Mix and Match: Using Essential Oils to Create Personalized Insect Repellent
If you’re one of the unlucky ones who get eaten alive by bugs during the summer months, you’ve probably spent a small fortune on stinky, chemical-laden insect repellents. A custom blended essential oil is a great way to save money, avoid harsh reactions to unknown ingredients or known allergens, and customize for the particular pests in your area.
Choosing your perfect potion
You may want to focus your insect repellent oil blend based upon your geographical region.
Mosquitos hate citronella, lemon, thyme, clove, eucalyptus, peppermint, catnip, basil, lemongrass, geranium, and lavender.
Grapefruit, juniper, rose geranium, thyme, and oregano are your best bets for repelling ticks.
Citronella, tea tree oil, lemongrass, lavender, orange and pine work best to deter fleas.
If you’re dealing with multiple bugs, feel free to choose an oil that works double duty. Go by what smells good to you and do a little trial and error to see which scents smell the best together and which seem to be the most effective.
Making your mixture
- Once you’ve decided which oils to use, fill a clean 4 oz spray bottle with 2 ounces of boiled or distilled water.
- Add an ounce of witch hazel or vodka (vodka has also been proven to be an effective insect repellent on its own)
- Next use a dropper to add a total of 50 to 75 drops of any combination of the essential oils you’ve chosen.
This recipe will make a standard-strength mixture—simply add a few drop more or less to tweak until you get the strength you prefer. Even if you need a very strong formulation, be sure to keep the percentage of oils under 15% of the total volume for safety. Leave a little bit of room in the bottle so you can shake the mixture before every application (separation of oils is normal and to be expected—shake before every use for best results). Adding a little bit of jojoba or coconut oil can turn your bug spray into a skin moisturizer as well.
Keep a bottle in your diaper bag, your purse, out on your patio and/or in your car. If, for some reason, you forget to spray on your mixture or you already have bug bites, a drop or two of lavender or tea tree oil directly on the bite will relieve itching and speed up the healing process.
A few warnings about essential oils
Make sure your oils come from a reputable source and be aware about what products you’re already wearing on your skin, as some interactions can occur. It’s also always a good idea to test for skin sensitivity and allergic reactions before dousing yourself with any new oils. Children and pregnant or nursing women can have serious adverse reactions to certain oils so use caution. This natural bug spray is perfect for spritzing your dog around the collar, but avoid putting essential oils on your feline friends, as many of them can be poisonous to cats.
Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.