Your Home Outdoors

A Smarter Way to Get Rid of Fruit Flies

August  1, 2017

Welcome to Your Home Outdoors, our summertime series on tips and tricks that'll help you live your best life outside―no matter the size of your space! So pull up a chair, grab a glass of something icy-cold, and join us.

I hate fruit flies. Not so much because of the actual insect but more because an infestation feels like a hygienic failure of the worst kind. I take it personally. People judge, I know they will judge, and I don't need to carry around any more baggage let alone worry.

The fruit fruit waiting room... of doom Photo by Emily Dryden

I am certain I have seen them hatch off a clean countertop like a gazillion evening mayflies on a trout stream. They are every cook's summer nemesis and if things go badly, or in the fruit flies' favor, the fruit fly season will carry over into fall. Fruit flies are insidious.

Shop the Story

Early in the season, I place a bowl of vinegar (rice, apple, or red wine seem to work best) with a splash of dish soap under a larger glass bowl that rests on chopsticks and I set it at the back of the sink 24-7. The flies go in and they can't come out. (Editor's note: We compared this to our beloved plastic wrap method, and found we caught more fruit flies this way.)

Midseason, when the fruit fly population can explode, I set a small bowl of vinegar in the top rack of the dishwasher. I leave the door cracked open overnight and in the morning I sneak up on it and slam it shut, turn it on, and wash those fruit flies down the drain.

God forbid it's a really bad infestation, but if it is, I set a vinegar-soaked towel in the laundry room sink. Come morning I creep in with an aerosol can of flying insect killer and spray a small cloud of toxic gas across the top of the sink. (No need to go into any further detail other than it's deadly for the fruit flies.)

May your summer be fruit fly free.

Grab your copy

It's here: Our game-changing guide to everyone's favorite room in the house. Your Do-Anything Kitchen gathers the smartest ideas and savviest tricks—from our community, test kitchen, and cooks we love—to help transform your space into its best self.

Grab your copy

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Marios
  • SCalabretta
  • Donna Wolff
    Donna Wolff
  • Stacey
  • Paddy
Father, husband, writer, photojournalist and not always in that order.


Marios September 18, 2017
Hey, Mr. Thirschfeld
Thank you for this article. You're giving people suffering from entomophobia food-for-thought, haha. I, myself, am one of them. To make a long story short, I've been meaning to get over my fear lately. I have had to deal with fruit flies before - rather, I've had my family deal with them while I stayed on the backlines - and want to handle them myself next time.

Another article I read was this:

Can you please give me your thoughts on whether vinegar is more apt as bait than honey or sugar, as the aforementioned article proposes? Cost efficiency is irrelevant, I only care about effectiveness.
SCalabretta August 2, 2017
I leave a tomato trap in the sink over night, sneak up on it in the morning and spray the suckers with Windex. Works like a charm!
Donna W. August 1, 2017
I don't ever want to make you mad!!! 😂
Stacey August 1, 2017
A more accurate way of describing the effect of the soap is that it reduces the surface tension so that flies (who are used to being able to balance on water) break through the surface and drown.

Soap is a surfactant and doesn't really have any "oils" or effect on specifically the fly's wings so far as I know. Check out the link below and happy to discuss further.
Lindsay-Jean H. August 1, 2017
Thanks Stacey, we'll update that part.
Paddy August 1, 2017
Just cover the bowl with saran wrap and poke a few holes in it.
Lindsay-Jean H. August 1, 2017
We tested this compared to the plastic wrap method and found we caught more fruit flies this way! Perhaps because they had trouble making their way back out of the dome, versus being able to easily fly away from the plastic-wrapped one.
Paddy August 1, 2017
Just cover the dish with saran wrap and poke a few holes in it.
Donna H. August 1, 2017
She said, she compared it to the saran wrap method and this works better!
CatalunaLilith August 1, 2017
I'm setting up a trap right now. Here's to fruit-fly free ripe peaches!