How to Make Your Own Homemade Bug Spray (+ Why It’s Better Than Store-Bought!)

June 1, 2020

It’s getting to be the time of year again: The bugs are coming out to “play.” But who wants to coat themselves in chemical-filled, toxic bug spray? I know I don’t—and I certainly don’t want my family to, either! So, I created my own homemade bug spray. Not only does it smell incredible, but it’s incredibly effective, too!

So, let’s take a look at what makes this homemade bug spray safe and non-toxic. We’ll discuss how the ingredients work to repel bugs as well. Rest assured that you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful outdoors this summer without worrying about those irritating, pesky insects. Sound good? Let’s jump in!


The Benefit of Using Homemade Bug Spray

Hands down, the biggest benefit of using homemade bug spray is that you know exactly what’s in it. After all, you’re mixing it yourself with your own hand-picked ingredients. This means you don’t have to worry about potentially harmful chemicals hiding inside.

These potentially harmful chemicals include DEET, a common chemical used in bug repellents. But a 2009 study found that DEET actually contains behavior-modifying properties and may even inhibit cholinesterase activity, which is connected to neurotransmitter function. [1]

Additionally, some studies have tied DEET use to respiratory distress and even seizures in children. [2] While there are also studies claiming that DEET has no negative side effects, it really isn’t worth the risk—especially when you have other effective options.

Interestingly, some essential oils have been found to perform better than DEET, while others aren’t quite as effective but still help to ward off bugs. [3] In fact, citronella oil, which is featured in the homemade bug spray recipe below, is commonly used in most commercial bug repellents due to its high efficacy. [4] Moreover, studies have found that citronella is as effective as DEET, dose for dose! [5]

Lavender oil has also been used for centuries as a bug repellent. In fact, studies have shown that it can repel insects for up to eight hours! [6] Lavender oil also has a very pleasant smell that induces calm and relaxation, making it a great ingredient in any homemade bug spray. And those reasons are exactly why I’ve included it in the recipe below!

How to Make Homemade Bug Spray

Now that you know the benefits of making your own homemade bug spray, take a look at this quick and simple recipe. You may even decide to double it, depending on how much time you plan to spend outdoors in the near future!


Homemade bug spray - Dr. Pingel


4 Additional Bug-Repelling Oils

Now, you may have noticed that I only used citronella and lavender oils in my homemade bug spray recipe. That’s because those oils are great bases with proven benefits against repelling insects. But there are other oils you can add to this recipe as well. It all depends on your personal preferences.

Here are four more oils you can incorporate into this recipe. Just add three to four drops of your desired oil to the recipe above!

  • Oregano oil: A 2018 study revealed that oregano oil was more effective than DEET at repelling insects. In fact a solution made up of 40 percent oregano oil was 100 percent effective at warding off bugs after 24 hours, while a solution made up of 33 percent DEET was only 27 percent effective at the 24-hour mark! [7]
  • Tea tree oil: According to a 2014 study, tea tree oil was able to repel bugs for up to 24 hours when tested on cows. [8] In addition, a 2016 study revealed that tea tree oil was able to kill certain beetles and ants, leading researchers to state that tea tree oil contains insecticide and repellent properties. [9]
  • Lemongrass oil: Amazingly, according to a 2015 study, lemongrass oil (when mixed with olive oil) provided 98.8 percent protection against mosquito bites! [10] As a result, the researchers stated that the mixture of lemongrass oil and olive oil is an effective bug repellent.
  • Rosemary oil: In one study, researchers found that a solution containing 20 percent rosemary oil was 100 percent effective against certain types of mosquitoes (known as Anopheles stephensi) for eight hours. [11]


Well, there you go! I hope you give this homemade bug spray recipe a try and find it useful in helping you to enjoy some much-deserved relaxing time outdoors this season. Here’s to a warm, beautiful, bug-free summer!


Key Takeaways

  • If you're looking to spend time outdoors this summer without using chemical-filled bug repellents, you can make your own homemade bug spray instead!
  • Many essential oils have been shown to be just as effective—and in some cases more effective—than commercial products.
  • Some of the top essential oils that repel bugs are: lavender, citronella, oregano, tea tree, lemongrass, and rosemary oils.
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