Homemade Insect Repellent recipe

Small brown glass bottles on a tabletop, with a dropper. Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Today I’m sharing a simple essential-oil based homemade insect and bug repellent that we use in our family. You probably already have some of the ingredients at home. It’s very simple and quick to mix up, and really quite economical.

Why make your own mosquito and insect repellent?

There’s a lot of mixed guidance regarding the safety of commercial insect repellents and bug sprays. In particular, reports about possible toxicity and a lack of clear guidelines on what age these repellents are actually safe to use on kids.

Often, we are told they are safe – but only at certain concentration levels. Or the chemicals are safe, if you only apply them once a day. Or the recommendation is to apply it to clothing and socks and shoes, but to limit the usage on skin.

These guidelines can be confusing and only reinforce the thought that the chemicals may not be quite as safe as they seem.

It might be worthwhile to try a homemade insect repellent to see if that works for you and your family, as a non-toxic alternative to using chemical-laden commercial insect sprays on your skin.

Do chemical-free insect repellants work?

We used it for a short trip to Fiji a few years ago, and found it to be effective. I don’t recall being bitten by any mosquitoes or other insects. In saying that, I will acknowledge this was before Zika virus became more prevalent. Zika virus can cause some MAJOR problems to pregnant women and their unborn babies.

If you have concerns about exposure to Zika virus or any mosquito-borne diseases, then you may need to weigh up the risks from using a chemical insect repellent, versus the risk of becoming ill.

I’m an advocate for reducing chemical use wherever possible and safe – but I also have a balanced approach to it. At times, there is still a place for chemical solutions. If you are medically advised to avoid being bitten insects, then please do your research and decide whether chemical-repellents may still be best for you.

For everyday general use, we do find this natural recipe quite effective. We use it in the yard when gardening, and on the kids when they go to daycare.

How to make easy natural insect repellent


  • 5 drops lavender oil
  • 5 drops tea tree oil
  • 5 drops eucalyptus oil
  • 50ml of chosen carrier oil (such as sweet almond or jojoba oil)


Mix all the ingredients, and store in a clean bottle.

That’s it! So simple.

Using your homemade insect repellent

You may need to experiment, but in my experience this is not something you need to slather yourself in, to be effective.

For myself, I will rub a small amount on exposed skin.

For our kids, I tend to err on the side of caution and stick with the ‘less is more’ approach. I just dab some of the bug repellent oil on their exposed arms and legs. You can also use some on their clothing.

Essential oils are natural and generally safe, provided you use them properly. Just because things are natural and are derived from plants, does not inherently make them safe.

I’m not an aromatherapist, but things to be aware of when using essential oils are:

  • Pregnant women should be careful when using essential oils – some may be harmful during pregnancy.
  • Essential oils should never be used directly on the skin – they need to be diluted. The amount of dilution will depend on the oils used, and the age of the person using it.
  • Essential oils can cause reactions for some people.

The recipe I’ve shared uses essential oils that are diluted to 1%, which is safe for topical and skincare use. Lavender, tea tree and eucalyptus oil are also very common in skincare and household applications.

Nonetheless, you should ensure there are no reactions by performing a skin patch test.

Are homemade mosquito repellents safe for children?

Essentials oils are natural and non-toxic when used correctly, but it is unwise to assume that just because they come from natural plants that it is automatically and always safe.

I’ve only used this insect repellent recipe on my kids after they have turned age 2. The 1% dilution that I have used is generally advised to be safe for children aged 2 and above.

For babies aged 3-24 months, it’s recommended to dilute even further to 0.25-0.5%. If you wanted to use this homemade insect repellent recipe on children aged 3-24 months, modify the recipe to include no more than 1-2 drops each of lavender, tea tree and eucalyptus oil (1 drop each for 0.25%, 2 drops each for 0.5%). You could go up to 7 drops of essential oil (in total) for 50ml carrier oil if you wanted to dilute to 0.5%.

Safer still for babies, you might like prefer to ensure their exposed skin is covered up by clothing, instead of using ANY topical repellent. Applying the natural repellent to their clothing may also help limit their exposure to essential oils, but still repel insects.


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