How to Keep Flies Away (with 3 things you have at home!)

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Learn how to use 3 things you already have at home to keep flies away outside. This hack for getting rid of flies outdoors will let you eat your meals in peace.

If you are like me and would prefer ALL the bugs to leave you in peace, you’ll love this all-natural DIY bug-repelling spray as well as this homemade natural bug spray specifically made for plants.

How To Keep Flies Away Outside

The Story Behind The Penny Fly Trick

I wish I hadn’t promised that I’d never mention bugs on my blog again, because last weekend a friend gave me a tip that just BLEW MY MIND. And it had to do with repelling flies with three things you have on hand RIGHT NOW. So if you don’t want to know, I’ll understand– simply cover your ears and say “lalalala” until the post is over. But for the rest of you, read on to learn my friend’s trick for how to keep your next outdoor party fly-free!

One of my college BFFs came for a visit recently and after sitting down for a nice dinner on the deck we started to get bombarded with that pesky summer staple– FLIES.

“Don’t you know the fly trick?” — college BFF

“What fly trick?” — me

“The pennies in the cup fly trick.” — college BFF

I’d heard rumors of people using plastic baggies filled with water and pennies to repel flies in their home but hadn’t thought to take the action outdoors. So I followed her directions and filled up three glasses with water and a few pennies (about 4-5), placed them around the food, and watched. We watched the flies come to land, see the water, and turn around and ZOOM AWAY.

That’s how I heard about it, and now I am thrilled to share this hack with you!

A full glass of water with pennies at the bottom

How To Keep Flies Away – 2 Easy Tricks

There are two effective and easy tricks you can use to keep flies away when you are eating or relaxing outside – and they both involve pennies in water. I’ll show you how to do both of them and you can pick your favorite one to try.

Method 1: Pennies In Glass Of Water

The first method is super-easy – it basically involves just putting pennies in a glass of water.

What You Need:

  • Pennies
  • Multiple Full Glasses Of Water

How To Use This Fly Trick

Fill up a few large, clear glasses with water. Then, place some pennies at the bottom of the glasses.

Dropping a penny in a full glass of water to keep flies away

Then, place these glasses of water around your table and even among the plates of food. You’ll notice fewer flies buzzing around your food and your head!

A fully glass of water with pennies at the bottom

Method 2: Bag Of Water Trick

The second trick is a lot like the first one, but you’ll use a bag of water instead of a glass. This is a better idea to use if your picnic table is small or you don’t want to risk having extra glasses of water around that might spill.

What You Need:

How To Use The Bag Trick

Set your resealable plastic food storage bag inside a mason jar. The mason jar will hold the bag in place while you fill it up with water.

Then, fill the bag up 3/4 full with water.

Filling a plastic bag with water

Drop a few pennies in the bottom of the bag.

Dropping pennies into a bag of water
Pennies in a bag of water

Seal the bag tightly and spread the pennies out around the inside of the bag.

A bag of water hung up to repel flies

Finally, hang the bag up around where you’ll be sitting and eating.

You can hang up just one or a few. I’ve heard that the ideal amount of bags that keeps the flies away is about 3 bags.

A picnic table full of food

My Experience – It Works!

Glass + Water + Pennies = crazy fly repelling abilities.

It was unreal. I’d say it reduced the flies by about 90%. At one point we looked up and the flies were just sitting on the deck railing staring at all the food they couldn’t ruin.


Clip art of flies on a balcony

We’ve used the ‘fly trick’ each outdoor meal since. The more glasses full of water, the better the fly repelling ability. The kids think this is the coolest thing ever and have learned not to drink the water with the pennies in it.

A child eating at a picnic table

Apparently it has something to do with flies thinking the pennies were compound eyes of a much larger bug looking back at them. To us, they just look like coppery decorations that glittered in the sunlight. “They’re so PRETTY!” my kids sighed

How To Keep Flies Away (VIDEO)

Pennies in the bottom of a glass of water

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some questions people have asked about keeping annoying flies away. If you have a question, leave it in the comments.

What plants keep flies away?

I’ve heard that there are certain herbs that are also natural fly repellants too. If you have planters with herbs in them, you can try to move them closer to your picnic table. These are the plants and herbs that flies hate:

  • Sweet Basil
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Mint
  • Wormwood

How does the penny trick work on flies?

This is the mystery of it all! Some people think that the pennies look like larger bug’s eyes and it scares the flies away.

It was also mentioned that older (tarnished?) pennies work best, though I don’t have evidence to back it up. If the trick isn’t working for you, try using older pennies.

