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Many conventional bug sprays contain dangerous chemicals like DEET to repel pests. I run a natural home, so I stay away from most conventional products and love to make my own natural cleaning supplies and personal care products like the natural bug spray recipes below.
Most of these recipes use essential oils, which may irritate the skin when applied directly. You should mix essential oils in a recipe, like those below, or with a carrier oil, such as jojoba oil, coconut oil, almond oil, etc., before you apply to the skin, in order to prevent any adverse effects. Full strength essential oils should never be applied directly to children, and I recommend using the Kids Safe line of essential oils from Plant Therapy when using essential oils on or around children.
If you think the worst part of summer is being hounded by bugs, check out the super simple DIY Natural Bug Spray Recipes below. With these recipes, you just need a glass spray bottle, some essential oils and additional (inexpensive!) ingredients, and you’re all set to enjoy the outdoors! For additional ways to stay bug free, see Lifestyle Tips to Keep You Bug Free this Summer.
Why Use Bug Spray?
Insects aren’t just annoying – they can also be dangerous. Insect bites can cause health problems, including skin irritation, itchiness, and allergic reactions, as well as serious illnesses like Lyme disease (spread by ticks) and malaria, West Nile virus, and Zika virus (all spread by mosquitos).
Dangers of Neem Oil
Some natural bug sprays contain Neem Oil – even a couple of the recipes below suggest adding it. While many tout Neem Oil’s effectiveness in repelling pests, it can be dangerous. Experts recommend that pregnant women and children avoid Neem Oil, and I won’t use Neem Oil on my pets, even though many commercial natural flea products contain it. Please read The Dangers of Neem Oil: Why I Refuse to Use Neem Oil in My Home or on My Pets. If you are using natural products in an effort to be healthy, why use a product shown to be dangerous just because it’s labeled “natural”??
Why is DEET So Bad?
Many conventional insect repellents contain DEET. Also known as N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, DEET is approved by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) for use in insect repellent and pesticides, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe for us or the environment. This dangerous chemical can cause blistering, rashes, and soreness when applied to skin and can also cause burning eyes, headaches, and breathing difficulties. A Cornell University study found that Everglades National Park employees who had extensive DEET exposure were more likely to have insomnia, mood disturbances, and impaired cognitive function than co-workers who were not exposed to DEET at such high levels.
Citing health concerns, Health Canada barred the use of insect repellents containing more than 30% DEET in 2002 and issued the following DEET use guidelines:
Insect repellents containing DEET can be used safely when applied as directed and in the right concentration, depending on age.
The right concentration of DEET for:
- Adults and children older than 12 years old is up to 30%.
- Children aged 2 to 12 years is up to 10%.
- You can apply the product up to 3 times daily.
- Children aged 6 months to 2 years old is up to 10%.
- You should not apply the product more than once a day.
For children younger than 12 years old, do not use a DEET product on a daily basis for more than a month.
For infants younger than 6 months old, do not use an insect repellent containing DEET. Instead, use a mosquito net when babies are outdoors in a crib or stroller.
DEET is also terrible for the environment. DEET is an environmental pollutant that lingers in soil and water, has negative effects on waterways and wildlife, including affecting their sexual reproduction, and is toxic to birds and aquatic life. This chemical has been found in approximately 75 percent of U.S. water sources.
DEET is a solvent, which means it can dissolve plastics, synthetic fabrics, and painted or varnished surfaces, including nail polish. I certainly wouldn’t want something so strong on my skin! For all its dangers, DEET isn’t even all that effective in repelling insects!
DIY Bug Spray Recipes
DIY HOMEMADE BUG SPRAY REPELLENT
This is my favorite bug spray recipe just for its simplicity. Many natural bug spray recipes call for a complicated list of essential oils. I use and love essential oils, but I don’t have a very large collection of different oils. If I have to buy a lot for one recipe, that’s a huge investment for me. Thank goodness for Plant Therapy – they have two essential oil blends specifically for bug repellents. Shield Me is safe for kids! If you don’t have kids, I recommend Nature Shield, which is more effective, but not as gentle as the child safe blend. Plant Therapy has a whole line of kid safe essential oil blends, so definitely check them out if you have children.
From Living Simply
FOUR THIEVES BUG SPRAY
My friend swears by Four Thieves Spray for everything from bug spray to killing germs to prevent illness. However, a 15 mL bottle of Thieves from Young Living costs $35.49 on Amazon, so why not make your own and save loads of money?? This simple Thieves recipe contains Apple Cider Vinegar (I ALWAYS use this brand) and dried herbs, lavender (one of my favorite scents), mint, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Unless you have a great local source of herbs (I don’t), I recommend buying your herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs.
From Green Blender
LAVENDER + VANILLA BUG SPRAY
Want to repel bugs and still smell AMAZING?! Try this bug spray made with lavender and vanilla extract (make your own vanilla extract – it’s so easy!) – two of the most popular scents, and definitely two of my favorites!
From Mom Skills
DIY BUG SPRAY FOR SENSITIVE SKIN
This recipe is a great choice for those of us with sensitive skin. This bug spray contains jojoba oil and does not contain any harsh, drying ingredients, such as alcohol. This recipe uses lavender, citronella, oregano, tea tree and peppermint. A list of essential oils you can use with this recipe is provided in the post, so you can choose your favorite scents for this one!
From Hello Glow
ALL NATURAL DIY BUG SPRAY
This recipe is all natural and AFFORDABLE. The price of this spray is just 93¢ per ounce compared to Amazon’s price for Deep Woods OFF at $1.44 an ounce! Plus, this spray really smells nice with eucalyptus, lemongrass (once of my favorites!), and citronella.
ALL NATURAL BUG SPRAY II
This is another recipe that uses the same ingredients in the previous bug spray recipe, with the addition of mint and rosemary essential oils. I love both these scents! If you do too, try this recipe.
From Garden Therapy
BYE, BYE BUGS – ESPECIALLY MOSQUITOS!
From Scratch Mommy
Insects can be irritating and dangerous. Protect yourself with these DIY Natural Bug Spray Recipes, and enjoy your summer!
I would love to hear from you!
Do you use DIY Natural Bug Spray? How do natural bug spray recipes work for you, and which are your favorites? Please share below!