Is It Drain Flies or Fruit Flies? How to Tell and Get Rid of Them Fast.

published Jun 23, 2023
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Fruits in reusable bag on kitchen counter in home
Credit: Elena Zaretskaya / Getty Images

If you go to the farmers market regularly or have a garbage disposal in your kitchen, it’s likely you’ve seen tiny flying nuisances in the area at least once or twice. You may call them gnats — but generally, it’s either a drain fly or fruit fly. Here’s how to tell the difference and how to get rid of them for good.

Differences Between Drain Flies and Fruit Flies

Drain flies and fruit flies are often confused for one another, says Craig Sansig, a service director at Viking Pest Control, but there are a few key differences between the two.

  • Fruit flies stick to decaying or fermenting fruits and vegetables.
  • Drain flies stay around drains, leaky pipes, or sewers.
  • Drain flies appear fuzzy; fruit flies do not.

You can also tell them apart by looking at some specific characteristics, including how they fly.

What Are Drain Flies?

Drain flies are also called moth flies, says Dr. Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist with the National Pest Management Association. Their bodies and wings are hairy so they look fuzzy, and their colors range from tan to black with light-colored wings. They’re about 3/16ths of an inch big. 

Drain flies aren’t actually that great at flying, so they tend to crawl on walls and other surfaces. During the day, they relax on vertical surfaces inside or in shaded areas, always near drain openings. They kick up their activity at night, flying or hovering around drains, garbage disposals, and sewer areas.

What Are Fruit Flies?

Fruit flies are tan or brown, and have red or dark eyes. They’re about an eighth of an inch big. Fruit flies are generally found in kitchens and pantries (or anywhere else food is stored), and they will hover in small circles over fruits and vegetables that are just starting to decay. 

Sansig notes that fruit flies tend to stay in one place when they land, so don’t expect to see them scurrying around the kitchen. They also don’t like it when the air around them is disrupted, so any movement near them or having a fan regularly blowing keeps them away.

Credit: Photos: Adobe Stock; Design: Apartment Therapy

How to Get Rid of Drain Flies and Fruit Flies

You may have already seen our previous pieces on getting rid of both drain flies and fruit flies (try a vinegar trap!), but here’s some further advice.

How to Get Rid of Drain Flies

Once you’ve identified where your drain flies are, you need to clear out the source. First, run some steaming hot water down the drain to loosen up anything stuck to the sides of the pipe. Then, pour a homemade solution of baking soda and vinegar or opt for BioDrain down the drain (whether it is your sink or shower). 

Mixing baking soda and vinegar can cancel each other out when the combination sits too long, so you’ll want to act fast. Once combined, it’ll create a chemical reaction that’ll both sanitize and clean the fungus and bacteria out of the drain, shares Ben McAvoy, co-founder of Insectek Pest Solutions. Follow this by pouring hot or boiling water down the drain afterward to clear things out. Hopefully, that’ll knock out whatever’s attracting them. 

How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies

To get rid of fruit flies, you’ll want to immediately dispose of any fruit, vegetables, or other food that’s out and possibly beginning to rot. That will remove the source of attraction and the breeding ground for fruit flies. 

If you want to make it even harder for them to be around, Marla Mock, president of Molly Maid, suggests setting up a fan to blow the air around (fruit flies hate that). Then, follow these instructions on making a DIY fruit fly trap: Combine dish soap and apple cider vinegar in a Mason jar and cover it with plastic wrap. Poke a few small holes in the plastic wrap, so fruit flies can get in but not out.

How to Prevent Drain Flies and Fruit Flies

The best prevention for both types of flies is to keep things clean, says McAvoy. Throw out fruits or vegetables that are out on the counter and going bad. Keep the new ones you buy in the fridge. You’ll also want to make a habit of wiping down the counters at night and keeping sinks and garbage disposals clean. 

Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, also suggests washing produce right when you get it home, just in case any larvae are on any items. You’ll also want to clean out coolers and lunch bags right when you get them home, and empty mop water buckets so the standing water doesn’t attract the flies.

If you do all this and the flies keep coming back, it might be best to seek out professional help.