Homemade Bug Spray: Natural & Effective Repellent Recipes | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Stop Bugging Me! Recipes for 4 Homemade Bug Repellents for Your Skin

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DIY Natural Insect Sprays to Stay Bite-Free

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Are you bothered by bugs? Here are four recipes for natural bug repellents—using witch hazel and other ingredients right from the pantry. All effectively repel mosquitos, flies, and other insects that “bug” you—without chemicals soaking into your skin!

What Bugs Are Bugging You?

As soon as we step outside, bugs have a way of finding us. Some use the carbon dioxide we exhale to locate us; others go by scent, body heat, vibrations, or even the colors we wear. For example, deerflies are attracted to CO2, warmth, motion, and dark colors. One way to make yourself less attractive to insects is to avoid using fragrant soaps, lotions, perfume, hairspray, or aftershave. Instead, use scents that block their receptors, making you harder to find.

  • Mosquitoes hate citronella, lemon eucalyptus, basil, and garlic.
  • Ants and flies dislike mint, basil, and bay.
  • Tiny gnats (such as No-See-Ums) are repelled by citronella, lemongrass, and rose geranium.
  • Ticks and lice avoid lemon eucalyptus and geranium.

→ Learn more about plants that repel mosquitoes and other insects.

mosquito on a hand

Make an All-Purpose Insect Repellent

Since different scents repel different bugs, you can target specific ones or use a combination of oils to make an all-purpose repellent.

essential oils

Here are four simple homemade bug sprays you can make using essential oils, based on your scent preference:

  1. 2 cups witch hazel, ½ tsp. Lemongrass or citronella oil, and 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar.
  2. 1 cup isopropyl alcohol, 1 cup water, ½ tsp. catnip oil.
  3. 1 cup alcohol or witch hazel and 10-20 drops of essential oils such as lemongrass, peppermint, or lemon eucalyptus.
  4. 1 qt. vinegar, ½ tsp. pennyroyal oil, 1 tsp. lemon eucalyptus oil, 1 tsp. orange oil, and 1 tsp. citronella oil.

essential oils

Herbal Bug Spray

No essential oils on hand? Use dried or fresh herbs instead. If you can make tea, you can make these concoctions. Keep them in the fridge for a cooling spray.


Here are two herbal recipes:

  1. Steep 2 tbsp each of chopped fresh mint, basil, and lavender leaves in 1 cup boiling water until cooled. Strain, add 1 cup of witch hazel, and shake.
  2. Boil 1 cup water; add a few cloves and 3-4 tablespoons of dried herbs, including peppermint, catnip, and lavender. Mix, cover, cool, and strain. Add 1 cup witch hazel or isopropyl alcohol.

pink spray bottle

Words of Caution Regarding Homemade Sprays

  • Be aware that some herbs and oils can be harmful or irritating. Lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under the age of 3 or on pregnant or nursing mothers.
  • Pregnant women should also avoid pennyroyal.
  • Certain essential oils, such as citronella, can be harmful to pets, especially when concentrated; consult a veterinarian before using these or natural insect repellents on or near your fur friend.
  • Test any homemade bug spray for possible allergic reactions before using it more liberally.
  • Sprays made with vinegar may sting and smell a bit pickle-y until they dry.
  • Oils may stain clothing.

Label your mixture with its ingredients and store it in a dark-colored bottle, or keep it in a dark spot to prolong its effectiveness.

See more tips about mosquito repellents and bite remedies.

Do you have a recipe for an effective natural bug repellent? Let us know about it!

About The Author

Robin Sweetser

Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. Read More from Robin Sweetser

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