Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Homemade Natural Insect Repellent Options

July 20th, 2012 · 29 Comments · Do It Yourself, Green Living, Natural Health

homemade natural insect repellent


The KS readers are just fantastic! This post is packed with reader recommendations for DIY and homemade insect and mosquito repellents – they are by and large natural, safe, and at least one person out there says they work!

Why didn’t I test them all, you ask? Not enough bugs, for two summers in a row, for real. (I still managed to pull off the natural insect repellent review by the skin of my teeth, though! Check it out for good options to purchase.)

From what I understand, though, each person’s body chemistry is going to have a serious effect on how well a given bug repellent formula will work for preventing mosquito, tick or other bug bites anyway, so maybe you just have to try them yourself.


I’m indebted to the KS Facebook community for helping me put this awesome list together!  (photo source)

Natural Home Made Insect Repellent Recipes

  • Rely on essential oils and mix with half apple cider vinegar and half witch hazel for application
  • Which essential oils?
    • lavender
    • tea tree
    • lemongrass
    • citrus scents, especially lemon
    • peppermint
    • rosemary
    • neem
    • citronella
    • catnip
    • geranium
    • eucalyptus
    • cedarwood
    • sage
    • UPDATE: oregano is good to prevent tick bites, according to the comments
    • Some of these are reader recommendations; the rest are from the formulas I’ll be testing for the natural insect repellent review, so they may not officially be “essential” oils but are listed as “oil” nonetheless. More on those in another post!

  • If you mix essential oils with another oil carrier they last longer and spread further, usually fractionated coconut oil, but any liquid oil, even extra virgin olive oil, should work. The only downfall to that is that you’ll have to rub on instead of being able to spray it on. One reader also says coconut oil will attract the buggies, so be careful! That said, two of the very effective purchased insect repellents contains coconut oil, so maybe you just want to stay away from unrefined coconut oil with the scent? Just guessing…
  • Homemade soap nuts liquid – reader says it works on BIG mosquitoes! I’d love to try it, as I have found that Shaklee’s Basic H, dabbed on full strength, actually works amazingly well, so maybe there’s something to natural surfactants and insect repellents.
  • UPDATE: from the comments section, a reader uses Vitamin E capsules and rubs the oil on – keeps buggers away for 2-3 days!
  • 2 cups witch hazel extract
    1 1/2 teaspoons citronella essential oil, or lemon grass essential oil
    1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
    Combine all in 16 ounce spray bottle. Shake. No need to refrigerate. Apply liberally, avoiding mouth, eyes and nose. (we close our eyes, hold our breath and spray some in our hands to rub on our face quick, no harm)

    • The author reminds that it won’t work for everyone, but it’s a good base for switching up essential oils – if citronella or lemongrass don’t work, try lavender or tea tree. Neem is really popular in the purchased versions, too.
  • Fill bottle about 85% with witch hazel (and have some extra to top off at the end if needed)Add 10 drops each of the following essential oils: cedarwood, tea tree, rosemary, lemon-eucalyptus, citronella, lemongrassAdd 20 drops each of lavender and peppermint essential oils

    Add a few drops of Vitamin E oil (this helps the spray to last longer – both on your skin and in the bottle)

    Shake well before using!

  • 1/2 tsp lavender oil & 2 cups of water= Multipurpose spray BUT fantastic homemade mosquito repellent!
  • Some other homemade natural bug spray remedies

how to prevent mosquito bites

These homemade insect sprays don’t sound all that hard to mix up, but you have to be willing to invest in essential oils if you’re not already using them regularly. Try Mountain Rose Herbs as one source for quality EOs.

If I had a chance to test this, I’d start with soap nuts liquid because it’s cheap and I have it on hand, then try some of the basic EOs like lavender and tea tree, again, because I have them on hand. I’ll let you know if I ever get a chance to watch mosquitoes land on me and see if I can fend them off with a homemade bug spray option!!

Are you battling the bugs naturally this year? What’s your favorite weapon?

Pin It

———————————————

I’d love to see more of you!  Sign up for a free email subscription or grab my reader feed. You can also follow me on Twitter, get KS for Kindle, or see my Facebook Fan Page.

If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.

Kitchen Stewardship is dedicated to balancing God’s gifts of time, health, earth and money.  If you feel called to such a mission, read more at Mission, Method, and Mary and Martha Moments.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate for Mountain Rose Herbs and Naturoli and will receive commission if you shop there starting here. See my full disclosure statement here.

