How-to Make Homemade Essential Oil Insect Repellent Spray

by Beth @ Tasty Yummies

Homemade Essential Oil Insect Repellent Spray

I am not sure why, but I seem to be one of those people that always gets bit up by bugs, even when no one else is. I can be in a group of 5 or 6 other people and I will seemingly be the only one. I must taste really good. It must be all that healthy, real food! After getting bit up pretty good, the first few weeks of summer, I was determined to do some research and make my own homemade essential oil insect repellent spray.

There are many essential oils, known for being excellent natural insect repellents.Here are just some of them: Citronella, Clove, Lemongrass, Lemon Eucalyptus, Cedarwood, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Cedar, Catnip, Lavender, Peppermint, Basil, Rose Geranium, Cinnamon Oil, Thyme, Lemon, Orange, Pine

Many of these different essential oils work especially well for specific pests, according to the research I have done, here are some of the more well known pests and essential oils that work as repellents for them:

Mosquitos – 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

Some studies have also shown, additional effective ingredients include: Neem Oil, Soybean Oil, Vodka, Garlic and Vanilla Extract

Using a 4 oz clean spray bottle, fill it with 2 ounces of distilled or boiled water. Add 1 ounce of witch hazel or vodka then about 50 to 75 drops of essential oils, any combination of the above oils should work. If you want to add more varieties of oils, just add less of each oil you are adding in, if you wish for it to be less strong of a mixture, just add less drops. You just want be sure to keep the total percentage of essential oils under 15% for safety. I added approximately .5 ounces of jojoba oil for it’s moisturizing properties, but this isn’t necessary. Remember, you don’t want to fill the bottle completely full, so there is room to shake the mixture each time, which is necessary as the essential oils do not dissolve in the water and will therefore separate.

For this first batch I went with citronella, tea tree and peppermint essential oils, as this is what I had. I had just run out of lavender, otherwise I would have absolutely added that, since I am obsessed with the smell of fresh lavender. I also would have added lemon eucalyptus oil if I had some, as several studies have shown it to be the most effective amongst all of its natural counterparts.

I have used this spray several times already and it works really, really well and it has worked well for other’s that have tried it, too.

Hope you have as good of luck with this homemade spray, as I have!

Homemade Essential Oil Insect Repellent Spray

Sometimes no matter how much we try to protect ourselves we will still get bit. So how can you stop the itch or the pain?

• Apply lavender or tea tree essential oil directly to the insect bite.
• Apply apple cider vinegar to the bite
• Rub the affected area with a lemon slice
• Dip a chilled already brewed chamomile tea bag to the bite to soothe to reduce inflammation.
• Hold an ice cube on the bite.
• Create a paste of water and baking soda and apply directly to the area
• A slice of onion has been known to immediately remove pain when applied to insect bites

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amanda July 17, 2013 at 10:04 am

Just the other day I was out by a campfire getting bitten and hated spraying on the chemical-laden commercial spray. I’m so grateful for this post! Do you know how long the mixture will stay good?

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2 tastyyummies July 17, 2013 at 10:15 am

Hey Amanda! Thanks, I am glad you are excited about this. I hope it works as well for you as it has for me. The mixture should keep for at least 6 months. Essential oils and their longevity vary but as long as you store this in a cool dark place it shouldn’t spoil. Here is a great post about the shelf life of essential oils, carrier oils, etc. http://www.quinessence.com/shelf_life.htm

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3 Kathy July 17, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Hey Beth, I laughed when I read your post, I came to the same conclusion as you, we must taste better from clean eating. I watch as others sit with not even a nibble while I sit with welts. SO I have found a combo of Vanilla essential oil/Lavender essential oil/Tea Tree. I kinda stink but at least I hardly get bitten …Tee…he..heee I am going to try some of your recipes, I like the idea of adding the witch hazel and citronella. Awesome post as always, thanks so much for sharing so much beautiful insight and wisdom.

