Is Vinegar a Good Bug Repellent?

Is Vinegar a Good Bug Repellent?

Keeping bugs away from your home, lawn, and patio can be challenging. Insecticides can be an attractive solution and often work wonders. Unfortunately, while pesticides and bug sprays are effective, they may irritate children and pets. To avoid this, many homeowners have turned to more natural solutions in place of commercial products containing harmful chemicals. As far as these natural products go, vinegar is one of the best. 

Using White Vinegar To Repel Bugs

White vinegar is a solution comprising around 5-8% acetic acid and 92-95% water. It’s created from fermenting grain alcohol, and then a second fermentation is used with acetic bacteria producing the acetic acid. This acid is the key to white vinegar’s signature sharp flavor and antimicrobial properties. When utilizing vinegar as an insecticide or repellent, you should always mix it with water, generally at a 50/50 solution. This mixing is necessary because vinegar is strong stuff and can damage plants and irritate the skin when used by itself. 

Acetic acid makes vinegar an excellent tool for pest control, repelling some of the most common backyard nuisances and even killing weaker insects. It’s most effective against ants, spiders, and mosquitos. You can keep spiders from entering your home by spraying vinegar around your property’s perimeter and entryways. For ants, vinegar breaks the pheromone trail they use to communicate, making it harder for them to navigate and enter your property. Vinegar’s potent smell is what repels mosquitoes. 

Using Apple Cider Vinegar To Repel Bugs

While white vinegar is made from grain alcohol, apple cider vinegar is made from, as you may have guessed, apples. Apples are added to water and yeast to ferment into ethanol and then acetic acid. Apple cider vinegar functions much like white vinegar, except that it has a slightly sweeter taste, is less sharp, and has about half as much acetic acid. These elements make apple cider vinegar a more mild ingredient in food and a less abrasive solution for pest control. 

Apple cider vinegar repels ants, spiders, and mosquitos like white vinegar. It still requires dilution, but it’s usable on more sensitive plants due to its lower acetic acid content. You can also create a trap to kill fruit flies by mixing it with soap in a large bowl. 

Apple cider vinegar is valuable for deterring and killing mosquitoes. If you have significant amounts of standing water on your property, you can add apple cider vinegar to it. The vinegar will repel future mosquitoes and kill any larvae living in the water.

Do All Bugs Hate Vinegar?

While vinegar is an excellent tool for repelling certain insects, not all bugs hate vinegar. Specifically, aphids and fruit flies love the scent of vinegar and will seek it out. You can use this to your advantage by creating traps. Mixing a quart of water, 12 ounces of vinegar, and a tablespoon of dish soap, you can create a mixture that will rid your garden of annoying, buzzing pests. This mixture is also harmless to plants, animals, kids, and other garden bugs you want to keep around. 

How Vinegar Repels Ants

Ants use powerful scents to communicate with one another. They leave a trail of these scents, called pheromones, that direct the rest of the colony to food sources. These pheromone trails can warn other ants of danger, direct orders, and provide useful information. Without these pheromone trails, ants become functionally blind, lacking direction and any semblance of order. The overwhelming smell of vinegar disorients the ants, blocking their ability to read pheromones. This overpowering aroma greatly irritates the ants and makes it impossible to carry out their orders or find their way around. 

Using vinegar against ants is easy; create a solution of one-half water and vinegar and add it to a spray bottle. You can then spray this mixture directly onto the ants, causing them to scatter and become highly distressed and therefore repelled. You can then keep the ants away by lightly coating the perimeter of your home, along with its main entry points. 

How Vinegar Repels Spiders

Vinegar is not only a powerful insect repellent but also an effective insecticide. It can both repel and, if applied directly, kill spiders. When mixed with water and applied to cracks and crevices, vinegar’s powerful scent can keep spiders from entering your home. If applied directly to a spider, the acetic acid is highly poisonous and will kill them outright. 

How Vinegar Affects Fruit Flies

As mentioned above, vinegar, especially apple cider vinegar, attracts fruit flies instead of repelling them. These buzzing nuisances mistake vinegar’s overpowering scent with overly ripe fruit, their favorite food. This is what makes apple cider vinegar such an effective attractant for DIY traps. Vinegar’s powerful smell is strong enough to attract them from a good distance away, while the dish soap water mixture makes it impossible for them to swim and escape once they’ve landed. This premise applies the same way to aphids, with the only exception being that aphids are so small that a light misting on your afflicted plant is more than enough to drown them. 

What Other Scents Act as Good Bug Repellents?

