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Image by Mosquito World

My boys love the outdoors. In fact, my youngest doesn’t say many words but one of the words he does say is “outside, outside!” while banging on the glass of our sliding back door. Due to an incredibly high number of man-eating mosquitoes, it is not a good idea to go out there unprotected. I didn’t take much time to research commercial bug repellant sprays, but the fact that they leave me gagging and gasping for air makes me think they are not great for you — DEET or no DEET. There are probably some commercial natural-type repellants, but I can only imagine they’re expensive. We’re going to be slathering this stuff head to toe most days this summer, so I wanted it to be safe AND economical.

There are several essential oils that those nasty critters just hate, so I made up a cocktail that should prevent them from thinking our skin is an all-you-can-eat buffet. Enjoy!

Homemade Insect Repellant

  • 4 Tbs. coconut oil, melted
  • 10 drops citronella oil
  • 10 drops lemongrass oil
  • 10 drops eucalyptus oil
  • 10 drops lavender oil
  • 10 drops peppermint oil

How to do it:

I like to put my coconut oil in a glass dish (or whatever I’ll use for storing the final product) on top of an upside down cookie sheet or cooling rack, straddling a burner that was heated and turned off. This way the oil melts quickly, but I don’t have to worry about over heating or dirtying a pan.

Once the oil is liquid, stir in the essential oils. I use a metal skewer so I don’t have to waste any oil on a spoon. Let it sit and cool.

You can apply to skin as a liquid or semi-solid ( coconut oil should be solid below 76F). The essential oils can be adjusted depending on your preference and supply, the most important being the citronella and lemongrass oils. The ratio should remain 50 drops per 4 Tbs. carrier oil in order to prevent irritating sensitive skin.

I tried this on my two little boys and myself today and I have not found a bite on anyone yet!

While another carrier oil could be used (like olive oil), there is one significant benefit to making this with coconut oil. Coconut oil according to Jennifer of Hybrid Rasta Mama has an SPF of between 4-6. In combination with a diet rich in omega-3s (including coconut oil!), this bug repellant should help prevent sunburn as well. Our backyard is fairly shady so I feel completely comfortable sending my boys out there with this as their only sun protection.

Experiment; gradually building a longer exposure to help them develop a base tan that will further protect them. And if you aren’t aware of the many benefits and uses for coconut oil, you can check out Hybrid Rasta Mama’s extensive list here. It is one of the most versatile products in my house, right up there with baking soda and vinegar!!

Do you ever get eaten by bugs?  What do you do to repel insects naturally?


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34 Comments

  1. I make one with all those oils but always just put it in water. I am def going to use coconut oil. If you do get bit (or stung etc) then just find some plantain in your yard, chew it a bit to release juices, and put on bite. Take away pain almost immediately!

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  2. LooKs like a great recipe!! I just need to get some citronella & lemongrass!

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  3. I’m in process of starting a business making and selling natural personal care items. I had planned on selling a mosquito repellent solid lotion bar, but learned that even natural repellents are heavily regulated by the EPA. I would have to go through a nightmare of hoop jumping and money spending in order to legally sell such a simple, safe product! The product I had developed had awesome reviews from everyone who tested it for me, so it was a real bummer to learn that it would be too complicated and involved for a “little guy” like me to make to sell.

    Solid lotion bar recipes are easy to find online, but the essential oils I used after much research were equal parts: lemongrass, clove, peppermint, and lavender. You can use muffin tins (mini or regular) for molds. If the bars don’t release easily once cooled, try putting it in the freezer for about 30 minutes first.

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    • I will add that according to The Complete book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy, the ideal concentration of essential oils to your oil base for mosquito repellent is about 5 drops essential oils to 1 teaspoon of your base, if you are making a small amount. for my bars I used about 30 drops eo’s per oz. base.

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      • How terrible, though I believe every word. Could you sell it as “insect deterrent” scents? (I am thinking in the same way peppermint might be labeled “invigorating” or chamomile or lavender as “soothing”. Anything to get around the EPA! Seems like word of mouth/testimonials in this community might get you some business… Just a thought.

        I guess our sources were fairly close, mine workes out to a little over 4 drops per teaspoon, though I was erring on the low side for my little ones, I am sure 5 drops would be just fine as well. Thanks for adding your expertise!

