How To Make Homemade Bug Spray

For centuries man has used plants to repel bugs like mosquitos and ticks. From hanging bruised plants to rubbing oil into our skin to bug sprays, avoiding pesky bugs has always been important.

Homemade Bug spray info

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One of the most common bug spray ingredients used today to repel mosquitos and ticks is a chemical called N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, or DEET.

DEET was developed by the U.S. Army in 1946 and later was registered for use by the general public in 1957. It is estimated that 200 million people use bug repellents containing DEET every year.

Many people today are worried about how DEET may affect their health. In 2014 the EPA did a review on the safety of DEET and concluded that it does not present a health concern, even in children. In Canada, it is banned or found unsafe for use in cosmetics, classified as not expected to be potentially toxic or harmful, and is not suspected to be an environmental toxin. However, the European Union classifies it as an irritant, toxic or harmful when used around the mouth or on lips, restricted to low doses in the workplace, and is a possible wildlife and environmental toxin. EWG’s Cosmetic Database classifies it as a moderate hazard.

Side Effects & Health Risks Using DEET

If used correctly, DEET should not cause any adverse effects. There is such a thing called bug spray poisoning. This can happen by swallowing or being exposed to very large amounts of DEET over a long period of time. Hives or mild skin redness and irritation can occur as well as temporary burning and redness if sprayed into eyes, ears, nose, or throat. Again, if used correctly, it should not cause any issues. If any of this does occur, seek medical attention.

There have been some studies done, like this one in 2002, that show a possibility of DEET being harmful in large quantities over a long period of time and even more so when mixed with other insecticides. Essentially, they found that when rats are exposed to large quantities of just DEET over a long period of time, it caused brain damage which affected their ability to complete tasks that required muscle control, strength, and coordination. Another study in 2009 also found some neurological issues in rats and hens, as well as DEET becoming more toxic when mixed with other insecticides, increases its toxicity. One conclusion that came out of both of these studies is that we should be cautious with how much we use DEET and to not pair it with other insecticides. We should also look more into how it affects humans, though it is possible that the findings in animals may not be translated to humans.

Regardless of the reasons you are here looking for a DIY bug spray, here are some essential oils that are great for a natural bug spray.

Lemon Eucalyptus (Corymbia citriodora)

Approved by the CDC as it is considered to pose no risk to human health and has been clinically proven to help prevent malaria.
*Safe for occasional use on children under 2 years of age. Check with your doctor before using.*


Most commonly used natural repellents that can repel mosquitos for about 2 hours, but few studies show any efficacy at repelling arthropod (ticks for example). Anything more than a 10% concentration could cause skin sensitivity.
*Safe for occasional use on children under 2 years of age. Check with your doctor before using.*


Geranium essential oil has been found to repel ticks similarly to DEET.
*Safe for occasional use on children under 2 years of age. Check with your doctor before using.*

Mint Family (Lamiaceae), Aromatic Grasses (Poaceae), & the Pine & Cedar Family (Pinaceae)

Many plants from these families have been used to repel bugs through burning or hanging the plants in homes. The most effective of these families include:

  • Thyme
  • Geraniol
  • Peppermint *Avoid use with children under 6 years of age*
  • Cedar *Safe for occasional use on children under 2 years of age.*
  • Patchouli *Safe for occasional use on children under 2 years of age.*
  • Clove *Avoid topical use on children under 2*

These have been found to repel malaria, filarial, and yellow fever carriers anywhere from 60-180 minutes.

Other Essential oils

  • Lavender *Safe for occasional use on children under 2 years of age.*
  • Tea Tree oil *Safe for occasional use on children under 2 years of age*
  • Lemongrass *avoid topical use on children under 2*
  • Catnip *Safe for occasional use on children under 2 years of age.*
  • Bergamot *Safe for occasional use on children under 2 years of age. Max dilution of 0.4%*

Homemade Bug Spray

I prefer using essential oils I have on hand and that have multiple uses. Geranium essential oil is the only oil I own specifically for bug spray.

Makes one 4oz spray bottle or two 2oz spray bottles

  1. Pour water and vodka or ACV into a bowl.
  2. Add essential oils and mix
  3. Pour mixture into a glass spray bottle

Shake before using.  Apply to exposed skin and clothes every 1-2 hours. Avoid spraying in the mouth, nose, eyes, and ears. Keep bug spray out of direct sun or heat.

*It is not recommended that homemade bug spray be used in areas experiencing epidemics of diseases carried by bugs like mosquitoes or ticks.*

Talk to your doctor first if you are pregnant, nursing, or wanting to use any essential oils on infants or small children. 

Deet bug repellent ‘toxic worry’
Is it true that the DEET used in most mosquito repellents is toxic?
Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing
Binding of pyridostigmine bromide, N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide and permethrin, alone and in combinations, to human serum albumin
Safe Essential Oils For Babies And Children
Essential Oils and Children

Disclaimer: All information on Not Your Typical Hippie is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor, veterinarian, dietician, or health expert. If you wish to have advice on a medical problem, please consult a doctor. I cannot guarantee that any information provided will work for every person. Please consult a doctor before making any health changes. I am not liable for any choices you make based on the information provided on this website. (Learn more here)