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Homemade Natural Insect Repellent Options

Natural Insect Repellent Options

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 bug spray 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)

Related: Treating Tick Bites Naturally and How to Remove a Tick Safely

Natural Home Made Insect Repellent Recipes

  • 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…
Do you know how to properly dilute essential oils?
essential oil dilution chart
Katie here, popping in to tell you how important it is to be sure you’re diluting those essential oils properly. Sure, you know not to use EOs straight (neat). But do you know the 1-2-3 math so it’s not too strong or weak? Print this chart to keep with your oils so you never have to do math in the middle of the night when your LO is congested: You can read more about why it’s so important to dilute essential oils here, and I know the little chart will be helpful!
  • 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 oil 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 lemongrass essential oil
    1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
    Combine all in 16 ounce spray bottle. These glass ones are nice. 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, lemongrass. Add 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
Facebook Natural Insect Repellent Options

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 Plant Therapy 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?

Disclosure: I am an affiliate for Plant Therapy and will receive a commission if you shop there. See my full disclosure statement here.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

30 thoughts on “Homemade Natural Insect Repellent Options”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. Where would one go to buy the glycerin I’ve looked at the local drug and grocery stores but the only glycerin they have is in the form of a suppository ?

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      That’s so fascinating! Thank you; I updated the post with your suggestion! 🙂 Katie

    2. 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.

    3. Pest Management St George

      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.

      1. Jessica - Keys of the Universe

        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!

      1. Jessica - Keys of the Universe

        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.

  8. 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!

    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      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

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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! 🙂

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

    2. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      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

    3. 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!

  14. 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.

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