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        • I know—I’ve wondered how I could get around it. I’ve thought about calling it an “outdoor lotion bar” with a “fresh, sporty scent” (that people like, but mosquitoes don’t?)–maybe with images reminiscent of camping or something outdoorsy on the label. But another product I had hoped to launch (that I had great feedback from testers) was an SPF 15 sunblock lip balm, with 11% zinc oxide as the sunscreen ingredient. I learned that the FDA now classifies all SPF products, natural or not, as drugs. I would have to have my product tested as a drug, approved as a drug, and then manufactured in a facility approved for making drugs! Even if I didn’t call it a sunscreen, list SPF, or even zinc oxide as an active ingredient, if I even hinted by the label design that the product could protect from the sun, I would be selling an “unapproved drug”! That makes me a little nervous regarding trying to skirt around regulations on the mosquito repellent–even though every ingredient in it is commonly used for cosmetic and simple fragrance purposes–the essential oils are even edible! Gracious, can you tell this has “bugged” me (pun intended!)? There are so many things ridiculously over-regulated, and yet others terribly under-regulated (like GMOs, pesticides, etc…).

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    • Can I get your recipe please!

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  4. I tend to get bit very often, more so than anyone else around me doing the same things. I also have a greater swelling reaction than anyone else, making me wonder if I am slightly allergic. It’s been that way my while life. I hate bug sprayed, but have to use them. I’d love to try this. Two questions……where do you recommend buying the oils for a reasonable price and how does the concoction smell? Would it be offensive to those around me?

    Reply

    • I also get bit more than most and have a fair amount of swelling at the site. I order mine from Azure Standard, a delivery co-op for bulk natural foods and products. I love the company, but their are some limitation depending on your location. The company that actually produces the oils I order is called Natures Alchemy. You can find them online or at a local health food store.
      The smell is actually very pleasant. It has a lemony smell but it is not overpowering.

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  5. I love natural bug repellants. I am excited to try this since they are normally expensive. Plus another great use of coconut oil!

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  6. Where is a good place to buy the essential oils for a cheap price? Do you have any recommendations?

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  7. We have a chigger problem, and I’ve always used tea tree eo in a carrier oil and rubbed it on my ankles and lower legs and it seems to work pretty well.

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  8. I love your post on DIY insect repellant. I will use it when we go camping or hiking! :)

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  9. My family loves Kombucha! We are really enjoying the great taste and knowing it is good for us. We no longer even buy soda!

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  10. Thanks for posting this! I definitely will be trying it out!!!

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  11. [...] am over at Modern Alternative Mama today as contributing writer so check it out here to read the recipe! Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

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  12. Wish you lived closer – I would share some Neem leaves. I have a Neem tree in my yard, and saw some YouTube videos on natural insect repellants made from neem tea. I have been meaning to try it – maybe soon, since the bugs are just starting here in Florida. :-) Neem doesn’t smell very good though – maybe the essential oils would be more pleasant.

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    • Neem while awesome smells a bit between used cooking oil and peanut oil thats been used. I was surprised how mellow theneem plant itself smelled and tasted after amelling the oil. I cannot imagine the EO would smell good.

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  13. As someone who sells essential oils I would warn readers that the best results are from the purest essential oils. Cheaper ones have synthetic fillers and are not even be tested properly to see if they have the constituents necessary to get the results the oil is meant to give. You get what you pay for. It’s a waste of time and actually your money too (because you are not necessarily getting the results you are buying it for guaranteed) to get anything less than CPTG (Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade). This recipe will work for sure with top quality oils. Also CPTG Geranium oil works as an effective insect repellent also.

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  14. Just made up a batch, minus the eucalyptus oil. It actually smells pretty good. I’m planning on testing it this evening when I go to the garden. Thank you so much for the recipe!

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  15. Just catching up on my reading from a weekend away. This sounds great. We spend a great deal of time outdoors both at home and camping. I will be trying this out soon.

    thanks for the post!

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  16. Hi there everyone!
    I’ve heard that NEEM OIL is good as well as an insect repellent.
    http://neemoil.com.au/?gclid=COKz4sqJmLACFUKDpAod9DL-4g
    Might be worth a look to incorporate :)
    Take Care everyone,
    -Sooz :)

    Reply

  17. Would this work on Bedbugs?

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  18. [...] after looking around, I found this recipe from Modern Alternative [...]

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  19. I also read that catnip is 10 times more effective than deet at repelling Mosquitos so I also use that. I make basically the same thing you do and it works wonderfully. Thanks for everything you do!!

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  20. Thanks for a great and informative article! I love making my insect repellants. I love and only use pure, therapeutic grade essential oils. Purification (most of the same ingredients) is my favorite, with a little peppermint added. I have also found that by rubbing Purification essential oil on my feet, it helps keep the bugs away. Also, having enough B vitamins in my system help keep the bugs away.

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  21. just imagining what my cats would be like if I sprayed myself in catnip to repel mosquitos!

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  22. [...] Repellent Mixed with essential oils, coconut oil can keep pests from buggin’ you all summer [...]

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  23. I tried this on our camping trip. It was ok but the no-see-ems kept landing on me and sometimes biting. They were going into my hair and biting my scalp so I had to put it in my hair as well, which of course left my hair very oily. It seemed like it had to be applied very generously to work.

    Reply

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