Homemade Natural Insect Repellent (That Actually Works!)

natural insect repellent that works

How to stop insects biting when you’re living it up in the great outdoors using Mother Nature’s natural bug repellents. This insect repellent will help repel insects and bugs, and is toxin-free and all-natural.

I started looking into making my own homemade bug spray when I began working out in the garden more (you see some seriously giant mosquitos out there!). I wanted something natural, that wasn’t chock-a-block full of harsh chemicals.

Commercial bug sprays and insect repellents tend to contain chemicals like DEET or Picaridin which are active ingredients that help repel mosquitos and other insects. But, there are mixed results about them when it comes to how safe they are for our bodies.

Heather of Mommypotamus points out:

“N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) is the usual go-to for commercial bug spray. It’s incredibly controversial, and for good reason…. Dr. Abou Donia, a Duke University pharmacologist, found that “rats treated with an average human dose of DEET (40 mg/kg body weight) performed far worse than control rats when challenged with physical tasks requiring muscle control, strength and coordination.”

In the same study, Dr. Abou Donia found that DEET caused “neurons to die in regions of the brain that control muscle movement, learning, memory and concentration.” The pharmacologist says that children are at a higher risk for brain changes after DEET exposure because their skin absorbs it more readily.

The EPA even shares a long list of warnings and precautions for DEET.

The skin is an organ so whatever we spray/rub/apply/use on our skin will ultimately be absorbed into the body and bloodstream.

Below are a few recipes that help to deter insects of many kinds; ticks, mozzies, and other bugs that may be prone to biting.

Now, there are some concerns about putting these essential oils directly on the skin, particularly on children, so another option is to apply this spray onto clothing or gear instead of directly onto skin.

Using a combination of any of these essential oils works really well: citronella, clove, lemongrass, rosemary, tea tree, cajeput, eucalyptus, cedar, catnip, geranium, lavender, or mint. All of these oils have mosquito- and insect-repelling properties.

Before we get started in learning how to make these all-natural insect repellents – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my email newsletter at the bottom of the page to keep up to date on the latest recipes, DIYs, gardening and health tips I share!!

Homemade Essential Oil Insect Repellent

I use 460-480 drops of essential oils (it’s very potent) so if you do choose to apply it onto skin, always test a small amount on a tiny part of your skin first, to ensure you do not react to it in any adverse way. For children, it is best to do the same, and only use kid-safe essential oil blends in the spray to use on them (or apply it onto clothing). Avoid spraying your eyes and mouth.


To make:

  1. Place witch hazel, apple cider vinegar and essential oils in a glass spray bottle.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Apply liberally on exposed skin and/or clothing every 1-2 hours – or when the smell starts to dissipate – while outdoors, avoiding the eyes and mouth.
  4. Shake well before each use as the oils will naturally separate over time. Store in a cool, dry place.

Homemade ultimate insect repellent tutorial

Homemade Herb-Infused Insect Repellent

Rather than using essential oils, fresh or dried herbs can be substituted! For a stronger version of this recipe, prepare the herbs in alcohol to create a tincture and apply this directly as a spray after straining out the herbs.


To make:

  • 1 cup distilled or filtered water
  • 1 cup witch hazel
  • 2 tbsp fresh or dried mint, finely chopped; spearmint, peppermint, etc.
  • 5-6 tbsp of any of the following fresh or dried herbs, finely chopped; catnip, citronella, lavender, cloves, rosemary, basil, geranium, lemongrass, etc.

To make:

  1. Bring 1 cup of water to the boil, then add herbs.
  2. Mix well, cover and let cool completely.
  3. Strain out herbs (and compost) and pour mix into a glass spray bottle, along with the water and witch hazel. Shake well to combine.
  4. Store in a cool, dry place, or in the fridge. Apply liberally on exposed skin and/or clothing every 1-2 hours – or when the smell starts to dissipate – while outdoors, avoiding the eyes and mouth.

