Handmade Natural Bug Repellent Spray ~ A Recipe

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Being the outdoorsy family that we are — gardening, camping, hiking, and the like — insect repellent is a nice thing to have around, especially during the spring and summer months. And as with nearly every other household item, this all-natural bug spray can be handmade at home — in a frugal and eco-friendly way. 

It’s always nice to save money, protect the earth, and guard your family against toxic chemicals — in this case DEET. By making your own handmade natural bug repellent spray, you accomplish all three of these things! It’s important to note that there are many, many different natural ways to avoid the torment of mosquitoes and other biting insects…some simple and some more complex.

How to Make a Natural Bug Repellent Spray

Handmade Natural Bug Repellent Spray ~ A Recipe

My Natural Bug Repellent Spray contains a variety of essential oils and plant-based extracts that truly work to keep insects, bugs, and flies away. The key when using essential oils in bug repellent is to choose a combination that repels insects and then mix it with a carrier (i.e. witch hazel, alcohol, or oil). Excellent insect repellent essential oils include:

  • citronella
  • rose geranium
  • clove
  • lemongrass
  • lemon
  • eucalyptus
  • catnip
  • castor oil
  • peppermint
  • lavender
  • cedar

Creating this handmade bug repellent spray required a bit of math. I wanted enough essential oils in the spray for it to really deliver a punch, but I needed it gentle enough for my young children. Combining 1 part essential oils with 10 parts carrier — making the essential oils 10% of the final product — was what I went for, and boy do I love the final product!

In the end, this powerful DEET-free all natural spray contains a base combination of witch hazel and grape seed oil…which translates into a lovely refreshing spray that heals the skin. Perfect protection for the hot months of summer!

The Recipe


-1 ounce witch hazel
-1 ounce grape seed oil
-35 drops citronella essential oils
-20 drops eucalyptus essential oils
-15 drops lemon essential oils
-15 drops lemongrass essential oils
-15 drops cedar essential oils


Handmade Natural Bug Repellent Spray ~ A Recipe

1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl or directly into a small spray bottle.

2. Shake well before use.

3. Reapply often, up to every 1-2 hours as needed.


-Not all natural repellents are created equal and what works for one person may not work for all.

-Instead of grape seed oil, feel free to use the oil you have on hand — olive, jojoba, almond, etc.

-This spray is safe for all members of the family 6 months and older. Disclaimer: Apply sparingly to infants 6 months to 2 years. But please, don’t take my word for it, be sure to check with your doctor prior to using this or any other natural product on your small children.

-I love the quality, and the price, of essential oils from Mountain Rose Herbs.

-Not up for another DIY project? Or would you like to try it before you buy all the supplies? Check out my Etsy listing by clicking here…

How do you ward off bugs and insects? Share with us your bug repellent tips and recipes!


  1. Excellent recipe! I’ve made a few homemade bug repellant recipes in the past using peppermint and lavender essential oils. I’m definitely going to try your recipe since bug season is fast approaching. Thanks for sharing,

    Peace. 😉

  2. I actually used coconut oil steeped with lemongrass while I was in Africa. Worked like a charm, and I didn’t get the horrid skin reactions that came with the DEET. Granted, going to malaria region and using only lemongrass oil (and anti-malarials) is risky, but it’s better than nothing. Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Very interesting! I made one last year which really worked for us and was really cheap. Here is the link to my recipe: http://www.bloombakecreate.com/2011/05/lemon-balm-lavender-bugs-off-spray/

    If you don’t grow herbs for this recipe, you can purchase them online.

    Great blog!

  4. I needed an invasive, tough plant to qickly cover a large bare spot where yard meets my woods, so I planted lemon balm. Did the trick. The bonus, I rub its leaves on my arms and legs to repell flying bugs from me while I do yard work. Effectiveness lasts only about 90 minutes which matches my energy span

  5. Great recipe. I plan on doing something similar using a doTERRA blend called TerraShield. It’s pre-blended and smells great. I would seriously consider wearing it as perfume.

    My husband built a skateboard ramp in our backyard last fall. I plan on playing around with a variety of plants this year in hopes of repelling mosquitoes around the ramp: citronella, lemon balm, rosemary. We’ll see how it goes.

  6. Great post, as always…..and so informational. I’m hoping to spend more time outdoors this summer, especially on my back deck and since I have a clean slate to work with, would love to know what types herbs & plants to plant near the deck to repel mosquitoes & black flies. Any good tips?



  7. Love the recipie. Where did you get your spray bottle. Do you have good recomendation of where to purchase pump bottles for lotion as well. Love all of your recipies.

  8. Making my own repellent is on my list of things to do before summer. I bought some of the oils last fall to be ready. Last year I used a natural bug bar from made-on lotion. It was nice but takes too much time to rub all over; spray is much easier for a whole family to use.

  9. This is just what I needed, Spring is here now and see those pesty bugs coming around already. thanks for sharing, and so glad I can put this on my 1 year old, esp something that is safe.

  10. I can’t wait to try this! I’ve been wanting to make my own repellant for awhile! Nice to have an “endorsed” recipe! Thanks!

  11. I am going to try this as we have loads od bugs here in Ohio. I also have a question. Any sprays for spraying around the base of the house to keep out the creepy crawlees? Grandaughter sleeps in the basement and has come fyling up the stairs because of things with multiple legs. Does anyone have any receipes for an inside or outside spray?

    • I have read that spiders taste with their feet and cannot stand lemon. I have rubbed lemon peel around on the baseboards and around door jams. I make a repellent with lemon and grapefruit peels. They hate the citrus and around here they seem to also not like rosemary.

