15 Extremely Easy Ways to Keep Flies Away Outside

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If you’re anything like me, you want to be able to sit outside and enjoy a nice picnic in the park or a BBQ in your backyard (without the hassle of flies on your food). Keep reading for fifteen simple and useful tips on how to keep flies away outside.

Flies can be an annoying and persistent problem if you enjoy spending time outdoors on your patio. Fortunately, there are several simple and effective ways to keep your patio fly-free without resorting to harmful chemicals or sprays.

In this blog post, I will share fifteen tips, tricks, and ideas to help you enjoy your patio without being bothered by pesky flies.

Last weekend we sat down for a BBQ dinner on the patio. The table was set, the kids were happy, food was ready. And the view was amazing. What could be better than this? It was so relaxing and peaceful.

Until…bzzzz….bzzz…the flies found us.

Between swatting them away, and unsuccessfully convincing my two year old that it wasn’t a bee…just an annoying fly….dinner went from relaxing and enjoyable to tense and stressful.

We lived on a farm for four years and we had a lot of flies that liked to hover around the patio. So, we’ve tried basically everything, and now it’s time to pay it forward.

Related: How to Keep Mosquitos Away From Your Patio Naturally

Flies are annoying and I don’t even want to think about where their little feet have been…ick! But you know where they’re GOING to land….on your watermelon, that’s where.

I’ve created this big list – sorted into natural fly deterents and less-natural fly deterents.

Natural Fly deterents to keep flies away outside and inside

First, let’s try some natural methods. Because, if we don’t have to use the chemicals and icky stuff…all the better, right? Here are some genius home remedies for getting rid of flies outside (and inside too).

Related: Non Toxic Living: A Myth or Something to Aspire To?

Before you start any of these fly-removal or fly-deterrent products, make sure your patio is clean and free of food debris and garbage that might attract flies.

Step 0 – remove anything that could be luring them in to begin with.

1) Keep them Away from The Picnic

The simplest way to keep flies away from your food is to not let them near it. Outside, that’s a little more tricky (see below), but inside it’s not as hard.

But then again, we even have flies inside our house because we have young kids and it seems like the door is always left open for one reason or another. We don’t have a screen door. so this is what we used first.

To keep the flies outside of the house, we use this awesome screen. It was so simple to hang up, and I don’t have to rely on the kids to keep the door shut.

A magnetic screen that closes automatically behind you (or your kids) to keep the flies out of your home

Here’s a picture of the installed magnetic screen that I highly recommend. Now, the kids can walk out the screen door and it closes behind them.


Another option to keep them off the patio is to install a patio screen, or netting around your entire patio. If you live in a particularly buggy area, this may be the best option.

2) Cover the food At Your Picnic or BBQ

The flies come for the food. Cover the food and you’ll at least keep the flies from spreading all those germs on those dishes. I bought two of these large covers for food. I like that they fold down and are easy to store.

A food cover to keep flies off food.

3) Grow Strategic Plants To Keep the Flies away

Put a couple pots of basil on or near your table so the flies don’t come near. It will make the table setting smell wonderful, and hopefully keep away the pesky flies.

Essential oils (specific oils listed below) are a great way to get the concentrated scent of a plant to deter flies.

Another option, though, is planting actual plants – perhaps in an herb garden – near your patio. This is what we’ve installed near our back patio. Plants like basil, mint, and lemongrass all have natural insect-repelling properties (and smell great to us humans).

Here’s a list of plants that will repel flies.

  • Basil
  • Bay leaf
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Wormwood
  • Cucumber
  • Onions

4) Camphor Candles

These candles are natural fly and insect repellent. They aren’t recommended for use near pregnant women, though.

There are several options on Amazon – see them here.

5) Use Fans to keep the flies away

The air from the fans will make it hard for the flies to fly in the area. When you’re eating outside, try setting up a small fan like this one to deter them.

The next purchase I’m making for our back deck is a ceiling fan like this one.

small fan to keep flies away from food

6) Cloves and Lemon as Fly deterrents

You can either put some whole cloves in a halved lemon, or use clove and lemon oil in your essential oil diffuser.

The scent of clove and lemon are supposed to deter flies. I haven’t tried this method because the above methods have worked well.

