In my opinion, the one and only downside to summertime are the mosquitoes.
They annoyingly buzz around you until they finally bite, which results in itchiness and welts, swelling, and even allergic reactions. And I do not even want to think about the West Nile or Zika viruses (these will be more or less of a concern depending on where you live) that they could be carrying. Ugh!
I do not know what it is that makes mosquitoes go after some people more than others. Is it blood type? Breath? Body heat? Pheromones? Sweat? Even the scientists have not figured it out exactly. Although – they do say that there is a very large variety of factors at play.
Regardless of the exact reason, I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I can count the number of mosquito bites I get in my adult life on my fingers and toes. Or at least I don’t react to mosquito bites in a typical way so I am unaware it has happened. Please don’t hate me.
My husband, on the other hand, is not so fortunate. Mosquitoes seem to swarm to him, covering him with those itchy welts. Bug bites are no fun. So insect repellent is definitely a necessity in my home, especially when we are out hiking or camping in the summer months. I prefer to use my own homemade mosquito repellent made with essential oils. If we are camping, I’m sure to pack the 6 best essential oils to take camping.
Whether or not you are a mosquito magnet, we all want to be left in peace to enjoy our time outdoors in the summer without any creepy crawlers crawling on us and keeping those pesky mosquitoes at bay.
After romping through the woods, we found that this DIY mosquito repellent works well for us. My husband is grateful not to suffer from so many itchy mosquito bites!
Is DIY Insect Repellent Safer?
If you’re similar to me, you may have some reservations regarding commercial bug sprays. They typically contain chemicals that are fairly toxic to our bodies, and even more so if they contain DEET, known to be toxic to the central nervous system. (source)
Even if the dangers are still being debated, the reality is there have been many toxic and dangerous chemicals that were declared safe for many years… until they weren’t. There are tons that have been later implicated in serious health concerns. Personally, I’d rather err on the side of tradition when it comes to questionable synthetic chemicals vs. natural ingredients with centuries of history and usage. (Is that a fool-proof distinguishing factor? No. Do I still use it as a general rule? Yup, using common sense of course!)
The first solution? Homemade DIY mosquito repellent that we keep on hand all spring and summer.
A DIY mosquito repellent spray made with a combination of essential oils so you can feel good about what you are putting on your body is our first line of defence. There are some natural versions on the market but honestly – homemade bug spray is one of the easiest things you can make!
DIY Mosquito Repellent with Essential Oils is a great way to start with DIY projects…
When you think of DIY you might envision a complicated recipe with lots of steps. The good news is, that that is not the case with this recipe. It may be your easiest DIY yet!
- Safe & Affective
- Simple ingrdients
- Long term savings
- Customizable (can be safe for young children)
- Awesone at keeping mosquitoes away
- One of the easiest DIYs ever!
This essential oil mosquito repellent recipe is a great one to have up your sleeves.
I don’t DIY everything – some things just aren’t worth the time and energy. But this homemade bug spray honestly doesn’t take much time at all, and saves you a ton of money (that you can use to buy safer versions of things that are more time-consuming to DIY). It’s all about making strategic choices, right?
What is the best homemade mosquito repellent?
I personally think that this homemade natural mosquito repellent is the best, which is why I am sharing it with you!
Essential oils used in this natural insect repellent
I have come across so many different DIY insect repellent recipes that use a wide variety of essential oils. I do include quite a few different essential oils here because I want to cover all my bases to ensure they are as effective as possible.
They are my personal favorite essential oil to keep mosquitos away. Each has repellent properties.
- Optional: Get a pre-mixed blend for convenience – just add to distilled water, and you’re done!
If you don’t have these oils, and aren’t sure you want to buy them, Plant Therapy offers a pre-made blend which is targeted to mosquito repellent. I’ve used it, and it works well! (Ingredients are similar to this recipe.)
Either way – this DIY mosquito repellent is easy to put together and has you ready for your next adventure!
Citronella ( Cymbopogon nardus)
In herbal and folk tradition, citronella leaves have been used as a DIY insect repellent. According to The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils by Julia Lawless, citronella had been a popular choice to deter mosquitoes for many years before DDT was introduced.
It is generally considered to be a gentle oil, safe to use on children older than 7 months topically, or defused. It is also safe for pregnant and breastfeeding moms! Using more than the suggested amount may cause irritation or sensitization.
This does not come as much of a surprise to me considering the popularity of our modern-day citronella candles and torches as well. I should note here that many of those are not effective because they are simply citronella scented without actually containing citronella oil.
