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14 Homemade Insect Repellents (That Actually Work!)

Posted in: Insect Repellent, Outdoor Tips

If you're human, you aren't friends with mosquitos. And if you're like me, you probably don't love the thought of putting poison on your skin. In this post, you'll learn how to make homemade insect repellent that actually works. It's easy to make, it's effective, and it will even save you money.

homemade insect repellent

14 Homemade Insect Repellents (That Actually Work!)

Almost everyone these days is familiar with the bug repelling chemical DEET. This amazingly effective ingredient is in many commercial bug sprays and carries the potential risk of unpleasant side effects for humans. It is no wonder many people are looking for healthier solutions.

As a result, this has led to the development of many homemade insect repellents that actually work! Today, many feel that it is almost a crime to spray hazardous chemicals on your skin. This article will walk you through 14 recipes for homemade insect repellents that won’t let you down!

Effective and Healthy Homemade Insect Repellents

Today, the need to protect yourself from biting insects is greater than ever. Mosquitoes are prevalent almost everywhere in the world, and they carry unpleasant diseases. West Nile Virus, yellow fever, Zika, and malaria are only a few of the many mosquito-borne illnesses. In fact, the CDC found over 700 million people contract one of these diseases every year.

Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever spreading ticks are of special concern to outdoors people and children. Did you know 30,000 cases of Lyme are reported to the CDC each year? Not only that, but the rates of RMSF have been on the increase since 2000. We think it shouldn’t be a matter of choosing chemicals or insect-borne diseases.

Read more about how to remove a tick head after the body is gone.

Homemade insect repellents can be made with a variety of non-hazardous ingredients, some natural and some man-made. Furthermore, they can be divided into two main categories: essential oils and non-essential oils.

This guide is divided into two sections:

No matter which you choose, making your own insect spray will be cheaper in the long run. A lot of people already have the majority of ingredients for the following recipes just sitting around the house. Even so, you will most likely have leftover items to make another couple of batches! Many store-bought repellents cost over $5 and only last a few trips outdoors. Additionally, these homemade insect repellents smell much better than sprays featuring DEET!

Another thing to think about is whether you want to spray or rub on your bug repellent. Some people have issues with putting essential oils directly on their skin, and some essential oils are not safe for children. However, spraying this kind of homemade insect repellent on the clothing of adults is widely accepted. Non-essential oil sprays and rubs are generally accepted as safe barring any allergy.

Homemade natural insect repellent

Essential Oils

Essential oils are known to be an effective insect repellent. Learn more about them in our Campers Guide to Essential Oil Bug Repellent

What is an essential oil? It is a natural oil obtained by distillation (often using steam) of raw plant material. They are essential in the sense that it contains the “essence” of the plants fragrance. Other extraction methods include: expression, resin tapping, cold pressing, and absolute oil extraction.

Watch on YouTube

The following is a list of essential oils that are used for making homemade insect repellents. Some of these variations are not used in the following recipes, but feel free to make any substitutions necessary.

  • Lemon Eucalyptus
  • Citronella
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lemongrass
  • Tea tree
  • Peppermint
  • Cypress
  • Rose geranium
  • Bergamot
  • Lemon
  • Catnip
  • Cajeput
  • Mint

Essential Oil Homemade Insect Repellent Recipes

1. Vodka Surprise – Spray On

First, mix everything except for the essential oils. Once the base is in, add the oils and shake well for immediate use!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of either witch hazel or vodka, or 1 tablespoon of each
  • 2 tablespoons of either almond oil, jojoba oil, neem oil, avocado oil, or a combination
  • ½ teaspoon vodka if using only witch hazel
  • 55 drops of lemon eucalyptus essential oil
  • 15 drops of lavender oil essential oil
  • 15 drops of cedarwood essential oil
  • 15 drops of rosemary essential oil
  • One 8 oz spray bottle

Recipe via diynatural.com 


2. Skin Smoothing – Spray On

Simply mix together all of the ingredients, shake, and spray! The skin soothing benefits come from both witch hazel and apple cider vinegar. Many kinds of toner and other beauty products use the former to help with acne, sweating, razor burn, and more!

