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Easy Homemade Bug Spray

Affiliate Disclosure | in DIY Beauty | by | with 107 Comments

  Homemade Bug Spray - Safe for kids and pregnant/nursing mamas

Jack Frost skipped us this winter . . .

And you can guess what that means! Oh yes, instead of dying off, the mosquitoes from last season are establishing rotary clubs, swimming pool kiddie programs, and regular appearances at the state fair. Plump, hungry mamas are scuttling their babies to the juiciest joints in search of a quick meal. Commando-inspired teens are planning ambushes just outside your back porch. Wise, energy conserving grandmosquitos are retiring to local parks where the living is easy.

It would almost be sweet if they weren’t planning to dine on YOU. No worries, though! I have a few suggestions for keeping the skeeters (and other bugs) at bay this year. But first, there a few things we need to cover:

Should I mix my essential oils with oil or water?

It’s really up to you. Water-based formulas can be sprayed on skin or clothing without causing oiliness. On the other hand, oil-based formulas require fewer applications than water-based versions because they last longer. Lotion lasts longer than water-based formulas and is less oily than oil-based formulas, but it’s not as easy to apply. I’ve included options for all three below.

Are these recipes safe for kids?

Yes, these recipes are safe for kids over two. Also, though I don’t apply them directly to my 16-month olds skin, I do spray his clothes when we are going to be in an area that has lots of bugs.

What about pregnant and nursing moms?

Yes, these recipes are safe to use during pregnancy and nursing. However, many experts urge women to be cautious about application during the first trimester. If it were me, I’d probably opt to just spray my clothes during that period.

Special note on dilution ratios: For general use, a topical dilution of 1% is usually recommended during pregnancy – the typical dilution suggested for adults is 2.5%. However, there are instances when a higher dilution ratio is considered appropriate, such as to repel bugs. The recipes below range in dilution from a little under 2% for the water-based formulas to just over 3% for the oil-based versions. If I were pregnant/nursing and using these everyday I would probably either dilute them more or just spray them on my clothes. However, if I was just using them occasionally I would go with the recipe as it is.

Homemade Bug Spray (Easiest Version)

This recipe is super easy because it uses a pre-made essential oil blend formulated especially for repelling creepy crawly things. It’s cost-effective, too, because you only need to buy one bottle of essential oils rather than four or five. I spritz this blend on my little ones when they play at dusk, because that’s when the skeeters come out.

Water-Based Spray Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces apple cider vinegar, witch hazel or vodka
  • 2 ounces water
  • 40 drops ban-the-bugs essential oil synergy (specially formulated for children ages 2-10, but also good for adults)
  • Optional – one squirt of castile soap to help distribute the oil better (about 1/4 teaspoon)

To Make

Because essential oils don’t mix well with water, start by adding them to the apple cider vinegar, witch hazel or vodka. Add a squirt of castile soap if desired and allow it to sit for a couple of minutes before giving the mixture a stir. This will disperse the essential oils in the liquid. Add water and pour into a spray bottle, preferably one made of glass or PET plastic. (Essential oils can leach chemicals from some plastics, and we don’t want that!)

Store in the fridge when not in use. Should last 2-3 months.

To Use

Shake well before use. Spray on skin or clothes before going outside.

Oil-Based Spray Recipe

  • 2 ounces liquid oil such as jojoba (which is non-greasy), olive, etc.
  • 35-40 drops ban-the-bugs essential oil synergy (specially formulated for children ages 2-10, but also good for adults)

To Make

Mix oil and essential oils together and add to a spray bottle, or better yet an oil mister that is less likely to clog. Store in a cool, dark area when not in use. Should last 2-3 months. (Is this shelf life correct, Lea?)

To Use

Spray directly on skin before going outdoors.

Bug Spray Recipe - Safe for kids and pregnant/nursing mamas

Homemade Citronella Bug Spray

This version is also considered safe for children over two and pregnant/nursing mamas.

Water-Based Spray Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces apple cider vinegar, witch hazel or vodka
  • 2 ounces water
  • 15 drops citronella essential oil
  • 15 drops cedarwood atlas or cedarwood virginia
  • 10 drops geranium
  • Optional addition (NOT for kids – just adults who are not pregnant or nursing) 2 drops catnip essential oil*

*According to researchers, “nepetalactone, the essential oil in catnip that gives the plant its characteristic odor, is about ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET — the compound used in most commercial insect repellents.” (source)

To Make

Because essential oils don’t mix well with water, start by adding them to the apple cider vinegar, witch hazel or vodka. Add a squirt of castile soap if desired and allow it to sit for a couple of minutes before giving the mixture a stir. This will disperse the essential oils in the liquid. Add water and pour into a spray bottle, preferably one made of glass or PET plastic. (Essential oils can leach chemicals from some plastics, and we don’t want that!)

Store in the fridge when not in use. Should last 2-3 months.

To Use

Shake well before use. Spray on skin or clothes before going outside.

