Make your own bug repellent with just a few ingredients, using essential oils as mosquito repellent. Plus it works for gnats, flies, and ticks! Perfect for summer fun with my homemade citronella candles.
Camping, picnics, evenings on the back porch. What do these things have in common? SUMMER! FUN! BUGS! And the fact that you need homemade bug repellent.
There’s no summer without bugs, and really, I could do without the bugs. That’s one reason we make this homemade bug repellent.
Besides being much safer than store-bought chemical insect repellents, homemade bug spray is:
- Easy. Just combine the ingredients and go!
- Cheap. Using only a few drops of essential oils per batch, your pure essential oils will last for a long time! (And it’s still cheap if you use high quality essential oils and avoid using oils from unknown sources.)
- Versatile. There are two different ways you can make some depending on your preferred application: rub on or spray on.
The key ingredient for either recipe is essential oils. The strong scent of essential oils will repel bugs away as well as give you added aromatic benefits!
Making your own bug repellent is simple and effective! You only need a few key ingredients:
- Essential oils
- Carrier oil (Avocado oil is great on the skin!)
- Witch hazel (Be sure to pick one like this brand, that only has witch hazel listed in the ingredients. We also use this in our favorite after sun spray.)
A Quick Note on Essential Oils
I know there are a lot of essential oil companies out there and I’ve certainly tried my fair share of brands. But after testing and researching and more testing, only one is worth spending money on (in my opinion). For a couple of years now I’ve been committed to Young Living oils, and you can read more about their oils and my decision HERE.
However, I understand that not everyone wants to join Young Living. I’ve heard great things about Plant Therapy on Amazon. They are a great choice!
Homemade Bug Repellent: Rub-On
This is a crazy simple recipe. You only need two ingredients: a carrier oil and a mix of essential oils. You can use a similar recipe for your pets as well and avoid the need for chemical-laden flea and tick collars. Just keep in mind that not all essential oils are safe for pets. Check out this pet-friendly adaptation for your four-legged friends.
Rub-On Bug Repellent Supplies
- Carrier oil (I like sweet almond oil or avocado oil they are light on the skin and not too greasy)
- 10-20 drops of preferred essential oils (see above for single oil recommendations, or below for some great combos)
- Small bottle or old jar
Step By Step Instructions for Rub-On
Step 1. Add 2 tablespoons of carrier oil in a small bottle or re-useable jar. Add in 10-20 drops of your preferred essential oil.
Step 2. To apply, simply shake the bottle well and rub a small amount of oil on exposed skin. The bugs will stay away and your skin will be nourished!
Homemade Bug Spray
If you prefer a spray-on repellent this works great although it uses a few more ingredients.
Bug Spray Supplies
- Carrier oil (I like sweet almond oil or avocado oil as they are light on the skin and not too greasy)
- 10-20 drops of preferred essential oils (see above or below for some great combos)
- Small spray bottle
- Distilled water
- Vodka or witch hazel
Step By Step Instructions for Spray-On
Step 1. In a 2 ounce bottle or jar add in 1 1/2 Tbsp of distilled water, 1 tsp of carrier oil, 1 tsp of vodka or witch hazel, and 15-25 drops of essential oils. Shake well before spraying on your skin.
Step 2. This recipe could easily be doubled or tripled for a camping trip or frequent outdoor activity and put in a larger glass spray bottle.
Step 3. With both of these recipes, avoid getting the repellent in your eyes or mouth!
Homemade Bug Repellent Without Essential Oils
If you’re in a pinch and don’t have the chance to get essential oils as mosquito repellent, or if you’d just simply prefer not to use them, we’ve made our own plant-based homemade bug spray using herbs and extracts instead with good success.
The best part is that you likely already have everything you need at home, and if you don’t, you can get it all at the grocery store.
Store-bought Bug Repellent
I know some families aren’t the DIY-ers and would prefer to buy it ready to go. If that’s you, here are the top bug repellents I recommend:
- Babyganics (also DEET-free and safe for baby)
- All-terrain Herbal Armor (made with herbs and likely found locally as well)
I am so happy to keep the bugs away by using a natural product that is free of nasty chemicals. Plus when you think of the money you save by making your own bug repellent, I don’t know why you wouldn’t do it yourself!
Here are some of my favorite essential oil combos for repelling bugs. They seem to all work the same; it depends on what kind of scent you desire!
