Ward off nuisance mosquitoes with a homemade, natural repellent. ATTRIBUTION: Photo by Oregon State University (Flickr)

Mosquitoes may appear harmless, but these itty-bitty insects can bring pain, itching, and disease. Infected mosquitoes are responsible for the transmission of a number of diseases, including yellow fever, malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus, Zika virus, and Chikungunya. To minimize the risk of contracting an insect-borne disease, many people turn to mosquito repellents. While there are dozens of commercial mosquito repellents on the market, creating your own natural repellent is often preferred by those who want to avoid the health risks associated with commercial products. Here, I’ll discuss the benefits of making your own natural repellent and how you can do so at home.

Natural vs. Commercial Bug Spray

Unlike commercial insect repellants that contain synthetic chemicals, natural repellents are typically plant-based. The most common commercial insect repellents contain N, N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, also referred to as DEET. DEET can be toxic, often causing skin irritation and other side effects. Research has also found that exposure to DEET led to a higher likelihood of mood disturbances, insomnia, and impaired cognitive function.

Some insect repellents are designed to use exclusively on clothing, shoes, and camping gear to ward off mosquitoes, ticks, and other pests. These products typically contain permethrin, a synthetic insecticide chemical that is effective against ticks, mites, chiggers, and mosquitoes. If exposed to the skin, permethrin can result in pain, redness, and burning. If accidentally consumed, the chemical can cause pain, nausea, and vomiting.

To avoid the harsh side effects of many commercial insect repellents, opt for a natural product or make your own. Available in stores, soy-based insect repellents are an effective alternative to synthetic chemical-based options like DEET. Natural mosquito repellents also often contain the extracted oils of certain plants and trees. The use of essential oils as insect repellents is not only effective but typically result in no adverse side effects.

Make Your Own Mosquito Repellent

Many natural insect repellents can be made at home to save money and to avoid some of the toxic ingredients found in many commercial brands. Natural mosquito repellents can be made using a wide range of ingredients, including essential oils. To make a natural mosquito spray using essential oils, fill a spray bottle half full with distilled water. Next, add in natural witch hazel to fill the spray bottle almost to the top. Finish by adding 40 to 60 drops of essential oils. The most effective options include citronella, rosemary, lemongrass, eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender, cedar, and mint. The more you add, the stronger the repellent will be.

Natural mosquito repellents containing essential oils are popular, as they are safe to use on children and adults and contain only natural ingredients. The use of essential oils also makes the concoction smell pleasant, unlike most commercial brands. Unfortunately, essential oil repellents do not come close to the efficiency of major commercial products like DEET and tend to wear off much faster. To keep bugs at bay, it may be necessary to reapply the mosquito repellent often, especially if you sweat or swim.