Homemade Natural Bug Spray Recipes That Work!

wellness mama natural bug spray recipe Homemade Natural Bug Spray Recipes That Work!

You might have seen my recent recipe for Homemade Healthy Sunscreen, which although it is natural and safe, I don’t recommend using often because it limits Vitamin D production. Depending on where you live, something that might be used much more often is a natural homemade bug spray.

At my house, we joke about mosquitoes being the size of birds, and they certainly do seem to come in flocks! Especially with small children who are prone to scratch mosquito bites, keeping them away is a priority.

Also a priority is avoiding chemicals like DEET, which are present in many commercial insect repellents. According to this site:

One of the most widely used ingredients in store-bought conventional bug sprays for personal use is N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide, or DEET, as it’s commonly known. DEET, which is designed to repel, rather than kill, insects. DEET is used by an estimated one-third of the US population each year. Although DEET is approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is a known eye irritant and can cause rashes, soreness, or blistering when applied to the skin. Additionally, DEET has been linked to neurological problems; according to the EPA, at least 18 different cases of children suffering adverse nuerological effects, as well as the deaths of two adults, have been associated with DEET. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have found that DEET causes diffuse brain cell death and behavioral changes in rats.[1]

DEET has been shown to have a negative impact on wildlife and water sources in production and during use. DEET is toxic to birds and aquatic life. DEET has been found in approximately 75 percent of U.S. water sources, including the Mississippi River.[2]

As with practically every household item, natural bug spray can be made inexpensively and naturally at home. (I’m still working on perfecting recipes for shampoo and dishwasher detergent though! Any ideas?)

This recipe literally takes just seconds to mix up and can be varied based on what you have available. I’ve included several variations so you can try whichever one you have the ingredients for.

Wellness Mama Essential Oil Bug Spray

Wellness Mama Bug Spray Ingredients:

  • Essential oils: choose from Citronella, Clove, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Cajeput, Eucalyptus, Cedar, Catnip, Lavender, Mint
  • Natural Witch Hazel
  • Distilled or boiled Water
  • Vegetable glycerin (optional)

How to Make Homemade Bug Spray:

  1. Fill spray bottle (I used 8 ounce) 1/2 full with distilled or boiled water
  2. Add witch hazel to fill almost to the top
  3. Add 1/2 tsp vegetable glycerin if using
  4. Add 30-50 drops of essential oils to desired scent. The more oils you use, the stronger the spray will be. My personal favorite mix is: Rosemary, Clove, Cajeput, Lavender, Cinnamon and Eucalyptus… it works great and smells good too!

Make Bug Spray From Dried or Fresh Herbs

Fresh or Dried Herbs Bug Spray Ingredients:

  • Distilled water
  • Witch hazel or rubbing alcohol
  • Dried herbs: peppermint, spearmint, citronella, lemongrass, catnip, lavender, etc. I recommend using at least one herb from the mint family.

How to Make Bug Spray From Fresh or Dried Herbs:

  1. Boil 1 cup of water and add 3-4 TBSP of dried herbs total in any combination from the above. I use 1 TBSP each of peppermint, spearmint, catnip and lavender, and also throw in a couple of dried cloves.
  2. Mix well, cover and let cool (covering is important to keep the volatile oils in!)
  3. Strain herbs out and mix water with 1 cup of witch hazel or rubbing alcohol. Store in a spray bottle in a cool place (fridge is great because then its nice and cool!)
  4. Use as needed. Added bonus: it smells great and is very refreshing to the skin!

Super Strong Insect Repellent Recipe

Fair warning: this stuff stinks when it is wet, though the smell disappears as it dries. It works incredibly well though, and this is the one I use when I’m going to be in the woods or in tick infested areas. It is based on a recipe that was supposedly used by thieves during the Black Plague to keep from getting sick. They used it internally and externally to avoid catching the disease and to keep the flies and other pests away. According to legend, it worked and they survived… but it definitely makes a great insect repellent these days! Its also very inexpensive to make and you probably already have the ingredients in your kitchen!

Vinegar of the Four Thieves Insect Repellent Ingredients:

  • 1 32 ounce bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 TBSP each of dried Sage, Rosemary, Lavender, Thyme and Mint
  • At least quart size glass jar with airtight lid

How to Make the Vinegar of the Four Thieves Insect Repellent:

  1. Put the vinegar and dried herbs into large glass jar.
  2. Seal tightly and store on counter or place you will see it daily. Shake well each day for 2-3 weeks.
  3. After 2-3 weeks, strain the herbs out and store in spray bottles or tincture bottles, preferably in fridge.
  4. To use on skin, dilute to half with water in a spray bottle and use as needed.
  5. Use whenever you need serious bug control!

[Note: This mixture is very strong and has antiviral and antibacterial properties. It can also be used as a tincture for any illness. For adults, dose is 1 TBSP in water several times a day,for kids over 2, dose is 1 tsp in water several times a day. More on this in an upcoming post!]

