Make it Yourself: Insect Repellent (and why you should NOT be using commercial repellents!)

Why make your own bug repellent? Well, most commercial bug sprays contain DEET, or Diethyl-meta-toluamide.  Deet is a neurotoxin and known carcinogen.  Deet has been proven to be unsafe for babies and children. And frankly, if I wouldn’t put it on my kid because it’s toxic, why would I use it?

Fortunately, it’s super-easy to make your own effective and cheap insect-repellent. If you’re been following the Make it Yourself tips on Mindfully Frugal Mom for any amount of time, you’ll probably have everything you need already at hand.

There are several combinations that can be very effective, and you can test out which ones work the best for your geographic location.

To make your own effective insect repellent, you need the following:

  • Glass container or spray bottle
  • Selected Essential Oils. Choose from: Eucalyptus oil (not to be used on the face)Citronella Oil, Cedarwood Oil, Peppermint or Spearmint Oil, Catnip Oil, Tea Tree Oil, Lavender Oil
  • Soybean Oil as a carrier oil — Soybean Oil has been shown to have an insect-repellent effect, especially when used in conjunction with Eucalyptus oil, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.
To create and use your DIY insect repellent, simply mix 2 tbsp of carrier oil (such as the soybean oil) with 10-20 drops of any combination of the essential oils named above. Store in a glass jar and dab on as needed. If you prefer, you can make a larger batch in a spray bottle.
Note on Essential Oils: Amazon sells this kit of 6 different oils for $19.85: Aromatherapy Top 6 100% Pure Therapeutic Grade Basic Sampler Essential Oil Gift Set- 6/10 Ml (Lavender, Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Lemongrass, Orange, Peppermint). This would be an easy way to start your collection. 
Personally, I like the combination of Citronella, Peppermint, Eucalyptus, and Lavender (to cut the antiseptic smell) mixed in soybean oil.
Another idea that has been around since the plague (and probably before) is to eat plenty of garlic.

You could brew up a mixture of 1 cup vinegar and 5-6 raw smashed garlic cloves.  Then, soak strips of cloth with it and hang outside to repel bugs.

What are your Make-It-Yourself ideas for repelling insects?? 



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  1. Young Living has a blend of oil called Purification which contains Citronella, Eucalyptus, Rosemary, and Lemongrass which is an excellent bug repellant on its own, but I also add additional Lemongrass to it. I compared it’s effectiveness to a sample I received of a commercial repellant from an eco-friendly company and the essential oil mix I made was much more effective than the commercial repellant!

  2. The mosquitoes in my area are so terrible they recently announced they will be doing spraying, much to my outrage. I personally think the risks of pesticides outweigh the small risk of contracting a mosquito-borne illness. I have experimented with several DIY sprays with essential oils that haven’t seemed too effective. I’ll have to try your combination.

    • Ugh! The mass-spraying drives me crazy. Though I am kind of phobic about West Nile virus. :)

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  6. Laurie Emerson says:

    Thank you for posting this! I live in MS and the No See Ums are out in full force!! I have tried every product on the market and nothing is working!


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