Tags: ·····

29 Comments so far ↓

  • Mary P

    I bought some California Baby insect repellent but haven’t had a chance to use it yet. It smells nice though with citronella and lemongrass.

  • Elizabeth

    I very much appreciate all the work you do!! This topic is near and dear to my heart. We’re moving the northeastern coast of Brazil at the end of the year. We visited the city back in January and got to experience the bugs firsthand. My poor 1 year old got bitten up horribly! I did as well, but I was more worried about him. Since we made the final decision to move, I’ve been on the hunt for natural bug repellents to take with us. They are so costly, I’d hate to invest in one kind to have it not work at all! And not only are mosquito bites a nuisance, but Dengue Fever is a huge problem where we will be living. I just want to protect my babies! :)

    Richard Reply:

    I took a course of anti-malaria tablets a few years back, never again I’m still suffering with the side effects.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Gah! Elizabeth, that’s kind of scary to have something that serious attached to bugs…

    I hope you can find some bugs and some sprays to test before you leave to make SURE you have one that works for you family! And pack lots of long sleeves…

    I just visited a store in Grand Rapids where I could buy “in bulk” a natural insect repellent, which means I could just get a smidge to test it out. I don’t know if there are many stores like that around, but it would be something to look out for! Or see if you can work with a local essential oil rep (doTERRA, Young Living) who could maybe sell you sample sizes of various EOs, since pretty much all the brand-name sprays use oils anyway.

    Good luck!!! :) Katie

    JenA Reply:

    Where in GR can you buy bulk insect repellent?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Treehuggers in Easttown. :) Katie

    Erika Dawson Reply:

    Elizabeth, if malaria will be a problem where you are, take neem pills.

    My husband grew up in the jungle in Venezuela. His mom passed away from malaria, and it is something that is a huge problem to this day. However, about 10 {or more??} years ago, missionary friends in India recommended drinking a tea made from the leaves of the Neem plant. Long story short, my in-laws have been drinking the tea consistently since that time and haven’t contracted malaria since.

    We did the same when we lived down there, and stayed healthy! If you’d like more details, feel free to e-mail me!
    Erika

  • Brittany

    Thanks for the recipes. I think I’ll have to try some. We’ve been using the MadeOn Bug Block, which seems to work great…as long as you aren’t playing in dirt or the sandbox. My little boys end up with streaks of lotiony mud all over their arms, legs, and faces. Something that evaporates or rubs in a little more would be helpful.

    On mosquitoes, count yourself lucky! They haven’t been too bad for us this summer because of the dryness. But last summer, OY! We couldn’t step outside without being swarmed. And we had to do “mosquito checks” in the sunroom to make sure we weren’t taking any hitchhikers inside with us.

  • Debby

    We clip a Bounce fabric softner sheet to our backs and it keeps mosquitos away! I like it because I don’t have to put anything ON my kids skin.

  • Beth @ Turn 2 the Simple

    I’ve made a recipe with witch hazel, distilled water, vegetable glycerin and essential oils — lemongrass, peppermint and oregano; just ordered some citronella to add to the mix. I’ve read that oregano is good at repelling ticks — that is where we have the most problems. We haven’t used it much for ourselves but has worked well for the dog — he hates the spray though…usually just put a drop of each on his collar — he has lots of hair so I don’t worry about the oils irritating his skin. Just need to reapply at least once a week during tick season!

  • Linda

    I am glad you posted this. I have quite a few bites on my arms and legs, wishing I had a homemade repellant. I need to try some of these before I get more bites.

  • Kristen

    I have recently fallen in love with doTerra’s essential oils , and their bug /tick repellent oil blend is the best! It is called Terra Shield and it is very effective and completely safe! You can apply the oils directly to the skin or mix with water in a glass bottle (about 10 drops oil to 4oz water) and spray on!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Kristen,
    I’ll let the cat out of the bag and say that I did try that one, and I think it’s one of only two that is getting thrown under the bus. It totally didn’t work for me and was the trickiest to apply IMO. BUT that’s why no one should take my word on what “works” or not b/c our chemistry is all different!
    :) Katie

  • Jessica - Keys of the Universe

    Years ago, I heard that if you up your intake of vitamin E starting in early March, you’ll be “naturally repellent” during the summer time.

