Fly poisons

Even going back to the 40s and 50s, most books of household hints will suggest using an actual fly spray to kill flies. The Laurel Recipe Book and Household Guide recommended one called Flit (made by Laurel), which “contains DDT and Pyrethrum and is the most deadly of all insecticides, though entirely harmless to humans”, and which was “a truly wonderful insect killer with a fresh fragrance that makes it a pleasure to use”.

The CWA Cookery Book, Tenth Edition did include this gem, though:

Twenty drops of carbolic acid evaporated from a hot shovel will help to banish flies from a room, and a piece of camphor gum held over a lamp until consumed will do for mosquitoes.

If you run into trouble with your carbolic acid, the Modern Household Encyclopedia has this remedy for carbolic acid poisoning:

Give 1 tablespoon Epsom salts mixed with 4 egg whites and milk; or Epsom or Glauber salts in water, vinegar, or soapsuds; or lime water; or raw egg whites in water. Do not give any oils or fats. Brandy or strong black coffee may be given as stimulants, preferably injected through the bowel. Apply external heat on arms and legs.

For a less lethal alternative, try this remedy from Household Hints:

Mix together half a teaspoonful of powdered black pepper, one teaspoonful of brown sugar and one of cream and place it in room on a plate, and flies will disappear.

Vintage ad for White Disinfectant. Black and white drawing of a bottle with the headline "Five times STRONGER than Pure Carbolic Acid!!" Text continues with "Keep your home sweet and clean... destroy germs with CO DISINFECTANT! Bacteriological tests prove it 5 times stronger than pure carbolic acid. For drains, sinks, kennels, poultry houses etc. Defend your health with powerful CO Disinfectant... it's white... DOES NOT STAIN!"

Hopefully it's not also five times as toxic.
It seems carbolic acid isn’t all it’s cracked up to be anyway. From the Nelson Evening Mail, 12 April 1941

A vintage ad for Jeyes' Fluid. A bottle held up by a triumphant disembodied hand with a strange grey cloud behind it. The cloud has text over it saying "It clears away bad odours". Below the cloud, the text reads "Prevent germs and guard health with Jeyes' Fluid. Use in drains, sinks, waste-pipes, dustbins, etc. The oldest and best - twice as strong as Lysol - five times stronger than pure carbolic acid. Ideal for sterilising garden soil and banishing plant pests." The tagline at the bottom reads "Germs and Jeyes' can't live together"
Although it’s unclear whether this would evaporate well from a shovel. From the Wanganui Chronicle, 5 July 1950

Subscribe to Happy Family Happy Home

Don't miss out on any of this very helpful advice - get it delivered straight to your inbox instead.