DIY Insect Repellents with Essential Oils

June is here, and so are the bugs! While conventional, DEET based insect repellents are very effective, I don’t love the idea of spraying chemicals all over myself, and I definitely don’t want them on my daughter. Luckily, there are natural alternatives.

A number of essential oils are very effective against mosquitoes and ticks. Both mosquitoes and ticks search out humans by smell, so essential oils work in two ways to keep away bugs: first, it masks our natural human odors, and second, certain oils actually repel biting insects.
We’ve been working on it, and have developed an essential oil blend that works very well against mosquitoes. The mosquito blend is also effective against ticks, though we’ve made a “tick blend” that is specific to repelling ticks, so that’s the one I’d use if you’re in the forest or other areas where ticks can be a problem.

These blends are measured for use in our 10ml essential oil rollerbottles. We sell empty rollerbottles and also rollerbottles filled with grapeseed oil (a carrier oil). Essential oils should be diluted with a carrier oil before being applied to skin. Grapeseed is a wonderful carrier oil to use with bug repelling essential oils since it doesn’t have a scent of its own.

These recipes use Aura Cacia’s lemon eucalyptus oil which has been proven to be effective against mosquitoes. NOW Foods also has a lemon eucalyptus blend, which I like (it’s a mix of lemon, eucalyptus, and lemongrass), but it is not the same as true lemon eucalyptus (eucalyptus citriodora).

Mosquito Repellent Essential Oil Blend (to be mixed with a carrier oil in a 10ml rollerbottle)

10 drops Aura Cacia lemon eucalyptus oil
10 drops citronella oil
5 drops lemongrass oil
5 drops lavender oil
5 drops geranium oil


Tick Repellent Essential Oil Blend (to be mixed with a carrier oil in a 10ml rollerbottle)

8 drops Aura Cacia lemon eucalyptus oil
8 drops geranium oil
8 drops lemongrass oil
4 drops lavender oil
4 drops juniper oil
4 drops peppermint oil

While the above blends are those we think are most effective, while still being great smelling (over the years I’ve used some different natural bug sprays that I thought smelled awful), using just a combination of lemon eucalyptus, citronella, and/or lemongrass will still help to keep bugs from biting.

The thing I like about using rollerbottles for insect repellents are that they’re small- they’re easy to carry in a purse or pocket, and they’re also easy to apply. Another great thing using an insect repellent in this way is that children can apply it themselves. My daughter loves rolling on her “bug stuff” when she goes outside. I love it because I think it fosters independence, so if she decides to go out in the backyard, she will put on her own bug blend so she doesn’t get bitten by mosquitoes.

If you find a spray more convenient, you can multiply the above recipe by four and combine it with 8 ounces of witch hazel in a spray bottle (you could also use distilled water, though I found that witch hazel made a better bug repellent).  Shake the bottle before spraying.

River putting on her "bug roll on"

River putting on her "bug roll on"

Another advantage of making your own essential oil blends in small rollerbottles is that they’re small and convenient to have in a number of places- I keep one outside on the deck, one by the backdoor, and another in my purse. Essential oil bug blends should be reapplied every 1-2 hours for maximum effectiveness.


Finally, when it comes to getting mosquito bites (since there will come a time when you forget to put on your bug blend and get a bite), lavender oil works amazingly for taking out the itch.

Lavender oil is one of the only oils that can be put on the skin directly without irritation, and a drop or two on an itchy mosquito bite really helps. I keep a bottle of lavender oil on my bedside table since for some reason it seems like the only time mosquito bites bother me is when I’m trying to sleep. Incidentally, lavender oil is very relaxing and has been shown in research to be wonderful as a sleep aid.