Natural Homemade Mosquito Repellent as Effective as DEET

homemade mosquito repellent against variety of insectsA homemade mosquito repellent recipe is rather simple. The hard part is knowing which plant essential oils are best for repelling mosquitoes, flies, ticks and other biting insects.

So after reading numerous scientific research articles and writing our previous post on the best natural insect repellent products, we are now ready to make our own repellent.

Best essential oils scientifically proven to repel mosquitoes just as effectively or even better than DEET:

These essentials oils performed as good or even better than DEET. In fact, one study demonstrated that Catnip essential oil was 10x more effective than DEET.  With the exception of Neem oil, the three essential oils listed below are all registered with the EPA in products as natural mosquito repellents.

  • Lemon Eucalyptus
  • Catnip
  • Citronella
  • Neem

Soybean oil, vanillin and coconut oil have also been proven to extend the protection time of natural bug repellents with essential oils which is discussed in detail further below.

Other Plant Oils with Insect-Repellent Effects

These oils are good to use in your homemade mosquito repellent, but are best used in combination (as opposed to a single ingredient) with any of the other oils listed above:

  • Castor Seed
  • Cedar Leaf
  • Clove Flower
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Lemongrass
  • Patchouli
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Turmeric

How to Make Your Homemade Mosquito Repellents Last Longer

One of the main drawbacks in the past of natural repellents is that they do not last as long after application as DEET or other chemical-based repellents.

This is because most plant essential oils and extracts are volatile and act on mosquitoes in the vapor phase. vanillin natural mosquito repellentMeaning, they evaporate quickly from the skin and once the scent is gone, the mosquitoes return.

However, research has shown that the effectiveness and duration of plant-based topical repellents improve when they are mixed with vanillin (a primary organic compound in vanilla extract) and/or soybean oil.

Coconut oil also increased repellency, but not as long as with the addition of vanillin or soybean oil. For example, with the addition of 5% vanillin to a solution of turmeric (Curcuma longa), kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix), citronella grass (Cymbopogon winterianus) and hairy basil (Ocimum americanum) oils increased repellency significantly against three mosquito species (see figure below).

natural insect repellent vs deet with vanillin added
Relative repellency (median protection time) of volatile oils and DEET against 3 mosquito species:
(A) Ae. aegypti, (B) An. dirus, and (C) Cx. quinquefasciatus under laboratory conditions (Tawatsin et. al. 2001). The addition of vanillin increases repellency time in several formulations.

What is Vanillin?

Vanillin is a natural compound extracted from vanilla seed pods, but it also can be synthetically produced.

Vanillin is often added to perfumes and other fragrances to slow down the evaporation rate to make them last longer. Essential oils are highly volatile (evaporate quickly), but vanillin is not. So, like in perfumes, the addition of vanillin to an essential oil based repellent helps reduce volatility and make the natural repellent last longer.

The studies I read did used synthetic vanillin, but I would rather use natural vanillin than artificial (an exception is noted in the comments section below this post regarding the use of imitation vanilla flavor – see our reply to Cameron).  But I have yet to find a place where you can buy pure, natural vanillin.

There are several species of Vanilla and the one that has the highest concentration of vanillin is Vanilla planifolia from either Mexico or Madagascar.

Mexican Vanilla can be rather expensive, but here is a quality vanilla from Madagascar (often referred to as Bourbon Vanilla) at a reasonable price: Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. If you don’t want to pay extra for the Bourbon vanilla, any vanilla extract would be fine – at least better than not using it at all. Even imitation vanillin, as noted above.

Homemade Insect Repellent

Using the research results of scientific studies, your best homemade insect repellent would include at least one of the following oils: lemon eucalyptus, catnip, neem, soybean and citronella.

Then, you would add pure vanilla extract to boost its effectiveness.

If you were to add a carrier oil to the mix, the best choice would be either coconut and/or soybean oil because they both have been proven to increase the protection time of repellent essential oils.

Make Your Own Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent (Similar to Repel’s Brand)

Repel’s Lemon Eucalyptus Repellent uses a 30% concentration of oil of lemon eucalyptus oil (OLE, aka Citriodiol®)* with ethanol, isoparaffinic solvent and a hydrocarbon propellent.lemon eucalyptus essential oil mosquito repellentWe’re going to use lemon eucalyptus essential oil, replace ethanol with isopropyl alcohol or witch hazel and ditch the solvent and propellent.

But wait, there’s more…

We are going to make it even better by adding vanilla extract, for the vanillin repellent-boosting factor. You can even ulta-boost the mix by adding soybean oil or coconut oil.