Campfire: 10 drops Rosemary, 6 drops Cedarwood
Floral: 8 drops Geranium, 5 drops Lavender, 5 drops Rosemary, 2 drops Patchouli
Hippie: 10 drops Lavender, 6 drops Cedarwood, 4 drops Patchouli
Fresh: 12 drops Lemon, 5 drops Peppermint, 3 drops Eucalyptus (Use caution with lemon and sun exposure. This EO is better used after the sunsets!)
Don’t forget to experiment with some different combos and mix it up! Your bugs may be repelled better by some essential oils more than others.
I think pure essential oils make the best homemade bug repellent. These essential oils are traditionally recommended for their bug-repellent properties:
You can either make a spray-on homemade natural bug repellent, or a rub-on. This post will show you how to make either option step-by-step!
More Summer DIYs
- DIY 3 ingredient sunscreen
- After-sun Spray
- Bug Repellent without Essential Oils
- Homemade Citronella Candles
Be careful with especially the lemongrass. It attracts bees! This is used for swarm lure.
I’m looking at the Bug Spray list, and many of the oils have a star on them rather than being blank or having a check mark. What does the star stand for on the chart? I want to make a spray, but need clarity of the references.
SJ - Team Crumbs
Hi Cindy. We aren’t seeing stars and we don’t know what chart you are referring to? Can you clarify so we can try to help you?
Mosquitos are pretty bad on our outdoor Florida terrace. I’m going to make a recipe of tea tree, lemongrass and eucalyptus essential oils, witch hazel and almond oil as the carrier. This will be used as a spray to rub on. I would also like to use this in a ultrasonic diffuser on the terrace to act similar to a fogger. Has anybody tried this? Can this recipe go as is in a diffuser or should it be altered in anyway? Also, will I see a film when diffusing? I’m a complete novice with this so would love feedback.
Kyare - Team Crumbs
Lynne, I am not sure for an ultrasonic diffuser but essential oils should work well in diffusers which send out a mist. I highly suggest following the above recipe however it is always great to see what our readers are inspired to come up with after reading our post! Let us know what you end up doing and how it works out for you!
Appreciate your research on “organic” qualifications.
Can you recommend a dual purpose homemade recipe for my 8 yr old
for ***DIY Bug Repellant plus Sunscreen***
It would be easier to find or make a sunscreen recipe that you like (here’s mine: https://dontwastethecrumbs.com/2016/06/homemade-sunscreen/) and then add bug repelling oils to that sunscreen.
Just putting the word out there about essential oils and the quality issue. Doterra and Young Living oils are NOT organic !!! Please do your research. I am sure you might make an effort when choosing the food you eat and hopefully that choice is organic as well. Maybe this isn’t important for you, but there are other choices out there, less expensive and organic high quality oils from Florihana in France. These oils are highly concentrated so organic is very important.
I have been using essential oils for many years and for a short time bought into the Doterra brand but soon discovered the oils were not organic and very expensive. It was also irritating that the only way for me to buy jasmine or rose oils was through some kind of reward or marketing ploy.
Probably best to move away from young living. Please do contact them about the organic issue. I did and was basically told after many messages that the oils are not organic, there is no such thing as beyond organic, which was a term used by other Young Living advocates.
Hey Melissa! I totally understand where you’re coming from and can’t speak about DT, but after extensively researching the quality of Young Living AND the organic standards set forth by the FDA, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with your recommendation and the advice you were given.
• To be certified organic, land must be free of pesticides for 3 years. Young Living requires the land to be free of pesticides for 50 years.
• The organic certification allows pesticides to be used on all produce. Young Living allows NO pesticides whatsoever and even employs 3rd party testing to ensure none are found (even though none are use in practice).
• According to the organic certification, you can use certain synthetic and/or non-organic items and still qualify for the label.
• Only 95% of the food is required to be organic, to be labeled organic.
I would encourage you to read more about the organic certification, as it’s not something to hang your hat on: https://dontwastethecrumbs.com/2015/03/14-facts-the-organic-industry-doesnt-want-you-to-know/
I personally choose and recommend Young Living because they control every single aspect of the oil process, from planting the seed, to harvesting, to distilling, to bottling and they’re the only company to do so. It’s important to not trust labels at face value and to dig into the quality behind the product – especially when you deal with products that aren’t highly regulated by the government. (For example, did you know that the FDA requires that only 5% of a bottle contain actual essential oil in order to be labeled pure? That will make you think twice about where you buy your oils from!)
Why do you need to put witch hazel or vodka AND a carrier oil for the spray?
Essential oils are better absorbed by the skin when they’re applied with a carrier oil, and depending on which oil(s) you use, it could feel hot or cold to the touch. Essential oils are powerful, and it’s important to use them safely.
