You’re wanting to find new ways to keep mosquitoes from biting your family and possibly even your pets. But you don’t want to use DEET or other chemical pesticides. So whatcha gonna do? Go to your local stores and stock up on ingredients and supplies because we’re going to explain how to DIY your own homemade mosquito repellent.
Do DIY Mosquito Repellents Really Work?
Female mosquitoes use your breath, skin odor, and body heat to zero in and land on you. And then the bug bites you. The effectiveness of an essential oil bug spray to prevent such bites varies with its active ingredients, the concentration, and the species of its target. Some plants and oils were even used in ancient times.
The effectiveness of essential oils as insect repellents has been the subject of many studies. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes some essential oils, including the following, for use as minimum-risk mosquito repellents, meaning this government agency doesn’t test for risk:
It can be easy to make your own natural mosquito repellent. How easy depends on how involved you want it to be. For example, if you want to grow your own plants and synthesize your own essential oils, which are liquids isolated from plants, or “liquefied versions of the plants,” it’s more challenging.
Here are the basic steps you need to follow once you have your plants.
How to Make a Homemade Mosquito Repellent
- Determine which plant or plants you’d like to use for your repellent.
- Extract your essential oil: Several methods to extract oils from plants can be used. Determine which is best for your repellent or follow a recipe from the Internet.
- If you want an easier method, buy your oil. You can find them all over the Internet or sometimes at brick-and-mortar stores.
- Determine and buy your carrier oil.
- Mix the ingredients for your mosquito spray. Here’s one recipe: Fill a large, colored glass bottle with 1/4 cup witch hazel, and then add 20 drops of essential oils. (Both clove and cinnamon have been shown to repel mosquitoes for more than one hour.) The ingredients will separate, so remember to keep a little room in the bottle so you can shake the ingredients before each use.
Some essential oils from plants can repel mosquitoes. They’re made from a plant’s flowers, seeds, bark, roots, leaves, resin, or wood. The plant part can be extracted into an oil, and drops of essential oils from these plants are used in the skeeter-repellent spray. Some examples of essential oils follow:
- Citronella grass
- Lemon balm
You can grow these plants yourself or just buy their essential oils.
Carrier oils dilute essential oils, which can irritate skin in their natural form, and help convey them onto skin. Carrier oils, such as coconut oil, can be any oil derived from a plant’s seeds, kernels, or nuts. You can also use aloe vera gels and unscented body lotions. The best carrier oils follow:
- Coconut oil (Cocos nucifera)
- Black cumin seed oil (Nigella sativa)
- Evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis)
- Rosehip oil (Rosa mosqueta)
- Grapeseed oil (Vitus vinifera)
To make essential oil mosquito repellents, you’ll need to stock up on spray bottles and essential and carrier oils. You can buy these oils online, or you might be able to find them in your local store. Depending on the recipe, you could also need vinegar, vodka, distilled or boiled water, witch hazel, vanilla extract, or lemon juice.
Here are some mosquito-repellent recipes that use natural ingredients:
*For each recipe below, fill your bottle halfway full with boiled or distilled water and one-quarter full with vodka. (See exception for lavender mixture.)
Neem essential oil and coconut oil: In a spray bottle with boiled water and vodka, add 10 drops of neem oil and 6 teaspoons of coconut oil. Shake.
Tea tree essential oil and coconut oil: Add to the spray bottle with distilled water and vodka: 10 drops of tea tree oil and 6 teaspoons of coconut oil. Shake.
Lavender essential oil, vanilla extract, and lemon juice: Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, 3 to 4 tablespoons of vanilla extract, and 10 to 12 drops of lavender oil to a spray bottle with distilled water (no vodka since there is alcohol in the vanilla extract). Shake.
Lemongrass essential oil and rosemary essential oil: To your spray bottle with boiled water and vodka, add 10 drops of rosemary oil and 10 drops of lemongrass oil to 1/4 cup of a carrier oil. Shake.
Many believe “natural” equals “safe.” But natural things can still cause harm and thus aren’t necessarily safe. If you get these oils in your eyes, for example, your peepers will likely sting. In addition, essential oils can sometimes cause skin irritation, so be sure to test a small patch (with a carrier oil) on your skin before using it all over.
There may be warnings about using essential oils on certain populations, so be sure to double-check before you use your creation on your child (or even your pet). It’s best to ask your pediatrician or veterinarian to be safe.
If you’d like to make mosquito-repellent wax candles, you can find recipes on the Internet, especially for citronella candles. But if you’d like something easier, you can always make an essential oil–infused candle that can serve as a pest repellent. Here’s just one example of how to make such candles:
1. Cut a lemon or lime into 1/4-inch thick slices and place two or three slices inside an 8-oz canning jar. (If you want to use a 16-oz jar, double this recipe.)
2. Place two or three sprigs of greenery (e.g., lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus) into your jar.
3. Add your mosquito-repellent essential oils.
4. Fill the jar to its neck to submerge the citrus slices and sprigs in tap water.
5. Place an unscented floating candle on top of the water, and when you’re ready, light the fuse.
Besides the obvious fact that mosquito bites are itchy and annoying, there is the truth that they can be dangerous; in fact, mosquitoes can cause some serious conditions. The following are among the most well known:
• Encephalitis (Japanese, La Crosse, St. Louis)
• West Nile infection
• Yellow fever
• Zika virus infection
Mosquitoes also bite your pets and cause serious conditions, too. These can include heartworms and allergic reactions in cats, as well as heartworms, West Nile virus, and encephalitis in dogs.
Call the Pros
Mosquitoes are a bother and may threaten your peace of mind because of how they can cause disease in your family (including in Fido and Fluffy). You’ve done all you can by making your own DIY mosquito repellent but want to do even more. Pest Gnome can connect you to the best pest control professionals near you to keep mosquitoes (and your worries) at bay.