They say that Repel’s product will last 6 hours against mosquitoes, ticks, midges (no-see-ums), gnats, sand flies and stable flies and is comparable to a 25% DEET repellent. With the addition of vanilla and/or soybean oil or coconut oil, this formula should be even better!

You can always double the recipe later, but for now start with making an approximate 4-ounce mix to see how it works for you.

Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 25 drops (1/2 tsp) lemon eucalyptus essential oil
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract – Mexican or Madagascar Vanilla (from Vanilla planifolia) is best due to the higher vanillin content which is the repellent factor (or use imitation vanilla flavoring if the ingredients are vanillin, alcohol and/or water – read reply to Cameron in comments section for more info).
  • 4 ounces total of isopropyl (rubbing alcohol) or witch hazel OR INSTEAD USE…
  • 2 ounces of alcohol or witch hazel and
  • 2 ounces of soybean oil or coconut oil**

Directions:

  1. Mix the ingredients together in a small spray bottle that includes a cap to prevent accidental sprays or leaks if carrying in a backpack or similar. I always carry mine in a sealed ziploc bag.
  2. Shake well just before applying.
  3. Apply to clothes and exposed skin, being careful not to spray in eyes.
  4. Read Precautions***

*Tips When Buying Lemon Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Make sure not to get a blend, check the oil ingredients – some will say “Lemon Eucalpytus Oil”, but actually are a blend of eucalyptus (such as Eucalyptus globulus) and lemon (Citrus x limon) oils which is different than lemon eucalyptus oil derived from the lemon-scented gum tree (Corymbia citriodora aka Eucalyptus citriodora). The one I listed in the ingredient list is 100% pure lemon eucalyptus oil.

Also note that Lemon Eucalyptus Essential Oil is different than the US designated Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE or Citriodiol) which is a refined version with increased concentration of PMD (explained in list of natural mosquito repellent oils). Therefore, we cannot exactly duplicate Repel’s brand, but we can come close.

Broad-Spectrum Repellent Recipe

For a repellent against a variety of insects and multiple mosquito species, try this one using a combination of the best-acting, natural insect repellent essential oils with soybean or coconut oil and vanilla extract.

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol or witch hazel
  • 4 ounces soybean oil or coconut oil**
  • 10 drops lemon eucalyptus essential oil
  • 10 drops catnip essential oil
  • 10 drops citronella essential oil
  • 10 drops neem oil
  • 10 drops total in combination of any of the following oils by preference: Lavender, geranium, clove flower, lemongrass, lemon, peppermint, cedar leaf, turmeric, patchouli, castor seed and/or rosemary. These 10 drops are in addition to the 40 drops listed above (of lemon eucalyptus, catnip, etc.) so that you will be using a total of 50 drops of essential oil in this recipe.
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Mix the ingredients together in a small spray bottle that includes a cap to prevent accidental sprays or leaks if carrying in a backpack or similar. I always carry mine in a sealed ziploc bag.
  2. Shake well just before applying.
  3. Apply to clothes and exposed skin, being careful not to spray in eyes.
  4. Read precautions.***

**Using Soybean or Coconut Oil

Both soybean and coconut oil have been proven to extend the repellent’s duration of effectiveness, but soybean oil was definitely the winner. Note that most oils labeled as “Vegetable Oil” in your local grocery store are usually soybean oil, such as Wesson Vegetable Oil.

But if you want to use a different oil, coconut oil would be a good second choice.

Note that the melting point of unrefined coconut oil is 76 degree F which mean if you have your spray in an environment where the temperature is below 76 deg F, it may start to solidify and not spray anymore. Not a big deal, you would just have to apply it by hand.

However, it would be more difficult to “spray” on your clothes when it is in that colder state.

You could also purchase a liquid-state coconut oil that has higher medium chain fatty acids (MCTs) content.

***Important Precautions Before Using Natural Repellents:

  • Never use 100% pure essential oils on your skin; always use a dilution.  As a general rule for skin applications, use no more than a 5% essential oil concentration.
  • Test your repellent on a small area of skin for 24 hours to see if it causes any kind of irritation because of skin allergies or sensitivities to the oils.
  • Use your hands to apply the repellent to your face, keeping away from your eyes, nostrils and mouth. Avoid getting it into any open sores, wounds or cuts. Wash hands with soap and water after applying.
  • Do a test patch on clothing to see if it stains. If you leave out the soybean oil, it will have a reduced chance of staining. You could always make up one mix to put on clothing (no soybean or coconut oil) and a separate bottle for applying to skin (with soybean or coconut oil).
  • Avoid getting the repellent on leather, vinyl or other similar fabrics; the oil may permanently stain them.
  • Do not use on children under 3 years old or any child that may rub their eyes or lick skin that has been treated. This isn’t DEET, but it’s not meant to be ingested either. Use natural mosquito repellent sparingly on young children. Check with your family physician before using.
There are hundreds of mosquito species in the US. Try different repellent ingredients.

