Entertaining Hack – How to Get Rid of Flies Outside When Dining

This outdoor dining entertaining hack on how to get rid of flies outside is one to bookmark! It turns out that getting rid of flies outside is as simple as buying a common $3 item!

girl setting a brass lantern on a table

Okay, so talking about flies isn’t exactly the most romantic dinner topic.

Let’s be honest though. I think we can all agree there are few things more annoying than being swarmed by flies when you’re trying to dine al fresco. 

I actually learned this simple entertaining hack to repel flies when we were on our Harbour Island trip several years ago!

The beach life is all about enjoying the summer outdoors, which meant that every meal required us to be on pest management duty.

a hand placing a gel can on a gold lantern to show how to keep flies away outside

We went to dinner at a beachside restaurant when the locals showed us how the easiest trick to prevent flies! 

I had almost forgotten about this token Bahamian secret until we got our new Article Teaka outdoor dining table and chairs this spring. 

I’d even made a DIY Battery Operated Outdoor Light to enjoy lakeside meals at our new setup, but the nuisance flies were killing the vibe. 

And if you know me, then you know NOT to mess with my love of entertaining! I mean, I literally wrote a small love story to this silver-grey teakwood table…

placing a gel can inside a brass lantern

Tricks for Getting Rid of Flies

Any type of outdoor food setting attracts flies in warm weather. Since we try to avoid pesticides as much as possible, especially around the table, we had to opt for another deterrent without being fly baits.

Naturally, I wasn’t going to let fly lamps, light trap, or an ugly fly trap tape ruin my Article tablescape, so I put my Bahamas trick to good use in style!

Any guesses on what I used for this easy fly control trick? All you need is a single can of Sterno canned heat, a stick lighter, and a decorative candle vase if you’re feeling fancy.

lighting a gel can to show how to keep flies away outside

Using Sterno to Keep Flies Away

The flies are instantly deterred once you light the Sterno gel. They’ll stay away as long as the gel keeps burning, which is several hours. 

Keep in mind that if you have a large gathering or an 8-person table like ours, you’ll need a place can every few feet. 

To dress it up, I removed the outside label and placed it inside a heat-safe decorative vase before lighting it. 

Not only does this serve as decor for your tablescape, but it’s also a great way to make sure that no one happens to bump into the can of Sterno since it gets very hot to the touch. 

All Sterno cans come with tight-fitting lids that you remove before lighting the gel, but be sure to save them so that you can reuse the canned heat for other outdoor dining occasions.

brass lantern on an outdoor table

Natural Ways to Get Rid of Flies

While I’ve always found that the Sterno trick works REALLY well and super fast, you might need another option if you’re in a pinch. 

Here are a few other all-natural ways to use organic materials and items you have around the house to get rid of a fly infestation —

Use spices and herbs:

Use spices and herbs such as rosemary, citronella, cinnamon, basil, lavender, and mint as part of your table decor to help keep the flies at bay.

It’s a double bonus that natural citronella torches and candles will also help to keep mosquitos away, too. 

Water and pennies to keep flies away:

Fill a clear glass with water and drop 4 to 5 old pennies inside. It seems really strange, but it works! Turns out that adult flies are afraid of bugs bigger than them and will be turned away by this. 

Just like the water glass idea, you can fill clear bags with water and several pennies to hang away from the table setting to reach the same effect. 

brass lantern being sat on a table

Essential Oils to Repel Flies

Citronella oil:

Another traditional fly repellent using citronella oil can be made by combining four ounces of mineral oil and thirty drops of citronella oil.

Shake the ingredients together and then add two ounces of soap flakes. Mix the ingredients together and put them in a spray bottle.

It can be used to repel flies, mosquitoes, fleas, and other insects, which is why we made our Balloon Dipped DIY Citronella Candle.

Peppermint oil:

A simple oil-repellent can be made by combining peppermint oil with either water or carrier oil. We recommend using a spray bottle for this recipe.

Add 10 drops of peppermint essential oil to two ounces of water or carrier oil such as coconut oil, jojoba, almond, or grape-seed.

Shake the ingredients together and then apply to your skin or to surfaces that will be exposed to flies.

Clove oil:

A simple mixture of 5 drops of clove oil with 2 ounces of water can provide a natural fly repellent as well.

Add the drops of clove oil to the water and use them in a spray bottle if possible.

Shake before each application to keep the ingredients mixed together.

Cedar oil:

One of the most traditional oils used to repel flies outdoors is cedar oil.

It can also be combined with other essential oils such as lemon eucalyptus, clove oil, lemongrass oil, and citronella.

Cedarwood chips or cedar oil-repellent mats can be used to repel flies and other insects in your yard.

Simply add a few drops of cedar oil to the chips or mats for an extra repellent effect.