Oil-Based Spray Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces liquid oil such as jojoba (which is non-greasy), olive, etc.
  • 15 drops citronella essential oil
  • 15 drops cedarwood atlas or cedarwood virginia
  • 10 drops geranium bourbon essential oil (where to buy it)

To Make

Mix oil and essential oils together and add to a spray bottle, or better yet an oil mister that is less likely to clog. Store in a cool, dark area when not in use. Should last 2-3 months.

To Use

Spray directly on skin before going outdoors.

Homemade Patchouli Bug Spray

Water-Based Spray Recipe

  • 4 ounces apple cider vinegar, witch hazel, or vodka* OR a dry oil such as jojoba
  • 15 drops patchouli essential oil
  • 15 drops cedarwood atlas or cedarwood virginia
  • 10 drops geranium bourbon essential oil (where to buy it)

To Make

Because essential oils don’t mix well with water, start by adding them to the apple cider vinegar, witch hazel or vodka. Add a squirt of castile soap if desired and allow it to sit for a couple of minutes before giving the mixture a stir.  This will disperse the essential oils in the liquid. Add water and pour into a spray bottle, preferably one made of glass or PET plastic. (Essential oils can leach chemicals from some plastics, and we don’t want that!)

Store in the fridge when not in use. Should last 2-3 months.

To Use

Shake well before use. Spray on skin or clothes before going outside.

Oil-Based Spray Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces liquid oil such as jojoba (which is non-greasy), olive, etc.
  • 13 drops geranium bourbon essential oil (where to buy it)
  • 13 drops cedarwood atlas or cedarwood virginia
  • 13 drops patchouli essential oil

To Make

Mix oil and essential oils together and add to a spray bottle, or better yet an oil mister that is less likely to clog. Store in a cool, dark area when not in use. Should last 2-3 months.

To Use

Spray directly on skin before going outdoors.

Other Options For Pregnant Women

Peppermint is okay for pregnant women, but is not recommended for nursing mamas because if a baby breathes it in while close to mom it can cause respiratory distress. Tea tree and lemon can also be used while pregnant or nursing, but lemon can cause photosensitivity so don’t use it if you are going to be in direct sunlight.

Got Ticks?

I have a recipe specifically geared toward repelling ticks here.

Do you a natural bug repellant recipe or tip?

Please share it below!

* some vodka is made from genetically modified corn. If you plan to use vodka and want to avoid GMO’s, organic is best.

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107 Responses to Easy Homemade Bug Spray

  1. susan says:

    my daughter’s house is run over with fleas and her 6 yr. old daughter gets dozens and dozens of bites all over her every time she goes home for the weekend; she stays with me during the week while her mom is at work. she and her 4 yr. daughter get very few bites. do any of you know if these recipes will keep the fleas off while we are trying to get rid of them? also, any non-toxic ideas on how to kill flea infestations. we’ve done the lamp, shining on a white bowl of soapy water sitting on the floor. this works well she may just not be doing it enough, also, vacuuming everyday helps lots, but not enough. thanks!

    • Amy says:

      We had a terrible time with fleas once. What finally worked was sprinkling Borax and vacuuming! I remember lifting all of the mattresses and furniture to make sure I got EVERY ONE of the fleas and eggs. Can’t remember if I had to do once or twice but that was the end of the ankle-biting!

    • Jen says:

      we put salt on the terrazzo floor, took a few days, but it killed the fleas.

  2. Jeannette says:

    FYI, just found part of your blog post here. http://cspearsmassage.com/my-blog/?p=272 Not sure if his blog is related to yours or not.

  3. Lucy says:

    Wonderful recipes! Is lemon oil ok to use on a child with eczema? My daughter has reactions to citrus and I was wondering if it would give her the same type of reaction.

    • Heather says:

      I haven’t researched the effect of lemon on oil eczema in general, but if my child had known issues with citrus I would personally avoid it.

  4. Kellie says:

    This is awesome! Thank you!

  5. Jake says:

    I invented a formula with a botanical chemist for Dogs AND it works for humans too! Check it out at http://WWW.ruffmart.com There is no water and no alcohol. It contains 11 essential oils and they make up 30% of the formula. The carrier oil is fruit based and also has insect repellant properties.

  6. Ann says:

    Do you add water to dilute it? What is the vodka for? Are these the best prices for essential oils you have found? TY

    • Heather says:

      The vodka helps the essential oils retain their potency longer. I most often use organic Plant Therapy oils, but I haven’t compared prices lately.

  7. Eco Home Ideas – Make Homemade Bug Repellant says:

    […] good friend passed along this recipe she got from Pinterest. This recipe is from mommypotamus.com, and she swears by this recipe and that it really works! It’s time to try it for myself, […]

  8. Hannah says:

    Have you had stinging with recipe #2 when you spray it on your legs? My sister and I tried it on our legs and my nephew’s and it sting for us all. It was fine when we sprayed it on our arms.

    • Heather says:

      Hi Hannah! I haven’t, but I do know that lemon oil can sting when applied at higher concentrations. If it were me I’d dilute the solution a bit and see how that works.

  9. Rachel Parks says:

    I have a bug spray that I use with my kids made with essential oils. http://maggielane.wordpress.com/kitchen-2/herbs/.

