There are few things more disgusting than seeing gnats, drain flies or fruit flies in your garbage disposal! But why did these annoying creatures choose your kitchen to show up in, and how do we make them vanish? The first step is to understand a little basic fly biology.
Fruit Flies vs. Drain Flies vs. Gnats
Fruit flies, drain flies & gnats are pesky little pests that breed in high-moisture areas. Although fruit flies and gnats are both small flying insects, they’re actually from different families. Fruit flies are typically brown or orange in color, and gnats are black in color. Drain flies (or sewer flies/moth flies), on the other hand, are a bit larger and covered in fuzzy little hairs.
Why Fruit Flies Love Garbage Disposals
You might have seen fruit flies hanging around your veggies or in your fruit bowl on your countertop, or near your kitchen sink. Garbage disposals offer all of the above which is one reason you so often find fruit flies in the garbage disposer. Gnats love rotting organic material, and will likely gravitate toward your kitchen trash can. They both thrive on food particles, which is why they tend to appear in or around the kitchen sink and garbage disposal.
Drain flies might be seen around your dishwasher, in your laundry room, or your bathroom shower or sink drains. Not only are they bothersome, but have the potential to spread bacteria, like most other pests. Luckily you don’t have to be a pest control expert to get rid of these little nuisances.
How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies, Gnats and Drain Flies
Here are a few methods to get rid of fruit flies, gnats and drain flies and prevent a potential infestation.
Step One: Clean Up!
Fruit flies and gnats love food scraps. Why not cut them off at the source? When dinner’s finished up, immediately toss food particles into the trash and make sure to rinse those dishes. Leaving dirty dishes sitting in the kitchen sink will attract these pests and provide a lovely, moist breeding ground for them, resulting in a fruit fly problem for you.
Still seeing fruit flies and gnats around an otherwise clean sink? Check your sink drain; They might be living off of debris on the drain sides and in the drain trap. Drain flies in particular lay eggs in the filmy residue that builds up in drains.
Clean Your Drains & Drain Traps
First, get those pipes good and scrubbed. Clearing your drain of debris and gunk helps to prevent clogs which can attract a fruit or drain fly infestation. You can do this project without the help of a plumber.
Use a pipe snake or pipe brush while running warm water, then follow up with a good enzyme drain cleaner. This will get any of the remaining residue that your pipe brush didn’t eliminate. Let the drain cleaner sit for a few hours, then flush with hot water.
On a regular basis, it’s also smart to pour boiling water down the drain every now and then help keep it clear of residue. Making your morning cup of coffee in the french press? Dump any leftover water from the kettle into the drain to give it a good flush. This can be done every day and dislodge any slimy buildup in the drain.
Avoid using bleach. Surprisingly, this is one task bleach is not effective for. It does not coat pipes and won’t help with clearing debris or killing fruit flies for this reason.
Un-gunking: Secret to Deterring Fruit Flies in the Garbage Disposal
LESLIE: Now we’re going to take a call from my favorite state, Hawaii.
Aloha, Randy. What’s going on?
RANDY: Well, how are you? Even people that live in paradise have problems every now and then. (Tom and Leslie laugh) For some reason, I have – well, I kind of know the reason; I don’t know how to fix it. We have fruit flies coming out of the garbage grinder and it is a constant battle and I can’t quite figure out how to get rid of them.
TOM: Ah. Well, there is a reason for that; it’s because the – when you have a garbage disposal or you have sink drains and recycling containers and things of this nature, they support a yeast growth that the fruit flies are very attracted to. They attract the adults. And so keeping those areas as clean as possible is the best way to avoid that from happening. So you want to make sure that you do clean the garbage disposal, clean those recycling containers, and that’s what is really attracting the fruit flies.
A good way to try to trap them though, Randy, is to make a fruit fly trap. Have you ever heard of that?
RANDY: I’ve never heard of that.
TOM: It’s pretty simple. All you need is a jar, a sheet of paper, and either some cider vinegar or a piece of banana peel. You basically use the paper to make a funnel that rests on top of the jar lid and you put a few ounces of the vinegar or the banana peel in the jar and they will crawl through that funnel to get at that vinegar or to get at the banana peel and they won’t be able to get out.
RANDY: Oh, that makes sense.
TOM: So you could put one of those up on the countertop near there and maybe they’ll just hop, if you’re lucky, right from the garbage disposal into the fruit fly trap.
LESLIE: Well, what would you recommend cleaning it with, Tom?
TOM: I would clean it with some baking soda. I would do some baking soda and some white vinegar. You spread baking soda in there and you put some white vinegar in there. Follow that up with some hot water. It will foam up and clean the garbage disposal, then you put some really hot water in there and turn it on.
RANDY: That’s exactly the answer I was looking for. You guys know everything.
TOM: Well, we try.
RANDY: I’m hoping the next time that I have a problem you can personally come out here and show me exactly how to do it.
All the leftover food particles in your garbage disposal can create an ideal place for fruit flies to start their life cycle. There are natural and inexpensive remedies for keeping your garbage disposal unit clean, and the first place to look is your freezer!
Fill up the disposal with ice cubes and add a cup of white vinegar. Run the unit for a few seconds with the water turned on for cheap and easy clean! Add dish soap and a lemon for even more de-greasing power (and a bit of citrus-y freshness as a bonus).
You can also use a good old household staple, baking soda! Just about a half cup of the stuff combined with a cup of white or apple cider vinegar will bubble up quite nicely. Let sit for a few minutes, then run the water and turn on the unit.
Remember to also clean the visible parts of your garbage disposal unit, too. A few drops of dish soap can go a long way! Cleaning under the splash guard will help prevent potential mold and mildew buildup, and deter fruit flies from making their home in your garbage disposal.
DIY Fruit Fly Traps
So you’ve clean and scrubbed, but what happens if the fruit flies and gnats come back? The frustration might be enough to make you drink…but make sure to pour some for the fruit flies first! Add some red wine to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, poking holes in the top. The flies will be attracted to the fermented fruit juice, climb in for a closer look and eventually drown.
Don’t want to waste your wine? Use the same method with sliced fruit. As the fruit rots, the flies will want to get a taste and will get trapped under the plastic wrap. Use a disposable food container to simply toss the flies and rotten fruit away.
No more fruit flies!
Gnats, drain flies or fruit flies in your garbage disposal can be pretty disgusting. Just remember that their appearance is no reflection on your housekeeping. Instead, it’s just a part of Mother Natures plan to get rid of food waste. But with a few steps, you may be able to encourage these flies to find another place to do their work.
Getting a tight fitting countertop compost bin is far superior to trashing organics. Home or neighborhood composting (local) keeps our trash can clean. One hint is to take the indoor compost bin outside before opening it.