One thing I hate when being outdoors in the warmer months is bugs! I know you do too, we all do. If there was a way I could do all the fun activities my husband and boys do without having to deal with mosquitos and the other pests I would sign up for it right away. Unfortunately that’s not possible, so we have to find other methods to keep those bugs at bay. The way we all do it is with chemical based insect repellents.

These bug sprays and other repellents are loaded with chemicals like DEET. DEET is the active ingredient in most bug sprays. It does work, but it’s a very strong chemical and many of us don’t want to expose our kids to chemicals like this on a regular basis. So for the last little while I’ve been exploring some natural alternatives that you can make at home. What I’ve found is that they work really well, for daily use and I don’t have to worry about my boys safety and exposure to a chemical based product.

A natural bug repellent is incredibly easy to make at home. It requires just two simple steps:

Step 1: Choose Your Essential Oils

Essential oils are the active ingredients in homemade bug repellent. What makes and oil “essential?” An essential oil is one that is extracted from a plant, and therefore it carries a distinctive scent, or essence, of the plant. These oils are not “essential” for health.

The aroma of the right oils will keep you bug bite free no matter how long you are outdoors. You’ll need a total of about 100-110 drops of essential oils per 8 ounces of bug repellent. You can use one kind of essential oil, or mix and match.

Step 2: Choose Your Carrier Liquid

A “carrier liquid” is what you are going to add your essential oils to so it not only dilutes the oil but also it will allow it to transfer to the skin much easier. You can choose to make your homemade insect repellent water or oil-based. A water-based repellent will give you the result of a bug spray, and an oil-based will result more like the cream based repellents on the market.

  • For oil-based bug repellent: Simply mix 100-110 drops of essential oils into 8 oz. of your favorite carrier oil. Store in a small glass jar or tub. This mixture is quite effective and can be dabbed lightly on wrists, inside the arm, behind the knees and around the ankles to keep those bugs at a distance.
  • For water-based bug repellent spray: Essential oils don’t mix well with water, so you’ll need to use witch hazel or rubbing alcohol (vodka can be used as a natural alternative) as an emulsifier. Use about 2-4 ounces of witch hazel or alcohol in an 8-oz. spray bottle, then fill the rest with pure water and 100-110 drops of essential oils.

Natural Bug Repellent


  • 2 tablespoons of one or a combination of the following: witch hazel or vodka
  • 2 tablespoons of one or a combination of the following: grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, almond oil, olive oil, or neem oil (which contains natural insecticidal compounds)
  • ½ teaspoon vodka as preservative (if not already using)
  • 100-110 drops essential oils

Sample Bug-Repelling Essential Oil Blend:

  • 55 drops lemon eucalyptus (reported by the CDC to be a good natural substitution for DEET in repelling insects, but not recommended for use on children under 3 yrs.)
  • 15 drops cedarwood
  • 15 drops lavender
  • 15 drops rosemary


Add carrier liquids to small spray bottle (3 or 4 oz. works well so there is room for shaking). Add essential oils. Shake well before each use. Natural bug repellent will need to be reapplied every few hours for maximum effectiveness.

The sample essential oil blend I included above is the one most people use and it is very effective, but do a little research and find what works best for you. There is a long list of essential oils that can replicate the same effects as a chemical based bug spray, it’s really about finding which one will work right for you.

The one thing to keep in mind is this recipe is for really for day-to-day use. If you are going somewhere that is very heavy with insects, like a boat trip on the Amazon for example, you are going to want to use a deet based insect repellent. But if you are just playing outside in the evening, or going on a hike these natural alternatives are perfect for those situations.

So try this out and go outdoors and enjoy the warmer months without having to worry about nasty bug bites.

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