  12. Thank you for.all the.great info — but could you PLEASE enable mobile viewing for those o us who look on our phones? I am sure I miss a lot by losing interest in lengthy page refreshes. Thanks! I would comment on the tooth powder entry — great recipe and thanks!–but it takes too long to load.

  13. Where did you get your spray botle from?

  14. Also, I just looked in my mountain rose herb catalog and a few ingredients are not suitable for pregnant women, do youhave any other pregnancy safe sprays??

  15. Thank you so much for this!!!

  16. Thank you so much for this recipe!
    I have more or less everything on hand, but I’m wondering if I can replace the witch hazel with another carrier, like castor oil? Or is the witch hazel important to deterring the bugs??
    Thanks so much!
    – Jenny

  17. I make an insect repellant by boiling grapefruit peel, lemon peel and lemon balm and rosemary and lavender. I let it cool, strain it and add cheap vodka. I like the idea of adding a bit of oil though so that it stays on longer. You have to reapply frequently. It does not smell bad and I also use it on my dogs. For anti itching spray I use lavender, pine extract and eucalyptus and rosemary.

  18. I was wondering what type of essential oils besides lavender that is safe to use when your pregnant that repeals mosquitos and bugs. I want to make a bug repellant for my sister who is pregnant with her first child. Thought it would be a nice gift! Thanks

  19. leslie borody says:

    what about just citronella essential oil and castor oil and witchazel?

  20. This looks great! The only trouble is I’m allergic to Cedar. Which oil would be the best substitute?

  21. Does it repel chiggers and ticks? My husband and son are going to a camp in MO in July and we just purchased the chemical laden repellant. I would love to have them use something else.

  22. I make a real simple and easy mosiquito spray you take 1 TBSP vanilla extract 1 TBSP Peppermint extract and 2 cups water put in spray bottle and shake it up …shake each time before you use it

    • Kristyn says:

      This smells wonderful! Thanks for the recipe! How long before it “goes bad”? Should I store it in the fridge?

  23. Watch out if you go to the Central or South American rainforest – there are bees there that are very attracted to eucalyptus because it is similar to the pheromones they use as a mating signal.

  24. Gayl Hamilton says:

    Does peppermint oil make an effective substitute for eucalyptus? And I have all of the others mentioned except for lemon balm…I have rosemary, thyme, geranium, lavender…
    This is a great site! Thanks for posting

    Lodi, WI

  25. With all the oils, does this stain clothing?

    • and– again w the oils- has anyone had break-out issues w putting the oils on your face? love the idea of this- the natural scent alone would be awesome.

  26. This looks great, I can’t wait to try it. I would only like to caution that adding citrus oils makes sunburn more likely, so people should be more cautious about sun exposure when using them on the skin.

  27. Hi there.
    How much does this recipe make?
    Want to know what size bottle to use.

    Thank you!

  28. Monique says:

    I am interested in making some natural insect repellent before we go camping in a month. I was wondering if it stings your skin like the Off does. I shave a lot and it burns both mine and my daughter’s skin plus it stinks so godawful. I have seen recipes with just witch hazel and an oil or two and others with water added to this mix. Is there any difference with or without the water? Thanks, I am looking forward to deciding on which recipe to try.

  29. I’m definitely going to try this – I bet it smells good too – thanks! Off to pin on my natural solutions board 🙂

  30. Dorothy says:

    Hey Andrea. Are you using witch hazel EXTRACT for this?

  31. This is a great blend for adults, but do be careful recommending it’s use among children. Both peppermint and some types of eucalyptus are contraindicated for children. Peppermint is too high in menthol, but spearmint can be substituted easily. Only eucalyptus radiata is considered safe among kids.

  32. I have heard that citronella is dangerous to breathe in yet I keep seeing it being put in these natural recipes that are suppose to be safe. Can anyone please comment on this?

  33. Hi can anyone tell me what to used for the dreaded Scottish Midge
    I go camping any have tried numerouss things but notthing helps
    Please someone help me

  34. I have been using a product called Sweetly Citron on Amazon and it works great.

    Smells good and keeps the bugs away.

  35. For those with questions about substituting essential oils for others. You don’t absolutely HAVE to have every single one or you don’t have to make sure you have an equal substitution. Any combination of any of these oils should do the job. I happen to have a ton of oils on hand but i would also try a spray with just two like lavender and peppermint or something. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be an exact science. Plus, it’s fun to experiment, right?
    Witch hazel is a soother so it’s fine (if not great!) to use on irritated and/or consistently shaven skin.
    The essential oils sprayed on your face should be fine also. Yes, technically, they are oils and many are terrified at the thought of putting anything oily on their face but it’s actually good for most people’s skin but they just don’t know it. Especially essential oils that have such amazing qualities. So unless you know you have a certain allergy to an essential oil, MOST of these bug repellent eos should be okay to lightly spray on your face. I probably wouldn’t spray pine oil on my face though.
    Like others, I was wondering about spraying oils onto my clothes and if it would leave an oily stain. so far, it hasn’t but I’ve only sprayed an eo/witch hazel mix on my clothes, not an eo/witch hazel/carrier oil mix.
    Along with repelling creepy crawlies in the house, i’ve heard peppermint also works with that. So to go along with another commenter, i bet a lemon/citrus/peppermint blend would be potent.

  36. The all natural bug spray from Mission Essentials works great, smells great and feels great !!!
    The best I’ve ever used !

  37. chemical repellents are too harmful for human health so their should be our responsibility to aware others abut that and inspire them to use natural repellents

    • For those that don’t want to mix their own or just want the best mix out there try Mission Essentials “Fight Back 2”. It’s an amazing blend of essential oils and does not contain alcohol, witch hazel or any oily ingredients. Great for kids and for dogs too!
      Mission Essentials has a new web site – http://www.mission-essentials.com

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