How-to Make Homemade Essential Oil Insect Repellent Spray

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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

[print_this]How-to Make Homemade Essential Oil Insect Repellent Spray 
Makes 4 ounces

  • 2 ounces distilled or boiled water
  • 1.5 ounces witch hazel or vodka
  • 30 drops citronella essential oil
  • 25 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 15 drops tea tree essential oil
  • 1 teaspoon of jojoba oil* (optional, if you add this, add only 1 ounce of vodka or witch hazel

(please make sure to read above for all of the different options of oils so you can make your own custom mixture)

Using a 4 oz clean spray bottle fill with water, add the witch hazel or vodka then about 50 to 75 total drops of your various essential oils. Shake well. Spray onto exposed skin and/or clothing, avoiding eyes and mucous membranes. Reapply every 2 hours, or as needed. Store in a dark bottle, away from heat or sunlight.

**For the best results, please make sure you are using therapeutic grade oils. Please do your research if you plan to use this on a pregnant woman, young children or someone undergoing holistic treatments, as essential oils can interact with certain treatments. Lavender and tea tree oils are the only essential oils that can be applied directly to the skin, all others should always be diluted. This mixture could also be sprayed on your dog’s collar to help keep pests off of him/her, but please do not use on cats, as many essential oils are toxic to cats.** [/print_this]

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

79 Responses

  1. Amanda says:

    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?

    • tastyyummies says:

      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

  2. Kathy says:

    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.

    • tastyyummies says:

      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!

  3. 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

    • tastyyummies says:

      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 😉

  4. […] over to Tasty Yummies for all of this juicy […]

  5. Bonnie Erbe says:

    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.

    • Lynda Perry says:

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

    • Susan says:

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

    • Bonnie Erbe says:

      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

  6. 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!!

  7. 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!

    • tastyyummies says:

      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!

  8. Chris says:

    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.

    • tastyyummies says:

      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.

  9. Salixisme says:

    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!

    • tastyyummies says:

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

    • Becky says:

      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!

  10. Kristin says:

    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 🙁

    • tastyyummies says:

      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!

  11. Kristin says:

    *CDC I mean.

  12. eyedealistic says:

    Do you know the shelf life of this product?

  13. Casey says:

    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?

    • Amanda says:

      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. 🙂

  14. Does this work for ticks as well?

    • tastyyummies says:

      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.

  15. Lisa says:

    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

  16. jodi says:

    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!

  17. Annie says:

    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.

  18. 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.

  19. Amanda says:

    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!!!!!

  20. debbie says:

    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?

  21. debbie says:

    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

  22. Sue says:

    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

  23. Andrea says:

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

  24. Mary says:

    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!

  25. Sandra says:

    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.

    • Lori says:

      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.

    • Selena says:

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

  26. sandy says:

    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.

  27. Deb says:

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

  28. Alex b says:

    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

  29. Paula says:

    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.

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

  31. Ellen says:

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

  32. Cynthia says:

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

  33. Liz says:

    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!

  34. Lynn says:

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

  35. Lynn says:

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

  36. Gero says:

    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

  37. Nicholle Bays says:

    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!

  38. Regina says:

    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.

    • Maria says:

      Try adding just a pinch of epsom salt to your mix, it will help incorporate the oils into the water. Give it a good shake before you spray and you’ll be happier! Also – I think witch hazel helps oil and water mix ….

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

  40. Pierre says:

    How many hours on average do the sprays provide protection?

  41. Stephen Quinn says:

    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

  42. Pam says:

    I am not sure that Lemon Eucalyptus oil is an oil from one tree. Seems this brand combines lemon, eucalyptus and lemongrass to create what they call Lemon Eucalyptus. I wonder if that is true of all so called LE oils.

    http://www.amazon.com/NOW-Foods-Lemon-Eucalyptus-ounce/dp/B0041W52TM/ref=sr_1_4_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1460986349&sr=8-4&keywords=lemon-eucalyptus+oil

    Thanks!

    Pam

  43. STACYE says:

    Can you use coconut oil in place of jojoba oil?

  44. Lavender says:

    I use a combination of spray and cream to keep the bugs away. I mix up the essential oils in their percentage and store it in an essential oil bottle. I make my own cream and use the oils in that. I find the cream stays on better for longer protection and I use the spray for an extra layer of protection. The nice thing about having the essential oils pre mixed is that you can use them in anything. If I don’t feel like making my own cream, I can use a store bought base and mix about a drop or two in a tablespoon of cream.

  45. Ann says:

    Great website, that I have just discovered! Can these recipes be used in an oi burner?