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup witch hazel
  • 40 drops of eucalyptus, lemongrass, tea tree, citronella, rosemary, or a combination
  • One 8 oz spray bottle

Recipe via draxe.com

Apple cider vinegar has grown in mainstream popularity as a tool for balancing skin’s pH levels. This reduces fine lines, oil, soothes the skin, and protects skin from future damage. This homemade insect repellent is a wonderful choice for anyone concerned about their skin’s health.

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3. Non-Edible Alcohol – Spray On

Add all of the essential oils into a spray bottle, and then add alcohol and shake. After these ingredients combine, put in the witch hazel and give it another good shake! Now it is time for the vegetable glycerin! This agent helps everything mesh and stay mixed. For the final step, shake in the water.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs. rubbing alcohol
  • ½ cup witch hazel
  • 1 tsp vegetable glycerin
  • ½ cup water or vinegar
  • 30 drops of geranium essential oil
  • 30 drops of citronella essential oil
  • 20 drops of lavender essential oil
  • 20 drops of lemon eucalyptus essential oil
  • 10 drops rosemary essential oil
  • One 8 oz spray bottle

Recipe via wellnessmama.com


4. Easy Essentials Homemade Insect Repellent – Rub On

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. oil of choice (avocado oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, sweet almond oil, neem oil)
  • 20 drops of essential oils (either a combination below or single favorite)
  • Small container such as an old lotion bottle or glass jar

Add the carrier oil to your jar, and then mix in the essential oils. Shake before you rub this nourishing oil mixture onto your skin!

Here are some combinations that work well and smell fantastic:

  • Fireside Campout: 4 drops cinnamon, 6 drops cedar, and 10 drops rosemary
  • Sunny Meadow: 3 drops eucalyptus, 5 drops mint (peppermint recommended), 12 drops lemon
  • 70’s Chic: 6 drops cedar, 4 drops patchouli, 10 drops lavender
  • New Spring Blooms: 2 drops patchouli, 8 drops geranium, 5 drops rosemary, 5 drops lavender

Recipe via dontwastethecrumbs.com


5. Water-based Combination Insect Repellent – Spray-on

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 15 drops lavender essential oil
  • 3-4 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • Distilled water

Combine all ingredients in the spray bottle of your choice, and shake. If you don’t want to purchase distilled water, simply boil water for the same effect.

Recipe via survivalathome.com


6. The Easiest Essential Oil Recipe – Rub On or Spray On

Ingredients:

  • Lemon eucalyptus essential oil
  • 1 of the following: Witch hazel, sunflower oil, neem oil, almond oil, ect.

Mix 1 part of the essential oil with 10 parts of the witch hazel or oil. To mix it up, try using more than one type of oil!

Recipe via survivalathome.com


7. Smell Like a Mosquito Repelling Candle – Rub On

Ingredients:

  • 10 drops citronella essential oil
  • 10 drops eucalyptus essential oil
  • 5 drops cedar essential oil
  • 4 Tbs. oil of your choice (jojoba, neem, fennel, ect.)

Natural insect repellent

More reading: 7 Best Electronic Bug Repellents (For Camping and Outdoor Living)


Non-Essential Oils

In place of essential oils, the active ingredients in many homemade insect repellents are herbs. The following is a list of herbs, spices, and other insect repulsing materials that can be found around the home.

  • Basil
  • Cloves
  • Peppermint
  • Spearmint
  • Vanilla extract
  • Lavender
  • Catnip
  • Lemon juice
  • Mouthwash
  • Castile soap
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme

Non-Essential Oils Homemade Insect Repellent Recipes

8. Bugs Hate Mouthwash, Too – Spray On

Ingredients:

  • Mouthwash of your choosing
  • 1 spray bottle

Simply spray mouthwash on yourself as an easy homemade insect repellent!