Citronella is not considered to be safe for cats. If you have cats, use caution when spraying.
It has a shelf life of about 3-4 years.
Egyptian Geranium (Pelargonium asperum)
One of the main components of geranium essential oil is actually citronellol, so it makes sense that it would also be an effective mosquito repellent the way that citronella is. It is often used to help repel ticks.
This oil is considered safe for all ages, including breastfeeding and pregnant women. It should not be used neat (straight on the skin), and it also soothes bug bites. So if you still happen to get a bite or two, geranium is there for that too.
It has a shelf life of about 4-5 years.
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata and Eucalyptus globulus)
Eucalyptus has insect-repelling properties. Field tests in Guinea, have shown that it may provide protection from some types of mosquitos for about 2 hours.
Eucalyptus radiate and globulus are not recommended for children under five years of age due to potential respiratory distress. Generally speaking, radiate and globulus are the most common types available Before you purchase a bottle, check to see what type it is if you intend to use the bug spray for children. (Note: the variety Eucalyptus Smithii should not be used on children under 10.)
It has a shelf life of 2-3 years.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula Officinalis)
Lavender is the Swiss Army knife of herbs. Instead of asking what is it good for, it is almost easier to ask, what is it not good for? Lavender doesn’t simply soothe and relax. It has been used as an ingredient in diy mosquito repellent for a long time as a folk remedy.
This oil is one of the most gentle oils, yet multipurpose as well. It repels mosquitos and other insects, and it also soothes itchy skin and the occasional bug bite. Lavender can be used neat on adults, but it is recommended to not use it directly on infants under three months, and use it dliuted on older babies and children.
Lavender oil is generally considered to be safe to use around most pets, including dogs, cats, and birds.
It has a shelf life of 3-4 years.
Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin)
Patchouli essential oil is another that is linked to mosquito repelling. It is in the mint family. Similar to lavender, it is good for soothing bug bites that if they happen.
It may prevent blood clotting. You should avoid patchouli if you are taking blood thinners or aspirin, shortly before or after surgery, or if you have a bleeding disorder.
It has a shelf life of about 6-7 years.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
Peppermint essential oil is an effective spider repellent. In addition to this insect repellent spray, I use peppermint oil bug spray in my house. I spray it along window screens, door frames, baseboards, and corners to keep the spiders away.
It is safe to use on children and adults over the age of six. Like eucalyptus, it can cause respiratory distress for small children and animals. It is safe generally to use during pregnancy but may dry up a breastfeeding mother’s milk supply. If you have GERD, cholestasis in pregnancy, or a G6PD deficiency, you should avoid peppermint.
It has a shelf-life of about 3-4 years.
How to Make DIY Mosquito Repellent Spray with Essential Oils
As far as homemade insect repellent goes, this recipe is pretty straightforward. Distilled water is the main ingredient and essential oils are the active ingredients. Don’t you love it when you have a natural alternative that works? I’m not going to lie, this spray does have a strong aroma, but for a good reason.
Always test a small area of your skin before use to check for skin irritation. This essential oil insect repellent is unlikely to cause any issues however use caution since each individual responds to substances differently.
Here’s what you do:
- Combine all DIY insect repellent ingredients into small sized spray bottle. Tinted glass is ideal. (This one is very similar to what I use.)
- Store somewhere cool, dark, and dry between uses.
- To use, give the bottle a good shake. Then spray liberally over the body, especially any areas of exposed skin. Rub in, if desired. Spray into hands and then gently apply to face to avoid getting it in your eyes.
You will need to reapply more often than a conventional insect repellent, so keep it handy.
*Safety note: Citronella, peppermint, and eucalyptus essential oils are not recommended for use while pregnant by some sources. Check with a professional and always exercise caution.
†Safety note: Peppermint and eucalyptus essential oil are not recommended for use on children under 5-6 years old. For older children, the essential oils should be diluted twice as much.
Like conventional products, there are still potential side effects even with natural products like essential oils.
Homemade Mosquito Spray: Expert Tips & Tricks
Why no carrier oil?
For simplicity’s sake, this recipe only calls for distilled water. Easy recipes are how I roll.
If desired you can add a tablespoon of carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil, neem oil, or castor oil. You can also add equal parts water to apple cider vinegar, witch hazel, or rubbing alcohol. For example, it would be 1/4 cup water 1/4 cup witch hazel for this essential oil insect repellent.
