Fly trap made from vinegar and dish soap


In Cool Tools, Oliver Hulland explains how he kills fruit flies with a bowl of apple cider vinegar and dish soap.

Fruit flies can materialize in even the most spotless kitchens. Until recently, I had no idea that they could be dealt with in a safe, effective, and cheap manner using apple cider vinegar and dish soap.

By simply pouring apple cider vinegar into an open cup or bowl and adding a drop or two of dish detergent you can easily make an incredibly effective trap for ridding your kitchen of fruit flies. Place it near your fruit bowl or trash can and within a day you will have nipped the problem in the bud.

Cool Tools


  1. How’s it work? Here’s my guess: the apple vinegar smells like decaying fruit, which is attractive to fruit flies. The soap breaks the surface tension on the vinegar which allows the flies to sink a little bit and drown.

  2. When I first started developing a fly problem this summer I found the apple cider vinegar tip listed in a wikihow entry. Works quite well, I was pleased.

  3. I had an opportunity to try this out just the other day. Within one hour of setting out a small bowl of the Apple Cider Vinegar with just a drop of soap, I had twelve of the little buggers drowned neat and clean.
    I now set out a bowl of this before I come home with my fruits from the store.

  4. When I had a fruit fly problem, the following was my effective, safe solution: put a small piece of fruit (banana works well) at the bottom of a cup, cover the cup in cling wrap, and use a pin or paperclip to poke a half dozen or so small holes in the wrap. The holes are small enough that the flies can get in, but not back out. Leave the trap out for a day or two and you should be golden!

    1. @5 Re: “The holes are small enough that the flies can get in, but not back out”

      I’d tried that alternative, and found it was ineffective compared to flypaper and/or vinegar. The problem with the holes-in-plastic-wrap technique is that it is impossible to create a hole that is simultaneously small enough for the flies to get in, but not back out of. Unless they put on a lot of weight while inside, which is unlikely. Watching them, I found that many managed to find their way back out of the hole through which they’d come.

  5. This works really well with gnats, and I didn’t even need the soap for them.

    Gnats don’t like white vinegar, though. They only seem to like the apple vinegar.

  6. Red wine works even better, IMO. Incidentally, those “fruit flies,” if I understand correctly, are oftentimes actually fungus gnats. This trap seems to work on either, however.

    Also, while the dishsoap isn’t required, it does help the efficacy of the trap by lowering the surface tension of the liquid.

  7. I’ve gotten pretty good at killing them in mid air with my hands. But it’s better to prevent them from being born, and I found throwing pits and cut-off bits of fruit into the toilet instead of the garbage helps a lot.

    1. The problem is, many stone fruit, tomatoes, bananas, etc. do not do well in the refrigerator. In fact, the one type of produce that almost everyone has sitting out on the counter is bananas, and they’re the number one cause of fruit flies in the home.

  8. I tried this last summer with white vinegar. didn’t seem to work; they’d approach it, but never ‘dive in’. if it happens again, I’ll have to try apple cider.

  9. This works with a splash of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water (and a drop or two of dish detergent), too. Save yourself some vinegar.

  10. In the past, I’ve always used vinegar with some plastic wrap over the surface. Poke some tiny holes in it, and the flies will find their way in, but not out. But from now on, I’ll try the drop of dish soap – less wasteful!

  11. We have moth epidemics in Colorado, and found a clever, yet similar method for trapping these pesky insects.

    Tools: A shiny metal bowl, tap water, dish soap and a lamp.

    Process: Carefully mix the soap and water in the metal bowl so that it doesn’t produce bubbles and place it under the lamp.

    Moths see the reflection of the light in the bowl and fly towards it. Once they hit the water they generally don’t come back up. The dish soap breaks down the water tension that would otherwise produce a film structure over the water surface allowing them to escape.

    1. Your moth trap also works well in a room infested with fleas. The fleas are attracted to the heat from an incandescent lightbulb, take a flying leap at the bulb, miss and fall into the basin of soapy water.

  12. Vinegar works pretty well, but sweet booze is a FRUIT FLY DEATH MACHINE, no soap required. We had a serious fruit fly infestation after a little compost bin indiscretion, and set out two jars with a finger of booze at the bottom, with plastic wrap over the openings and some little holes poked in them. Within half an hour, each trap had about 50 flies, and by the end of the day there were no flies in the kitchen anywhere. The spiced rum and crème de cacao were neck and neck in fruit fly preference, in case anyone is collecting data to start a fruit fly cocktail bar. I don’t know where you’d get paper umbrellas small enough, though.

  13. I had this problem over last fall/winter due to my housemate leaving half full beer cans around the house. He doesn’t do that anymore after the infestation.

    I ended up covering a glass of beer with some plastic wrap with holes poked in it after I tested using a funnel.