How do you use old CDs to keep flies away?

This is another trick that a reader mentioned. It’s worth a shot – they said the sun reflects off the CD and flies can’t stand all that bouncing bright light, so they stay away.

Hang up old CDs with the reflective-side facing out. The sun will bounce off the CDs and keep the flies away from you.

Amazing Trick for Repelling Flies at your next outdoor picnic or party using just THREE common household items! via

What if the penny trick doesn’t work?

If you have super aggressive flies or a lot of food, I have two more toxin-free ‘get rid of flies’ tricks for you.

One is to cover the food with food tents. These tents let the food ‘breathe’ but create a barrier so flies can’t land on your food. This is a great solution for outdoor picnics and cookouts, or larger parties where there is a lot of food.

food tents for repelling flies outdoors on food

Another tip are these battery-operated fly-repelling fans. We saw them recently when we ate out at a favorite restaurant in the middle of summer and they worked like a charm. They work in a similar way to the penny trick in that they have a reflective surface, but the spinning flaps go the extra mile. They’re safe and easy to use, so if you eat outdoors often it’s handy to have one or two in your outdoor bag of tricks!

battery operated fans for getting rid of flies outdoors

Essential Oils To Repel Bugs – More Info

For more ideas for repelling bugs, be sure to read how to use essential oils to repel everything from mosquitoes to ticks to lice.  And then I won’t talk about bugs EVER AGAIN.  Summer’s almost over and then I’ll go back to pumpkins and room makeovers, I promise. Probably. 😉

But until then, don’t be surprised if you come over to visit and there are penny-filled cups everywhere with sad-looking flies lined up on the railing.

Did you know this trick? KABOOM, right? Give it a try and let me know if it works for you too!

Amazing Trick for Repelling Flies at your next outdoor picnic or party using just THREE common household items! via

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    1. I always heard that the reason for the copper is to retard algae growth…keep the water clean, like copper pipes. The bags and jars of water act like mirrors to confuse the flies who have very sensitive eyesight, and the structure of their eyes act like a prism, so moving, reflected light makes it difficult for them to figure out where to land. So the pennies really are not necessary if it is just for a day or so, and would need to be old as new pennies do not have enough copper.

      1. So sorry! I have a feeling Aussie flies are much tougher than those in the States… I mean, judging from the other animals you have there! Eeek!

    2. One method that works, in addition to the penny water bags, is the use of an old CD. If you have two, that’s even better. Most CDs have one reflective side. Using two creates a dual effect and allows natural sunlight (when you have it) to bounce light in a flickering fashion that scares the flies away!!! A nice breeze makes your summer day look like a daytime disco party! LOL Enjoy the homemade repellent!!!

    3. I just tried it after a meal outdoors. Left my plate out on patio table with the water and penny filled glasses, and, except for one persistent fly, it seems to be working

      1. I have a question about the glass /Penny’s and water
        Can it be glass bowls or maybe clear plastic cups instead of glass

        1. You could try that, I think glass works best because of the magnifying ability but I haven’t tried it with plastic.

    4. They must really like cat food!! Had no luck with this hint.. neither
      cinnamon sticks or cloves .Lemon grass next and some cold southern weather lol !!

  1. The reenactment is hilarious! I have heard about the penny trick before but never tried it. Here in AZ we are not bothered by flies much.

  2. Carrie,

    I love your blog. Fantastic (and helpful) post about how to keep flies away. I love how you suggested from the post to visit your blog. Great strategy.

    Definitely going to share this for you.

    Make it an awesome day.

  3. Here is Houston, everytime we sit down for a meal, there are the flies!!! I have seen the plastic bag of water with pennies in it in some of the older mom and pop restaurants and completely forgot about it. I definitely will be trying this next weekend when my husband and I sit outside again! Thanks for the tip!

  4. I live in FL, which feels like the bug capitol of the least to me 🙂 We will use this handy trick from now on! Thanks so much for sharing! Pinning:)

  5. I’m not sure where the person lives in Az that she is bothered by flies much. I live in Mesa, AZ and we have flies all the time in our backyard. We are out there for a few minutes and say the heck with it and go back in the house. Maybe that’s it she stays in the house. I am going to do this right now so we can go out back and relax until it gets too hot today. Thank you so much for the info. You can talk about bugs anything as long as you can tell me how to get rid of them.

  6. How funny! I forgot about this tip!! Thank you so much for sharing, we are having a horrible problem right now so I’m going to give it a shot. Can’t wait to see the timid flies. Your pictures are beautiful BTW.