There is the thought that aloe vera and olive oil when used together, add to the effectiveness of insect repellent. Some people also like to dissolve a couple of tablespoons of Epsom salt into their sprays to soothe the skin and act as an additional carrier for the essential oils. The nice thing is if you have dry skin, these options will help moisturize your skin.
Will it work for more than just mosquitos?
For sure! I created this natural repellent blend with essential oils with mosquitos specifically in mind. The great thing about the oils is that they are good about deterring other pesky insects as well. Some people have found geranium essential oil to help repel ticks.
How well does it work?
The effects of this natural bug spray wear off more quickly than commercial sprays, so it is necessary to reapply every hour or so. It’s been a game-changer for my family. Every region has bugs unique to their area, some people are bug magnets and others aren’t. Each body responds differently to oils. This recipe is a great place to start, but you can customize it to fit your body’s needs.
This type of homemade bug spray works well enough for me without much effort – but others in my family that are super bug magnets tend to apply twice as often.
Are there more bug repelling essential oils?
Definitely! This is the blend I prefer, but other essential oils also have insect repelling properties. If you have bitey jerks (mosquitos & pals) in your area (and really who doesn’t have at least a few?!) here are a few more essential oils for bugs!
- rosemary oil
- ceaderwood oil
- lemongrass oil
- lemon eucalyptus oil
- lemon oil
* Use caution with all citrus, and especially lemon essential oils because they make your skin photosensitive, ie. more sensitive to the sun.
DIY Mosquito Repellent with Essential Oils
- Combine all the essntial oils and water in small sized spray bottle. Tinted glass is ideal to prevent breakdown of active ingredients. Store somewhere cool, dark, and dry between uses.Shake the bottle before each use. Spray liberally over the body, especially any areas of exposed skin. Rub in. Spray into hands and then gently apply to face to avoid getting it in your eyes.You will need to reapply more often than a conventional insect repellent, so keep it handy.
What brand of essential oils should I use?
There are a lot of poor-quality oils out there and a lot of high-quality oils to choose from as well. Buying essential oils from discount stores and big box stores is not the best choice. Choose a company that is careful with how the plants are grown, harvested, and distilled when you make this essential oil DIY mosquito repellent.
It’s easy to get all in a tizzy over which company is the best. I’ve used and had success with Plant Therapy, and I find their prices to be the best. They have a great organic and kid-safe line. Other people choose to go with doTerra, Young Living, and Rocky Mountain Naturals to name a few. Each of those four companies creates high-quality oils and are based (but not all grown) in the United States.
Need more inpiration for essential oils?
Here’s my favorite book to have on hand as a reference guide when working with essential oils: The Complete Aromatherapy & Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness by Nerys Purchon and Lora Cantele.
Additional Tips to Avoid Mosquitoes Without Nasty Chemicals
An essential oil mosquito repellent is a good thing to have but it’s not the only thing you can do to avoid the pesky bugs. Here are some practical tips that will help reduce your exposure to mosquitoes.
1. Avoid and Remove Standing Water
Standing (still) water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The mosquito larvae once hatched, feeds on the organic matter growing in still water. Ensure you do not have any in your yard by checking pet dishes, pails, gutters, and puddles. Keep this in mind as well when choosing campsites.
2. Cover Up
Clothing that covers your arms and legs makes you less appealing to mosquitoes. Of course, it is hot in the summertime, so choose loose, lightweight options. Hats are also a good idea.
3. Install a Bat House
Bats are important members of the ecosystem. One of their roles is consuming insects and pests. In fact, a single bat can eat around a thousand mosquitoes in just one night, so they will keep the population down around your home.
4. Try Garlic Spray
We’ve been using garlic spray around our backyard every spring for several years now, and we find it extremely effective! We use a slightly different brand found in our local Canadian Tire, but this one is basically the same thing.
Whether you want to have a bonfire in your yard, a picnic at the beach, or go camping in the woods (10 Tips For Camping With Young Kids), you are likely to encounter mosquitoes and other pests. Use this DIY mosquito repellent with essential oils for a healthy, natural way to keep the bugs away. Instead of swatting at mosquitoes, you can spend your time focusing on enjoying the great outdoors with the people you love.
If you’re going to be outside battling mosquitos, then you deserve a cold treat, it is summer after all. 😉
This post was originally written by Grace Furman and published by R&H in 2017. It has been revised and expanded by Beth Ricci & the R&H admin team in 2021.