Mosquitoes are my nemeses! The pesky bugs have been horrible this year (and we’re still dealing with them!). Sadly, it has made us almost too afraid to play in the backyard.
Not being a big fan of slathering the kids in chemicals, I’ve looked for ways to repel them with essential oils. And yes, there are more options than just citronella!
3 Natural Bug Remedies
I found three homemade recipes that include a spray, reed diffuser and lotion that we tested for keeping the bugs at bay. Each method has a few pros and cons; here’s what we learned.
1. Lemon mint patio spray
Combine 1/2 cup vodka with 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice and 20 drops of peppermint oil in a spray bottle. Spray around the perimeter of your gathering or play area. The menthol in peppermint essential oil is not only responsible for the strong minty aroma, but it also has insecticidal properties as well [source].
Upside: Things definitely seemed less buggy, and it added a nice aroma to the yard.
Downside: It’s hard to cover the entire perimeter, and the scent fades somewhat quickly—you have to remember to respray every hour to keep bugs away.
2. Lavender-Eucalyptus Diffuser
Combine 15 drops of eucalyptus oil and 15 drops of lavender oil with 6 ounces of water in a pretty cup and add reed sticks. These essential oils are frequently used in formulations to deter flying pests and they have the added bonus of making your table look pretty.
Flip the reeds over every couple of hours to refresh the scent. If the scent starts to dissipate – or isn’t strong enough – then add more essential oil.
Upside: Definitely the easiest of the natural remedies! And the soothing scent of lavender tones down the medicinal smell of eucalyptus.
Downside: The diffuser only covers a small area, and in our case, it didn’t deter mosquitoes.
3. Lemongrass Lotion
Combine 5 drops of lemongrass oil and 5 drops of clove essential oil with 1 cup of unscented body lotion or body oil. Mix together in a bowl and transfer to an empty bottle. Apply to exposed skin areas.
Note, this might not seem like a lot of essential oil, but lemongrass and clove are both powerful essential oils so don’t overdo it.
Lemongrass makes you unappealing to ticks and mosquitoes [source], and cloves can keep mosquitoes away for up to two full hours [source].
Upside: The lotion actually smells good! No yucky bug chemical scent to follow you around.
Downside: You have to catch the kids every hour or two to reapply.
The final verdict? The lotion was definitely the winner for us, but I’ll keep using all three recipes to supplement. Lemongrass is my favorite of the bug-repelling essential oils. You can combine it with lemon eucalyptus, citronella, and lavender in a bug bite spray or a bug-repelling bracelet.
What do you do to keep mosquitoes away? Don’t forget that there are plants that bugs hate so think about planting a few of those around the patio!
And if you do get unwanted bites, essential oils can help ease the itch too. Apply this bug bite spray or this balm to soothe the skin irritation.
Photos by Ana Stanciu572
Any ideas for flies? I’ve made a “tick oil ” containing unscented mct oil and lavender. Ticks are really bad this year. I read that they hate lavender. Also made a spray with witch hazel,lemon grass, eucalyptus,tea tree, and peppermint essential oils. You didn’t mention tee tree but it is amazing at deterring insects. It is especially well known for head lice prevention (add to shampoo and conditioner).
Linda D. says
This post was an absolute savior for my 4 yr old who is allergic to mosquitoes. Last summer we were in the pediatricians office and urgent care almost every week and their only solution was to keep her inside or to use bug spray with deet. I am not a fan of that stuff at all because I believe, contrary to what the doctors say, that if it smells that bad it’s gotta have dangerous chemicals in it that I do not want to expose my child to. This summer I was on a mission to find another way when I stumbled across the recipe for the lemongrass lotion on Pinterest. We went a whole summer with no bites!!! Unbelievable. Thanks so much for sharing as this will be our only bug solution going forward.
Stephanie Gerber says
Yay! I’m so glad!!
Amanda Belton says
sulphur. can you get it from an English pharmacy
Sharon C. says
I use the bath oil, Skin So Soft original scent. After my shower, when I’m still wet, I squirt a couple of sprays of the oil into my hand. Then I rub the oil all over me. Then I dry off. Seems to do the trick, but sooooo commercial : ( . The Sensual Skin So Soft lotion seems to deter pests also, and smells wonderful, not too floral and not too strong.
