DIY Bug Repellent

If the store-bought options are doing it for you, try these at-home bug repellent recipes from Dr. Frenchy, Ph.D.  Use code LARISA for 10% off Dr. Frenchy’s essential oil blends.

NOTE: Please be sure your essential oil is coming from a reputable company or seller.

Tick Repellent

Spray is best as you’ll want to treat your limbs, shoes, socks, and other clothing the ticks can latch onto. You’ll need:

  • A spray bottle (preferably PET plastic so it’s oil-proof and shatter-proof)
  • Essential oils:
    • Geranium oil has been shown effective against ticks. It is rich in citronellol and geraniol compounds.
    • Citronella oil, which is also rich in geraniol, as well as in citronellal, a cousin of citronellol.
    • Geranium and Citronella are fairly light oils that evaporate quickly, so you’ll need a heavy essential oil to “anchor” them down, to make the scent last longer. Great ones are Cedarwood or Patchouli – Cedarwood is cheaper and both are also insect repellents.
  • A light vegetable oil such as liquid coconut, grapeseed, or apricot oil.  Essential oils must never be used pure on the skin as they can create irritation and allergies (sensitization), but must be diluted in a fatty oil.  In addition, dilution slows the rate of evaporation and makes the scent of your bug spray last much longer.
  • Water or witch hazel to make the mixture spray better and less greasy. Do not use alcohol, as it will cause your essential oils to evaporate faster and lose the scent of your spray. IMPORTANT: Do NOT dilute your essential oils solely in water, because oils and water don’t mix.  When your spray it, you will end up with pure essential oils on your skin when the water evaporates.
  • A surfactant, such as castile soap, to bind the oil and water phases together.

Directions:  For each ounce of your spray bottle,  use 2/3 light vegetable oil, 1/3 water (or witch hazel), 15-30 drops total of essential oils, and a smidgen of liquid soap (1/4 teaspoon) to help them blend. For example, try 5 drops geranium + 5 drops citronella + 5 drops cedarwood for children, or 10 drops of each for adults. Multiply by the number of ounces of your bottle.  Shake well before each use.

Mosquito Repellent

For a mosquito-repellent, you’ll need the same ingredients as above, with the following changes:

    • Replace Geranium oil with Lemon Eucalyptus oil, the richest in citronellal compound. Be careful, there are many types of Eucalyptus oils: the one you want is Eucalyptus Citriodora.
    • You’ll still want an anchoring oil, but this time, Patchouli is better (use Cedarwood if you don’t have Patchouli). If you can afford it, get a little bit of American Catnip Oil (not Indian!): Catnip is rich in nepetalactone (which makes cats go crazy), which is said to mimic a mosquito hormone that tells mosquitoes to stay away. And finally, if you have some on hand, you can add a bit of some of these oils: lavender, citronella, rosemary, peppermint, lemongrass

Directions: Use the same proportions as for the tick spray: 2/3 light vegetable oil, 1/3 water (or witch hazel), 15-30 drops total of essential oils per ounce, and a smidgen of liquid soap (1/4 teaspoon) to help them blend. For the essential oils blend, you can try: 6 drops lemon eucalyptus + 5 drops lavender + 4 drops patchouli for children; For adults, use up to 30 drops/oz TOTAL.  IMPORTANT: Avoid peppermint and rosemary for small children, as they can be neurotoxic, and go easy on catnip if you use it.

Directions for Roll-on Versus Spray: Since mosquitoes don’t (usually) bite through clothes, a skin roll-on works well for a mosquito repellent, and is much easier to make than a spray: Just add up to 15 drops TOTAL of the essential oils above to your 10-mL roller bottle, then complete with vegetable oil (almond, liquid coconut or apricot). For example, for small children, try: 3 drops lemon eucalyptus + 2 drops lavender + 1 drop patchouli. For adults, try: 4 drops lemon eucalyptus + 2 drops catnip + 2 drops peppermint + 2 drops patchouli; If you don’t have catnip, try rosemary or lavender instead.

Since essential oils evaporate, reapply every 2 hours or as soon as the bugs get too close for comfort.

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