There are 176 mosquito species in the U.S. alone. (Photo courtesy of Bioquip)

Mix and Match To See What Works Best

Some of these oil are extremely effective as repellents against certain mosquito species while not so much with others.

There are 176 species of mosquitoes in the United States, 3,500 worldwide!

So you may need to try different oils and combinations to get the right formula that works best against the mosquito species in your area. What combination works well in Florida may not work in Alaska.

Well I’m glad you made it to the end of these 2 articles on natural insect repellents. It took me over a week or research to put it all together in some sort of logical order. I didn’t think it was going to be so complicated, but I’m glad I now know the truth of what works and what doesn’t. If you have any questions, please ask in the comment section below.

Using Essential Oils as a Repellent on Pets

DO NOT use the above repellent recipes on your pets. Dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, etc. all require different formulations. For example, there are essential oils that can be used on dogs, but are not safe and are toxic to cats. 

I have read that Rose Geranium Oil is an excellent tick repellent for dogs, not cats. Put one drop at the base and tip of the tail as well as between the shoulders. You could also just put a drop or two on your dog’s collar.

This site has some natural flea, tick and mosquito repellent recipes for dogs and cats, but I personally have not tried them.

Zika Virus

Latest updates for Zika Virus disease in the U.S. can be found here. The CDC recommends that pregnant women should not travel to areas with Zika. If you must travel, it is advised to use an EPA registered repellent that contains either DEET, picaridin, IR3535, para-menthane-diol, or oil of lemon eucalyptus (a more natural option) which is in Repel’s Lemon Eucalyptus Repellent.

What essential oils and ingredient blends have worked best for you?

What are your favorite essential oils to use as an insect repellent? Ever use any mosquito-repellent plants around your house? We’d love to know, so please comment below. 🙂

Works Cited: Tawatsin A, Wratten ST, Scott RR, Thavara U, Techadamrongsin T. 2001. Repellency of volatile oils from plants against three mosquito vectors. J. Vector Ecol; 6: 76-82: Abstract.

Like what you've read? Sign up for updates...It's FREE!

Get helpful tips delivered to your inbox.

Signup now and receive an email once I publish new content.

I will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Comments

  1. Hi, so I saw a recipe that called for this EO you are talking about also at 30% to make a bug spray and for it to be in soybean oil. My concern is that on the safety sheet it says to only use at 5% for skin applications…so how is it that it can be used at 30%? Is the recipe you gave here at 30%? The recipe i saw was for 32oz of soybean oil and 48ml lemon eucalyptus oil that you have listed as the real one. Is there a way to mxi in some other oils? I’m concerned about putting in too much EO’s…I have lavender and peppermint but how would i break that down ml wise for the recipe for 32 oz (to be put in qty 4 – 4oz containers). Also to double they said double the amount of EO again with the oil, it just seems like way too much EO….? thanks for any help and clarification on this.

    • Jcgl- As mentioned in the article above, Lemon Eucalyptus Essential Oil is different than the US designated Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE or Citriodiol used in Repel’s repellent) which is a refined version (explained further here) and is not the same as Lemon Eucalyptus Essential Oil. Therefore, we cannot exactly duplicate Repel’s brand that uses a 30% concentration of OLE, but we can come close.
      And yes, with the exception of a few essential oils, most should be diluted for adult skin application to a concentration of no more than 5%. If you can leave a link to the other recipe you are referring to from another site, I could comment on that, but without seeing its complete list of ingredients I do not know what the concentration is they are trying to achieve.

      • Hi, sorry I somehow missed this! Here is the link to the website and recipe. You will see that they are recommending 10% of the EO…it appears to be the same you are recommending isn’t it? However they use soybean oil and no other. BUT I am very sensitive to smells and so I am concerned about something that smells strong as I just can’t tolerate it AND don’t want to be trapped all summer! o this is tough. I tried Dr. Mercola’s natural bug-spray which is made with lemongrass, soybean oil, citronella oil and peppermint oil (total 10% EO). He also adds vanillin but in a water with potassium sorbate. I sprayed on my wrist and have a headache that is worsening almost 2 hours later 🙁 Therefore, I don’t think this other recipe I was originally referring to would work for me personally due to smell (as lemon eucalyptus I think is much stronger). Can you recommend any milder smells that still may work? What about the Madagascar bourbon vanilla you linked (I have the non alcoholic one of that same brand) with soybean oil and maybe peppermint?