Essential oils are lipid soluble. You need the fat content of the carrier oil to make the essential oils skin safe. Vodka is a dispersent. The oils need to be incorporated together and safe for skin application. The witch hazel or vodka serves a different, but still very important, purpose than the carrier oil does.
So, I only have peppermint EO on hand..just moved into a new house and everytime I try to go out in the backyard..Bumble Bees follow me. Can I use a few drops of the peppermint oil behind my ears and wrist? Will this keep them at bay?
It’s worth a shot Lindsey!
Do you think a blend of cinnamon, cloves & eucalyptus would work against bugs? Looking for a friendly way to detract some lady bugs…read somewhere that they don’t love cloves & I happen to have this blend around & am hoping it’ll do until I can formulate one off your lists
It’s worth a shot Kristen!
I think it worked, they’ve at least hidden themselves away!
That works for me, LOL!
I’m definitely going to try this next year! My daughter is severely allergic to mosquitos, every single bite she gets ends up swelling to the size of a golf ball. I’ve tried everything store bought to treat bites and prevent bites with no success! We end up staying indoors alot (which is not fun for a 4 year old) to try to prevent bites and when healing from bites. Reading all of these success stories I have high hopes that next summer will be our best! Thank You!
Thanks for this! I sit by the main doors to my office, so I’m always having issues with flies and gnats around my desk. It’s hard to work when I’m waving flies out of my face. I have a eucalyptus and peppermint hand salve that I use, so I put a little on a napkin and left it out. So far it seems to be helping!
No one has mentioned spiders. Is there a special recipe for getting them to leave town? 😱
But the spiders eat the flies!
I have read that lemon, eucalyptus, and peppermint work well on spiders. Lavender and tea tree are also supposed to be good ones to use. Spiders may eat flies, but that doesn’t mean I want them in my bedroom!
I have a severe reaction to mosquito bites – they itch intensely, I scratch them and then they scar – sometimes for several years. I had a bite in between my toes (rude bug!) and googled essential oils for mosquito bites and found your article. I put a drop of tea tree oil on the bite and it IMMEDIATELY stopped itching and hasn’t started up again!!! Tiffany, thanks for saving me from yet another scar!
You’re very welcome Miriam!!
Living in the Tulsa Oklahoma area, we seem to have encountered every species of bug I’ve seen in my 64 years. (Just this past year!) The flies make it impossible to sit on the back porch, and if they don’t get you then the mosquitoes will. This year our area even had an army worm infestation. We have three small dogs, and although we keep them clean and use Revolution to protect against parasites and heartworms, I’d love to have something to protect them from the mosquitoes. Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated!
I mailed some of my homemade essential oil bug spray to Arkansas. How heat tolerant is this spray?
i am sure the package is in hot trucks while it takes 3 days to get there.
will this damage the product in any way?
Looking to make insect repellent with essential oil to spray on clothing. Do I mix lemongrass and citronella oils and or purification oils with distilled water and witch hazel? If so, what’s the proportion of each?
Hi Diane! The instructions for making a spray-on bug repellent are in the post above.
This might sound silly, but I’ll be outside (of course) since I’m wearing bug spray, and afraid I’ll be extra exposed to sunburn from the carrier oils. I don’t know if they might cancel out the effects of the sunscreen. Any advice on that concern?
The carrier oils don’t have the capability of cancelling out sunscreen if you’re using a quality sunscreen. You’re also not using so much carrier oil that you’re covering yourself in a thick layer. Apply your sunscreen, spray w/bug spray and have a good time! 🙂
Remember that lemon, or any citrus oil can cause photo sensitivity! Best to avoid those in the summer……even if you put it under your clothes where the skin isn’t exposed to sunlight, it absorbs into the skin and will absorb into the whole body, so it can still cause the photosensitivity because it is in your system.
The spray recipe says to add carrier oil, as well as either the vodka or distilled water. But the posts above say not to add the carrier oil? I want to make a spray repellent. What do I use? Thanks!
I’m sorry for the confusion Sharon! Follow the recipe in the post, not comments. For the spray, use the carrier oil.
Hi Sadena, why do you need to use distilled water? I have everything on hand right now except that 🙁
Rebecca – you can boil water and let it cool to make your own “distilled” water. It’s just to remove any bacteria that could cause the repellent to go bad, faster.
Hi, If I’m just making a batch of repellent to sit on a table in a mason jar, do i still need to use witch hazel or vodka and a carrier oil?
Sadena – if you’re putting it in a diffuser, then no. The witch hazel/vodka is to spray, and the carrier oil is to rub on.
Thank you much Tiffany. Gonna try it this weekend.