    Well, I didn’t get to remember to do THAT; but the following summer I went camping with a friend and the mosquitos were just terrible. I had some vitamin E in my pack (it is also good for reducing the formation of scars and I had a recent wound I was using the oil on). So remembering the consumption advice, my friend and I cut open the tablets and rubbed it on.

    We were camping for a week and were not bothered again.

    Ever since then, I find that a good lotion base (could be another oil, or a plain lotion, or cold cream, or similar) with 2-3 tablets of vitamin E is sufficient to keep the bugs away for 2-3 days.

    My son sweats more so needs an application every 2 days for sure.

    But I *never* see vitamin E recommended anywhere else. So I’m wondering if it is just me making it up! Yet every time my son misses a “dose”, he gets bitten miserably (everything is attracted to him).

    Has anyone else tried the vitamin E?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Jessica,
    That’s so fascinating! Thank you; I updated the post with your suggestion! :) Katie

    Denice Reply:

    WOW … this is one I will try. If there is a skeeder within a mile of me, it seems to have laser like radar as soon as I step out of the house and they have been awful this year.

    Pest Management St George Reply:

    Hi Jessica, Thanks for taking off time to share your experience. Actually, I’ve got no idea about vitamin E tablets being used as a repellent.
    However, judging from your story, I think it is very possible that the tablets could actually repel insects.

    However, its best to carry out research and conduct a few simple tests, so you can judge if it was not your brain playing a trick on you.

    Jessica - Keys of the Universe Reply:

    See, that’s the thing. I’m a single mom of just one child; I can’t do any further testing other than just using it for ourselves for the last 10 years. When my son does not have enough vitamin E on, he is bitten a LOT (bugs love him – even when I am not bitten), but if he gets a dose every day he’s fine.

    The friend I went camping with reports the same – but that’s just anecdote too!

    What is in that Avon Skin so Soft that people used for a long time as a bug repellent? I’d be curious if that had vitamin E in it.

    I hope someone COULD do some testing!

    Dawn Reply:

    What about Vitamin E oil? Would that mixed with a cream be effective?

    Jessica - Keys of the Universe Reply:

    I think that is what is in the capsules? I’m not sure ;) I know that we’ve always had coupons or gifts of bottles of capsules so have only used those.

  • Laura from SC

    A few years ago, I saw a report on TV about Rose geranium essential oil vs citronella oil vs a convential deet formula. The rose geranium oil won the test hands down. I remember that the test was one of those glass boxes with a hole for an arm to be inserted and a man used his arm for each test, washing in between tests.

    I always add extra rose geranium to whatever natural formula I am using and I have also used it alone with good results. Now I am going to try the vitamin E trick along with my trusty rose geranium.

    Thanks for all the great ideas and recipes everyone.

  • Kris

    Has anyone tried the four thieves? Some herbs steeped in vinegar? I was wondering about making some and I have enough on my plate if it doesn’t work to well. And I will have to try the rose geranium oil!

    Currently, I just do witch hazel/water/glycerin with whatever EO’s strike my fancy – usually citronella, peppermint, and lemon.

  • Jen

    I like Badger bug balm to keep mosquitos and biting flies away. My allergist also recommended vitamin b-12 to keep mosquitos from biting (I get nickel-size welts). I’ve tried lots of options, but choose chemical-free for my family.

  • Heather via Facebook

    Yes, I do and love it…will have to try one of these mentioned.

  • Ruby

    going in to black fly country this summer, what EO’s would you recommend to repel them.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Ruby,
    Sorry, I don’t know specifics! You’d want to experiment with some in this post. :) Katie

  • Nicki c.

    I use 2 cups water, 2 ounces rubbing alcohol (never thought of using witch hazel), 1/2 tsp rosemary oil and 1/2 tsp peppermint oil. Didn’t have a single mosquito bite last year and I live in Alabama! My daughter’s friends were wanting to use “the good smelling stuff” at evening marching band practice.

  • Wendy via Facebook

    I have about 5 different tabs open right now in a separate browser window with different recipes. Looks like I’ll be adding another tab :) I’m also looking to make some repellent candles since I was able to get beeswax from a local beekeeper VERY inexpensively.

  • Amelia

    Fantastic! I always get loads of flies around my kitchen, which isn’t exactly a great thing when your cooking! Can’t wait to try some of these natural options.

    I’d never even think about using a chemical insect repellant/killer in my kitchen! Thanks.

Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

PTE350
Squooshi reusable food pouches