Other Simple Insect Repelling Ideas:

  • Add vanilla extract to either of the above recipes, or just rub on the skin. You can also mix vanilla with witch hazel and water for a spray version.
  • Rub lavender flowers or lavender oil on your skin, especially on hot parts of body (neck, underarms, behind ears, etc) to repel insects.
  • Rub fresh or dried leaves of anything in the mint family all over skin to repel insects (peppermint, spearmint, catnip, pennyroyal, etc or citronella, lemongrass, etc) Basil is also said to repel mosquitoes and I’ve used fresh basil leaves in the garden with great success before!

What are your tricks for keeping bugs at bay? Which do you think is worse… the insects or the chemicals in most repellents?

Reader Comments

  1. Audreystucker says

    seems all the natural repelents weve tried have just not worked very well. i made the vinegar of four thieves a few years back, misquitos still land and bite. weve also tried the natural citronella type repelents. i will give the essential oils recipe a try this summer.

    • Angelic says

      I have been using essential oils for 12 years now. I use Young Living, others use DoTerra. Ive used store bought brands thst are cheaper too. It depends what I am using the oil for…medicinal or just fragrance with a bit of goodness in it. My poi.t is essential oils are potent and will give you the results you want. Purity is better but you can also experiment with the lesser costing oils to see if they give you the desired effect. Then move up from there if you like. I use cedarwood for roaches in distilled water spray bottle, and lemongrass with peppermint for mosquitos. That Theives recipe is effective when used with essential oils.

      • Marcella says

        Could you please give me the dosage for the mosquito solution. I also would like to know if about the thieves soap, is it the pump hand soap thats all I can find online? I did find a thieves blend mix of oils.

  2. Karyn says

    Oh I hope this works! We have mosquitoes that carry the LaCrosse virus (causes encephalitis) so I use the deet stuff when we’re in the woods. But my kids get bitten anyway because they’re constantly running in and out of the house and I don’t want to spray them with Deet all day long. 

    • Katie Householder says

      @ Kate, I’ve recently started growing my own personally, since i’ve gotten around to knowing what will grow well in my area, as well as what I use most of, but I always went to MountainRoseHerbs.com , and i still do now for what wont grow in my area. They are a great site, very reasonable, and they have a facebook page too that you can ask them anything! And their herbs are always so fresh!

  3. says

    Where do you get the witch hazel? I noticed on the website where you get the essential oils the extract was out of stock, and I’m not exactly sure what kind of “witch hazel” to use? I’m going to make this for family for Christmas this year and want to get the supplies in the next couple weeks or so. 

  4. says

    Top marks to you Wellness Mama. I have been scouring the Internet looking for natural insect killers especially a general household spray. I’ve found it and how simple your concoctions are. There is a lot for me to learn here about all things natural. I will be a frequent visitor here and have bookmarked this site.
    Sincere congratulations and many thanks

      • Carol Procter says

        Just to you let you know, went up the amazon and used the bug spray and havn’t been bitten (that I know of)  We were on a cruise ship, and went looking for beasties every night on deck!

  5. Rausrus says

    I’m actually looking for a natural recipe for my horse that is allergic to bug bites, especially midges it seems. I ran into your site and wonder if the thieves recipe would something to try.  Can you tell me the difference in potency or longevity between essential oils and dried herb mixtures?  We have tried a concoction with apple cider vinegar, pinesol and water…an old remedy that our vet recommends which helped a little, but not as good as we hoped.  I’d like to try the thieves recipe and wonder if there’s a oily base I could add to it to help it last longer or will it keep it’s effect long after it dries?  How often would you think we’d need to reapply?  We’re in MI, so she’s not really sweaty and it’s fairly dry and very sandy.   
    Thanks for any advice you could share.

    • Katie Richards says

      I see this is pretty old but, when I had horses growing up we would fill a gallon wide mouth jug with as much fresh basil as we could cram in there and then fill it with apple cider vinegar. This would steep for two months before being applied with a hand mitt.

  6. says

    apparently, Thieves oil is also used to fight mold growth.  This is what I heard from my natural foods/goods store owner.  I’d like to try it, because Thieves oil is SUPER expensive.  Thanks for the recipe!

  7. Hollimm2000 says

    I am also highly allergic to bug bites, one easy at home recipe I have used that worked was Listorine. kept the bugs away like nothing else. I’m excited to try these, they may prove to be less sticky than the mouth wash! : )

  8. Dawn Schulte says

    Great recipes! Are any of the recipes safer or more kid friendly? Or are there any oils I should make sure I DON’T use on a child? My two year old is a mosquito magnet … thanks for the help!

  9. Tash says

    I don’t like to use tea tree on my skin, it makes my skin very oily. Just something to consider if anyone uses TT and notices skin changes like that.

    You asked about natural hair products. I do a variation on the baking soda/apple cider vinegar (BS/ACV) method.  I don’t like the smell of acv and I am blonde so I use lemon juice instead. It works great on my wavy hair.

    • MommaTee says

      My medicince woman told me that Tea Tree can be used homeopathically to remove skin tags… no wonder everyone notices skin changes and/or have a reaction to it on the skin..

  10. Tash says

    oh, and if you want an all natural gel recipe google “flax seed hair gel”. I haven’t tried it yet but it is suppost to be great.

  11. Lori says

    In my area of Pennsylvania, the abundance of ticks is alarming. An herbalist friend told me that Geranium essential oil  is more protective than tea tree or mint., and is a much more tolerable scent than citronella. It’s safe for animals, also.

