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. That’s why you should try to prevent them so they aren’t able to become a problem.

There are many natural ways to repel flies, and many of those ways involve plants.

What repels flies? Flies are repelled by many plants including basil, cinnamon, lavender, mint, and lemongrass. 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 do help to 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.


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.

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.

How long do those annoying pest live anyway? Find out here.

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:

  • Eucalyptus.
  • Lavender.
  • Lemongrass.
  • Peppermint.


If the essential oil is effective, then the plant is, too. Plant lavender in pots near your door or in the garden to keep flies away.

It smells lovely to people, but it’s offensive to flies.


Mint is another herb that flies can’t stand. Just like basil, you can plant mint in the kitchen to have on hand as a repellent and as an ingredient.

Mint can add a nice flavor to many beverages and meals. 

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE)

OLE isn’t the same as lemon oil eucalyptus. OLE is certified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as effective against mosquitoes.

Apply it to your skin, and they’ll leave you alone for up to six hours.

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 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 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 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 herbs like lavender, mint, basil, or cloves.

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

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.

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