How to Make Homemade Bug Repellent (Cream or Spray)

How to Make Homemade Bug Repellent Cream or Spray

During the warm months, my mission is simple: avoid bug bites whenever possible. And living in the humid south makes this a challenge. When I was a kid, it meant spraying liberal quantities of OFF bug repellent all over myself. It was greasy and smelled gross, but it was the only way I knew to combat the plague of mosquitoes that seemed view my legs as an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Of course, as I got older it began to dawn on me that drenching myself in chemicals may not be the wisest choice. And when I had my own kids who loved to play outside during the summer evenings, finding a natural way to repel bugs became a top priority.

I was delighted when I realized I could make my own homemade insect repellent. I made some right away, and the whole family noticed a remarkable decrease in mosquito bites when we started using it. My kids always remind me to spray them before they go outside!

How to Make Homemade Bug Repellent

Natural insect 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. The right essential oils will have bugs running (or flying) in the opposite direction. You’ll need a total of about 40-50 drops of essential oils per 8 ounces of bug repellent. You can use one kind of essential oil, or mix and match. The oils you want to use in homemade bug repellent are any of the following:

  • Rosemary
  • Citronella
  • Clove
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Eucalyptus
  • Cedar
  • Mint
  • Lemongrass
  • Basil
  • Thyme

Some of my favorite combinations are lemongrass with citronella and basil, or lavender with geranium and peppermint.

Learn where I shop for high quality therapeutic essential oils online.

Step 2: Choose Your Base

You can choose to make your homemade insect repellent water or oil-based.

  • For oil-based bug repellent: Simply mix 40-50 drops of essential oils into 8 oz. of your favorite carrier oil (mine is obviously coconut 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 40-50 drops of essential oils.

Have you given up commercial chemical bug sprays? What kind of natural solutions have you tried for bugs and insects? Have you had any success keeping the bugs away? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Want to learn more about essential oils and how to use them? Join my essential oil Facebook group HERE.

How to Make Homemade Bug Repellent Cream or Spray - from The Nourished Life


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73 Responses to How to Make Homemade Bug Repellent (Cream or Spray)

  1. Mickmcc says:

    Hi, Thanks for this share.  I refuse to slather chemicals on my daughter.  I have used Badger Balm in the past but would love to move to making my own.  Are certain ingrediants better for particular bugs, i.e. misquitos respond better to…, greenheads don’t like…????  Thanks

  2. Sheila Scrivens says:

    Orange Oil’s worked pretty well for me, I just love it in the summer to ward away those peskies and lavender, geranium, mint and eucalyptus at other times and for various other ailments :) 

  3. DeBorah Beatty says:

    When my husband and I were doing outdoor shows, one of the other, more seasoned vendors shared a tip with us that has stood good for over 10 years. If you’re troubled by bees, take new dryer sheets and tie them to the corners of your booth. You can also tie one to a belt loop on your pants. Have not had trouble with bees since. (Guess they don’t like the scent any better than I do!)

  4. Vennesa says:

    I use doterra’s TerraShield. It has lemon, lemongrass, eucalyptus and citronella in it.

  5. Celeste Federico Hayes says:

    I just read on that both neem oil (from health and beauty aisle vs. home and garden aisle) as well as catnip oil have scientific studies that back up their claims as a great mosquito repellent. Catnip oil was studied by the U of Iowa and found to be 10x more effective than DEET.

  6. Ember says:

    You might find this science article of interest, it indicates that catnip is more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes, and you can get catnip essential oil:

    • Awesome study. I remember reading about catnip, but I forgot to mention it in the post. It definitely belongs on the list.

      I have to wonder, thought, while repelling cats, will you attract cats? :p

      • Laura says:

        I read a study on the effectiveness of catnip and it included a warning not to use it if you live in or are traveling to an area inhabited by large cats! Makes sense.

  7. Joan says:

    This is great thank you


  8. I look forward to trying these. We live by the river and last year I got eaten alive with the commercial natural brands. I will definitely try my own!

  9. Neomi says:

    What do you think is good for spraying around the house for ants ? They always arrive for a few weeks in the spring
    And fruit flies in the fall …?
    Anything for around the house please :)
    Many thx !

    • You can definitely mix some of these essential oils with diluted vinegar for a general household cleaner that can help keep bugs at bay. I’ve read some folks say they’ve used peppermint oil and lavender oil for ants with success. Lemongrass is supposed to be good for fruit flies, too. Plus they’ll make your house smell pretty great!

  10. Jennifer says:

    What oils are best at repelling TICKS?

    • Geranium oil is supposed to work well for ticks. I need to try that this year. We live in the woods, and the ticks are abundant in the summer!

      • kaz says:

        Only thing about Geranium oil is it attracts Bee’s / wasps :/

        • Ick, thanks for the heads up!

          • JC says:

            Using vinegar with essential oils for fruit fly repellant flagged in my mind in the same way. Does this actually work? I know fruit flies LOVE cider vinegar; you can use it to bait simple traps for them (they also love the vinegar that my kombucha-fermenting-too-long turned into). Wouldn’t vinegar sort of reduce any repellant effect of the oils?

  11. Julie Maxwell says:

    I have been using clove oil as a topical pain relief fro bites. I will try it in a spray as I live in the Pilbara WA and we have tiny midges that leave you digging your skin off your arms. I also have used Witch Hazel to get the sting out so ill be using that as a carrier. I have a friend sending me Sandalwood oil straight rom the producer. She swears by it in carrier oil.

  12. [...] How to Make Homemade Bug Repellent [...]

  13. [...] out on the toxins this summer. You don’t need chemicals to keep bugs away. Make this homemade bug repellent from Living the Nourished [...]

