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7 Best Essential Oils for Gnats & Fruit Flies

Gnats are small bugs that can come in swarms and they can get pretty pesky and annoying. While they are generally harmless, they are definitely not a welcome sight and presence outside and most especially inside our homes. In this article, let’s find out the best essential oils to repel gnats and how to use them.

Here are the best essential oils to use against gnats:

  1. Peppermint
  2. Rosemary
  3. Cedarwood
  4. Neem
  5. Eucalyptus 
  6. Tea Tree
  7. Lemongrass

What are gnats?

What we commonly call “gnats” is a loose term to refer to a wide species of small winged insects like fruit flies, drain flies, fungus gnats, and other similarly-sized bugs. They can be biting or non-biting. 

Their presence outdoors also usually becomes much more noticeable when it has just rained or when the weather is humid. When breeding, male gnats assemble in large swarms called ghosts–probably because when they come in these swarms, being tiny and coming in large numbers, they resemble a looming cloud. They are also found to be more prevalent during dusk or dawn, just when the sun is about to set or rise. 

Gnats can show up in all kinds of places in your house. They usually feed on fruit, leftovers, exposed or organic matter; that’s why they frequently show up near trash cans, in the kitchen, bathrooms and compost bins, as well as on house plants and on dogs. Some biting bugs can also feed on human blood and can be as elusive as their mosquito cousins. 

Just like house flies, you never really know where they’ve been lurking and they can spread around harmful germs and bacteria if they land on your food. 

Getting Rid of Gnats

While they are generally harmless by themselves, they are just a nuisance. Just like many bugs and insects, there is very little you can do to really get rid of their presence, especially outdoors. They are very persistent creatures and they will keep coming back. 

One thing to remember also is that while they can be pretty annoying, especially when they come in swarms and when the gnats you’re facing are the biting kind, they still have a pretty huge role in the ecosystem. They are excellent pollinators along with butterflies and bees, and it would be beneficial to everyone if you just repel their presence and not use pesticides on them. 

What you can do is take measures to prevent a huge infestation indoors. 

Keeping your indoor garbage cans closed is one of the surefire ways to prevent them from getting into your house. Make sure to properly throw away fruit and vegetable peelings, food wrappers and other organic stuff that attracts them. 

Never leave your leftovers exposed; cover or store them in a closed container and store in the fridge if needed. 

But there are those that really just slip through the cracks and find their way inside your living spaces. Fortunately, essential oils provide a natural, pesticide-free option to use as a gnat deterrent. 

Best Essential Oils for Gnat Repellent


Peppermint oil is a popular insect repellent and is actually an ingredient to many pesticides and insecticides. Menthol, the active compound found in peppermint, is quite pleasant to humans but is very unattractive to gnats and many other insects, making this the best essential oil to use against gnats. 

Peppermint – Plant Therapy


Rosemary oil is another oil that has a soothing and pleasant smell to humans but drives away gnats. Having an actual rosemary herb in your garden, and keeping some inside the house is also another way to make sure gnats never make their way in your homes. 

Rosemary – Rocky Mountain


Cedarwood oil is another popular oil to repel gnats and other insects. Many insect repellent products use cedarwood as an ingredient, with some having it as the dominant smell because bugs just hate the scent of cedarwood. 

Cedarwood – NOW


A very potent insecticide and pesticide by itself, neem oil can also be used not just to repel gnats, it can instantly kill and get rid of many other critters like bed bugs or chiggers. Remember to use this sparingly as neem oil is a very powerful irritant. 

Neem – NOW


Popular for its strong smell, eucalyptus oil is yet another must-have to repel gnats. Keeping a eucalyptus plant is also very effective. 

Eucalyptus – NOW

Tea Tree

Aside from keeping bees and wasps away, tea tree oil can also be used to repel gnats. With a very subtle scent, this is perfect to use as a spray or lotion especially when you have to work or go outdoors.

Tea Tree – Plant Therapy


Popular for its lemony scent, lemongrass oil is another great essential oil to use to deter gnats. They can also keep mosquitoes and other biting insects away as well. 

Lemongrass – Plant Therapy

How To Use Essential Oils Against Gnats

There are several ways you can use essential oils to keep gnats away from you and your home. Remember to use the best brands for the best results and always dilute oils with a carrier oil if you want to apply it on your skin. 

Perform a patch test by putting a small amount of the essential oil blend on an inconspicuous part of your body like the inside of your arm or leg and observe for any reactions. If and when you show any kind of adverse reaction, discontinue using the essential oil blend immediately.

As a lotion

Dilute 5 drops of the essential oil of your choice to an ounce of carrier oil. Apply this essential oil lotion blend to the exposed part of your body whenever you would go outdoors. 

As a spray

Combine 5-10 drops of the essential oil of your choice for every half cup of water. You can also blend 2 or more essential oils from the list above. Put the essential oil spray blend in a spray bottle and spray onto your clothes and exposed parts of your body. 

To deter the presence of gnats in certain parts of your home, you can spray them around garbage cans, sinks, toilets, and the kitchen. You can also spray and coat your outdoor garbage can to keep them away from lurking in those areas as well or on plants to repel them from your garden.

Using a diffuser

Another effective way to keep gnats away is by diffusing the oils. Add 3-5 drops of essential for every 100mL of water in an essential oil diffuser. Not only can you reap the aromatherapeutic benefits of essential oils, you can effectively keep gnats and other bugs away from your home.


While harmless, gnats can still be pretty annoying. Keeping your surroundings generally clean is one of the most effective ways to keep them away. Essential oils are also great in providing a pesticide-free way to repel them and deter their presence inside your homes. In cases of extreme infestations, you’re better off calling pest control professionals to help you deal with the situation for you. 

Image credit: Freddy Fehrman

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