  7. I use pre-1982 pennies to help keep my bird bath clean. They have more copper. Works well. Will try this idea.

    1. Fantastic tip, thanks! I had no idea about the dates and percentage of copper!

      1. Yes, the copper content is higher in older pennies.
        Also, if you get cut tulips, just put 4 pennies in the water and they’ll last a long tine—2 weeks.

  8. OK. I’m old and I know a lot of tricks. And I’ve never heard of this. NEVER! I’m going to have to plan a meal outdoors just to test it out.

      1. I like my morning coffee ok my back patio, but the flies have been ridiculous the past couple of weeks! I googled how to keep flies away and your blog popped up in my search results. Ran in the house, got two clear jars and put the most tarnished pennies I could find in them. Put them on my patio table and sat down with my coffee and waited. Sadly, no luck. 4 flies in my coffee mug. Flies are jerks! And disgusting. I was really hopeful it would work. Going to try different glasses. Maybe the rim of the jar is not projecting the pennies in a menacing enough way. P.S. I live in Texas, minutes away from the Gulf of Mexico.

  9. I live in a small homestead with sheep/rabbits/ducks/chickens…and lay smack dab in the middle of a couple vow farms..the flies are insane! I’m wondering if I could use this trick in a mason jar and hang them from my porch ceiling?

  10. All these years of pesky flies and all I needed was water and pennies? Who knew! Now just to get rid of those pesky mosquitos and we are set. Thanks for the tip!

  11. One of the ladies in her comment said something about the eye sight of flies. She is probably right.
    I will definitely try this. I sooooo wish it would work for mosquitoes, too, hate those things SO much ! ! When we visit our daughter in northern Canada I wear net top & bottom, to totally cover me, (they sell these things for gardeners, fishermen) I don’t care if I look like a dork, I will NOT be eaten alive ! ! My skin reacts to their bites, the ‘poison’ they put into you never seems to go away, I can scratch the same spot, always a hard bump, for years ! ! really ugly & weird ! !

    1. Mosquitoes love me too … huge bumps (2″ across) that itch for days, then I heard that they prefer type O blood which I have so I started asking folks their blood type vs. mosquitoes. Also just saw something on TV about them being attracted to certain microbes on skin.

      1. I’m so sorry, they’re very attracted to my daughter too, in wonder if she has that blood type? We’ve found a little dab of Purification essential oil does wonders to take away the itch and sting!

        1. Mozzies loved me too until I got a bunch of chronic illnesses that require a crap load of medication and apparently they don’t like me anymore. But I realise that isn’t a suitable plan for everyone so I have another idea. They also love my son, who is allergic and comes up in huge welts and now that I’m off the menu, he is the only course. My mum told me to try using Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Sooth Moisturiser (the green bottle). You have to use it daily and in liberal amounts but rubbing his arms and legs and any exposed skin in this each night did seem to help and he was always bitten much less in the night. It apparently works over time to build up something in your skin that helps give you a natural defence to make you less appealing overall.

    2. I was eaten alive by mozzies then on friend’s advice took B complex vitamin. Went from getting 20 bites in 1 night to 0. They don’t like B vitamin smell?

  12. I heard about this, but never tried it personally, but I do plan to give it a try this summer. Thanks!

  13. One method that works, in addition to the penny water bags, is the use of an old CD. If you have two, that’s even better. Most CDs have one reflective side. Using two creates a dual effect and allows natural sunlight (when you have it) to bounce light in a flickering fashion that scares the flies away!!! A nice breeze makes your summer day look like a daytime disco party! The flies just “dance” away… LOL Enjoy the homemade repellent!!!

    1. I have questions about the CD method. Do you just lay the CD’s on the table? Or do you hang them up? And, if using two, do you recommend keeping them close to each other (for the two-bug-eyes effect)? Thank you for breaking this down for me. 🙂 I can get lost easily.

    2. I use the CD trick in my garden and for the woodpecker that was eating the wooden siding on our house (no, not cedar). For the house, I just cut a length of string and used thumbtacks to hold them onto the soffits so they hung down maybe a foot or so and they would move with the wind. For the garden, I used fishing line and strung the CD’s on a string between 2 stakes to keep the critters away from my sunflowers and other tender plants. Worked like a charm. Now I make it a point to buy CD’s when I go garage saling, I figure for 25 to 50 cents a piece it’s worth it.

  14. This actually worked! I just did it and every fly has just disappeared! Crazy!

    1. Amazing! No flies at my front door screen after I hung up a storage size baggie with a few pennies! Dozen of flies swarmed my screen door when I fryed shrimp and sprayed smelly chlorax at the screen but they kept coming until I googled “how to keep flies away”. Also put a clear water glass with pennys on table tray outside by the screen door.