    • Lajo Shahani says

      Thank you for this tip! I’ve had Geranium sitting in my essential oils drawer for a while but never thought of it. Been trawling the net for a natural tick repellent for my dogs and my tea tree bug spray doesn’t seem to be working. Recently added geraniums in my garden.

  12. Blissfuldrake says

    I noticed that you recommended using pennyroyal to rub on your skin. Please note that Pennyroyal is a known abortifact (can induce mis-carriages) and shouldn’t be used by women of child-bearing years.

  13. mm says

    can I mix witch hazel, water and acv? i’d like to soak some herbs in small amount of acv and then later also add some essential oils. is this a good idea? or is it a good idea to soak the herbs in witch hazel instead? i’ve made some flower water before, but no matter how much i strain it through coffee filters, still some tiny pieces are left in the water and go bad really soon. how to prevent this? does some alcohol do the trick?

  14. RIssbelle says

    Should you dilute for children or while breast feeding? I know I dilute my at home sprays. What about the essential oil bug spray?

  15. hisandhershomesteading says

    Thanks this is great.  I can’t wait to try the strong bug spray.  My son is allergic to mosquitos so it is very important we use a strong spray on him but I hate spraying him with DEET based spray every time he goes outdoors, which is several times a day.  I have a recipe on my blog for homemade dishwasher detergent that doesn’t contain Borax.  http://hisandhershomesteading.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/homemade-dishw…-without-borax/

  16. says

    When you spray it on you, is it supposed to smell like the oils? When I spray it I don’t smell anything, Does that mean that I didn’t put enough oil?
     
     

  17. Ken says

    I rub undiluted white vinegar on my exposed skin, including face, and it appears to send the mosquitoes packing. They hang around my clothing but not my skin, which tells me that white vinegar, by itself, is a repellant. My next experiment is to spray my clothing with it, also. I am convinced that there is no one repellant that will work with everyone. What works for one person doesn’t for another and vice versa.

  18. says

    My dogs were being bitten to pieces when ever I walked them near the river or in the forest, the mosquitos and horseflies are awful – the dogs get bitten, I get bitten but they are the best places to walk them. I have now made the bug spray using the essential oils suggested above and IT WORKED!!! The horrid bitey wee beasties would fly towards the dogs, get to a few inches and fly away!!
    The dogs came back bite free, my legs were bite free but like a twit, I forgot to spray my hands so got bitten on my thumb.
    I just want to say a massive thank you!!!!

  19. Luisa says

    Thanks so much for these great recipes.  Based on one of your recipes, I tried 1.5 TBS of organic catnip, 1.5 TBS of organic lavender and 2 cloves in distilled water.  It has worked like a charm.  I usually get eaten alive by mosquitoes and when I have that on, nothing.  I am very happy because I can use this on my kids without worrying about the effects of DEET.  I posted a link back to your recipes on my blog: http://www.fruitful-living.net/2012/07/safe-bug-repellant.html . Thanks again!

  20. says

    Thank you for the recipe for natural homemade mosquito repellent!  I’m so going yo try this…however, I have a few questions:
    1. Can you use this directly onto skin, or should it be sprayed onto clothing?
    2. What brand of essential oil would you recommend or does any brand work?

    • says

      It can be sprayed directly on skin. I use the oils from Mountain Rose Herbs (there’s a link in my resources section) since they are the least expensive high quality oils I’ve found.

  21. Amandasweeney says

    Hi…..why the vegetable glycerin in the spray? Just wondering is it definitely helpful as I don’t have any and wouldn’t bother trying to source unless essential – is there anythihg else you can use instead? Thanks!!!

      • Amandasweeney says

        Thanks so much, I am going on hols to Greece in September and am definitely gonna try your spray. Thanks!!

    • Marguerite Santa Maria says

      Most health food stores sell it and its good to have just incase you need it for anything else. I used to used it in my electronic cigs to dull down some flavors.

  22. Traci Akierman says

    Thank you for this recipe.  Mosquitoes LOVE me.  I used to get bitten even using Off.  I’ve tried several natural bug sprays and none worked for me.  I made the one using witch hazel and essential oils and gave it a test run today.  30 minutes trimming my hedge and no bites!

  23. lorraine says

    i made the dried herbs bug spray but i put a twist on it, i doubled the recipe and put one cup of rubbing alcohol, and 1/2 of vinegar mixed with a 1/2 cup of regular water, dunno if it works yet but it def smells strong….and honestly if it works then i can deal with the smell!

  24. Lea says

    Dear Wellness Mama,
    I know you said you were looking for recipes for shampoo and detergent, my mother used to make her own shampoo and conditioner from these ingredients,
    Coconut Milk, honey, water, and a little bit of soap(like hand soap) my mom told me that the coconut milk is rich with vitamins and oils that are good for the scalp, and the honey coats and moisturizes the hair, the water is there to just thin it out so your not left with a sticky mess and the soap is to clean all the dirt, if you want a fragrance you can also add some vanilla bean, lavender works well, or any other fragrance oils you find in a craft store work, just make sure they are okay for your skin(so not the stuff for candles) hope this helps. (sorry my mom couldn’t remember the measurements but i figured it was a good start)

  25. says

    For folks that don’t have a lot of essential oils on hand. “Bug Off” by Plant Therapy (I purchased at Amazon) is a blend a Citronella, Eucalyptus, Cedarwood, Lemon Grass, Lavendar, Lisea, Tea tree, and Pathouli. 25-30 drops of this plus recipe as stated above works GREAT!! You do have to apply a little more often than the icky commercial stuff but who cares! This recipe is very cost effective!