While vinegar is one of the most potent natural insect repellents and insecticides, many homeowners dislike its pungent aroma. Thankfully, there is no shortage of natural bug repellents to choose from, with each having its strengths and weaknesses. 

  • Citronella: Citronella and other citrus oils have been a common insect repellent since the 20th century. Today, citronella is one of the most readily available natural mosquito repellents in sprays and candles. While some studies have shown that citronella is ineffective for long-term use — as it fades too quickly — it’s more than adequate for a quick outing. It’s derived from lemongrass and can effectively repel mosquitoes, fleas, aphids, mites, and flies. 
  • Lemon eucalyptus oil: The CDC lists lemon eucalyptus oil as one of its main recommended mosquito repellents on adults and children above three. Lemon eucalyptus oil is derived from a tree of the same name, specifically its leaves. This oil is known to repel many different insects, although we could only find hard evidence of its effectiveness against mosquitos. Still, this is one of the most reliable, natural ways to deter mosquitoes besides citronella.

Final Thoughts

Vinegar is an amazing substance. It sees use in everything from cooking to disease prevention, repelling insects, and cleaning. Most importantly, it’s a valuable tool for pest management by acting as a general insect repellent and as an insecticide in the case of spiders. It can:

  • Disrupt the militaristic order of ants and then keep them away afterward.
  • Be an effective bait for drowning fruit flies and aphids. 
  • Kill spiders on the spot. 
  • Repel many garden insects like earwigs. 

When mixed with water, vinegar is a perfectly safe and effective tool for keeping pests from your home and garden. 

One major thing to remember is that vinegar is not a long-term solution to pests or a substitution for proper pest management. Vinegar only works as long as it’s constantly applied and will dry rather quickly. Furthermore, consistent application of vinegar can be detrimental to plants, eventually killing them. Constant exposure is also known to irritate the skin, eyes, and sinuses. Also, apple cider vinegar specifically may stain lightly colored materials like baseboards and fabrics, so it’s best to use white vinegar with these substances. 

If you encounter ants, spiders, or other insects frequently in your home, you may suffer from an infestation. In the garden, you should look out for pests like aphids, lady beetles, or other plant damaging insects. In the case of an infestation, you should contact a pest control company to handle the problem and find a long-term solution. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Essential Oils Repel Insects?

Essential oils as a pest repellent is a popular trend making circles around online blogs and “how-to” sites. Unfortunately, there’s no conclusive evidence that essential oils make good insect repellents. Some oils are shown to irritate insects and keep them away but usually do not last long enough to be helpful. Worse yet, according to this study, many of the oils that may repel insects also irritate the skin, are too odorous, or do not function well enough. 

Some evidence suggests garlic oil may effectively repel ticks, and peppermint oil may repel spiders. Unfortunately, the rumor of essential oils keeping annoying invaders away has become widespread but has very little information to support it. Besides citronella and lemon eucalyptus oil, we do not recommend using essential oils for repelling or controlling insects. 

Are Any Bugs Attracted to Vinegar?

Certain insects are attracted to vinegar. Namely, those attracted to decaying plant matter, with aphids and fruit flies as the primary culprits. 

Should You Spray Vinegar Around Windows?

Windows are one of the primary ways insects invade your home. You can deter some common pests, especially ants, by spraying vinegar on and around your windows. Ants can fit through the smallest gaps in window screens or even between the screen and frame. By spraying vinegar outside your window and its frame, you can deter ants before they become a problem.

Where Shouldn’t I Spray Vinegar?

Vinegar is an amazing cleaning solution and repellent, but it’s not universal. There are some locations in your house and garden where you should never use vinegar, such as: 

  • Granite and marble countertops: While it might be tempting to spray your countertops as a preventative measure against ants, you should avoid this for granite and marble. The intense acids inside vinegar can damage these beautiful stone materials. This acid can result in discoloration or dulling in the locations the vinegar makes contact. 
  • Anywhere around bleach: This applies more to the usage of vinegar as a cleaning agent, but it’s worth mentioning all the same. Vinegar, when mixed with or exposed to chlorine, creates chlorine gas. Chlorine gas is a severe irritant in small amounts, agitating the eyes, nose, and throat. In large amounts, chlorine gas is lethal, so you should never expose, let alone mix, the two. 
  • Hardwood floors, stone floors, ceramic floors, or laminated floors: Like countertops, certain floor materials don’t react well to the acetic acid inside vinegar. Specifically, acetic acid can weaken any flooring with a chemical finish, wearing it down and making it look weak or unpolished. 

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