  14. [...] can cause for my family and me), Elizabeth over at The Nourished Life has two excellent recipes for homemade bug repellent that are non-toxic and effective. Win! I’ll be using geranium and lavender oils in my next [...]

  15. [...] Homemade Bug Repellent Natural Veggie Wash Toxic Free DIY Mini Series: Herbal Shampoo [...]

  16. [...] bugs will be out in mass soon.  Have you ever wondered how to make homemade bug repellant?  The Nourished Life shows you [...]

  17. A friend is sending me several different essential oils down here in Guatemala, so I’m very excited!! Can you please tell me what is the best oil(s) to use as a flea-repellant on my dog? There are MAJOR fleas down here and now I’ve been fighting them for a month in my house (and on my ankles)! =\ Also, regarding repellants, do you need to spray it all over or in just a few places? THANKS!! =]

  18. [...] How to Make Homemade Bug Repellent [...]

  19. Rhonda R says:

    I just tried a mixture of lemon juice, vanilla extract, lavender oil and water. The mosquitoes were seen but no bites. They did not even land on us. Worked great.

  20. For ridding the fruit flies, I recently tried this and it works GREAT:
    In a bowl, place 2 T. apple cider vinegar (I use the cheap stuff for this) and a banana peel.
    Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and stab the plastic wrap with a fork a few times.
    Place the bowl in the infested area. The flies find their way through the little holes to get in and get trapped under the plastic. Then you can just take the bowl outside and let them go. I usually let them go by a big ol’ spider web!

  21. Naomy M. says:

    Hi, thank for this post! Can’t wait to make my own. However, i was wondering do you know what essential oil will work best for chiggers and chigger bites? We have alot in the heat of TX :(

  22. Sarah says:

    so what was your specific recipe? you didn’t include that and I’d like to know, thanks!

  23. Ben Failor says:

    Try: Osage orange, feverfew, tansy or brocade mix marigolds.

  24. […] getting to be the time of year where we need bug repellent!  Here is a recipe for homemade bug repellent that will help you avoid the […]

  25. Loribelle says:

    Did I understand correctly that you only dab this mixture on a few spots and that’s enough to keep mosquitoes, biting flies, and biting gnats at bay? I sit at turtle nests all summer and refuse to spray poisons around such a protected area, but on the nights when the wind dies down, every inch of skin has to be covered or the buggers tear me up!

  26. Beverlee Groff says:

    Is there a benefit over using a oil or a water based bug spray? Does one work better than the other?

    Also there is a scientific study using myrrh for Ticks.””In 1994, botanist Arthur O. Tucker reviewed the scientific literature on herbs that repel mosquitoes, flies, fleas, ticks, and similar pests. He found that opopanax myrrh (Commiphora erythaea), the myrrh of ancient Egypt, has been shown to repel adults of the African brown ear, deer, black-footed, lone star, and American dog tick.””

    • I think it mainly depends on preference, but I have a feeling the oil might last longer than the spray.

      Great info about myrrh! I’ve heard wonderful things about myrrh oil. I need to order a bottle soon.

  27. […] This great and simple recipe was created by Elizabeth at The Nourished Life: How to Make Homemade Bug Repellent (Cream or Spray) […]

  28. […] from Living the Nourished Life How to Make Homemade Bug Repellent […]

  29. […] Water-Based and Oil-Based Spray Solutions by Living the Nourished Life […]

  30. […] Vegans, I thought I’d pass them on to you. Try Real Food Enthusiasts bug repellent here or the Living the Nourished Life cream or spray to repel those nasty […]

  31. JC says:

    *Wonderful* post. Thank you so much for simply laying out the basic types of ingredients (essential oils and carrier) and proportioning, without giving a set recipe, so us dabblers can do our own tinkering within workable parameters. It’d be interesting to use coconut oil as a carrier for its inherent SPF, and perhaps add carrot seed oil for additional SPF, and end up with an all-natural bug repellant sunscreen.

    One cool thing about catnip (aside from attracting mountain lions for a REALLY memorable camping vacation) is it also is proven to repel spiders. Handy.

  32. […] the EPA is full of shit. Just to be safe, make your own. There are a couple of great recipes here: I’ve personally tried one with lemongrass, basil and mint. It smelled beautiful and kept the […]

  33. Mosquitoes are poor flyers so when you sitting out on your deck or patio sit in front of a fan. An inexpensive box fan is ideal for this purpose.
    I’ve created my own recipe of all natural, DEET-free insect repellent. My friends and family encouraged me to sell them so I created a website

  34. Cindy says:

    I have some Eucalyptus oil that I’d like to use in the bug repellent. I’m new to essential oils. What can I mix with it that will smell good? What ratio – equal amount of each? Thank you!

    • I would experiment to find the ratio that works for you–I would try 1/2 and 1/2 first and then add more of other oils if needed. Lemongrass is good at cancelling out smells, peppermint can work as well.

  35. Jan Drummey says:

    Need to know how to make a repellant for GREENHEADS….am allergic after a few bites….HELP !!

  36. […] I’ve been asked a few times to share my recipe for homemade, healthy bug repellants. It’s been on my to-do list for a while, but now I don’t have to! Elizabeth at The Nourished Life shares pretty much exactly what I do. Need a refresher for carrier oils (which are needed for what I think is her most successful recipe)? Go back to this post I wrote a while back (updated with links so you can purchase one of the required carrier oils). Check out Elizabeth’s recipes here. […]

  37. […] can cause for my family and me), Elizabeth over at The Nourished Life has two excellent recipes for homemade bug repellent that are non-toxic and effective. Win! I’ll be using geranium and lavender oils in my next […]

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