  26. Sue says

    What is your take on essence oil and toxicity, some studies show months of using oils in everything leads to cancer have you had a different expirience i bought a bunch of 100% natural oils and now affraid of using them

  27. Sheryl says

    I’m replying to Wellness Mama’s post: How to Make Homemade Bug Spray:

    “Essential oils” The more oils you use, the stronger the spray will be. My personal favorite mix is: Rosemary, Clove, Cajeput, Lavender, Cinnamon and Eucalyptus… it works great and smells good too!

    Sheryl: Let me begin by saying that I don’t have ANY pets, because most “flea remedies” are aimed at ppl w/pets. I’ve apparently got a pheromone or something that attracts fleas (my doc said it could be the meds I’m taking because I’d never had this problem before & have had pets in the past). I sit outside on my patio daily & live in Florida, so it’s been a real problem!!

    That said, I’ve spent countless hours online, talked to my docs, pest control ppl & have experimented with MANY different pesticides/sprays for the yard. I’ve tried different things that ppl have suggested to put in my hair, but nothing worked!

    I want to give a BIG THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!! to WELLNESS MAMA for your awesome essential oil recipe!!!!!!!! I had heard of these different things; Rosemary, Clove, Eucalyptus, etc… throughout my research & tried these scents alone (not essential oils), but nothing worked. Them, I decided to try yet another way to try to keep those little suckers at bay. I found a web-site (Botanic Choice) that is BBB accredited & it just so happened that they had a sale going the day I called to order the 6 essential oils you recommended. Then I went to the local health foods store & got a 4 oz. bottle of Jojoba for a carrier oil (great reviews on this), to the dollar store, which had the witch hazel for a buck & while I was there I picked up a colored spritzer container.

    I used about an 8-10 oz. spritzer bottle, filled it 3/4 full of distilled water, put an oz. of witch hazel, 1/4 oz. of Jojoba oil, the around 4-8 drops each of the above listed essential oils, then filled it almost to the top w/more distilled water. I shook it up really well, then applied it to my hair & combed it through. It really seems to help keep those little suckers under control – they don’t like the scent, though I do seem to have to reapply often, it’s totally worth it to get some peace & it smells great too!!! AGAIN, THANK YOU WELLNESS MAMA, God bless you for helping me to find relief!!!!!!

  28. says

    I am allergic to bug repellents, due to mainly the Eucalyptus – it affects my asthma. I have never used it on my son due to his skin allergies. I have thought about the natural and homemade bug repellents, but not sure if there is other ingredients that I am allergic to and what any my son could be allergic to.

  29. says

    Where can we buy the ingredients that are listed in this recipe? I want to give this a try since my husband and me are having some kind of flying-bug plaque everytime summer is starting.

  30. Mich says

    Hi wellness mama
    I want to make your homemade bug spray but I just want to ask if these oils are safe to use on a 6 month old baby and myself while breastfeeding? I get eaten alive by mosquitos and am really hoping this will help cause regular bug sprays never really have thanks! :)

  31. Guest says

    Hi! I’d love to try this on me and my children, we are absolute magnets! Do any of the ingredients increase sun sensitivity? We live in Canada and even in the dead of heat we will get bit, we always wear sunscreen and I’d love to know if this will effect the our sensitivity to the suns rays. Thanks!

  32. JLC says

    Hi! I’d love to try this on me and my children, we are absolute magnets! Do any of the ingredients increase sun sensitivity? We live in Canada and even in the dead of heat we will get bit, we always wear sunscreen and I’d love to know if this will effect the our sensitivity to the suns rays.

  33. Maya says

    I just came back from a month of filming in the Louisiana swamps, and had AMAZING luck with using one of these recipes… I used witch hazel, distilled water, lemongrass essential oil and organic vanilla extract (no added sugar). It worked so much better than any of the commercial repellants and smelled fantastic. Everyone on set started using it and it really helped minimize the mosquito/chigger bites. We had to reapply quite often because of the amount of insects, about 30-45 minutes, but was worth it! Also having great luck with your coconut oil deodorant recipe. LOVE this site! Thanks so much for sharing!

  34. sharon says

    Shampoo:) pour baking soda into jar. Add a little water to make a paste(it will dry out after use) when showering grab a handfull and put a few drops of water on it(to make pastelike). Rub into hair and scalp. Rinse with water. Pour apple cider vinegar on top and rub in. Rise with water. Super easy! Super cheap! One of the greatest things you can put on hair. At first it will feel a little weird but after a few weeks hair will have a Ph level it’s supossed to be at. The baking soda is shampoo apple cider is your conditioner! Thanks!

