"Gnats" colloquially refers to any of several types of small flies that bite, swarm or otherwise annoy humans, including midges, black flies and fruit flies. While many commercial repellents, often DEET-based, are on the market, some simple homemade recipes or common household products may offer cheaper and less-toxic solutions.
Perhaps the gentlest form of liquid repellent, applied to skin or clothing, is a mixture of one tablespoon of vanilla to one cup of water. Due to its innocuous nature, you can easily apply this mixture around sensitive areas like eyes and ears. The pleasant smell is an added bonus. Store excess in a tightly covered container.
A recipe popular in the UK combines a ratio of four tablespoons of baby oil to one tablespoon of Dettol. Dettol is an over-the-counter antiseptic liquid common in the UK, but perhaps most easily available for purchase online in the U.S.
You can also try a spritz of citrus fruit juice, or essential oils such as citronella, peppermint, pine or eucalyptus. Dilute essential oils with water in a small spray bottle and apply as needed. Remember that just a little essential oil goes a long way, so only add a few drops to the bottle of water.
More Gnats-Away Tips
In your own home or yard, there are several techniques you can use to minimize gnat numbers.
First, keep it clean. Rotting fruits, vegetables, trash and food particles can attract fruit flies both indoors and outdoors. Cover compost and locate it away from outdoor seating and entries.
Second, be conscious of outdoor lighting on porches and near doorways that may attract gnats. Replace outdoor light bulbs with sodium versions to reduce attractiveness to insects.
Third, be aware of any areas of standing water: flowerpots, gutters, toys and tires. Even such small pools can be effective nurseries for gnat larvae. Gnats can also breed in moist soil or plant matter, so address sodden conditions as fully as possible: rake over wet leaf mats and amend soggy soils with sand.
If you have a chronic gnat problem, keeping your yard tidy may go a long way toward solving it.