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4 tastyyummies August 7, 2013 at 5:43 pm

We must taste better! I have heard vanilla is wonderful, I will have to try adding it to the mix. Thanks for your lovely words, Kathy!

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5 Alyssa | Queen of Quinoa July 17, 2013 at 12:37 pm

I’m TOTALLY that girl too!! Literally I feel like I always have at least 10 bug bites on each leg. I went to Costa Rica a few years ago and went out one night without repellant, woke up the next day and my legs were covered in bites. I think I counted at least 60. This is amazing!! I can’t wait to make it myself – saves money and is so much better for your skin! xo

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6 tastyyummies August 7, 2013 at 5:45 pm

I hope you like this if you try it, Alyssa. I have been having great luck with it this summer and I agree so much better for your skin and wallet 😉

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7 Bonnie Erbe July 17, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Or you can save the time of mixing all these oils and purchase doTerra’s TERRASHIELD that is a combo of oils that keep all bugs at bay. It WORKS! Contact me at the above address if needed. Want to be a consultant….good special going on this month.

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8 Lynda Perry August 5, 2014 at 10:38 am

More details please of Terrashield. Which insects does it cater for please and where do I get it from?

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9 Susan April 28, 2015 at 7:13 am

Don’t you think it is kind of tacky to market your products on someone’s blog? Really tacky.

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10 Bonnie Erbe December 30, 2015 at 7:07 pm

tastyyummies – First of all I would like to apologize for posting the above post.
Could you please delete this post. I mentioned the oil company and the FDA is asking that everything be removed from social media. Thanks in advance and again I’m sorry. Thanks

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11 Amanda Cleary Eastep July 17, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Hi, would love to try this. Where do you buy your blue glass spray bottles? We’ve been wanting to use them also for other after bath sprays we hope to make. Thanks for the post!!

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12 tastyyummies July 18, 2013 at 10:49 am

Hi Amanda. Thanks for the comment. I grabbed mine at a local store, but you can find them online at places like amazon http://amzn.to/12Y73IB or from this website http://www.specialtybottle.com/cobaltbluebostonroundglassbottlesmi.aspx

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13 Gina @ So Lets Hang Out July 19, 2013 at 12:40 pm

I am totally that girl too, Beth. On our honeymoon in Mexico I got so many bug bites that I had to go visit the doctor at the resort and get a shot in my butt. Romantic, right? I have no idea how or why I get so many bites! It’s crazy. I am totally going to be trying this!

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14 tastyyummies August 7, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Ha awwww that’s soo sad Gina. Butt shots are definitely not for honeymoons 😉 I hope you have good results with my spray if you try it out!

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15 Chris July 22, 2013 at 6:47 am

I have been using a product called Sweetly Citron on Amazon that is similar to this and definitely works and smells good.

I didn’t want to go through the trouble of buying all the oils.

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16 tastyyummies August 7, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Glad you found something that works well for you. I always prefer to make my own stuff whenever possible, the oils can be pricey, but they can be used for tons of other things too, so I didn’t mind. Plus I can just keep making more of the spray and reusing the bottle, which I like.

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17 Salixisme July 23, 2013 at 8:40 am

Thankyou for this! I am allergic to mosquito bites and have to try to avoid getting bitten (sadly I seem to be really attractive to them too – they will even bite me through clothing so the advice to wear long pants and sleeves doesn’t even help).
I have been looking for a more natural insect repellant for quite some time!

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18 tastyyummies August 7, 2013 at 5:45 pm

I hope this works well for you if you try it, Salixisme. You’ll have to let me know.

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19 Becky December 24, 2013 at 1:02 am

Bugs can’t bite through nylon. It doesn’t matter that you wear long sleeves if the fabric isn’t nylon. I hope that helps you if you find you need it!