  35. Cheryl says

    I currently put a drop or two of geranium essential oil on my dogs collar to keep the ticks off. I’ve noticed that it helps, there doesn’t seem to be as many. I picked one off of one of them last year which is a huge improvement from previous years. And that may be because I didn’t apply the essential oil soon after the last treatment dissipated. My issue is that I have a small 12 pound dog that is highly allergic to rabies and distemper so I am assuming heartworm out of the question too. I am taking her to mosquito country this summer (not a real issue here in the Rockies). Is there something I can use to keep the mosquitoes from biting?

  36. jennganoe says

    For those of you this don’t work for..add bee balm and lime oil or some grated lime rind to any of this mix.

  37. Britney Smith says

    Regarding the Four Thieves Repellent, do you have to use the unfiltered, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar or will the regular kind sold in the salad dressing aisle work?

  38. says

    Dear Wellnes Mama, I love your website! I have found it while looking for a natural insect repellent, as I was bitten badly last night by midgies in the garden. Please can you tell me whether the first repellent (the one with essential oils) keeps fresh for a while? Does it need to be stored in the fridge maybe? I wouldn’t want to make too much and ending wasting it.. Many thanks and you’re doing a great job!

  39. Danielle Jones says

    In your recipe you state 30-50 drops of oils, is that 30-50 of each oil or total ? Thanks!
    Danielle

  40. Heather Schroeder says

    I am thinking about making a version of the four thieves recipe for my mom’s horses. I have a four thieves essential oil, could I use the first recipe with that oil and have the same effect, or is it the steeping in vinegar that makes it so effective?

    The lotion bars seem to work really well around the horses’ eyes to keep the flies away.

    Thanks for the info!

  41. Rob says

    Any chance that adding some pure homemade castile soap would help disperse the oils in the spray bottle, much like lanolin and soap for diaper covers?

  42. Amy Rozeboom says

    Would the Four Thieves mixture work if I sprayed it on our porch every few days? We have bombarded with mosquitoes, spiders, wasps, chiggers…you name it.

  43. Kate Zehnder says

    Not sure what went wrong here. I used the recommended blend of Rosemary, Clove, Cajeput, Lavender, Cinnamon and Eucalyptus. I mixed it all up, using about 6-7 drops of each oil, and did a small skin test on my wrist. It had a light herbal scent and didn’t cause any irritation which is important because I have sensitive skin and was also planning on using it on my daughter. So I stored it in the pantry and didn’t need it until about a week later at a birthday party for my niece. So I sprayed it on my arms and legs as well as my daughters. Less then a minute later my daughter starts screaming and I realize that both of us are bright red where the spray was applied and there is a mild burning sensation. Instead of the light herbal scent there was before, there is any overwhelming smell of spicy cinnamon. I’m not sure if maybe the cinnamon got stronger as it sat, but I’d say that was probably the irritant. We had to strip down and take a cool bath (quite embarrassing at a birthday party) and take some Benadryl to deal with the inflammation and I had to borrow clothes to go home in.

    • BenDoverPls says

      Cloves, Cinnamon, and Eucalyptus individually can be extremely irritating to the skin. When used in combination… wow!

      One must be very careful when using natural ingredients. Especially oils from trees.

      The chemicals found in plants are their self-defense mechanisms since they cannot run away from danger. They use chemicals to either attract beneficial insects and other animals, or to repel, irritate, or poison others.

    • Tia M says

      I noticed you said you stored it in your pantry. My parents pantry has a hatch that leads to above their garage, and gets considerably warmer than the rest their home. Is it possible the combination got over warm and that affected the strength of the oils?

  44. Heather Terry Habaqe says

    Hi guys I have read all of these wonderful ideas and comments on making a natural insect (especially mosquito’s) . I also was reading elsewhere that celery seed extract has been studied and given positive results at keeping the little vamps at bay for as long as any commercial brand with out having to reapply. I cant find anywhere though where someone has an idea on how to combine an ingredient mixture for this. The site I viewed states a percentage of 25%. I don’t know what that percentage is for. Does anyone know if too much celery seed extract on skin could cause a bad reaction or possibly a base that I could use with this. I also want to include catnip eo. With any answers I will start the test project and report back with my results. Thanks in advance for any ideas, comments, and/or advice.

  45. Will Jefferson says

    Let me be perfectly clear; Four Thieves Vinegar DOES NOT WORK, do not waste your time with this recipe. It might be good for something but really sucks as an insect repellent. I made some just like the recipe said and am very frustrated with the results. I actually found a tick crawling up my leg after coming inside.

  46. ??? says

    I live in a rainforest (northern Taiwan) where the mosquitoes are ferocious. I don’t want to use chemical sprays. What I usually do is spray myself with diluted vinegar. The problem is, it’s so humid here that when you’re working outdoors, before long the sweat cleanses off the vinegar. I’m going to try your recipes. Thanks!
    PS: a hint for others who prefer to go barefoot: rub petroleum jelly all over your feet, and especially between the toes, to keep off leeches. Don’t forget the bottom of your toes, either. This really works.

  47. Jan says

    What is the best way to store this bug spray? Room temperature or fridge? Clear spray bottle or opaque bottle? Thanks so much!

