Nothing derails a picturesque scene faster than a barrage of annoying flies. Whether you want to banish flies from your patio or playroom, or you need a reliable bug spray to wear, having the right repellent is key. These days repellents take many forms, but the best fly repellents will either have active ingredients or tech-savvy features that have been proven to be safe and effective. This list incorporates both body repellents and environmental fly deterrents, so you can opt for the approach that works best for you.
What is the most effective fly deterrent?
These are the most common ingredients and solutions for banning flies:
- DEET or Picaridin: The EPA considers both DEET and picaridin as being highly effective as wearable repellents against insects when used in the proper concentration. A product with either 20% DEET or picaridin can repel insects for up to 4 to 5 hours. Although DEET has the backing of several decades of use and research, it can often be greasy and have a strong odor. Picaridin is newer than DEET, but it’s odor-less and goes on more smoothly.
- Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus: Even though plant-based deterrents aren’t usually as effective as DEET or picaridin, studies show that oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) can be as effective against insects and black flies as 20 to 30% DEET, but it lasts for a shorter amount of time. OLE also gets the EPA’s seal of approval.
- Devices: The best fly repellents for indoors and outdoors include simple improvements on the humble yet effective fan and traps coated in attractants to lure flies in. Electric bug zappers are a popular pick because they don’t require chemicals and lure flies in with light before zapping them. Be sure you purchase a device that covers the range of areas you want to target and keep in mind that some devices are noisier than others.
What can I put outside to keep flies away?
If you’d like to cover a larger swathe of outdoor area, look for eco-friendly sprays, fan-like devices, electric fly zappers, or baited traps with a strong attractant to lure flies away from festivities. No repellent is 100% effective against all flies and the best one for you will be a device or spray that is used correctly, covers the range you need, and that reviewers say works to repel flies — not just mosquitoes and other bugs.
What is the best fly repellent for indoors?
It’s best to avoid strong pesticides or vapors that might cause irritation when used in confined areas, as well as wearable repellents that are meant for the outdoors. Once you’ve eliminated the cause of your fly problem, cleaned, sanitized, and sealed doors or screens, opt for mechanical solutions such as electric bug zappers that draw in flies with their UV light or sticky flypaper that attaches to the window.
Here are the best wearable fly repellents, as well as environmental solutions for outdoors and indoors.
Best Wearable Fly Repellents
1. A Powerful DEET Spray To Repel Flies & Other Insects
For those who prefer a tried-and-true military-grade formula for handling biting flies, opt for this no-nonsense insect repellent that contains a higher-than-usual concentration of 40% Deet. It comes in a pump spray form that allows for more controlled application than an aerosol spray and can be used on clothing made of cotton, wool, or nylon. Be careful when applying it to plastic gear or some synthetic fabrics as it could cause damage. Reviewers say this repellent lasts for several hours and that it doesn’t emit a strong odor. Keep in mind that only Deet formulas with 30% Deet or less are approved for children 2 and under.
Helpful Review: “I recently took this bottle to Haiti with me. We were staying outdoors for 8 days and I needed something strong to keep the bugs away. I did not get a single mosquito bite while wearing the Deet. I would walk through swarms of flies on the street and not be touched by a single one, which I was pretty happy about since I hate bugs! [...]”
2. The Best Repellent With Picaridin
This effective insect repellent contains 20% picaridin in a pump spray form to deliver great EPA-approved protection from annoying flies. It’s fragrance-free, non-greasy, and is safe to use on clothing as well. The manufacturer claims it can protect against flies for up to eight hours and it is said to be especially effective against biting flies. This pick has more than 20,000 reviews on Amazon and comes in convenient travel-size sprays, as well as lotion dispensers, continuous sprays, and lotion packets. This money-saving option includes two portable sprays.
Helpful Review: “[...] Picaridin enables me to be outside without being miserable, in fact, it makes me happy to be outdoors even at dusk. I originally bought it because it protects against ticks as well as mosquitos and biting flies but, for me, it also works on deerflies! They still try to buzz me but don't come closer than two feet. I am going to buy 10 cases of this stuff! Hell, I might even buy stock in the company!”
3. A Deet-Free Repellent Derived From Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
If you prefer to use something a little closer to nature, try this oil of lemon eucalyptus insect repellent. It is proven to be as effective as DEET and picaridin at warding off flies and other insects, but Amazon reviewers were split as to whether it repels flies well enough. It lasts for up to six hours at a time, according to the brand. This one comes in a pump spray formula, has more than 32,000 reviews, and leaves a pleasant scent behind.
Helpful Review: “This spray has made it possible for me and my kids to go outside without being eaten alive. Mosquitoes and flies will still land occasionally, but they bounce off. They do not bite. I have even had success spraying screen doors, hammocks, and mesh lawn chairs. It has a pleasant smell, and a light feel on the skin that is not greasy. I believe it’s a great alternative to heavy DEET formulas, backed by research, as well as personal experience.”
Best Fly Repellents For Outdoors
4. This Tabletop Repellent Fan
This ingenious tabletop deterrent is essentially a fan that features special blades with a holographic pattern that flies and other bugs will avoid. The blades’ reflective pattern refracts light in a way that bugs find disorienting and dangerous, thus keeping them away from that delicious outdoor dinner. The blades are completely harmless to humans and animals and gently stop when a hand or arm enters their orbit. The fan runs silently and at a constant speed with the help of two AA batteries (not included). The coverage zone is very small, according to reviewers, but exact square footage is not offered.
