A Guide to DIY Bug Sprays with Essential Oils

A Guide to DIY Bug Sprays with Essential Oils

A Guide to DIY Bug Sprays with Essential Oils

Spring is here! Which means the bugs are back to accompany the blossoms and sunshine. 

We respect the job that bugs do...as long as they do it far away from us, our skin, our porches, picnic blankets, and homes. 

So, what can a nature-conscious mom do? Make her own bug-repellant out of essential oils of course!

In this blog post, we’ll cover the basics of WHY and HOW to make homemade bug sprays with essential oils. 

WHY to use DIY Bug Sprays made with essential oils

Reason #1: Chemicals  - Ever accidentally inhaled bug repellant and wondered if you needed to call poison control? 

A lot of commercial bug sprays carry unhealthy chemicals and big, all-caps warnings on their labels against inhaling them. 

DEET (one of the most popular commercial brands) has been found to “cause neurons to die in regions of the brain that control muscle movement, learning, memory and concentration” (1). And children, due to the highly-absorbent nature of their skin, are at particular risk. 

Reason #2: Thrift - Some people save money by making their own bug repellants rather than buying them. And some don’t.

Multiple factors including which products you’re replacing, which DIY recipe you go with, and where you buy your essential oils will determine whether you or not you end up saving any money.

The trick is to find a DIY recipe that is effective for the kind of bugs you are targeting and cost-efficient for YOU.

Reason #3: Accomplishment and Aromatherapy - Why lie? DIY feels good! And if you end up actually enjoying the smell of your bug repellent, all the better! Those who get a kick out of DIY projects and love surrounding themselves with EO scents have another reason to try these DIY bug sprays. 

What’s the catch?

The catch is that most DIY Essential-Oil Bug Repellents don’t last as long as commercial repellents and they typically haven’t gone through the rigorous, EPA-standard testing that is required for DEET products.

This means if you’re in a high-risk area for serious, insect-spread diseases, like Lyme disease, Zika, malaria, etc, then its best to go with the heavily-tested DEET products. 

If, however, you're looking for something lighter, shorter-term, and more natural for  your game night on the patio, DIY essential oil repellents could do the trick!

HOW to make DIY Bug Sprays made with essential oils

There are a lot of recipes out there for DIY bug sprays, each one reflecting the preferences, needs, and even the budget of the author in question. 

If you want a ready-made recipe to follow, we recommend these popular pages:

Recipe 1                                      Recipe 2                                    Recipe 3

If you want an overview of DIY bug sprays that will allow you to creatively customize a unique spray for yourself and your family—read on. 

Step 1. Get a bottle

Convenient on-the-go 4oz bottle? Heavy-duty 8oz bottle with a trigger sprayer? You choose! Just know that oil-inclusive solutions can separate, so give your bottle a good shake before you use it. 

Step 2: Add your base

Most bug sprays recommend that the base of your spray be roughly made up of half distilled water and half witch hazel (apple cider vinegar and vodka are also options). Easy peasy.

Step 3: Add your essential oils

Which oils do I use? 

There are many essential oils popularly used in DIY Bug Repellents:

  • Basil*
  • Cedarwood^
  • Cinnamon 
  • Citronella*^
  • Eucalyptus*
  • Geranium*
  • Lavender*
  • Lemon Eucalyptus*^
  • Lemongrass*
  • Oregano^
  • Patchouli 
  • Peppermint*
  • Rosemary*
  • Spearmint*^
  • Sweet Orange 
  • Tea Tree*
  • Thyme^

*=particularly recommended for mosquitos

^=studied in repelling ticks

Keep in mind that citronella is the most famous and well-researched bug-repellent oil. More on that below

How many drops of oil do I put in?

Well, the NAHA (National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy) recommends, for child-safety purposes, that essential oils be diluted down to 0.5-2.5% in solutions. 

Luckily, most DIY bug repellent recipes fit within that range. Not all of them though. 

For reference here is a handy chart for your dilutions:

No. of Drops -> Solution Volume

10 drops

20 drops

30 drops

40 drops

50 drops

60 drops

70 drops

























Underlined: Above the recommended NAHA dilution limit.

Can citronella oil repel insects?

Yes! Citronella oil has been tested a number of times for its insect-repellent effects (Maia 2011, Kongkaew 2011 If you want to extend its insect repellency past two hours though (Trongtokit 2005) we recommend mixing it with vanillin.

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