Whether it’s mosquitoes, fleas and ticks or plant-destroying pests, we could all use some good bug repellent. For your skin, DEET insect repellents are purported to be safe and effective, but many of us would rather use an all-natural product. If you want to steer clear of potentially dangerous chemical bug sprays, we’ll show you how to make your own bug repellent.
Essential Oils That Bugs Hate
If you’d rather not use synthetic repellents, then your best all-natural defense comes from essential oils — especially lemon eucalyptus oil. Note: lemon eucalyptus oil is not a blend of lemon oil and eucalyptus oil, but an oil made from the lemon eucalyptus plant. This essential oil is proven to be every bit as effective as DEET and it even comes with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control. However, because it can be toxic in extremely high doses, it isn’t recommended for children under three years old.
There are also several other bug-repelling essential oils, though none as effective as lemon eucalyptus. Here’s a list of effective essential oils if you’d like to make a blended insect repellent:
• Tea Tree
How to Make Homemade Bug Repellent
All homemade insect repellent sprays have three basic ingredients: water, the oil or blend of oils of your choice, and a carrier to dilute the oil. A common rule of thumb is to make sure that your mixture is 10% essential oil, with the rest being a half-and-half mixture of water and the carrying agent.
Here’s a basic recipe:
• 4½ ounces of water
• 4½ ounces carrier
• 1 ounce essential oil
Mix the three ingredients in a spray bottle and shake before using.
What Is A “Carrier”?
People use all kinds of things as a carrier, including vegetable oil, rubbing alcohol, vodka, vinegar, and witch hazel. The choice is up to your personal preferences. A bug spray with rubbing alcohol evaporates quickly and won’t stain clothing like almond oil, for instance, but it may dry your skin. If you want a moisturizing bug spray, then using a vegetable-based oil for the carrier might be the way to go.
The best part about homemade bug repellent is that it lasts just as long as store-bought chemical repellents. A 10% mixture of either DEET or an essential oil (like the recipe we’ve listed above) will need to be reapplied every hour or two. Stronger mixtures will last much longer, so if you’re looking for an all-day repellent, simply increase the amount of essential oil in your bug spray. Mixtures that contain 30% DEET or essential oil typically last five to six hours, which means one or two applications will let you be bug-free outside all day long!
Homemade Tick and Insect Repellent
Just mix and apply to exposed skin before heading outdoors:
• 9 drops citronella essential oil
• 6 drops Tea Tree essential oil
• 6 drops Peppermint essential oil
• 1 tablespoon carrier oil, such as almond oil or jojoba oil
NOTE: Do note that essential oils are very powerful and should be used with caution, especially with pregnant women and young children. Essential oils should always be diluted as noted above.
Some oils are toxic to cats and dogs, so please do your research and check with your vet.
Try out some of these oils to make your own bug repellent and you may never need to use synthetic pesticides again!
Amber Kanuckel is a freelance writer from rural Ohio who loves all things outdoors. She specializes in home, garden, environmental, and green living topics.