  15. I’ve tried the pennies in the bag, here in PA. Sorry to say, it did not work for me?. I will say that using baby powder for Ants, has helped us!!! They won’t come near our entry ways.

    1. never tried the baby powder for the ants! thanks! but I do use the ground cinnamon and black pepper to keep them out of the cat food bowls we have out for the outside cats we feed.

  16. I tried a 1/2cup Pyrex dish with water and about 5 pennies, old and current. There were a couple flying around when I went outside with my dinner. Got tired of shooing them away before every bite and googled ideas. Funny thing is…as soon as I put the dish out I was actually noticing MORE flies and they were much more persistent! The dish was right next to my plate too.

    I’ll have to give it another try with a few more dishes or glasses. Has anyone noticed improvements with certain glass shapes over others? I would think a stemmed wine glass might be better since the pennies would be elevated off of a table’s surface.

    One of the down sides to living in the suburbs where everyone and their mother owns a dog… ?

  17. Prevention should be the first step before you cause drawing no-see-ums, bees, flies, etc. to share you and your drinks.

    Sure sprays and stuff work some what, however most bugs are attracted to open drink containers then to your body.
    Odor and smells seems to be the attraction for bothersome bugs, so by having any drink container completely covered helps by not advertising it. Ever run from a Bee or Wasp?

    A solid lid is a great way to reduce attracting things, no straws, no sippy lids. One that I found is made in the USA at Pittsburgh Pa works great, just Google drink container protector and you’ll find a bunch.

    I even use one at work to keep other people’s germs from my coffee mug.

  18. Oh YAY!!! I am SO doing this…Right now! Thank you so very much…I love being outside when it isn’t 100 degrees…but the insects…flies…I can def do without. Surely hope this helps. Besides, what do I have to lose right? Thanx for sharing this post….I’m onto the next post about bugs {& other creepy crawlers) now! 🙂

  19. Flies and wasps were spoiling a sunny afternoon in Stanmore London
    Found your post
    tried the pennies in a jar of water it actually works

  20. I have lived in New England all my life – Mom, Grandmothers and Aunts all from Mass, New Hampshire and Vermont…how have I never seen this trick? Love it! Everyone hates “useless” pennies but I always pick them up! Now they have a real “value”! Thanks! Paris in Mass (live in the country and have indoor pet bunnies)

  21. Well…if you know anything about East Texas…it’s hot, it’s humid and flies are always bothersome! I tried your glass with pennies and remarkably I have NOT had a fly buzz me, land on me, or even fly in the area!!! I didn’t really think it would work, but thought…what have I got to loose?!?! Thank you for this awesome tip!!!!

  22. Oh my Goodness sakes! I had just sat at my dinner table preparing to do some work, well along comes 2 UNWELCOME little pests. Flying around me and l happen to bed on the phone and ended up telling at the person on the phone. I told I’m sorry, but I’m actually telling at the flies trying to sit in my face. She felt bad for me. So I got off the phone and looked online to see what I can do besides spraying them with bleach. And lo and behold! The pennies in a cup trick. I have to say, what flies? So awesome, I have no idea where they both went but it sure worked wonders. Now I can do my work in peace. Thank you!!!

  23. This Glass + Water + Pennies sounds all good. I love to try it! Thanks for sharing Carrie 🙂

  24. Alas it doesn’t work for me here on the Gold Coast in Australia, thanks to my nearby ducks i’m surrounded by them.. i’m going to try CD’s now.. fingers crossed

  25. Such a useful tip you have written in this blog about fly repellent water baggies, it will be needed by so many. So keep sharing such kind of information. Thanks for sharing this. I am very thankful to you and your post also. Keep sharing.

  26. It worked GREAT until the sun started going down, anyway. I’m going to try the disks on entryways next. I never knew!

  27. Lol my grandmother would have glass bottles with water and small rocks in them..hanging by the doors of her house ..not only flies and also bees wouldnt make their hive near them..

  28. I have flies on my hosta plants and lots in my two bushes that are just on either side of my steps leading to my front door. Any recommendations for safe illumination of them .Some are small flies and others are big house flies. They are now going around my front door. Very annoying and gross!

  29. I have also used pennies on my first step to keep those little ants from crawling into my house. Not sure why it works, but it does. I just line them up…maybe 15 across and that’s it. Once in awhile I get a rogue ant who makes it thru the barrier, but not many.

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