DIY Natural Insect Repellent

Last updated 06/1/2020 | |

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This natural insect repellent keeps the bugs away without without dangerous chemicals like DEET or permethrin. Enjoy your cookouts, hikes, and camping trips without mosquito bites.

insect repellent spray in bottle

I went on my first backpacking trip in 7th grade, and immediately fell in love with hiking and camping. I quickly learned that if there are mosquitoes around, they'll eat me alive! Mosquito-free hiking trails are pretty rare nonexistent around here, and I spent a lot of time spraying myself with Off, Skin-so-Soft, and all manner of other bug sprays.

When I started making my own natural products, like Lice-Away Spray and Homemade Febreze, I was impressed by the power of essential oils. After all, the natural oils in plants have protected them from insects since the beginning of time. So why not harness that power to protect us from bugs too?

After a bit of experimentation, I created a natural insect repellent spray keeps the bugs away without dangerous chemicals like DEET or permethrin. Check out how easy this is.

glass spray bottle on stump in forest

Natural Insect Repellent Ingredients

Here's what all the ingredients do in this natural bug spray.

Witch hazel: witch hazel is an extract made from the leaves, bark, and twigs of the witch hazel plant. It's an astringent and is used to dilute and convey the essential oils (the active ingredients) to the skin. Be sure to get 100% pure witch hazel--not mixed with alcohol or aloe.

Citronella essential oil: there's a reason why many outdoor candles and sprays contain citronella. It's a tall grass native to Asia with a crisp, fresh aroma. Citronella essential oil repels insects by masking human smell, and it has a sweet, lemon-floral scent.

Lemongrass essential oil: I have a lemongrass plant in the backyard, because this tall, perennial grass is tasty in stir-fry and rice dishes. Lemongrass essential oil has a citrus, herbaceous smell that's good for the skin.

Lemon Eucalyptus essential oil: this one is the heavy hitter in our insect repellent. In fact, Lemon Eucalyptus essential oil is recommended by the CDC to repel mosquitoes. Lemon Eucalyptus oil has a fresh, lemony scent and is derived from a lemon-scented blue gum eucalypti plant, a tall tree with smooth bark.

insect repellent spray in bottle

DIY Natural Insect Repellent

Yield: 2 oz.
Active Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

This natural insect repellent keeps the bugs away without without dangerous chemicals like DEET or permethrin. Enjoy your cookouts, hikes, and camping trips without mosquito bites.


  1. Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle.
  2. Label the bottle (I use these square adhesive labels) and shake gently before using.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

If you forget your spray and happen to get a bug bite, use my Natural Bug Bite Relief to soothe the itch and speed healing.

Don't want to DIY? No problem. Badger Anti-Bug Spray is a great, effective option.


glass spray bottle and essential oil bottles on white table

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Hi, I’m Pam! I created Brown Thumb Mama to share my natural living journey, and help you live a greener life. Thanks for being here, and please check out the resources in my Natural Living Shop!


  1. Cooper on May 21, 2020 at 8:29 pm

    I’ve bought the catnip hydrosol from Prairieland Herbs for years and it works so well! Haven’t made my own though.

  2. Tamara on May 19, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    I have super dry and sensitive skin and my daughter is acne prone as well as sensitive. We find witch hazel alone really drying. Can you recommend something to use either along with or instead of witch hazel? Maybe replacing half with aloe or a carrier oil?

  3. Sherry on January 29, 2016 at 12:37 am

    My son and I are mosquito magnets such that our neighbors ask us NOT to come over and visit when they are sitting on their deck. It is that bad. The mosquitoes literally swarm around us. We recently read that catnip essential oil was shown in studies to be many times more effective than DEET, and it is certainly less harmful. There are a number of recipes online and a few websites that have a prepared solution. I mix up catnip, cornmint and rosemary or geranium oils with equal parts rubbing alcohol and water. It is the ONLY thing that works for us.

  4. Anne May on May 12, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    When I was pregnant I used a mixture of rubbing alcohol, baby oil and clove. It worked great!

