Natural Bug Repellent

By Jian Kettunen

It’s already the middle of summer and you know what that means! Outdoor fun can be hampered by annoying bugs.

Commercial bugspray is often full of nasty chemicals such as deet, so many people are looking for more natural ways to repel bugs.

Natural, homemade bug repellent recipes rely on different herbs and essential oils that have insect repelling properties. Here is a list that can be used individually or as a mixture in the repellent: Lemon eucalyptus oil, lavender oil, cinnamon oil, thyme oil, tea tree oil, citronella oil, cloves, lemongrass oil, cedar oil, catnip oil, geranium oil, mint oil, and rosemary oil.

Repellent recipes that use essential oils also require carrier oils such as sunflower oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, almond oil, or neem oil. The essential oils should be mixed with a carrier oil in a 1:5 ratio, or can be mixed into aloe gel and into lotion and then applied to the skin.

Try this if you are looking for a spray recipe:

  • 2 tbs witch hazel and/or vodka
  • 2 tbs of a carrier oil listed above
  • ½ teaspoon vodka for preservative (if not already used)
  • 100 drops of essential oils, can be a variety of those listed above

(Recipe from

Put the mixture into a spray bottle and make sure to shake before use. Store in a cool dark place.

For young children you should not apply this to their skin but you can spray their clothes. The younger the child, the more you should dilute any essential oils. Also, make sure to test a small patch of skin before applying to your whole body to test for an allergic reaction.

You can also make a spray from fresh herbs! Just chop the fresh herbs (like rosemary, mint, lavender), and fill a jar with rubbing alcohol, vodka (or witch hazel). Let it sit in the sun for 2 weeks shaking every so often, then strain the herbs and use the solution as spray.

A quicker option that can be used for dry herbs (as well as fresh) is as follows:

Boil a cup of water, add 3-4 tbs of dried herbs, mix, cover and let cool. Then strain and mix remaining liquid with 1 cup rubbing alcohol or witch hazel. Put the mixture into a spray bottle and make sure to shake before use. Store in a cool dark place.

You can still be bitten by bugs even when using bug repellent. These bites are often itchy, so here are some tips to reduce the irritation:

  • Apple cider vinegar, lavender oil, tea tree oil, peppermint oil, witch hazel, honey, aloe and oatmeal can all be directly applied to the skin.
  • Baking soda, crushed aspirin and salt can be mixed with water to create a paste that can be applied to the bite.
  • Lemon/lime juice, and cut onions or garlic can be applied to the skin.
  • The inside of banana peel or mashed pulp of plantain or basil can be applied to skin.
  • Ice cubes and cold tea bags can also be soothing to irritated skin.

For more natural remedies, check out our Green Living Articles about Herbal First Aid.

Our Sponsors