Homemade Non-Toxic Bug Spray

Summer is right around the corner, and that means the bugs will be biting! There’s only so much we can do to prevent bug bites – wear long sleeves and pants, bug spray, etc. However, one problem with many bug sprays out there is the ingredients! The worst of the offenders is DEET. This ingredients is known as a skin, lung, and eye irritant, and on top of that, when used often, it can cause neurological damage, and in very rare cases, even death! Yikes! So, personally, I want to stay away from that ingredient.

A couple of other ingredients that the CDC say are the most effective in repelling bugs are Picaridin and IR3535.  The IR3535 can be irritating to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system, but other than that, it is reported as safe.  Well, I think I would prefer an alternative, because I like to enjoy my time outside, not to spend it dealing with irritations!  Isn’t that what the bugs are?

I couldn’t find much information on Picaridin.  For the most part, it sounds like this ingredient is your best bet if you are looking for a store bought bug spray that “seems” to be the safest regarding toxicity.  However, from what I’ve read, there haven’t been many studies to determine it’s safety or side effects as it’s a fairly new ingredient, and I’m always leery of new ingredients.

So, with these three ingredients reported to be the best, where does that leave us? As I said, I really am not fond of any of them.  Well, I’ve got good news – ESSENTIAL OILS!!!  There are tons of essential oils that are great for repelling bugs. For example:

  • Citronella, lemon eucalyptus, geranium, lavender, lemongrass, and tea tree oils are all good for repelling mosquitos.
  • Geranium, lavender, and lemongrass are good for repelling flies.
  • Lavender, lemongrass, and rosemary oils are good for repelling ticks.
  • Peppermint and tea tree oil are good for keeping ants away.
  • Lavender, lemongrass, and rosemary oils are all good for keeping fleas away.
  • Peppermint is good for keeping spiders away.

These just name a few. After looking into various oils to figure out which ones are the best of the best.  I landed on rose geranium, lavender, citronella, and white thyme.  The rose geranium is supposed to be the best repellent for ticks.  Lavender is supposed to be excellent for repelling mosquitos.  White thyme is great for repelling chiggers.  Lastly, citronella is great for repelling mosquitos, flies, chiggers, ticks, and other bugs!

I’ve also read that lemongrass is supposed to be excellent at repelling all types of insects, however, I also read that beekeepers use lemongrass oil to attract swarms of bees.  Though I’m sure that it’s used in a specific manner to do this, different than it would be used in this repellent, the thought of a big swarm of bees chasing me was enough for me to leave it out.  The nice thing is that you can always add it if you wanted to.  This recipe works great from my experience, but if you want to use different essential oils – feel free!

Another quick note – I used witch hazel and distilled water as a base.  The witch hazel allows the water and essential oils to mix together – without it, they won’t mix!  However, if you don’t have witch hazel, you could also use vodka.  In my opinion, the advantage to using witch hazel is that it’s great for the skin – a lot of people use it as a toner.  Vodka, on the other hand, isn’t exactly known for being beneficial to the skin.  However, if you don’t have witch hazel on hand and you do have vodka, it will work just as well!

Okay, now that we’ve gotten all of the notes out of the way, let’s get to the recipe!



  • 1/4 cup distilled water
  • 1/4 cup witch hazel
  • 10 drops each of your chosen essential oils.  I used 10 drops of lavender, 10 drops of citronella, 15 drops of rose geranium, and 10 drops of white thyme


Place all of the ingredients into a spray bottle, and shake well to combine.  Label the bottle if desired.  Note: a dark bottle is best – I had this clear bottle on hand, so made it in this, but dark is better when dealing with essential oils.

Now you can enjoy the outdoors, bug free, without having to worry about those iffy ingredients in store bought bug spray! Spray all over, avoiding the eye/face area.  Reapply as necessary (every hour or two) Enjoy! 🙂

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor a medical professional. The information presented on this site is for educational and entertainment purposes only. One should always consult with their doctor or medical professional before taking on any sort of major dietary or lifestyle changes.

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