  5. Emma Lee Stanley on July 31, 2014 at 11:46 am

    I use citronella, lemongrass, rosemary, tea tree, and myrtle 🙂

  6. Nena on August 8, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    I use lemongrass, lavender, peppermint and Rosemary in water and shake well but I think the witch hazel would be better. The grapeseed is a great idea. We went for a walk in a wooded area and the mosquitoes were swarming everywhere. My husband had on a black shirt and you could see millions landing on his shirt but they did not bite. In the open fields there were lots of bees but we did not have any bother us so the lemongrass did not seem to attract them.

  7. jeanne merritt on August 8, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Sounds nice i made some using citronella lavender and cypress mixed in grapeseed oil have not been bitten once and i’m normally the one bitten in a crowd btw i am A+

  8. angela on May 30, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Definitely need to make some. My daughter and I both were eaten alive outdoors yesterday evening.

  9. Becky Elmuccio on May 14, 2013 at 12:04 am

    We don’t normally use anything, but we are lucky enough not to have a lot of bugs nearby in the summer. Thanks for sharing on Tuesday Greens!

  10. Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick on April 3, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Very interesting………Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week; I hope you’ll join us again!

    Kathy Shea Mormino

    The Chicken Chick

  11. Anonymous on October 4, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Dear anonymous….I haven’t heard anything about blood type, but I do recall reading a display at Virginia Beach’s Marine Science Museum on mosquitos a few years back. Some interesting facts that stuck out were: There apparently is some type of substance in the blood of really fair skin/fair eyed people that cause mosquitos to prefer them (can’t remember what it was). It also said some females will travel up to 3 miles to feed on specific blood types (talk about picky). Maybe you could google this info to find out more details….

  12. Texas garden freak on October 3, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Y’all might try adding a few drops of Rosemary oil to this blend. I use it with just citronella in a base of water and a bit of almond oil. It seems to work not just on me, but also on plants for a variety of nuisance bugs. Rosemary oil alone on my kitty collars has significantly reduced flea/chigger bites also.

  13. Cafe au Mommy on October 3, 2012 at 2:44 am

    Have you ever heard that the lemongrass might attract bees? We used a natural bug spray with several of these ingredients including lemongrass, and suddenly we had bees everywhere. I quick got my kids in when I realized there were more and more coming and googled essential oils that attract bees. I read that lemongrass is used by bee keepers to cause bees to swarm? Just curious if you had this experience or if it was a coincidence for us. I am all for natural products, but not a huge fan of bees swarming me!

  14. Anonymous on October 3, 2012 at 2:35 am

    Hi, a friend made this for me and we have been using the same bottle for almost a year, It works fantasticly! Just one question, is anyone else that is a mosquito magnet, have the blood type O+ ?? I have been asking my friends, and it seems that the people who get bit most often are blood type O+

    • kristina on September 28, 2014 at 6:48 pm

      Me and my daughter are A+ blood types and get attacked so bad from the mosquitos, with big red itchy bumps it’s awful, even if we are only out a few minutes lol and we are in Windsor Canada. We definitely need too try this 🙂

      • Carole on March 25, 2015 at 7:39 am

        I’m with Kristina on this one……I have type A+,and my husband is O+. If we are standing side by side, he will not get one bite! I on the other hand, will be eaten alive…. So, I don’t think blood type has anything to do with it. More like the pheromones. The homemade insect repellant works very well though!

  15. Amy @ Homestead Revival on June 11, 2012 at 3:50 am

    Oh, I may need to make this to take with my on my trip to the south! Mosquitoes think I’m sweet too 😉 and they’re big as birds down there!

  16. Jennifer Ramirez on June 6, 2012 at 3:45 am

    I am definitely going to try this, i live in southern Illinois and last year I walked around my house (literally took me 1 minute) and had 10+ bites on each leg (i counted) not including my arms!

  17. Kellan on July 11, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    THANK YOU! I’m very sweet also and I actually found that store-bought bug spray attracts them to me.

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Hi, I'm Pam!

I created Brown Thumb Mama to share my natural living journey and help you live a greener life. Thanks for being here! Learn more about me.

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