Homemade Tick Repellent

I use this spray anytime I go out hiking or camping, as it’s an effective way to repel ticks and bugs. It’s very potent and strong.

Wellness Mama shares a tick spray recipe using fresh or dried herbs, if you’re looking for a non-essential oil tick spray, and it’s very effective! The spray actually contains antiviral and antibacterial properties, so can be used as a tincture to help boost immunity when unwell; the adult dose is one tablespoon diluted in water, taken a few times a day, and for children over two years, the dose is one teaspoon diluted in water, taken a few times a day.

The following spray can be used on dogs, too, as a natural tick repellent; combine just the rose geranium oil, witch hazel and water together in a glass spray bottle, and apply.


To make:

  1. Pour witch hazel, water and essential oils into a glass spray bottle, cap it, then shake well to combine.
  2. Spray onto your clothes and/or skin, even on your dog to keep them tick-free!
  3. Apply liberally on exposed skin and/or clothing every 1-2 hours – or when the smell starts to dissipate – while outdoors, avoiding the eyes and mouth.
  4. Shake well before each use as the oils will naturally separate over time. Store in a cool, dry place.

Homemade tick repellent tutorial

Other bug repelling tips include:

  • Planting insect-repelling herbs in your garden; lavender, thyme, mint, geranium, catnip, rosemary, basil, lemongrass, citronella, etc.
  • Rubbing fresh mint leaves – peppermint, spearmint, catnip, pennyroyal, etc. – or citronella, lemongrass, basil, etc. all over skin to repel insects.

Spot-test for allergic reactions anytime you use a new product on skin, whether it’s natural or not.

As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. I am not a doctor. All opinions expressed are my own personal thoughts and feelings of the products mentioned. Check with your doctor or health practitioner if you are uncertain about trying out any of the products, recipes or tips mentioned in this post.

What are some of your tricks for keeping bugs away naturally? Share in the comments below.

Lots of love,

🖤 Vanessa


Wells, Katie. (updated: July 30, 2019). All-Natural Homemade Bug Spray Recipes That Work!. Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/2565/homemade-bug-spray/

Wells, Katie. (updated March 21, 2020). Risks and Dangers of Essential Oils. Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/26519/essential-oils-risks/

DEET. (June 14, 2017). EPA. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/deet#safety

Dessinger, Heather. Natural Tick Repellent Recipe. mommypotamus. Retrieved from https://mommypotamus.com/natural-tick-repellent-recipe/

Jabs, Betsy. Natural Homemade Mosquito/Insect/Bug Repellent. DIY Natural. Retrieved from https://www.diynatural.com/homemade-insect-mosquito-repellent/

Swale DR, Sun B, Tong F, Bloomquist JR. (August 7, 2014). Neurotoxicity and mode of action of N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET). NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25101788

Tiffany. (Updated: June 19, 2018). Homemade Bug Spray – No Essential Oils. Don’t Waste the Crumbs. Retrieved from https://dontwastethecrumbs.com/homemade-bug-spray-no-essential-oils/

Homemade Rosemary Mosquito Repellent Recipe. (Updated: July 20, 2021). SF Gate. Retrieved from https://homeguides.sfgate.com/homemade-rosemary-mosquito-repellent-recipe-73124.html

Axe, Josh, Dr, DC, DNM, CN. (September 8, 2021). Homemade Bug Spray (and All-Natural!). Dr. Axe. Retrieved from https://draxe.com/beauty/homemade-bug-spray/

Johnston, Cassie. (Accessed: September 21. 2021). Homemade All-Natural Tick and Bug Spray (That Actually Works!). Wholefully. Retrieved from https://wholefully.com/homemade-natural-tick-bug-spray/

Vance, Katie. (Accessed: September 21, 2021). A Natural Homemade Tick Repellent That Works!. DIY Natural. Retrieved from https://www.diynatural.com/homemade-tick-repellent-diy/

Kelly from Primally Inspired. (June 3, 2015). Homemade Tick Spray. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/Xq5eajHo6No

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