        • jcgl – Lemon Eucalyptus, catnip, citronella, and neem oil have the strongest affect on repelling mosquitoes and other insects. If you look near the top of this page, I list “Other Plant Oils with Insect-Repellent Effects”. Perhaps you can mix and match a few of those, but they won’t work as well if not mixed with any of the other 4 listed, but you can try to come up with a recipe that won’t bother you. You’ll have to pick what you can tolerate. I know you mentioned using peppermint, which isn’t exactly a “mild” scent, so obviously not all strong scents are intolerable to you.

  2. Charles says:

    What kind of cost savings is one to expect by producing a homemade repellent, versus purchasing a commercial product with the same products?

    • Charles – As an example, we’ll compare the Repel product to our homemade version. Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent currently costs $5 for a 4 oz bottle at Amazon.
      If we purchase lemon eucalyptus essential oil, it currently costs $9 (including shipping) for a 30 ml bottle. We also need isopropyl alcohol which costs, on average, $2 for a 16 oz bottle.
      To make our repellent, we use 2.5 ml (75¢ worth) of the oil and 4 oz (50¢ worth) of the alcohol. So far the grand total is $1.25. So we are $3.75 ahead of the Repel product. We also have a more natural product since Repel uses a isoparaffinic solvent and a hydrocarbon propellent as other ingredients which is not necessary for our homemade version. Our total initial investment (from purchasing the oil and alchohol) has been $11, but we can use the remaining essential oil and alcohol to make additional bottles of repellent or use them for other purposes.
      My homemade version also uses a bonus repellent ingredient, vanilla extract. That would increase the price per bottle of course, but it also increases the repellent effect – even better than Repel’s product which does not contain vanilla.
      This is just one comparison example. Most often, if you purchase any of the essential oils that are listed in this article and mix them with a carrier oil like soybean or coconut combined with alcohol or witch hazel, you more often than not would be under the commercial product cost.

      • But your homemade product contains Catnip oil..you don’t even mention it in the cost comparison. Catnip oil is very expensive!!

        • Jane – The cost comparison was for the lemon-eucalyptus recipe that is comparable to Repel’s brand. The catnip essential oil is used in the broad-spectrum recipe. It does cost a lot up front, but one 10 ml bottle of catnip oil contains ~200 drops, so one bottle will make 20 batches of repellent using 10 drops of catnip oil for each.

  3. Thank you for putting this together. I am about to make some repellent for a gathering and am using your Repel-like recipe. I did notice that other sites with recipes for repellents use twice or three time the amount of essential oil, and in my research, customers complained when Repel reduced the amount of lemon eucalyptus oil it used. Have you found the 25 drops in a 4 ounce mix to be sufficient?

    • Nancy – The 25 drops has worked fine for us. You could try the recipe amount and see if it works for you and then if not, increase the concentration. Just be careful about using a concentration over 5% of essential oils if you are going to use it directly on skin, especially children, because it can cause irritation. You may want to test it first on a small area to see how your skin reacts to it.

  4. Where did you get the soybean oil?

  5. I was hoping to make up some repellent this weekend. I don’t have Lemon-Eucalyptus, but I do have Lemon (Citrus limon) and Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata). Would these have any effect on mosquitoes or is it pointless to use them since they aren’t Eucalyptus citriodora?

  6. Hi, I’m excited to try your recipe. Would vanilla essential oil do the same thing as the vanilla extract? Thank you so much!

    • Heather – The purpose of the vanilla extract (actually the vanillin compound within the extract) is to make the other essential oils in the repellent last longer because they tend to evaporate quickly once applied. The studies I’ve read have used vanilla extract or the vanillin compound by itself. They never mentioned using vanilla essential oil.

      So I did some looking, but when searching for the composition of vanilla essential oil, I found this article which states there is no such thing. A pure essential oil is “steam distilled, expeller pressed or cold pressed” which vanilla is not. The article further states, “Caution should be given to any source that claims to offer Vanilla labeled Pure Essential Oil.” So what is a product then that is labeled as such?

      To create vanillin in liquid form it is extracted though one of 5 methods: CO2, absolute, oleoresin, dilution or tincture. Depending upon which method is used will vary the vanillin content and I’m guessing the bottle of vanilla essential oil you have doesn’t state the method used nor the percentage of vanillin.