  48. corina says

    I just made the spray. The liquid in the bottle smells very strong but when I spray it on the skin there’s no scent :(

  49. Jennifer Klemp Schuetz says

    Please help Wellness Mama! I made a homemade repellant last year. My friends and I used it on my patio last week and they said it worked wonderfully. I have several questions- 1. I boiled, then simmered my herbs last year and this year for a bit, (like 10-15 min) – lavender, my own bark and leaves from witch hazel tree- and whatever other herbs I had last week… some thyme, some basil. You said to boil water then put the leaves in- did I harm my concoction?

    2. the concoction I made is brown. I have more than a gallon- I plan on making several bottles of homemade insect repellant and will give to friends and family as my testers, then I plan on selling locally. When making a concoction like this- it is hard to know how much concoction to use. I covered my herbs with the water and came up with the ‘more than a gallon amount’. 3. the repellant I made from last year had brown junk at the bottom of the bottle. I stored in a blue spray bottle, and I assume that is because I did not add preservative, and well, it doesn’t last a year. There is a preservative from the website (where I ordered more essential oils from) that I used called Optiphen. Should I use this, or just make these in small quantities and say they last 3 months? (or for how long?) how many months if you are not using preservative? 4. some people use grain alcohol as a preservative. does this break down the strength of the oils/herbs that I just boiled? Last years concoction that I made had essential oils of citronella, lemon eucalyptus, and rose geranium, and the boiled herb water which was brown, and olive oil. My mix smelled pretty good compared to other sprays (burts bees for one) I have used and was also very moisturizing with the olive oil. I plan to perfect this recipe this year and have lots of chemistry questions- we need a chemistry expert here!!! Thank you!

  50. Mary Penn says

    On the mountain rose sight- there are several options for witch hazel…am I supposed to be buying “pure witch hazel extract”?

  51. Christine says

    Just made this in anticipation of a long weekend of BBQs. It smells GREAT, I hope it works as well! (I used a combo of citronella, lavender, clove, spearmint, eucalyptus and rosemary EOs)

  52. Christine says

    Just made this in anticipation of a long weekend of BBQs. It smells GREAT, I hope it works as well! (I used a combo of citronella, lavender, clove, spearmint, eucalyptus and rosemary EOs)

  53. D. Miller says

    My 5year old dog has gotten fleas, for the first time (have allways given her garlic, but didn’t get it for sometime). So now I must deflea the house and my dog. Do you know of any safe way? Any herbal flea & flea eggs repellent/killer?

  54. Christine says

    I had to post an update – this worked so very well. Smelled great, a couple of bugs landed on me but didn’t bite, and everyone wanted the recipe because it worked way better than what you buy at the store. I’m sending everyone I know here for the recipe. Thank you!

  55. litlbitartsy says

    Where do you get vegetable glycerin? Is that the same glycerin you make desserts with? I never can find it.

  56. Kait Nurrenberg says

    Thank you!!! I usually get bitten four times in the first minute or so of being outside, but I made bug spray from dried rosemary, thyme and mint, and I used it when my family and I went to a fireworks display on the 4th. We sat on a blanket in the grass near the river, and I didn’t get a SINGLE BITE!!!! The rest of my family decided to use the commercial spray (I HATE the smell of that stuff) and ended up getting bitten! I shouldn’t feel smug about it but I kind of did :) Thank you so much for posting this!

  57. Helena Soares Travers says

    I’m going to make the essential oil bug spray and was wondering what the benefits of using the vegetable glycerin are. I know it’s optional but I’d like to use it if there’s an added benefit. Also can the bug spray be used liberally on young children.

  58. Mary B says

    I’ve been making double batches of the essential oil recipe (using tea tree oil only) and I keep it in a spray bottle near the door as our daytime repellant. I spray myself and my kids down every time we go outside. It works but must be reapplied at least every 30 minutes. I tried it once at night when we had drinks outside with house guests but we were eaten alive. We even had citronella torches burning nearby plus a citronella candle on the table. I am not sure why it only seems to work during the day; the bugs seem more ferocious at night. Insights anyone? So it appears that I need something stronger for night time. I will try the essential oil recipe with a more complicated blend of the oils mentioned by the other folk. Particularly, I will start with the “Bug Off” oil blend mentioned by someone here.

    • Tia M says

      You could try adding another essential oil. My husband makes his with eucalyptus, rosemary, and clove, and it seems to work much better than mine (which is just eucalyptus and rosemary).

  59. Michelle says

    I’m going to try the witch hazel one as my dad hates the smell of vinegar. I’m wondering what ratio (how many drops of each) of essential oils I can use. I have lavender, rosemary, cedarwood, rose geranium, tea tree and palmarosa. Please tell me if I shouldn’t use any of these oils, also if they’re okay to use in the sunlight, thanks.

    • Tia M says

      My husband and I each have our own 14 ounce spray bottles. We did half cooled water we’d boiled and half witch hazel, I used 30 drops of eucalyptus oil and 20 drops of rosemary. My husband made his with 50 drops as well, and did a mix of rosemary and eucalyptus with clove as well. I will say it seems the strong the oil, the better it works (his seems to work better than mine).
      The rosemary and tea tree you have should world well together, and I’ve read that lavender also repels insects.

