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.

What smell do flies hate? Flies generally hate pungent smells that we associate with cleaning. Peppermint, lavender, and citrus will surely make flies leave the room and will prevent them from coming back. Other smells include basil, catnip, cayenne pepper, rosemary, pine, and lemongrass.

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 Herbs Flies Hate

There are certain scents and light sources that flies find offensive and will naturally avoid. Those are thoroughly discussed in our article “What Repels Flies?

Here, though, we’ll focus on just the plants and herbs that tend to drive flies away.

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


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. It’s native to several Asian countries and has been used 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.

It’s more effective when used in a large area compared to when it’s rubbed 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.


Cinnamon is another great way to keep flies out.

Light a cinnamon-scented candle, leave a few cinnamon sticks out, or sprinkle the powder around to fill the room with the aroma.


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. 


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.

Fruit flies are attracted to peels once they begin to rot, so be careful not to leave them out for too long.


Cloves are the flower buds from a tree that is native to Indonesia. They’re used in cooking and are super aromatic.

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. 


The lavender plant’s scent repels flies. Whether it’s dried, in oil form, or planted by the door, it will repel most flies. 


Lemongrass is frequently confused with citronella grass, but they are indeed two different plants.

Lemongrass is used in cooking and in teas. The scent often repels house flies and will help deter annoying fruit flies as well.


Peppermint and many other mints, like spearmint, can deter flies. 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.


Rosemary has a strong scent that will keep flies away. Plant it by your doors or wherever you typically find flies.

Rosemary will last all year long in places that don’t receive hard freezes.

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 used to be buried 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. The following areas are highly recommended for the 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 can be just as pungent as fresh herbs, sometimes even more so. Cloves are super strong and will deter most flies.

You can leave dried herbs in a sachet or a decorative jar so it can function as both a decoration and a pest repellent.

You can also bundle dried leaves from a plant and hang it in a corner of the room or near a door.

Powdered plants like cinnamon or cayenne pepper can be added to water and sprayed around the room, or you can 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

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. 

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.

Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on reddit
Share on email