Banish Bugs the Natural Way With This DIY Spray

Last Update: November 2, 2023

After a long summer day, there’s nothing more lovely than the moment when the dreamscape of a psychedelic sunset fades below the horizon—until you hear the telltale buzzing of mosquitos and realize that for them, it’s dinnertime.

If you’re not keen on spraying chemical bug repellents on your skin and into the summer air, there’s a simple alternative: Make your own, all-natural insect spray. It’s easy to do, and surprisingly effective.

Start with a carrier liquid. Witch hazel works nicely as a preservative for the solution. Fill a 4-ounce spray bottle halfway (about 2 tablespoons) with it. Add 2 tablespoons of a carrier oil, such as olive oil or jojoba oil. Both of these oils have extremely mild, natural insecticidal compounds.

The active ingredient will really be a mix of essential oils. These can be any combination of citronella, cedar, clove, lemongrass, rosemary, tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, and/or mint.

Use a greater amount of citronella or cedar—these are the best at repelling insects. (Eucalyptus is great, too, but is not recommended for children under the age of 3, so use it at your discretion.) The rest of the oils are a bonus—especially nice for creating a customized scent—although they do have mild insecticidal properties.

One hundred drops of essential oil is good, so try 70 drops of citronella and/or cedar, and cocktail the rest to your heart’s desire. Fifteen drops each of lavender and rosemary will create a sublime, relaxing scent. (If using lavender, make sure it’s lavandula angustifolia, the type with insecticidal properties).

Shake the bottle every time and spray on exposed skin. Mosquitoes will stay away—though people may not be able to resist your new soothing scent.

Too busy to play apothecary? No problem. Thrive Market carries a selection of natural—and effective—natural bug repellents and sun care products.

Illustration by Karley Koenig

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Dana Poblete

Dana's love for all creatures under the sun (bugs, too) drives her in her advocacy for ethical eating, environmental sustainability, and cruelty-free living. A natural born islander, she surfs when she can, and writes, always.

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