Medicine or Malarkey: Does homemade bug repellent really work?
Many people are trying to avoid products made with DEET or looking to use natural products supposedly safer for skin and body. Is the switch worth it? Are bug repellents made with products you might have in or around the home actually effective at keeping away mosquitoes and other biting insects? What did our grandparents do before commercial products were available, and did their home remedies have any impact on repelling annoying bugs? Let’s explore some homemade bug repellents so you can decide whether they might be a good fit for your family whether you’re hiking, camping, or just enjoying a day outdoors.
DIY Bug Repellent
Try Essential Oils as Part of a Natural Bug Spray
Grab an 8-ounce spray bottle, and fill it halfway with boiled or distilled water. Pour in witch hazel to almost the top of the bottle. Then add half a teaspoon of vegetable glycerin. Now comes the fun part! Choose from a range of essential oils including: Mint, Lavender, Catnip, Cedar, Eucalyptus, Cajeput, Tea Tree, Rosemary, Lemongrass, Clove or Citronella. Add anywhere from 30 to 50 drop of your preferred oils. Also, look for 100% pure essential oils. The more drops added, the stronger the smell will be. You may want to add it to clothing rather than spraying directly on the skin. If applying for the first time on the skin, perform a patch test first for any signs of a reaction. As with many commercial products, any natural bug repellent spray will need to be applied again every few hours. Note: Even though lemon eucalyptus oil has been recommended to be a good substitute for DEET, it is not recommended to use it on children under 3 years old.
Try “Vinegar of the Four Thieves”
This option will smell strongly when first applied, but the odor will dissipate as it dries. Use this when you might be in areas known for ticks or other biting insects. The mixture requires 32 ounces of apple cider vinegar, two tablespoons of dried mint, thyme, lavender, rosemary and sage and a quart-sized glass jar. Put the mix together in the jar, seal and shake daily for a period of two to three weeks. After this period, strain the herbs and store the liquid in tincture or spray bottles, preferably in the refrigerator. When needed, cut the strength by filling the spray bottle half with water and half with the mixture. Spray as needed.
Plant Some Herbs to Repel Insects
As temperatures rise, gardens bloom in an array of scents and colors. This is an excellent time to add a few insect-repelling herbs around outdoor patios, lounge areas or anywhere you and your family enjoy hanging out. Don’t let annoying bugs keep you from dining alfresco or playing in the yard. Herbs to plant include citronella, mint, thyme and lavender. You can also enjoy these outdoor plants by drying some for later use in bug repellent sprays.
Are these methods effective?
Earlier we asked you “Are bug repellents made with natural products actually effective at keeping away mosquitoes and other biting insects?” Here is what we can tell you. Lemon eucalyptus oil is the only option recommended by the CDC as an effective alternative to DEET. Whereas other natural options, like citronella and lavender are not as effective as DEET.
Natural home remedies to repel mosquitoes, flies and other biting insects may help you enjoy the outdoors once you test what’s most effective for you.
Remember: Women who are nursing or pregnant should talk with a healthcare practitioner before using any essential oils, and it’s also important to be cautious when using essential oils on the very young.