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Does Citronella Repel Flies?

Few things are more annoying than trying to enjoy a meal outside and having to repeatedly shoo flies away from your food. Flies are more than just annoying little bugs. House flies can cause food poisoning and dysentery since they feed on carrion and feces before they land on your food. Some varieties of fly bite, and can spread disease-causing bacteria.

Keeping flies under control is fairly easy, keep your trashcans clean, make sure you put food away, and keep an eye on your fruit to prevent attracting fruit flies. If flies do start to become more of a problem there are any number of fly control methods to keep them from becoming a nuisance around your house.

Does Citronella Repel Flies?

Yes, it can! You can use Citronella oil, citronella candles, or citronella sprays. In the late Spring and all through the summer citronella is everywhere. It is usually promoted to repel mosquitos, but does it have any effect against flies? Absolutely! Citronella is an excellent fly repellent.

These outdoor citronella candles are great for repelling flies at cookouts and barbecues!

Where does citronella come from?

image: Pixabay | Lemongrass

Citronella oil is an essential oil that is commonly used to repel a variety of insects and pests in the summertime. It’s made through the distillation of Lemongrass, which can be found just about anywhere if you want just the plant. The oil is primarily known for keeping mosquitoes at bay, but can be used to combat other insects as well.

Does citronella kill flies?

Citronella does not kill flies. The scent overwhelms the smells that attract flies, causing them to stay away. Citronella candles are only effective at repelling insects for as long as they’re burning. Citronella sprays made for direct use on the skin are effective for about 1-2 hours before they need to be reapplied.

The benefits of using citronella to repel flies

image: Pixabay.com

Like all things, there are pros and cons to using citronella products to repel flies.


  • Citronella is non-toxic to people. Citronella oil is a plant extract and burned as oil in a tiki torch,  or candle it is safe for humans to be around
  • It comes in different forms, so there are a variety of products containing citronella to choose from. You can purchase citronella as a candle, a spray, to burn in oil lamps, or as an oil to rub directly on to the skin if you react badly to products containing DEET.
  • It is easy and inexpensive to acquire. Products containing citronella are everywhere, and since it is so common, you can purchase it for a low cost.

These outdoor citronella candles are great for repelling flies at cookouts and barbecues!


  • If you use it as a topical application, you will need to reapply it more frequently than products containing DEET.
  • It can be toxic to pets. If your dog or cat accidentally ingests the oil they could suffer a negative reaction.
  • It is not as effective as insect repellents that contain DEET.

8 other ways to keep flies away

There are other ways to keep flies away if you are concerned about your pets ingesting citronella oil, or if you happen to have a sensitivity to it. It also doesn’t hurt to use one or multiple methods to deter flies. The candle we recommended above is great alongside one of the below methods, like bug spray or fly paper. Or both!

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1. Fly Curtain

A simple fly curtain around your patio is an easy way to keep flies and other insects out. Physical barriers are one of the best ways to manage pests and a fly curtain is a non-chemical way to keep flied of your guests and your food. You can find fly curtains online from various retailers, here’s a nice doorway fly curtain on Amazon.

2. Fly Paper

They can look a little gross when covered in flies, but flypaper is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to handle large amounts of flies. Hang them out of the reach of children and pets and be careful not to walk into them yourself because they are very sticky. Flypaper can be found just about anywhere, many people have had good luck with Stingmon Fly Traps.

3. Fly Vacuum

If you are into gadgetry, the fly vacuum is an easy way to suck up errant flies that have wandered into your house. It’s portable and has a one-way door to keep insects from flying back out. It can be expensive, but if you are trying to remove flies without chemicals this is effective. Take a look at the this one on Amazon if you decide to go this route.

4. Eucalyptus Oil

If you have a large number of flies in one place, you can get rid of them using a DIY fly repellent. Taking an empty can and a cloth soaked in eucalyptus oil, you can repel flies from the area. Make several and place them in the areas you have the most flies to keep these spots fly free. You can get 100% pure eucalyptus oil from Amazon.

5. Carnivorous plants

If you only have a few flies zipping around and want to stay environmentally conscious, consider a carnivorous plant. This is not the most effective way to kill flies, but if they are not a huge concern it is the most environmentally sound. I had one of these as a kid and they do in fact eat flies. If you have children it could be an interesting botany lesson as well. You can order Venus Fly Traps here if you want to try your luck with one.

6. Malt Vinegar

Vinegar is handy substance that is a cure-all for almost everything. Malt vinegar can be used to repel flies. Simply boil the vinegar and place it in the fly-infested area. Before very long the smell will begin to cause the flies to retreat. Be careful not to scorch the vinegar, or you may have to deal with the residual smell in your house. This is another environmentally friendly way to repel flies and it’s found at your local grocery store.

7. DEET sprays

If you are spending time in the woods, or you have an uncontrollable number of flies, it may be time to get out sprays containing DEET. DEET is one of the most effective insect-repelling substances on the market. You can get yard sprays containing DEET as well as spray-on repellents. Despite some of the negative press surrounding DEET products, they have been in use for over 40 years and are still considered one of the most reliable insect repellents on the market. This DEET spray on Amazon works wonders and is long lasting.

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8. A bug salt shooter!

BUG-A-SALT 2.0 from Skell, Yellow

I honestly can’t speak from experience if this one works or not, but it sure does look fun! You simply load the gun with table salt, point at your fly, and shoot. Obviously you’d never point it at a person, but it can be great for killing flies in hard to reach places. The one pictured above is the BUG-A-SALT 2.0 and has great reviews.. Check the price on Amazon here.


There are many natural ways to keep flies from “bugging” you. In warm weather, it’s not unusual to have the occasional fly being a nuisance. If you have more than a few flies, assess why they may be hanging around. They could be attracted by something as simple as a stinky trashcan. If you continue to have problems with excessive numbers of flies, it might be time to call in the experts.