Summer Care Tip: Natural Bug Repellent Spray (with Recipe)

Natural Bug Repellent Spray Recipe |

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With warm weather comes bugs – mosquitos, ticks, chiggers, ants and more. The most natural approach to dealing with bugs is to cover up with long sleeves and pants whenever you are in the woods or other particularly buggy area. Avoid bright colors and strong perfumes that might attract bugs. Also, make sure to check for ticks regularly, especially if you are in a high-Lyme disease area. We make a habit of checking for ticks every night at bath time.

If you want to use bug sprays, choose natural options that are free from DEET, a chemical insect repellent. DEET can cause minor reactions such as irritation and blistering as well as more significant problems including insomnia, mood changes, low blood pressure, low heart rate and neurological damage. Most of these issues occur as a result of breathing or ingesting DEET, but even applying it to the skin can result in seizures in small children..

Bug repellants containing only natural ingredients are a much safer alternative. However, be cautious about using “natural” sprays containing pyrethrins (which come from the chrysanthemum flower). Pyrethrins can also cause reactions ranging from breathing difficulties to seizures and vomiting.

Because kids are much more susceptible to the harmful effects of toxic chemicals, it is a good idea to avoid using ingredients like DEET and pyrethrins when applying repellents to your child’s skin or clothes. Natural insect repellent options are readily available online and in stores.

If you want to be very sure about what goes on your kids’ bodies, you can also make your own natural bug spray. You will need to reapply every couple of hours, but I would much rather have to keep spraying my kids than coat them with toxic chemicals. In any case, I prefer to apply bug spray to my kids’ clothes more than their skin. Natural bug sprays work in two ways: by masking your natural scent and by using smells that repel insects.

If the spray is being used for a pregnant woman or infant (under six months old), I recommend not applying it directly to the skin. There are a number of essential oils that are not safe for pregnancy. When I was pregnant, I would spray my hat or the chair I was sitting on. I also like to spray picnic blankets and tables or around the outside of our doors and windows.

Here is my favorite bug spray recipe:

Natural Insect Repellent Spray Recipe for Kids (and Grownups)


  • 2 Tbsp distilled (or boiled and cooled) water
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (the vinegar smell will go away when it dries)
  • 2 Tbsp rubbing alcohol or vodka (if you don’t want to use alcohol, you can substitute this with witch hazel)
  • 80 drops of essential oils (for example a mixture of one or more of the following: eucalyptus, citronella, catnip, cinnamon, lemon, peppermint, lemongrass, lavender, rosemary, orange, clove, cedarwood)

Combine all ingredients in a small spray bottle and shake well. Shake before each use. Reapply every hour or as needed.

You can use any mixture of the essential oils listed above. Just try to use several different kinds of essential oils so the spray will work for many different types of bugs. And make a scent that appeals to you. You can also add in other essential oils. There are pre-made essential oil blends for repelling bugs that you can buy online or in some natural food stores.

I don’t care for the scent of citronella so I use very little or none of that. My favorite combination is 20 drops lemon, 20 drops eucalyptus, 20 drops peppermint and 20 drops lavender essential oils. For use with babies (over six months) and small children, I use 20 drops lemon, 20 drops orange and 20 drops lavender essential oils.

If you are pregnant or have a small child, please consult with a physician before applying any type of bug spray. Extra care should be taken when using essential oils on children – for example, ALWAYS dilute essential oils before applying to your child’s skin. See this article and this post for more tips on the safe use of essential oils for babies and children.

Stay tuned for more natural bug repellent ideas! Also, find more ideas on our Pinterest Natural Remedies board.

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