Eucalyptus oil:

One of the most effective essential oils for repelling flies is eucalyptus oil.

It can be used alone or in combination with other essential oils such as peppermint, citronella, and lemongrass oil.

Eucalyptus oil can be added to water in a spray bottle if desired.

 

outdoor article dining table and chairs with vases

What Causes Flies Outside

Of course, one sure-fire way to help keep flies away is to get rid of what’s attracting them.

There are several things that attract flies that are often overlooked. Below is a quick checklist of items to keep in mind —

  • Make sure all trash cans have tight-fitting lids. 
  • Clean up any spilled sofa or sugary liquids that might have occurred outside. 
  • To avoid house flies after an outdoor party with food, be sure to keep all doors and windows sealed tightly as much as possible.
  • As much as we love the four-legged family members, if they’ve had any outside potty breaks it can attract flies just as quick. Make it a point to scan the yard so that the coast is clear. 

photo of an article teaka outdoor dining table and chairs

More Entertaining Hacks

Now we just need to cure the family fruit bowl of fruit flies and we’ll be set!

Do you all have any tried and true tricks for getting rid of flies outsides? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

Just in case a fly problem isn’t your thing, you can find more of my favorite outdoor DIY’s and entertaining hacks here! —

two photos combined together of an outdoor dining table to show how to keep flies away

lighting a gel can to show how to keep flies away outside

How to Get Rid of Flies Outside

Print
5 from 11 votes
This outdoor dining entertaining hack is one to bookmark! It turns out that getting rid of flies outside is as simple as buying a common $3 item.
Prep Time2 mins
Total Time2 mins
Course DIY
Category Outdoor

Equipment

  • Stick lighter

Materials

  • 1 Sterno Canned Heat
  • 1 decorative candle vase optional

Notes

Other Natural Ways to Get Rid of Flies:
  • Use spices and herbs such as rosemary, citronella, cinnamon, basil, lavender, and mint as part of your table decor to help keep the flies at bay. It's a double bonus that natural citronella torches and candles will also help to keep mosquitos away, too. 
  • Fill a clear glass with water and drop 4 to 5 old pennies inside. It seems really strange, but it works! Turns out that adult flies are afraid of bugs bigger than them and will be turned away by this. 
  • Just like the water glass idea, you can fill clear bags with water and several pennies to hang away from the table setting to reach the same effect. 

Instructions

  • The flies are instantly deterred once the Sterno gel is lit. And they will stay away as long as the gel keeps burning, which is several hours. 
  • Keep in mind that if you have a large gathering or an 8 person table like ours, you'll need a Sterno can every few feet. 
  • To dress it up, I removed the outside label and placed it inside a heat-safe decorative vase before lighting it. 
  • Not only does this serve as decor for your tablescape, but it's also a great way to make sure that no one happens to bump into the can of Sterno since it gets very hot to the touch. 
  • All Sterno cans come with tight-fitting lids that you remove before lighting the gel. But be sure to save them so that you can reuse the canned heat for other outdoor dining occasions.
Cost: $3
KEYWORD: how to get rid of flies

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19 thoughts on “Entertaining Hack – How to Get Rid of Flies Outside When Dining”

  1. We just landed from the Bahamas and witnessed this trick. Google it and found your article! Thank you for the tips.5 stars

    Reply
  2. Hi Rose,

    It’s a useful trick for me to follow as I’m always looking for a simple and effective option to get rid of the flies out of dining table. I’m working as a professional housemaid and often it’s some kind of events going on in my home, so keeping the place as neat as possible is a responsibility put on me and this is going to be a good idea to give it a try.

    Thanks a lot, I have checked several of your blog posts and I’m going to be a regular visitor here.

    Regards,
    Mary Jain
    Housemaid at https://www.housekeepingco.com5 stars

    Reply
    • Hi Mary! Thank you so much for your kind words. We are so glad that you found our blog, especially this hack. XOXO

      Reply
  3. I just love your outdoor entertaining style! I tried to find a sterno type candle holder like yours and was unable to. Where did you purchase it and is this something that is still available to buy ?5 stars

    Reply
    • Hi Gabi! Thank you! It’s actually sold out so that’s why we just linked options for outdoor candleholders on Amazon. You may have better luck looking for a lantern candle holder meant for pillar candles no smaller than 3.5″ in diameter since that is about the size of a sterno candle also. If you also search for outdoor holders, they’re typically larger in size to be able to hold a sterno can also. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  4. Thank you for this awesome tip! Pesky flies often keep us from dining al fresco. Wish I had known it years ago! And thank you for all your beautiful recipes and photos. LOVE Sugar & Cloth!5 stars

    Reply
    • Thanks, Lisalia! We hate when flies ruin our dinner too so we knew we had to figure out a way to get rid of them!

      Reply

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