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How to get rid of gnats, according to an entomologist

Keep pests out of your home once and for all with these expert tips.

Bugs are simply not the vibe you want to come home to after a long day. Unfortunately, however, gnats are a common pest for many homeowners and renters alike. (Also, how do they always know when it’s bedtime to start buzzing in circles around your bedroom?) Here, TODAY.com spoke to experts about what causes gnats, how to get rid of them, and how to avoid them in the future so that you can begin to think about them a lot less than you are right now.

What are gnats?

Gnats are tiny flying insects about a half-inch in length. They typically have slender, brown or black bodies and thrive where there’s moisture. They also prefer sand or sandy soil, meaning states like California and Florida can be particularly prone to gnats.

There are three distinct gnat species, each harmless but annoying: Fungus gnats look like little mosquitoes and do not bite. Fruit flies have big, red eyes, and drain flies are lighter in color and hairy. Gnats that bite, like deer flies or biting midges, are usually encountered outdoors and “use their mouthparts to puncture and cut a host’s skin, leaving behind symptoms such as itchiness, irritation, redness or swelling,” Dr. Jim Fredericks, board-certified entomologist and senior vice president of public affairs at the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), says. Again, house pests gnats are unlikely to take it this far.

What causes gnats?

Gnats are generally attracted to moisture, sweet-smelling fruit, garbage and houseplants. So while indoor plants are a great way to liven up your space, they can also be the reason why you’re spotting gnats. They feed on soil fungi that result from overwatering plants, according to Fredricks. Gnats typically come out in the summer, but potted plants in a warm house can be quite cozy for gnats, thus annoying you all year long. Fungus from mold or mildew in your home can also be a contributing factor.

How to get rid of gnats 

Luckily, there are a few options to get rid of gnats for good:

Use apple cider vinegar

To eliminate your bug problem, you sometimes have to bring them right to you. Combine two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, half a cup of warm water, six drops of dishwashing liquid and a tablespoon of sugar into a mixture. The sugar is especially important, as it will lure in the bugs, leaving them trapped in the sticky solution. 

Look for a moisture source

Say your plants are dry and gnat-free — that’s the time to start investigating potential sources of mildew or mold. Look for leaky windows, roofs or other cracks that might be letting extra moisture into your home. Repairing these spots could reduce or completely eliminate your gnat problem, as they will lose their food source.

Use boiling water

Gnats sometimes lay eggs in the sink drain or garbage disposal. Pour boiling water down the drain to kill the eggs before they hatch. 

Contact pest control

A trained professional can come to the rescue if a few flying gnats turn into a full-blown infestation. Pros can assess your individual situation and provide necessary assistance for removal. 

How to prevent gnats 

While getting rid of gnats is important, the best thing to do is stop them from getting into your house in the first place. Here are some ways to prevent gnats once and for all:

Let your plants dry out

No, you don’t need to kill your plants to keep gnats out of your home. But test the soil before you water those leaves again. If the soil is still relatively damp, you might want to allow more time before adding more moisture into that pot, says Fredricks. 

Clear out old food

Just get rid of it — whether it’s moldy fruit on the counter or food that has built up in your garbage disposal. Leftover food will attract gnats and create all kinds of unwanted smells in your kitchen. On the same note, throw out your garbage, and until you do, make sure it stays in a sealed container. The same goes for any compost bins you might have — don’t leave them open throughout the day.

Fix leaks

You don’t want water leaking into your house for many reasons. Importantly, it can create mildew or mold build-up. Regardless of how minor the leak is, if you see one, don’t put off fixing it, says Fredricks. Being proactive about repairing leaky windows and roofs can prevent gnats from entering your home in the first place.