  10. Nicole says:

    I don’t understand where the water comes in. Do you mix the oils with the vinegar (or vodka or witch hazel) AND water? I re-read the recipe but don’t see mention of mixing it with water but I noticed a few people mentioned that in the comments. Can you mix with water instead of the acv or witch hazel? Thanks!!

    • Heather says:

      Hi Nicole! Originally this recipe called for water instead of witch hazel, etc. However, I found that the potency of the essential oils was preserved better with a different medium so I changed it. Hope that helps!

  11. Stephanie Mc. says:

    I was looking at the list of essential oils that are considered safe for children, but only the lemon oil was on the list, lol. I have a 2.5 year old…he is super allergic to mosquitoes (he gets a rash called papular urticaria). I was using California Baby Bug Repellent, which wasn’t doing the job. I would like to try the Recipe #1, do you think it’s safe enough for kids? He doesn’t have any other allergies, that I know of, anyways. Should I dilute it a little?
    Which brings me to the second question: how do I dilute it? Just add less drops of oils to the same 8oz of witch hazel? Or do you mix it with water?

    Thanks!!!

    • Heather says:

      Hi Stephanie! I use recipe on my kids, who are almost 3 and 5. I spray it mostly on their clothes so don’t worry about diluting. Regarding the safety of each oil, all I can say is that **I** am comfortable using it. I am not an essential oil expert, and unfortunately even they don’t agree on which oils/dilutions are safe/ideal :)

  12. Save On Bug Spray | Freeda says:

    […] good friend passed along this recipe she got from Pinterest. This recipe is from mommypotamus.com, and has been proven effective. Protect your family, avoid the harmful chemicals and apply […]

  13. Pamela Delgado P via FB says:

    Alfredo Perez

  14. Margaret Ham via FB says:

    Whitney Distefano

  15. Cindy Davidson via FB says:

    Does this help against ticks as well? I have friends in upstate NY dealing with a tick infestation. Many have family members and friend dealing with Lyme disease or the new disease the ticks seem to be carrying in that area. They are using deet because they feel like they have no other choice.

  16. Charity Paolini via FB says:

    Lisa Nicole Smith check it out

  17. Isabella Kantek via FB says:

    I make mine with rubbing alcohol and a handful of cloves. The longer it seats the stronger.

  18. Lisa Latai Tonga-San Juan via FB says:

    Any natural remedies for allergies? I’m breastfeeding with terrible Spring allergies…

    • Heather W says:

      We recently got a good air purifier for the bedroom (about $100 on amazon) and it has made a HUGE difference in improving my allergies!

  19. Erin Alexander via FB says:

    This works well, thank you!

  20. Lea says:

    Hi Heather! Just whipped up a batch, and just in time for West Nile season. You mentioned that depending on the child’s age, some oils need to be diluted. Do you know offhand if the concentrations in your recipe are suitable for a 21-month old? Thanks!

    • Heather says:

      Hi Lea, that’s something I’m currently looking into now that more info is available. I’ll update this post regarding what I learn.

  21. Casey says:

    Hi Mommypotamus! Thank you for these recipes. I have a 7 month old and I have been thinking of ways to protect her from bugs when we take her out to the park or beach this summer. I saw somewhere in the internets that cutting a lime in half and sticking a bunch of cloves in it will help ward off mosquitoes but then I came across your recipes, which sound more promising. I have a few questions:
    I’m assuming recipe#1 is the strongest since it uses five different essential oils. Is is possible to make this recipe cutting out 2-3 of the oils (for economic reasons) but still get an effective repellant?
    You mention that you spray the clothes, not your skin directly- do you spray clothes before putting them on? Does one application last all day or does it have to be reapplied?

  22. Natural Tick Repellent Recipe - MommypotamusMommypotamus | says:

    […] recipe is targeted specifically toward ticks, but is also helpful with mosquitos. Like my all-purpose homemade bug spray, it’s safe for children over two and pregnant/nursing mamas. (Note: Though I don’t […]

  23. How To Make Citronella Candles - MommypotamusMommypotamus | says:

    […] we love our homemade bug spray when we’re hiking or working on our farm, I prefer these candles for outdoor meals because […]

  24. Bug Bite Balm Recipe - MommypotamusMommypotamus | says:

    […] a perfect world they never happen. We always apply homemade bug spray before heading outside, and when an afternoon picnic turns into an evening soiree swarming with […]

  25. Heather W says:

    The water based patchouli recipe starts with 4 oz of apple cider vinegar, witch hazel or vodka but the water amount isn’t listed. The other ones look like 2 oz of one of the first liquids and 2 oz water. Is it the same for this one?? Thanks!

  26. Kira says:

    Hi,
    My horse has always had a really hard time with the bugs so I was thinking of using one or two of these bug sprays for him.
    As he is rather larger than me and would use of the supply of bug spray faster, I would prefer not to be buying a lot of essential oils that are pretty expensive. Is there another option that might be less expensive to use for him?

    Thanks!

    K

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