It is amazing how many chemicals are in commercial insect repellents, and what exactly is DEET. I don’t know about you, but I want to reduce the amount of chemicals I put into and on my body. So is there an alternative to these commercial bug sprays that work? Yes there is, and you can make them yourself with essential oils. Plants create chemicals to repel predator bugs and attract pollinating insects. There are several plants known to repel insects like citronella, clove, lemongrass, eucalyptus, lavender and cedar to name a few. Of course some plants repel certain bugs better than others as shown below (from Tasty Yummies):
- Mosquitoes – citronella, lemon eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon, eucalyptus, catnip, basil, clove, thyme, lemongrass, geranium, lavender
- Fleas – cedarwood, citronella, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, lemongrass, lavender, orange, pine
- Ticks – rose geranium, juniper, rosewood, thyme, grapefruit, oregano
Make sure you purchase therapeutic grade essential oils for your insect repellent because they don’t contain any man-made toxins. Fragrance oils, on the other hand, are made using chemicals to recreate a plant’s scent. (See “Essential Oil or Fragrance Oil?” to learn more.) To make your insect repellent, you need the following:
- 4 oz. dark colored spray bottle (preferably glass)
- 2 oz. boiled or distilled water
- 1 oz. vodka or witch hazel
- Essential oils of your choice from list above
Fill the 4 oz. spray bottle with the water, vodka or witch hazel and 50 to 75 drops of essential oils from the list above (ex: 30 drops of citronella, 15 drops of eucalyptus, 10 drops of lavender, 10 drops of lemongrass and 10 drops of oregano). Because essential oils don’t dissolve in water, you must shake your bug spray before each use. Therefore, don’t fill the bottle completely full to allow shaking room. To reduce the strength of the insect repellent, reduce the amount of essential oils you add to the spay bottle. Apply your insect repellent to your skin every few hours for maximum effectiveness. Would you like your bug spray to contain a skin moisturizer? You can add coconut, olive, almond, grapeseed or jojoba oil to your mixture.
If you would like your insect repellent to be a lotion instead of a spray, put 8 oz. of your favorite oil in a dark colored jar, add 50-75 drops of essential oils and stir the mixture. Be sure to use a dark colored container or spray bottle (preferably glass) because essential oils deteriorate (oxidize) and lose there benefits over time when exposed to sunlight or continuous heating up and cooling down. Glass is preferred because some essential oils, like cinnamon, eat at plastic, which contaminates the oil. Read more about storing essential oils on AromaWeb. If you don’t want to purchase all these essential oils, we sell a proprietary essential oil that repels insects. This blend includes lemon eucalyptus, citronella and lemongrass as well as 12 other essential oils in a fractionate coconut oil base. Use this essential oil in the following ways:
- Apply small amounts directly on your exposed skin.
- Diffuse it into the air using a diffuser or by applying 1-2 drops on a string or ribbon and hang in the area where you want to keep out insects.
- Make a spray by adding 2-3 drops of of the essential oil to 1-2 oz. of witch hazel or distilled or boiled water in a small spray bottle and shake well. You can apply this bug spray to your skin or small openings where bugs may be entering the area.
- Dilute 3-5 drops in 1 tablespoon of carrier oil like coconut or olive oil and apply to your skin.
This essential oil lasts up to six hours when used full strength. If you diluted this essential oil blend, you will need to reapply it every four hours. It is always best to test your insect repellent on a small area of your skin to make sure you are not sensitive to the mixture. If your skin is sensitive to full strength essential oils, dilute them as stated above and test again on a small area of skin.
Your homemade bug spray can also be used on fabrics, carpet, plants and more. Watch spaying your repellent around animals. They may be sensitive to one or more of the essential oils. Please consult your veterinarian before using your insect repellant on any animal, especially cats. Due to the way cats process and filter what they eat, they are more sensitive to essential oils and can be allergic to them (ex. Melaleuca or Tea Tree Oil).
If you would like to try our proprietary essential oil or using other essential oils to make your own insect repellent, stop into the store. We sell this essential oil, oregano, lemon, lavender and peppermint in small bottles of 20 drops.