    I found that fruit flies are notorious drunks that will drink themselves to death. That’s why they tend to go after rotting/fermenting fruit. What I found worked the best:

    1. Stale Hamms or PBR
    2. Pyramid Apricot Ale
    3. Pyramid IPA

    I would have to dump the containers almost daily due to all of the fruit flies floating in it. But after about a month I was able to get rid of the infestation. Another thing I had to do was to keep the trash outside, or not to keep it under the sink.

    1. i think the bigger question here is why the hell he’s wasting so much precious beer. i think it is your moral obligation to stop this beer crime before it happens.

  14. The point of the liquid soap is to make it impossible for the fruit flies to fly away. It’s actually the more crucial ingredient: most vinegars and alcohols work almost equally well.

  15. This summer my wife used a bottle of Cynar that was down to the dregs, added a bit of apple cider vinegar and then punched a few holes in the cap. the mixture really attracted the flies and the dark green glass hid their carcasses while the vintage looking label added a nice color spot to the room.

  16. I’ve had good luck with straight orange juice using this same technique. No mixing required, just dead fruit flies.

  17. A small amount of wine left in the bottom of its original wine bottle works well, too. It seems like the shape of the wine bottle keeps the flies from escaping.

  18. I’ve tried many variations of this vinegar/soap method (see Wikihow for variations/tips) – and it works, more or less, but not as stunningly as some people suggest. At least not for me. We still have fruit flies – just fewer of them. It’s nearly impossible to kill the little bastards off entirely.

    Changing out the apple cider vinegar every couple of days helps a bit.

  19. I used to work as a river guide. We would regularly be infested with yellow jackets. I would catch them by leaving out bowls with lemonade mixed with dishsoap. It seems to work the same.

  20. This is an ages old technique that my mother-in-law suggested it to us this past summer, when the heat was insane and we had our first Fruit Fly infestation.

    There is one caveat – it doesn’t kill them all, only the young ones – for some reason the adults are too savvy or just not interested, perhaps because they are ready to lay their eggs and have better things to do. We still have the occasional fly buzzing around. My guess is they are laying eggs in the garbage disposal some other nasty place and still reproducing. We’ve been setting a new trap every 3 days and it’s a never ending parade of young ones in there with a few adults still buzzing around.

    thinking of trying the sweet liquor trick to go along with this one and see if that clears them out for good..

  21. Is there anything that works like this for mosquitoes?

    Written, with a note of despair, in urban Southern India…

    1. Thad, I’m not sure about during the daytime, but a local guy who likes to spend a lot of time in his back yard talked about setting up a black light over a bucket of water. Apparently to a mosquito it looks like a human, and they just hone in and drown. Using the dish soap trick at the same time would probably help get more of them.

      He mentioned that you will have to have a few of these if you need to keep a large area clear

    2. Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide emissions, among other things.

      DIY mosquito traps usually involve some sugar water and yeast as the attractant.

      Commercially made ones burn propane to produce CO2 and warm up a pheromone cartridge, and use a fan to suck them into a bag for collection once they’re attracted close enough.

  22. I tried this a while back when I had an infestation, and it worked great, although deckard68 is right — some of them manage to get out. Mostly I would wait for them to crawl to the interface between the bowl and the plastic wrap and just squish them directly.

    Ultimately, though, I realized that I had to figure out where they were all coming from, and I realized that I had a weeks-old candied apple in a backpack that I had neglected. Once I destroyed the generator (like in the old video game Gauntlet), that took care of them for good.

  23. We have a gadget … bottle(?) for exactly this purpose. It works really well and you don’t have to watch them swimming around. I’ve posted some pictures at It’s a glass bottle, shaped like a beehive, with a hole cut into the bottom. The way it’s constructed you pour a small amount of vinegar into the base with a drop or two of soap. They fly up the bottom hole and eventually get caught in the vinegar and soap. Pretty clever.

  24. I learned this from a university lab that does research on fruit flies and this is how they really do it in their lab. They said a straight sided contAiner works best but I don’t know why that is. I’ve got this set up near my trash can and it works like a charm!

  25. I used to work in a fruit fly lab with stray Drosophila flying around all the time. We had these vinegar/detergent traps all over the place and they caught a lot!

  26. I’ve been trying the glass with the cling wrap and punched holes, but the flies keep congregating on top of the cling wrap and rarely go into the glass. Gonna try the bowl/vinegar/soap method, now.

  27. If they are being very hard to get rid of I like to put a soft banana in the oven overnight with the oven door open. In the morning I close the door and turn the oven on and they bake.

  28. I know this is a bit late to be getting back to this, and probably too late to say…

    Thanks to everyone who answered re my mosquito problem

  29. Best trap I’ve made (even captures the cleverest and hardiest fruit flies that aren’t tempted by the vinegar traps others propose, even with various sweeteners added) is a generous dollop of liquid dish soap combined with 1 can of diet Coke with a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar, a couple of dashes of vanilla extract and a dash of malt vinegar – which I let stand a couple of days. Even more deadly on day 2!

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