7) Essential Oils to keep flies out

Other essential oils that are supposed to deter insects from joining your outdoor party are listed here:

  • eucalyptus
  • lavender
  • peppermint
  • lemongrass
  • basil
  • citronella
  • cloves

8) Hang plastic bags with water

Okay so this one is strange, and I haven’t tried it yet. But people swear it works. Just fill a couple plastic bags with water (half way) and hang them on your patio, or wherever you’re eating your meal.

Supposedly the water in the bag freaks the flies out. I’ll update this when I try it. Sounds strange, but TOTALLY worth trying.

9) Cook over the fire pit

Flies don’t like smoke. So why not have a cookout over this firepit?

cook over fire with fire pit to keep flies away

10) Citrus

Citrus is good for deterring house flies, but it actually attracts fruit flies. Depending on which type you’re battling, this may be an option for you. Use essential oils or leave out some orange or lemon peels in a bowl. Your guests will love the smell.

The house flies will not.

Other Methods for How to keep Flies Away Outside

If the natural methods above aren’t working for you, you may need to upgrade to these traps or tape.

11) Fly Tape

fly tape to get rid of flies

There are a bunch of different kinds of fly traps. We’ve used the sticky tape kind *beware of how sticky it is*. I’ve gotten it stuck on me and my clothes more than a few times.

The fly tape works! Although, when you’ve got twenty dead flies on it, it’s pretty unsightly, especially if you’re trying to enjoy a nice meal.

And it MIGHT be toxic (jury’s still out on that one).

A natural alternative to the store bought stuff is making your own fly tape. Follow this tutorial to see how easy it is (it just takes a little while to let it dry).

12) Homemade Fly Traps for a Fly Free Picnic

Put a paper funnel in a mason jar and put some liquid in the bottom. Some good liquid options are:

  • green apple scented dish soap
  • heated apple cider vinegar
  • wine
  • honey water (or sugar water)

This can work for fruit flies or house flies.

13) Store Bought Fly Traps

fly trap to keep flies away

I hung up one of these on the deck this weekend. In my excitement to rid my deck of the flies, I didn’t pay much attention to the strength of my string. Because three minutes after I hung it up, the whole thing fell down and the water/fly attractant spilled ALL over the deck.

I did hang one up successfully and it collected insects for weeks (until it was full). But the one that fell and broke all over stunk up the whole deck.

So learn from my mistake and tie a REALLY good knot so you don’t get stinky fly “juice” all over.

14) Fly Zapper

Hang a fly zapper like this one on your back deck to keep the flies and other insects at bay. And if you want a more direct approach, here’s a handheld fly zapper.

fly zapper

15) Fly Vacuum

Maybe you want to tackle your fly problem one by one. Check out this fly vacuum and bug zapper (all in one). If you vacuum up flies with a normal vacuum. they’ll likely fly right back out. But with a fly vacuum, the container is sealed so they can’t get out.

16) Fly Swatter

You can also use a manual fly swatter to get rid of the flies that are invading your eating / relaxing space. These are inexpensive, but do require manual swatting.

Conclusion: What Keeps Flies Away Outside?

Flies are annoying, we all know that. And they’re gross too. But with this list of more than fifteen ideas to get rid of flies (natural methods, fly tape, and traps), get ready to have a relaxing and buzzz free outdoor celebration this weekend!

Let me know what method has worked best for you as you work on how to prevent flies from ruining your picnic.

Don’t forget to share on Pinterest!

fly free picnic

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  1. I am going to try a home remedy who knows until u try it I got it off the internet Now that I think about it I believe my granny used it back in the day u use 1/2 cup of water 1/2 cup of isopropyl alcohol and a teaspoon of dish liquid and as far as the alcohol get 70 percent it will probably work better and I have also heard Fabreeze will kill them instantly as well I hate those pesky varmints and they r nerve racking as well But it never hurts to try a home remedy wish me luck

  2. Here in Texas I have grown up seeing the bags of water hanging on porches, some of them even had pennies in them. Why I don’t know? But when I feed my outside cats the flies and mosquitoes give me and the cats so much grief that they just want to eat and go lay down somewhere else. I can’t enjoy petting and loving on my cats. I’m going to try all suggestions!!

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