  46. Adele says:

    Really looking fwd to making this just waiting for all the components in the mail!
    Is the quantity of essential oils ok for 7 years and above? I’m thinking to also add lavender and lemon eucalyptus to your mix 😉
    Would really appreciate your thoughts
    Many thanks

  47. ivana muir says:

    I have just found this site wow it is great. I continually get bitten by midges here in Scotland and mosquitos when I am in Europe. I was advised by a member of staff from the resort in Barbados to use citronella oil as a deterrent. I have used this a few times diluted in olive oil but I have just bought a large bottle of sweet almond oil and wonder can I use this instead of the water mixture.
    I am diabetic and the beasties just love sweet Scottish blood.

  48. Thanks for the information!! I do not know why but mosquito’s are by far the worst where I live in VA than anywhere I’ve ever been. Perhaps it might be due to my neighbor’s small backyard pond. Every year it will get to the point where you can’t even be outside without 20 of them on you at a time. Going to give this a try! Also, due to my experience with getting bit so many times… Plantain is by far the easiest and quickest itch/pain relief for bug bites. It is also AMAZING on sun burn as well.

    Thanks again~

  49. CC says:

    Hi,

    I’m not sure if you’re even still maintaining this blog…I just came across it as I was researching about natural home and garden remedy recipes for pests, insects, and insect bites. I wanted to know if you have come across anything new regarding insect and bug repellent as well as home pest control?

    Also, the list of oils you have for insects….are you saying to use X#-of-drops of EACH oil listed for said insect remedy mixed with X-#-of-drops of carrier oil mixed into ??-.ozs.-of-water and apply to skin via spray?

    Sorry if this seems like a redundant question. I have tried some oils as a topical and even though it may have worked,,,I think for some of the oils I was having an adverse reaction…but i wasn’t mixing them with water or using a carrier…and I think Lemon oil is not to be used when out in the sun….which I just recently learned of a month ago about some mixture concoctions. Do you know of or can you provide recipe mixtures of water, # of oil drops, and carrier drops to apply topically?

    Thank you.

    ~~ CC

  50. Krista says:

    Quick question! Say I wanted to prevent mosquitoes, ticks and fleas could I make a mix with an oil from each or should I make 3 separate batches!!

    Thanks’

  51. wanda says:

    HI… love this info…I use a combo of neem oil. And cedar oil. Mixed with coconut oil for a body rub for my doggie… kills fleas instantly…..gonna try making a mist. :.glad I found you. Was looking to make a mist . Witch hazel. ;,,,vodka. cool

    Wanda. & Cocoa Bean

  52. April says:

    Is this homemade bug spray safe on infants?

  53. Diane says:

    I have used Teatree oil on a cotton swab directly on the protruding body of a tick on my skin and it will back itself out immediately. The oil will suffocate the tick so it has to move out to get air. I also use a diluted drop of the same oil mixed with almond carrier oil on the spot which he leaves behind and it heals within a couple days.

  54. Diane says:

    Love this info, gonna put to good use. Thank u.

  55. Stacy says:

    How effective have you found this to be? It seems like these work, but DEET works …better. Im all for a natural spray, I just wished it worked better. I haven’t tried the oils yet though.

  56. Deborah Anthony says:

    Read your informative article on homemade insect repellant. What are your thoughts on mixing the essential oils directly into commercial sunscreens?

    • Beth @ Tasty Yummies says:

      I wouldn’t recommend that personally. First of all, most commercial sunscreens are loaded with chemicals and I can’t speak to what may happen to the essential oils when combined with these sunscreens and their ingredients.

  57. Jenny Campbell says:

    Tasty–Can you please tell me if it is necessary to use organic essential oils? I see you mention therapeutic oils are best, but does organic play a factor. I made some bug repellent and my oils do not say organic. I think most do say therapeutic and 100% essential oil. Please let me know your thoughts on this. I have not had any repercussions and my repellent smell heavenly. I put it all over my body before dressing when I plan to be outdoors, because the bugs love me too. So I have had no allergic reactions or anything. A friend only uses organic oils, however, so I just want another opinion. Thanks!

  58. Chris C, says:

    THANK YOU for your recipe and alternative ideas! I was hanging clothes outside today and the mosquitoes are the worst I’ve seen all summer. Within 10 minutes I had 10+ bites which since it was noon and not in the evening was unusual for me. (Michigan) I made the mixture using 35 drops of peppermint and 35 of lavender since those were the only 2 I had on your list…and it worked perfectly! It will be my go-to in the future for sure! Many Thanks Again!

  59. Lisa anderson says:

    I have found the best thing to stop the itching fast is liquid bandaid on the bite. I swell terribly with insect bites and then comes the itching and have literally tried it all and this works for me IMMEDIATELY.

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