnic tables and around food.

Cinnamon Swipes: Dab cinnamon essential oil around the hot spots in your kitchen, they don’t it.

Flypaper: Can be effective to a certain extent, the idea is to hang strips of sticky paper in areas of the house that will attract the critters so they get stuck on the strips and die (see recipe below for making your own).

Traps: Bait a glass jar with 1 part blackstrap molasses to 3 parts water, fruit or leftover milk. Cover the jar with a lid and poke three holes in it with a nail. They will be able to get into the jar to reach the bait but won’t be able to escape. Here’s a more sophisticated project for making a homemade trap: Instructables.

The common housefly is the most prevalent type found in domestic environments. Other species may be encountered but control measures are much the same for all.

Source: Adapted From Woman’s Home Companion Household Book (1948)

DIY Fly Paper Recipe
*First published July 19, 2007 and moved to this page for better organization

Items Needed:

1/4 cup maple syrup
1 TBS Brown Sugar
1 TBS White Sugar


  • Combine well then dip strips of brown paper into the mixture. Coat the strips generously and lay them on plastic overnight to set and dry a bit.
  • The next day poke a hole in the strip about an inch from the edge and loop a piece of string or twist tie through it. Hang.

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    • Darla

    Can you tell me how to get rid of those little moth looking things that get in pasta, cereal, etc, in the cabinets? Thanks

      • Melissa in Illinois

      I think you’re talking about wheat moths. I’ve had very good success with bay leaves. I’ll store about a 1/2 cup of bay leaves inside a plastic container with a lid with whatever food I’m wanting to keep the wheat weevils out of. You could also store your rice,pasta,flour, etc. in the freezer until you’re sure the pests are gone. Tipnut has a list of natural berbal pest remedies. Good luck!

    • andrew coper

    place in freezer it will kill the eggs

    • Judie

    Oh, pantry moths? I hate those things. Had an infestation last year and had to throw away almost every box of cereal, pasta, grits, etc. After you throw away everything that is infested, clean out the pantry very well including in all the corners. There is some sort of trap that hardware stores sell, I can’t remember what it was called. I was going to buy it, but ended up just buying insecticide and spraying the inside of the pantry sparingly, just corners and edges. Make sure to let it dry. Then store anything that they are attracted to inside of ziplock bags or else screw top lids.

    • ann

    I have tried 2 methods. Parper bag and pop bottle. The wasp are not going into the pop bottle. The wasp are still flying around. The pop bottle is been sitting there for 20 minutes non have entered.

    • Dawn

    We have a lot of pigeons in our roof, and they are soo messy.

    Droppings on the steps to the laundry everyday! We have to clean all the time.

    Anyone know what we can do about this how do we get rid of them is there something we can put on the steps which will scare them away! Or some smell they do not like.


    Much appriciated!

      • charles

      put a rubber snake on the roof the bigger the better

      • Heather

      They hate the smell of WD40 spray where they like to perch and they won’t perch there anymore.

    • olive

    I noticed quite by accident that if you left an empty, unrinsed wine bottle on the counter that fruit flies are attracted to the fruity smell and they go inside and are too dumb to come out. They fly up and down but can’t seem to find the entrance. I don’t know if it matters what kind of wine was in the bottle, but in those cases, it was white wine.

    • Bob

    Flies- To keep flies away. Hang a clear bag of WATER with PENNIES in the bag. Hang were the sun will hit it at some point of the day. It works like magic, overnight.

    • Tori

    We have bad cluster flies in our yard. The bottles work but it also seems to attract more flies to the area when the stuck/dead ones decay. I read on another site that flies don’t like the smell of pine. I’m not sure if this is true or not but I put some pine-scented car fresheners on my patio umbrella and wasn’t bothered by any flies at all this evening.

    As for meal moths, I had those a few years ago. I threw out all infested food and thoroughly cleaned my cabinets with bleach diluted in water. From then on, whenever we buy grains such as pasta, cornmeal, flour, oats etc. we put it in the freezer for 24 – 48 hours if we buy in bulk and know we won’t use the food right away. This kills any eggs that may be in the food at the time it’s processed. All open food is stored in ziplock style bags or air tight jars and containers so any stray critters that might get inside can’t find food to eat or lay new eggs in it.

      • Cris

      Pine Does Work! I will a empty sports water bottle with pine sol and hot water. I squeeze it out on the paved area of my backyard and by the windows. The smell dissapates quickly. Flies will dissapear for the duration of your BBQ and sometimes a few days. I just reapply as needed.

    • Sandie

    We’ve just had 2 bad piles of cluster flies in our hallway (ground floor). All the websites I can find seem to recommend professional help to get rid of them from your loft area by smoking them! But I can’t do that in a hallway. I can’t find how they’re getting in. Does anyone know how I can eradicate them?

      • Jo

      It’s possible the seals around your hallway door and/or window may not be tight enough. They come in to hibernate and aren’t the germ carrying sort, but they do leave a pheremone so that other cluster flies will also come in. The best thing to do is to scrub down all of the window and door surfaces, edges, seals (i.e. the rubber strips) to get rid of their pheromones and leave to dry. When you’ve done that, paint the seals, door edges – but not the indoor surfaces – with protector C. I put just one coat onto the window edges, the outside window ledge 3 years ago, and it is still working even though it’s been rained on and the window cleaner has washed the window and ledge on average every six weeks over the three year period. You can get Protector C from pest control on line. You will also find it keeps away, destroys, just about every other insect that tries to get in too. You will find fly corpses on your exterior ledges! They just need brushing off.

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