Helpful Review: “I routinely eat a salad on our deck and the flies seemed to like the salad as much as I did until I got this product. I position it right beside the salad prior to my eating it and as close as I can when I am eating. It looks like the flies have gotten the message - they come and they leave. This is a new favorite tool and allows me to enjoy eating outside in the beautiful weather.”
5. These Outdoor Traps That Use Bait To Lure Flies In
A more serious outdoor fly infestation can benefit from these outdoor fly traps that rely on non-poisonous bait made from dehydrated food-grade products that give off an intense scent to lure flies in. Mix the bait with water at the bottom of the container. Once flies enter the trap they are unable to escape, and as the trap fills up, continue to add more water to keep flies submerged. These traps are reusable, which is great for the environment and your wallet, but might not be ideal if you are squeamish about dealing with disposing of dead bugs. They are designed with a sturdy metal chain and hook so you can hang them far enough away from your patio not to disrupt your dinner plans. This pick comes with two traps, but you can also buy one trap or a pack of four.
Helpful Review: “These traps should ONLY be used outdoors because of the strong, pungent bait odor! But these traps work like a charm. I was able to trap over a thousand (estimated) house flies in about 24 hours with two of these traps. Again, they have a repugnant odor (to humans). But the odor attracts flies. Flies cannot resist it. If traps are kept outside, and away from doors and open windows, you will catch more flies than you thought you had in your yard. I was shocked at how many flies were in my yard after looking at how many were caught in such a short period of time.[...]”
6. An Electric & Chemical-Free Repellent For Your Patio
This outdoor electric bug zapper is both portable and powerful, utilizing a 4200-volt power grid to eliminate flies and other insects, and it even enhances your outdoor space by resembling a decorative lantern. Plug this repellent into an outlet and watch flies swarm to the UV light. It works best in the dark so the light can work most effectively, and for extra safety, it features a narrow design that prevents fingers or paws from touching the power grid. When it’s time to clean it out, just twist the bottom tray and empty flies into your garbage. This is a best-selling pick with more than 4,800 reviews. The coverage zone is up to 1,500 square feet, according to one reviewer.
Helpful Review: “I needed something to help keep bugs away from the area where I grill. This zapper is just the trick! Plugged it in and within a matter of minutes, it already had attracted and caught a few flies. As the summer continues, I am sure this will be a great help, and leave me able to grill in peace!”
7. A Pet-Safe Yard Spray For Large Outdoor Areas
There’s nothing better than a pest-free afternoon spent in the yard, and this ready-to-use outdoor pest control spray makes it all the more comfortable. It utilizes eco-friendly and nontoxic cedarwood oil to kill and repel pests like flies. Keep in mind that this is not an ingredient that the EPA has tested as effective, but it’s a safe formula to use if you have kids and pets that love to explore the yard and many reviewers swear by it. Attach it directly to your garden hose and spray areas up to 5,000 square feet. It won’t prevent butterflies and bees (the good guys!) from coming around, and you don’t even need to wait for it to dry to start enjoying your backyard time.
Helpful Review: “We recently moved into a new house with citrus trees, and on top of those and having dogs, the fly problem in our backyard was incredibly bad. It's not the largest space and there would be 50+ flies all at once. I was hosing off the backyard once a day to try and fix the problem to no avail [...] The amount of flies SIGNIFICANTLY dropped after 1 spray. Waited 3 days and just did the second spray, but it seemed like I didn't need to. There was maybe 1 fly out there today.”
Best Fly Repellents For Indoors
8. An Indoor Electric Bug Zapper
Deal with a plethora of annoying indoor flies by using this electric bug zapper, which requires no chemicals and is safe to use indoors (and particularly effective when the room is dark). It draws flies towards its two UV lights, then eliminates them via a powerful 2800-volt power grid. It features a protective grid so that it’s safe around pets and kids, but the grid can be easily removed to replace bulbs if needed. It captures flies on a removable catch tray for easy disposal. Reviewers noted that the zapper makes a loud noise when it catches a bug, but they said it also serves as proof that their fly problem is decreasing by the second. This device offers an impressive 6,000 square feet of coverage, according to the brand.
Helpful Review: “This is an excellent unit. We tend to leave our doors open so flies and just about every kind of flying bug you can imagine comes into the house. This unit sits in the laundry room which is near our kitchen. The light is bright enough that it attracts bugs in the day and does even better at night. It zaps everything that contacts it. When this one finally dies we will buy another one. [...]”
9. These Window Fly Traps That Are Nontoxic
For those who prefer a silent indoor fly solution that’s nontoxic, use these clear window fly traps to trap flies where they tend to congregate. It adheres to your window using a waterproof and nontoxic adhesive that is completely odorless. It takes advantage of the clear window to attract flies all season long and trap them until you’re ready to remove and dispose of the tape. Each package includes 12 traps so you can place these in multiple areas of your home, silently eliminating flies like a ninja. This popular pick has more than 12,000 reviews.
Helpful Review: “I have tried a couple of other strips that have the gooey mess on a strip of paper and they did not catch ONE fly! I put the Catchmaster strips on my window and within no time, the strips had already captured several flies. THIS STUFF WORKS! Another nice feature of this product is that it is not just a one-and-done type of product. If you put a strip in a window that is not frequented by a lot of flies, these strips continue to do their job for a fair amount of time.”