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20 Kristin August 13, 2013 at 7:30 am

I’m curious though…I recently read an article that the only natural oil that is tested to work effectively – for mosquitos- is lemon eucalyptus. It actually tests close to the effectiveness of DEET. (According to the CCD, you can even use it in malaria-ridden areas.) Could that be used in a formula like this? I have yet to find a recipe for it and buy pre-made products which who knows what kind of carcinogenic base they have :(

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21 tastyyummies August 13, 2013 at 8:36 am

Kristin. To be totally honest, I read SOOO many articles and so much research when I was making this the first time, each one differs and contradicts the other. I think the bottom line is to try out the various oils and see what works best for you and the bugs around you. It is partially why I included the long list of essential oils to choose from since I don’t believe there to be one cookie-cutter recipe that will work for all. We all have different bodies and where we live has different pests. I did just realize that somehow even though I meant for it to be, lemon eucalyptus didn’t get added to the list. I always forget that it isn’t just lemon + eucalyptus oils, but that it is it’s own thing from a lemon eucalyptus tree. Getting that added now. Thanks so much Kristin!

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22 Kristin August 13, 2013 at 7:31 am

*CDC I mean.

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23 eyedealistic April 8, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Do you know the shelf life of this product?

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24 Casey May 14, 2014 at 6:04 pm

So excited to try this natural bug spray! I always get eaten alive over the summer and none of the chemical products ever work for me anyway, so it is going to be nice to make a natural alternative.
I know this and a lot of other bug spray recipes suggest using vodka. If you were to use vodka instead of witch hazel would it make you smell like liqueur? How does this smell?

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25 Amanda July 2, 2014 at 7:39 pm

I wondered the same thing! (spraying vodka on my skin didn’t sound too pleasant….). However, I mixed mine in a 4 oz bottle with equal parts vodka and water, added a bit of jojoba oil (you could use any oil though), and then added the essential oils. Once you add the oils, you do not smell the vodka at ALL. Not even a bit. It is wonderful and I haven’t had a bug bite since using it. I swear by it. :)

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26 NICHOLE BRANDT May 21, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Does this work for ticks as well?

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27 tastyyummies May 21, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Nichole, I am not too sure about that to be honest. Ticks are nothing to screw around with so I would be very hesitant to say. I have a few friends that have been affected by Lyme disease, so if ticks are rampant in your area, you may want to do whatever necessary to protect yourself.

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28 Nicholle Bays August 19, 2015 at 4:09 pm

Ticks hate sweet orange oil so that would be a good one to add if you want to keep them off of you!

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29 Lisa June 21, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Is it ok to use this on babies? Mine is 6 months old and he is the reason I don’t want to wear chemical bug spray

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30 jodi June 24, 2014 at 5:26 am

I make a batch every other day and use it all. I live in NY where we get all the critters. I use about 6 good drops of Purification from Young living. It contains almost all you suggested in 1 oil. Then I fill with water. If I use a bigger spray bottle then I’ll add about 10 drops and a touch of vinegar. I spray all my pets(goats, dog, rabbits, even chicken pen) Works great. Found your blog very interesting on how each oil works for different bugs. I apply my spray every time I go outside. My husband isn’t as diligent as I am and gets bit up and has had a tick. I have barely been bit. Natural is the way to go!

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31 Annie June 28, 2014 at 10:30 am

Just wanted to comment on your tips for treating mosquito bites: some people are highly sensitive to baking soda. Even if diluted with water, it’s still has a basic pH level that doesn’t match the pH level of your skin. I once applied a mixture of baking soda and water onto my 14-month-old’s mosquito bite. She developed a skin rash around the area. I would avoid baking soda and use diluted vinegar for older kids and adults.

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32 Denise Williams July 2, 2014 at 12:10 pm

I abandoned the use of tea tree oil on the skin because two clients had an adverse reaction (annoying skin itching). Always test a small area first.
About 7 years ago I started making my own all natural & deet-free insect repellent sans Tea tree. Started making it for myself, then for family & friends.