  60. Tia M says

    We live in an apartment building, so people are always coming and going and letting bugs in (boo!) I find I’m fine during the day, then I wake up in the morning with new bites. I think I’m being attacked by mosquitoes in my sleep! Is the essential oil spray made with witch hazel safe to use on my sheets? I make my spray with eucalyptus and rosemary (if that makes a difference).

  61. pookie says

    Sad to say that after buying all the ingredients to do this and making the herb infused oil over the course of several days, this did not work for me. I ended up with 3 mosquito bites on my legs within 10 minutes outside after covering myself with this bar. :(

  62. MommaTee says

    I absolutely love the peppermint and rosemary with witchhazel adding food grade glycerine. Usually I come home from my property miserable because of the pesty mesquitos and it’s hard to have company when your company has that kind of company lol.
    So I made up the concoction and put it in a spray bottle and I went to my mountain for 4 days. I only got 1 mesquito bite and even the bees stayed away (peppermint).
    PLUS… IT SMELLS GOOD TOO.
    Thank you for the recipe

  63. MisBHaven says

    I’m in the process of making this before heading out for my camping trip. SO excited to have this and check out the results.

  64. kimborloni says

    My family and I have just got back from a three week camping trip in the Pacific Northwest. We camped near the ocean, in the mountains and near some lakes. I made the Wellness Mama Bug spray with essential oils and we didn’t get bite ONCE! really not once. There was a family camping next to us by the lake were the mosquitoes were terrible and they had on conventional bug spray and got eaten alive but we didn’t get bothered by them. I love this spray and it smells great too. I even put it around our shoes and tent door at night and the ants wouldn’t go near it. This will be going with us everywhere from now on when we are outdoors! Thanks so much for the great recipes!

  65. Alayne Garcia says

    I can’t wait to try the above. I’ve been using doTERRA Breathe Respiratory Blend, which laurel leaf, peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, lemon and ravensara cleanses. I gave it a try on my 18 month old after reading somewhere that eucalyptus, peppermint and lemon would help keep Mosquitoes away. I’ve used it a few times when taking walks in the park in the evening, I love the way it smells and that it’s natural. Especially since when I spray myself with any sort of bug spray, I don’t feel so well, and my breathing is off for a bit. Not good for me, not good for my baby for sure. So this natural recipe I can’t wait to try anything to protect my family. One question, is this safe to use at night as he has been getting bitten quite a bit recently while he sleeps.

  66. Branwynne Rain says

    Thanks for this recipe! I am making my spray by adding dried calendula (I’ve got a ton), juniper berries, mint, cloves, basil, and rosemary to boiling water and letting cool in place of the plain boiled water in the first recipe. I followed that recipe otherwise, using lavender oil and vanilla extract. This is just what I have laying around, so I hope this mixture is safe and effective. I’ve got a 6 week old baby I’m trying to protect from ferocious Mosquitos on our walks but I’m worried about irritating his skin…any experience using in a newborn? I’ll just spray his clothing and stroller for now I think.

  67. Pati Lois says

    I’m wondering if this is safe near eyes. My 2yo son gets bit on the face like mad when we go camping and this last time he got dermatitis as a result of the bites, the reaction lasting more than 2weeks. I can keep the bugs off the rest of his body with clothes but not off of his face! My other concern is that he’s an eye rubber, constantly rubbing his face…

  68. Brenda says

    Thanks for saving my 3 year old grandson. He looked like he had a massive attack of chicken pox. Since he waits until evening to ride his little bike, the mosquitoes eat him alive. Now, they have to look elsewhere for dinner.

  69. Cathleen Palomino says

    Help! I tried making my mosquito repellent using distilled water, witch hazel, vegetable glycerin, and the following essential oils: geranium, clove, lavender, and citronella. I sprayed my legs and arms and sat outside and almost immediately had a couple of bees and some flies swarming me! Does anyone know which oil(s) would be attracting them? I couldn’t sit out there long enough to find out if it repelled mosquitoes for fear of being stung by bees! :-O

  70. Kari says

    Thanks for the recipes! I live in Wichita, KS, and we have a reported 200% increase in mosquito populace this simmer, due to a rare species that supposedly “hibernates” for several years at a time and multiply like crazy in their off-years, before descending upon their oblivious prey…aka ME!
    Was reading a random article from Popular Science that listed Wichita as the worst place in the US for mosquitos this year, far beyond any other. This is one list that I’d be oh-so-okay with NOT being #1- please, if anyone out there is competitive, take these vile creatures home with you. Then you can be #1, something you have always aspired to be…please? PLEASE,!!!?!

    Yours Truly,

    Being Eaten Alive xo

  71. Hard Boiled says

    Rub a dryer sheet on you and your clothes, then tuck it somewhere in your clothing. for those who like it, Skin so soft also works.

  72. Damon says

    How long do the above recipes keep? I ask because my wife gets destroyed by mosquitos and I was thinking of making these as a Christmas present.

  73. TeaJae says

    well dang it summer is over now I’m all DEET up with sprays. I really thought it was safe to use duped again I see. Well I’ll be ready next spring and summer

  74. MamaAria says

    I personally have found lemongrass oil to work the best by far! In India they brew and steep large vats of water and lemongrass to keep away mosquitos that can bite through denim!

