Three natural ways to get pesky flies to buzz off

Whip up your own repellents with ingredients you probably have in a cupboard

19 January 2021 - 14:38 By Paula Andropoulos
Is there anything more irritating than a persistent house fly?
Is there anything more irritating than a persistent house fly?
Image: 123RF/Razvan Cornel Constantin

In case the past few months haven’t been apocalyptic enough for you, Johannesburg has recently been inundated with everybody’s worst airborne menace: flies. It feels like the bothersome drones are everywhere.

Perhaps the worst thing about flies is their persistence and seeming indestructability: most of the time they’re too fast to catch and too rude to take a hint, even after we’ve swatted them away from our formerly appetising lunches for the 12th time in a minute.

If you’re not a fan of commercial fly sprays and traps, some of which can be toxic (not just to flies), the good news is there are safe and healthy alternatives you can whip up using simple ingredients you probably already have in your store cupboard.

Try these natural ideas:



This solution is especially satisfying because you can blitz any flies that cross your path with the contents of this spray bottle without endangering your family or your pets.

Vinegar is a common ingredient in homemade fly sprays.
Vinegar is a common ingredient in homemade fly sprays.
Image: 123RF/lightfieldstudios

To make it, add 1 cup white vinegar to ⅓ cup dishwashing liquid (Sunlight, for instance) and 1 cup water. Mix the three together thoroughly, transfer the mixture to a spray bottle and get ready to go to war.


If you’re prepared to spend more money on your homemade fly spray, consider investing in essential oils which not only smell wonderful and refreshing, but many of which also have bug-repellent properties.

To make a fly repellent using them, combine 4 cups apple cider vinegar, 2 tbsp olive or canola oil, 1 tbsp dishing washing liquid, 20 drops peppermint oil, 20 drops rosemary oil and 20 drops basil oil. Mix together thoroughly and transfer to a spray bottle.

You can also add citrus oils, which flies apparently find unpleasant. Fruit-based solutions will not, however, help when it comes to the little enemies around your fruit bowl.


Using similar ingredients to the simple fly spray (see above), you can make and distribute fly traps around your house. These are likely to be especially effective in areas where your fly population is at its densest, such as near sources of food or rubbish.

For this to work, you will need to sacrifice a shallow dish. Fill it with a combination of apple cider vinegar, sugar (1 tbsp) and dishwashing liquid. If you find the smell of the vinegar offensive, you can cover it with plastic wrap — just be sure to allow for a few points of entry.


Once believed to be an old wives’ tale, entomologists have confirmed that introducing strategically placed, water-filled translucent plastic bags into your household could help you keep flies at bay.

Owing to the shape and sensitivity of their eyes, flies find the light patterns generated by the water in the bag distracting and off-putting, which can help keep them away from extra-sanitary zones like the kitchen. Of course, this trick is only going to work during the day.