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33 Amanda July 2, 2014 at 7:34 pm

After ordering EOs and finding this site, I was determined to create a mosquito/bug repellent that is DEET-free. My husband laughed and made fun of me at first. I modified your spray “recipe” above for a 4 oz. bottle I had on hand did equal parts water and vodka, about 1 tablespoon of jojoba oil, and then added 10-15 drops each of citronella, lavender, tea tree, and eucalyptus oils. I used it for three nights and had ZERO bug bites, while my stubborn husband was hesitant and refused to use it at first, and he got eaten alive by bugs (sitting on the deck with me!). He is now a full-on fan of this natural bug spray and he tells everyone about it. :) We haven’t had a bug bite in weeks now after using your recipe! Thank you for such a great page, and thanks for making my husband a believer in my new-found love of EOs. :) The jojoba oil doubles as an awesome skin moisturizer, too! LOVE IT!!!!!

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34 debbie July 14, 2014 at 9:07 am

I bought a green tea and lemongrass reed diffuser. Well after it is empty they don’t see the oil refill for the reeds, and I’m not buying a who new bottle. So will this recipe you mentioned work with the reeds?

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35 debbie July 14, 2014 at 9:13 am

I bought a reed diffuser. When it was empty you couldn’t buy the oils to refill it. You had to buy the whole bottle and reeds again, and I wasn’t spending all that money. So will the recipe you mentione be good for the reeds? Thank you

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36 Sue August 26, 2014 at 10:02 am

I would like to know what you think of using straight witch hazel with out the use of any water in the mix. I imagine it would have a longer shelf life this way.
thanks

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37 Andrea February 11, 2015 at 1:22 am

Hi there. I was just wondering if you could leave out the vodka? Thanks. Andrea :o)

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38 Mary March 16, 2015 at 12:32 pm

hi Beth, thank God I foumd your blog yesterday! I just went to Sprouts and bought the essential oils. I’ve got a few already but not tea tree and citronella. I really hope this helps my daughter. If you could only see her legs…oh my! It’s the fleas that are biting her. Thanks again for this recipe!

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39 Sandra April 14, 2015 at 3:32 pm

This recipe works very well, but it sets my skin on “fire”. It’s a “cooling” action, I’m sure from one of the ingredients, but I’m not sure which one so I can reduce the amount. I put the spray all over and it feels like it is burning for fifteen minutes or more. I think it is probably the Witch Hazel or peppermint. I reduced it to 1/2 oz and the mixture still burns me (like menthol does). I was going to try vodka instead of witch hazel but haven’t had a chance to get to the liquor store. Can someone please tell me which ingredient is making me “burn’ and what I could use instead? Thanks.

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40 Lori April 28, 2015 at 7:17 am

That would probably be the peppermint. Honestly you could probably leave it out. There are many oils that are natural bug repellents. Or just reduce the amount.

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41 Selena June 2, 2015 at 7:40 pm

I can’t use citronella because of the burning, but have found that lemongrass, eucalyptus and peppermint are a wonderful combination.

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42 sandy April 23, 2015 at 9:41 am

I also have the joy of being the only one who becomes a feast for the bug world, I call myself the buggy buffet all they can eat . I did find out why I get bitten more than other people, my doctor said that people who give off a higher heat signature tend to get bitten more. The bugs hone in on your body heat and then start feasting on you. I have a bottle with lavender oil and vodka next to my bed and spray every night, myself the dogs the bed, every thing around me. I’m going to try mixing it up with more oils to see if I get better results. Thank you for the info.

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43 Deb May 16, 2015 at 2:00 pm

What do you think it I were to make this in a glass roll on bottle?

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44 Alex b May 26, 2015 at 1:27 pm

Hi this sounds amazing I’m going to se asia for 3 months and haven’t wanted to use DEET especially on my face as I am prone to break outs. Would this mixture be Ok to use on the face? Would I just spray it on or spray it on my hands and rub it in?
Thank you x

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45 Paula June 9, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Used this all last summer. Works amazingly well. We have always stayed away from DEET because my husband is military and they classify it as a nerve agent. Consequently he has never allowed it in the house. Non DEET commercial sprays don’t work even a little bit. I put this together last year and sent it to scout camp with my 15 yr old. I also carried a small bottle in my purse all summer and pulled it out as needed. It never let me down. Such a relief to finally have something safe that works.

