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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  1. 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

      • I found a recipe that worked wonders against green head flies. My fiance and uncle went fishing and they said the flies flew off as fast as they flew on them. I use an 8 oz spray bottle, fill 1/2 with boiled water, fill almost to the top with witch hazel, then add 25 drops each of lemongrass and eucalyptus essential oils. Finally found something good that works and is natural.

    • i make this bug spray in a 2 oz bottle with coconut oil and About 8 drops of lemongrass and plant therapy has an insect repellant blend, I will use about 5 drops of that. So u think this is enough?
      I notice u use 40-50 but u also have and 8 oz bottle.

  2. 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. 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. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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!! =]

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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 :(

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. *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.

  13. 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.

  14. […] 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. […]

  15. I just found out that geranium oil kills ticks almost on contact. Watched it with my own eyes last night. How would I make a spray using geranium oil that I could use everywhere to kill any tick that is living inside my house and maybe outside, now that I know this oil does kill these insects? I have dogs and am using the oil on them for protection now too. thank you!

    • a mix of geranium oil,lavender oil,eucalyptus oil with water
      spray on dog twice a day Avoid eyes Works for my 4 dogs
      Of course you need to make sure carpets and rugs and beds are free of fleas and ticks
      I also put a drop of geranium oil on the head and tail of each pup daily
      as ticks are everywhere in the area I live and it works

    • I wonder if diffusing the geranium would kill any ticks that may be hiding in the house? Maybe the oil has to actually come in contact with the bug, but maybe not. Might be worth a try!

  16. would this recipe be safe to use on a 2 year old? Would the coconut oil work as a spray or should I use something else?

  17. Hello these ideas seem pretty good , i am from india and the mosquitos here are very much specially where I live (Rishikesh) , in my organic farm i have grown lots of rare plants , and also lots of citnella and lemongrass , but how can I make essestial oils out of it ? I even tried rubbing them on my skin but aftersome time some mosquitos bit me lol so please help me . And if you come to India please visit us , we have grown lots 100 varieties of medicinal plants :)

  18. Hi, thanx for this info and these recipes. I’ll be trying them out with the essential oils I have on hand. I plan on spraying the water-based recipe on my window screens and door frames. Will that repel flies and mosquitoes? Thanx for your response.

  19. It’s me again. I’ve been reading online that lemon eucalyptus oil is great to use as a mosquito repellent. Well, I don’t have any. But I do have a bottle of lemon and a bottle of eucalyptus. Can I combine small amounts of each to make my own lemon eucalyptus oil? What amounts do you recommend I combine? Thanx for your response.

  20. I’m loving all of this advice on bug sprays. I had heard Texas Cedarwood oil and Rose Geranium were good for ticks. I bought the Texas Cedarwood and was putting a drop on my very lg. dog’s head as he seems to get the ticks there and it definitely keeps them away but than reread the article and wasn’t sure if it was ok for pets. Does anyone know? Definitely it said the rose geranium was. Read it on Natural News.
    Was trying many things for fleas but my dogs act like I’m killing them when I spray on them or even put a drop of oil on them. But I’ve started rubbing coconut oil on my short haired jack russels and it definitely keeps the fleas away. And I only have to do it about every 3 days, they looked a little oily but its worth it.

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