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How To Make Your Own Bug Spray

Written by Kate MacLean

Photography by Photographed By Tiana Lewis

There exists about three perfect spring days. The first one’s after the snow has melted and the sun bakes things up past 55°F. Those are the days when your skin is warm and you can smell everything from the soil to the pavement to the rain. Then after three days, all of the mosquitoes, black flies, ticks, and every other creature wakes up from their winter’s slumber, and the feasting-upon-humans begins.

So follows the long sleeves, the screen-doors, the citronella candles, and the bug spray. Conventionally made bug sprays are effective, but stinky and sticky. The combination of which compels you to bathe the kids after every outing. Luckily, there are alternatives to these chemical sprays that can be made at home and they will afford you a much more pleasant time in the woods. Bugs are—fortunately—repelled by a variety of smells that we find very appealing. The most common of which is citronella, but also lavender, geranium, rosemary, vetiver, tea tree, lemon eucalyptus, and many others. Making your own bug spray at home, with the help of essential oils, is a fun, easy, and cost-effective way to combat the blood-sucking summer creatures. There are many brands that exist out there, but essential oils can vary greatly in quality. Our two favorites for reliability are Mountain Rose Herbs and Aura Cacia. If you’re looking to make your own at-home variation of bug spray this summer, read on for all the ingredients and a step-by-step how-to.

What you will need:
Spray bottle & label
Essential oils (pick and choose; about 100 drops total)

  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Texas Cedarwood
  • Citronella
  • Lemon Eucalyptus
  • Grapefruit
  • Tea Tree

1 Tbsp. rubbing alcohol or vodka
1/4 cup witch hazel
1/4 cup water

How you will do it:

  1. Pick a selection of essential oils to make your bug spray. Citronella is an all-star, but you can include a variety of others. For example, you can make a citrus bug spray by including 25 drops of citronella, 25 drops of lemon eucalyptus, 25 drops of grapefruit, and 25 drops of tea tree. For a floral bug spray, start with 20 drops of geranium, 20 drops of lavender, 20 drops of rosemary, 20 drops of Texas cedarwood, and 20 drops of citronella.
  2. Counting drops (this goes by rather fast, you will need 100 in total) place the oils into the spray bottle.
  3. Add the alcohol/vodka and swirl to incorporate the oils.
  4. Add the witch hazel and water.
  5. Put your nozzle/lid back on and shake vigorously.
  6. Apply first to your arm and let sit for a while to see if you have any adverse reaction to any of the oils. If you are fine, do the same to your kiddos to test.
  7. Shake well before each use, and enjoy all those summer days outdoors!

Have the bug spray made, but not sure what to do with the kids this summer? We’ve got you covered! Be sure to check out 5 Outdoor ActivitiesOutdoor Summer Activities, and 18 Outdoor Summer Toys.

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