Recipe via dontwastethecrumbs.com

9. Spice Cabinet Raid – Spray On

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup witch hazel or rubbing alcohol
  • 3-4 Tbs. dried herbs using any combination of peppermint, lavender, catnip, or spearmint,
  • 2 dried cloves
  • Spray bottle

Combine the water, herbs, and cloves. Bring to a boil. Once good and bubbling, pour into a container, mix, cover, and let the mixture cool completely. When the blend is cool, strain the herbs and them away. Keep the water and add the remaining ingredient, witch hazel or rubbing alcohol. Store this homemade insect repellent in a cool place like the refrigerator.

Recipe via wellnessmama.com


10. Castile Soap Soup – Spray On

Ingredients:

  • 10 tsp liquid castile soap
  • 1 tsp neem oil
  • 4 cups distilled water
  • 1 spray bottle

Combine all ingredients, shake, and apply!

Recipe via dontwastethecrumbs.com


11. The Marinator – Spray On

The marinator is by far the smelliest homemade insect repellent recipe on the list. However, as it dries the smell dissipates to humans. To ticks and mosquitoes, this stuff keeps right on smelling and repelling!

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. dried sage
  • 2 Tbs. thyme
  • 2 Tbs. mint
  • 2 Tbs. rosemary
  • 2 Tbs. lavender
  • 32 oz apple cider vinegar
  • Quart size or larger jar
  • Spray bottles

Combine all ingredients in the glass jar. Seal well, and put it somewhere you won’t forget to shake daily. Shake well every day for 2-3 weeks. After this tincture has had time to marinate, strain the herbs and keep everything in the refrigerator. Since this stuff is so powerful, mix equal parts of the mixture and water in the spray bottles.

Recipe via wellnessmama.com


12. Peppermint and Vanilla Tincture – Spray On

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbs. cloves
  • 1 Tbs. peppermint extract
  • 1 spray bottle

Combine everything into the spray bottle, shake, and let sit at least overnight. This homemade insect repellent works better the longer it is allowed to sit up to a month. If you go this route, make sure to shake daily. Note: you may need to strain out the cloves after steeping.

Recipe via dontwastethecrumbs.com


13. The Italian Job – Spray On

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup distilled water
  • ½ cup vodka
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 spray bottle

Bring water to a rolling boil, and add the basil. Bring this mixture to a boil, cover, and let sit for at least 6 hours. When time is up, strain out the herbs and pour the fragrant water into the spray bottle. Add vodka, shake, and your homemade insect repellent is ready to go!

Recipe via dontwastethecrumbs.com


14. Vanilla Extract – Spray On or Rub On

Vanilla extract can be added to any of the non-essential oils recipes for added protection. Furthermore, it can actually be used on its own to repel mosquitoes. Rub it on the skin, or mix it with equal parts witch hazel and water for a quick, child-friendly, spray-able version.

Recipe via dontwastethecrumbs.com

On the go tip: Soak braided paracord in any of these mixtures to make a homemade insect repellent bracelet!

How to Stay Safe Using Homemade Insect Repellents (10 Tips)

There are a few general common sense suggestions to follow before going gung-ho on your new insect spray.

  1. All homemade bug repellents should be reapplied every few hours for maximum effectiveness.
  2. Avoid spraying in your mouth and eyes
  3. Do a spot test before trying any of the above. It would be a real bummer to find out you are allergic the day of your adventure!
  4. Label this product and all homemade goods well
  5. Keep your homemade insect repellent out of the hands of children
  6. Do not let pets get a hold
  7. Do not use essential oils on children unless cleared by an expert
  8. If you want homemade insect repellent for the whole family, check out the non-essential oil recipes
  9. All should be stored in dark-colored bottles and stored in a cool dark place.
  10. Ask a doctor before using if you are nursing or pregnant.

Natural insect repellent essential oil

Have young children? Here are the best insect repellents for babies.

Say Yes to Nature with Homemade Insect Repellents

Going outside shouldn’t have to be a choice between dangerous chemicals and insect-borne illness. With the rising use of natural products and homemade solutions, you no longer have to.

Whether you are into essential oils or prefer their sources, this list includes something for everyone. These 14 homemade insect repellents will get you started on a healthier summer season!

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines

Bryan Haines is co-editor of GudGear - and is working to make it the best resource for outside gear. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with Bryan and Dena.

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