  75. Jaishri Vivek says

    Hi Katie, can I use it on my 6 month old? Is it safe to use on the skin?
    Sorry two more queries:
    Any substitute for witch hazel?
    How long can this be stored?
    Thanks :)

  76. Amy Carson says

    Hi Katie, I’ve been making some similar repellent sprays and body oils (longer lasting in my experience) and they are working great for me. I gave some to a friend to try today, but I realized afterward that his wife is pregnant, and most of these essential oils are conraindicated for pregnant women. My guess is that the concentration is not great enough topically to be a problem, but what do you think? Are they safe?

  77. qvoraw says

    Kate, there’s Bugs at Bay on Amazon that has similar recipes for folks who don’t want an investment of essential oils. Not that there’s anything wrong with THAT — better than a cabinet full of toxic waste from the stinky aisle at the home improvement store.

  78. Alex says

    What’s the point of the witch hazel in these recipes? Can they be effective without it? I want to make an insect repellent using only native plants from New Zealand – and witch hazel unfortunately does not match the criteria.

  79. Canuck in CR says

    The 4 thieves formula works very well, however it is better if you use all the herbs in teas so your body has absorbed them.The best that I have come across to date.

  80. Shelby Irvin says

    Excited to try out these recipes. :)
    For a shampoo suggestion – I use a recipe of 1 part raw honey and 3 parts distilled water, with some lavender essential oil. So far it’s pretty fantastic, and has tamed my frizzy mane into lovely ringlets. It does mold after a week or two, so I make a single-use batch right before I shower.

  81. Kathryn Constantini says

    made the five thieves one, we live in thick woods where the mosquitoes eat us alive and my husband uses it most when he works on the house. He says he never gets bit. We also put some n our son and it works awesome ;)

  82. Bridgette Davis says

    Hi, are all the recipes above including the thieves recipe ok to use on my 8 month old son? Is 86% witch hazel with 14% alcohol ok to use in the recipes?

  83. Nick says

    I wonder if you would trust these if travelling where the threat of dengue fever or malaria is very real or fallback on a proven (though unpleasant) option like deet. Just apprehensive where getting bitten can be very seriously health damaging.

    • Micro bio researcher says

      Dear traveler,
      I worked for a year in Dengue Fever research in Thailand. My modest advice after discovering our cholera shots did not protect us and many other disturbing facts on Malaria and TB is take Mamas formula and every other
      Precaution but take one more thing…..and start it before…during….and after your trip…Jim Humble’s MMS!!! No matter what you are exposed to, you’ll be fine! Buying it is tricky, but in his on line book he gives the recipe ….you can make it in your kitchen. I would treat all water and take it systemically . Actually, I would use a Therapik from Walmart to neutralize the itch and kill ANY possible threat with MMS taken systemically .
      The greatest power of this combo is to Enjoy outdoors anywhere with NO fear.

    • Marlien says

      I have exactly the same question. Traveling to a denque fever area and was advised to use DEET. On the lookout for alternatives without citronella (I am allergic to that smell).

  84. Ieshea says

    Hello
    Do you have an alternative to the lavender as just a whiff of it gives me migraines and anything physically having to do with it brings on asthma attacks,hives and so forth to having to be taken immediately in the hospital
    thank you

  85. Penny Yen says

    After all sorts of reading and research, I decided to make neem oil soap. It will stink like the dickens, but I am hoping that at least some of the neem oil will stay on my skin and keep the mosquitoes and bugs at bay. I am also waiting patiently for the summer time to see if a neem oil spray will work when I spray it on my window screens.

    A friend of mine once said that taking a garlic pill twice a day helped to keep the little annoyances away as well.

  86. elynn says

    Hi Kate,

    I would like to know for the ingredients in the natural bug spray, what can I replace with if I do not have Witch Hazel or Cider Vinegar? You mentioned that it’s for preserving purpose. If I omit that ingredient, how long can I keep the bug spray in a humid country like Singapore?

    Thanks!

    Regards
    Elynn

  87. Jen says

    I am really enjoying the recipes on your site (love my tooth powder!) Since you recently answered another question on this post a month ago, I’m hoping you’ll catch this comment. Someone posted a question here a long time ago about the ratios of dried herbs to essential oils. They were looking to help their horse who suffers from a midge bite allergy (the condition is commonly known as “Sweet Itch”). The horse will literally scratch their hair off in an attempt to quell the itch.

    The question was never answered, and I’m sure you are flooded with comments and questions here and can’t possibly answer every single one, but I am wondering the very same thing.

    Our Taya (an Arabian/Paint mix) suffers horribly from Sweet Itch every year, and I would love to have something to help her. Right now my only solution is to save up for a Boyette blanket to the tune of about $350, which might take me awhile to achieve. I’m all the way at the beginning of the essential oil journey, and I’ve just graduated from completely clueless to largely clueless ;o)

    That said, here’s my question: If I buy the four thieves blend, how much of it would I need to add to the vinegar to make it work?

    Thank you!

  88. Lauren says

    I’ve tried lavender essential oil, and it works really well! My son and I sat in a mosquito infested field last 4th of July to watch the fireworks, and the mosquitoes wouldn’t even land on us. Thank you so much for the other recipes, I can’t wait to try them. :)

    -Lauren

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