Natural, Effective Homemade Bug Spray

spray bottle on outdoor table with bug spray in it

Many of our posts contain affiliate links; we may make a commission/money from links in this post

This homemade bug spray will become a summer essential

Summer means mosquito season here in North Carolina. We love to sit outside in the evenings, but lately we’ve had mosquitoes the size of small planes so we keep a spray bottle of our favorite natural bug spray handy. If you’d like some ideas for fun outdoor activities to keep your family healthy, check out this post!

boy spraying homemade bug spray on arm

Not only is it much less expensive to make your own bug repellent, you have complete control over the ingredients.  Insect repellents are regulated as pesticides in the United States because their active ingredients are pesticides. And some of those ingredients are ones I’d rather not have on my skin (or my grandkids for that matter). 

What ingredients should we be concerned about?

According to, some common ingredients in repellents should cause some concern:

DEET has been linked to skin irritation, neurotoxicity and shown to cross the placenta. It shows up in groundwater, surface water and drinking water.

Cyfluthrin and Permethrin has been linked to neurotoxicity and is harmful to aquatic invertebrates, fish and honeybees.

Pyrethroids is a class of chemicals linked to neurotoxicty; some have been linked to endocrine disruption; some have been classified as possible carcinogens

While there are things we need to be mindful of with essential oils (such as avoiding using citrus oils on skin that will be exposed to the sun and making sure to properly dilute oils before topical use), they are much safer than the above ingredients, extremely effective, as well as budget friendly. 

I love having something that is safe for the kiddos. We’ve been using this combo since the grands were babies, and had great results. Wessy, the youngest, gets huge welts when he gets bitten so we always do everything possible to prevent it. I love that he can spray himself down with our #bugoff spray whenever he needs to. AND I love that the spray doesn’t leave my skin feeling icky. 

What essential oils should I use in my homemade bug spray?

Many oil companies offer prepared blend of oils for repellent, but here are some single oils that are incredibly effective as natural bug repellents in our homemade bug spray:

Citronella is one of the most widely used natural repellants on the market. It works best as part of a skin-applied mixture; studies show that candles only reduce bites by 50%.

Clove Oil has been found to be an extremely effective mosquito repellant. When combined with geranium or thyme oil, it protected against bites for nearly 2.5 hours

Lemongrass oil is effective against a variety of different species of mosquitoes

Lemon Eucalyptus is one of the best essential oils to use to repell mosquitoes. One study found that a eucalyptus-based repellent containing 30% PMD  (para-Menthane-3,8-diol) gave 96.89% protection for 4 hours, where DEET gave 84.81% protection. 

Thyme oil has been found to be one of the most effective mosquito repellents, providing 1.5 to 3.5 hours of protection and repelling malaria, filarial and yellow fever vectors for a period of 60-180 mins.

We use plastic or aluminum bottles for this recipe because they are often used by the kiddos and also often outside. These blue spray bottles from Amazon are great. If you love our #bugoff labels, you can pick up a set of 4 kid’s labels and recipes (it comes with alternative bug spray recipes too) from #thehashtaggirls.

boy holding spray bottle with bug spray
0 from 0 votes

Homemade Bug Spray

This effective homemade bug spray is quick and simple to make
Keyword: bugs, diy, essential oils, spray


  • 4 ounce spray bottle


  • 3 tablespoons witch hazel
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon vodka or isopropyl alcohol
  • 5 drops each citronella, clove, lemongrass, lemon eucalyptus and thyme essential oils 


  • Combine all ingredients in 4 oz spray bottle. Shake before use. Avoid spraying on face. For kids under 2, spray onto clothes instead of skin.
    Apply as often as you need.

Looking for more DIYs?

Soothing DIY Oatmeal Bath Melts

Who doesn’t love a long, steamy, relaxing soak in the tub on a cold and dreary winter evening? Often in colder weather our skin is

You want to live a more sustainable lifestyle but....

you aren’t quite sure where to begin. Grab our FREE download with loads of simple tips to reduce waste and live a greener, more sustainable lifestyle.

4 Responses

    1. We’re spending a lot of time outside as well. You can throw in some peppermint or lavender to help scare off the ticks as well!

    1. I love that it’s so easy to customize when you DIY. Different areas may find that different oils are more effective. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating



Get recipes. tips, shop specials, and advance notice on new soaps – oh and did we mention exclusive sales ?? Yeah, that’s a thing too.