Bug spray is a must-have if you’re spending time outside this summer or live with summer temperatures year-round. Nothing ruins the mood like a swarm of mosquitoes infiltrating the backyard BBQ or joining the campfire circle. While there are lots of commercial repellents on the market, they often contain hard-to-pronounce chemicals and ingredients that aren’t even listed on the label. You might be surprised to learn that in the United States, insect repellents are actually regulated as pesticides. According to the EPA, “People often think of the term pesticide as referring only to something that kills insects, but “pesticide” is a broad term and includes products that don’t kill anything, such as insect repellents.”
Common commercial bug repellents are usually made up of two parts. The first component is the active ingredients, which are the chemicals that repel insects, like DEET. These are always listed on the product label, but the other inert ingredients they are combined with aren’t required by law to be listed. Inert ingredients can include solvents, preservatives, foaming agents, or fragrances, and often only the total percentage of all inert ingredients is shared on the label.
While commercial insect repellents must undergo extensive testing to ensure their safety and may be the best option when visiting areas where the risk of mosquito-borne illness is high, there are natural alternatives that skip the chemicals and have an easy-to-read ingredient list that you can make at home.*
How to make homemade insect repellant
Making your own insect repellant at home isn’t difficult but does require a couple of ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 10 drops of rosemary essential oil
- 30 drops of geranium essential oil
- 30 drops of citronella essential oil
- 20 drops of lavender essential oil
- 20 drops of lemon eucalyptus essential oil
- 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol
- 1/2 cup of witch hazel
- 1/2 cup of water (or white vinegar)
- 1. Mix all the essential oils in a spray bottle. Then add the rubbing alcohol and shake to mix.
- 2. Pour in witch hazel and shake again.
- 3. Add water and shake again.
How to use
Apply your homemade bug repellent to your skin before heading out the door and bring it with you to reapply as needed. Always make sure to give the bottle a good shake before using, as the ingredients may separate over time.