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46 patty ferguson June 11, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Hi, I have heard patchouli is a good oil for mosquito repellent. Do you know?

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47 Ellen June 17, 2015 at 4:33 pm

Can I use this on my 8 yr.old granddaughter those little pest love my little girl?

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48 Cynthia June 19, 2015 at 8:36 am

Does this repellent make you feel sticky? Like sugar would?

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49 Beth @ Tasty Yummies June 23, 2015 at 10:43 am

I have never notices a sticky feeling from this spray, no. I find it to be very light.

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50 Liz July 13, 2015 at 10:03 am

What about chiggers? Would this repel chiggers? I’ve recently moved to Texas and they are a big problem along with all the other insects. I seem to be the tasty one in the group for mosquitos, but when it comes to chiggers they are indiscriminate. We do a lot of hiking and I hate DEET, as it is a neurotoxin, so we are always looking for an alternative. I just recently discovered essential oils, so I’m ready to start trying!

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51 Lynn July 23, 2015 at 12:04 pm

Where do you get the oils & how much are they? I’m excited to try these I can’t stand bug spray. Thank you

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52 Lynn July 23, 2015 at 3:58 pm

I’m sorry email froze so can anyone tell me where to get the oils?

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53 Gero July 23, 2015 at 6:40 pm

I’v been doing some research for a while and came by this post looking for a recipe that mixes vodka or witch hazel and water for reference. For my mix I will use lemongrass, basil and geranium. The research I made pointed out to lemongrass being the most effective against aedes aegypti which is the most common mosquito here in Puerto Rico and can also carry dengue en chikungunya. Basil had a high percent of effectiveness too and geranium I don’t know how effective it is but I just love the scent.

Someone else asked about Patchouli and it is also mentioned in some research as effective.

I used this site to get references and then searched google to be able to read the books… http://www.sciencedirect.com

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54 Nicholle Bays August 15, 2015 at 12:13 pm

This is a great recipe to keep the bugs away!! Thank you! One correction that I noticed though in your notes when I went to print….you stated that TEA TREE oil can be put directly on the skin…That is in fact not true. You do NOT Ever want to put Tea tree oil directly on the skin. It must always be diluted.

Thank you!

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55 Regina October 28, 2015 at 10:38 am

I just tried this and I think putting it in water in a spray bottle is not very effective. The oil sits on top of the water while the sprayer sucks water from the bottom, so the only smell I get is diluted witch hazel. No matter how much I shake it. I would try using a carrier oil or lotion.

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56 mosquito spreading diseases January 8, 2016 at 1:52 am

Great Article. I not even imagine of making homemade oil insect repellent spray. Hey, Thanks for sharing your idea

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57 Stephen Quinn April 14, 2016 at 12:58 am

Thanks for the advice on the homemade repellents, my friend and I are working in the Bush in Nigeria, he mentioned his friend develops various mixtures of essential oils, that we can use as a repellent, inside and outside our accommodation, although we are on anti-malarial medication we still require repellent, plus we want our rooms to have a pleasant aroma, so lavender will be one of our sources
I believe everybody gets bitten its just how our bodies react to the bite, I was recently in Philippines for two weeks, Krabi, Thailand for a week, received a few bites total, one night in Bangkok and my ankles were peppered in bites.
My tip for anyone in those places and they do get bitten, go to the local clinic and ask for a antihistamine injection, around $20, this will dry up all your bites and prevent any infection, within 12hrs, as they will take a week or more to heal up naturally, high temperature and high humidity is a perfect combination for infection, be smart and don’t scratch.

Thanks so much for such an insightful website

Stephen

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