I MUCH prefer your method, so natural.
These are other suggestions that DO work: Those scented dryer sheets (original scent of the brand that rhymes with Pounce but starts with a B). Those dryer sheets are great to tuck to into luggage, and under bedding. Bed bugs and other critters HATE those sheets, so they won’t stow away. You can also tuck the sheets into pockets. One aside, these sheets are considered not so healthy, so be careful NEVER to put them directly against skin/fur. I say fur because I have in despairation used it for my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (tied a small strip around her collar). Our area had many, many ticks and a couple had latched onto my pup. If you’ve ever seen a dog with Lyme disease, you’d have tried too. Worked great, but I eventually found Neet based spray for my dog that was healthier.
Virginia G. Hale says
Just found your blog, love it! My Mom use to give us sulfur & cream of tartar lozenge’s when we were kids and we never got bite by anything. But they don’t sell them any more, so I gave an 1/8 of a teaspoon of equal sulfur & cream of tartar that I mixed to gather in a jelly jar. You have to get the sulfur from the pharmacy and the cream of tartar from the spice agile. I also sprinkles some on the dogs food so they didn’t get fleas & ticks. Cleans the blood & helped my kids teen break outs!
I would also go to our feed store and get some sulfur so I could put it on the yard to help with the bugs, worked like a charm. That’s why they have a salt and sulfur lick for cows.
Hope this helps some of Ya’ll.
That is great info! Thx!
Kristina Kloth says
We take garlic capsules every day and sometimes But between the two we don’t get bite by mosquitoes. These will be nice to keep them from bugging us.
do you have a natural idea for keeping ticks off dogs?
Nicole R says
Avon sKim so soft bath oil..original,awesome for fleas and ticks
Try some my web site is youravon..com/nrandell
I ALWAYS get eaten alive whenever mosquitoes are around! That lemon mint patio spray is going to be my new best friend
I know, why is it that some people NEVER get bitten? So not fair :)
I’ll have to remember this! I’m not one for the chemicals either and don’t plan on slathering Baby B w/ them either!
Definitely not! :) Plus it smells WAY better too!
Angie@Angie's Recipes says
I use anti-mosquitoes plants…I would love to try that lavender one.
What plant is that? I’m going to plant a yard full!
A CENTRELLA PLANT THAT’S WHERE THAY GET GET THE OILS TO MAKE THE SCENTS TO MAKE THE CANDLES FROM.I GAVE MY SISTER ONE ONCE AND IT KEPT BUG’S AWAY ALL SUMMER TILL SHE LEFT IT OUT ONE NIGHT AND IT GOT TO COLD AND FROSTED AN DIED.
So good to know! Just spend my first summer in Houston and just got eaten alive at times by the bugs. I’ve also heard patchouli is good to keep mosquitos away.
I just discovered your blog and I’m so excited! I love your design and your icons, everything is wonderful.
I’ll have to try patchouli too – we’ll be smelling so crazy that no one will get near us :)
I am sitting out on my deck right now wishing I had any one of these products on hand :)
i might try these, it’s been bad for me in Florida this summer too…
I know geraniums are supposed to deter mosquitoes too, which is why everybody puts them on balconies in France ;) Maybe you could make a 4th option with geranium essential oil ?
I had no idea that’s why geraniums were so popular – I thought it was because the red flowers were so pretty!
Elisa @ Fancyfreeme.com says
We just got our deck repaired so of course I had to try sitting out there again. I had forgotten how bad the mosquitos are at dusk and I hate bug spray, it smells terrible and I always have to shower before bed to get the smell off. Totally trying your lotion. It sounds like the perfect solution!
Definitely – I end up giving the kids a bath every night because even the natural bug spray smells awful!
Where can I get the reed sticks? What bugs is the lavendar one good for?
Nancy Marino says
You can use the wooden skewers found in kitchen supply aisles. I use a sharp scissor to cut the sharper end off but that is not necessary to do.