      So to make a long story short (sorry if I’ve overloaded you with TMI), try using your vanilla essential oil in the repellent. I don’t know if it will work exactly like vanilla extract, but it is worth a try. Obviously don’t use the same amount as I say for the extract since your product is concentrated. If you make the Lemon-Eucalyptus recipe, try 5-10 drops. If you make the generic Broad-Spectrum recipe, use 5 drops as part of the 10 total “combination” oils or use 10 drops in substitution for the combination oils. Hope that helps.

  7. christina villa says:

    Can you use alcohol free witch hazel in place of alcohol in these recipes, or does it need to be witch hazel containing alcohol?

    • Christina – If you are using pure essential oils (not water-soluble), then they will not blend with an alcohol-free witch hazel and the repellent will separate. The alcohol acts as an emulsifier and may also extend the shelf life of the oil blend. You could try to use the alcohol-free witch hazel, but probably will need to shake it before applying – sort of like an oil and vinegar salad dressing.

      • Thank you so much:) you are such a help!

      • Oh shoot… I didn’t realize that it was supposed to be the witch hazel with alcohol in it but that’s all I have. Can I add rubbing alcohol to the recipe (with witch hazel too) to prevent the separation? How much would I add?

        • Heidi – I have used witch hazel without the alcohol in this recipe and decided it worked just as well as using witch hazel with alcohol. I just made sure I shook the repellent well before using.

          • Okay, thanks! I am using synthetic vanilla with alcohol, so we’ll give it a go and see how it turns out. I appreciate your quick response, thank you!

  8. Hi
    I was wondering if I can Substitute Soybean Oil for either: Baby Oil, Olive Oil or Jojoba Oil?
    Thanks Very Much!

    • Ritinha – The reason why we use soybean oil is because it specifically extends the protection time of the natural repellent. If you do not like soybean oil, coconut oil would be a second good choice because it too works like soybean oil. You can certainly use mineral, olive or jojoba oils, but the repellent would need to be applied more often.

      Most would not recommend using baby oil as a carrier oil for essential oils. Baby oil is a perfumed mineral oil which is made from petroleum distillates. It forms a barrier on you skin and does not allow the essential oils to be absorbed. But since we are using it in a repellent forumula and not in a therapeutic application, it doesn’t matter as much.

  9. Kelsey K. says:

    Thank you for this! Our yard is always full of mosquitoes and while all three of my daughters get bit, one is especially allergic. I hate putting DEET on them anytime they want to play outside, especially because they are preschool and toddler age. I have mixed up my own essential oil bug spray now to spray their clothing, and so far it is working just as well, if not better, than the chemical stuff that we were using before.

    • Your welcome, Kelsey. I think using a natural repellent on children is especially a good alternative to DEET and other chemical-based repellents. Glad it’s working for you and the kids. 🙂

  10. Christine Rowe says:

    We live in the Panhandle of Florida and deal with mosquitoes as well as no-see-ums and biting flies when fishing or boating. This product works well; however, for your formula, if I needed to add something to make it water-repellant, would cyclo-dimethicone be appropriate?

    • Christine – I had to look up cyclo-dimethicone because I have personally never used it. I see it is a silicone conditioner and emollient that is soluble in alcohol and dispersible in oils and fats which would I guess would work in our formula. I wondering though if the natural insect repellent formula is already pretty water-repellent with all the oils it contains. For example, I noticed there is a product by Bite Blocker that states it is a 8-hour “waterproof formulation” and the only ingredients are what is listed below which seems to be mostly oils. I don’t see anything specific listed to make it water repellent and if it lasts 8 hours, that’s pretty good.

      Bite Blocker water repellent forumula: Soybean (Glycine Soja) Oil (3%), Geranium Maculatum (Geranium) Oil (6%), Castor (Ricinus Communis) Seed Oil (8%). Active Ingredients: Soybean (Glycine Soja) Oil (3%), Geranium Maculatum (Geranium) Oil (6%), Castor (Ricinus Communis) Seed Oil (8%)
      Inactive Ingredients: Water (Purified), Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Glycerine, Lecithin, Wintergreen Oil, Citric Acid, Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda), Benzoic Acid

  11. That is some extensive research ..Thank you!
    I was wondering if I could safely use the “Broad-Spectrum Repellent Recipe” to make a 8oz. insect-repellent spray for my dog (75lb/34kg) which has no health issues and a strong immune system. Would the percentage (drops) remain the same as for a human?

    • Niko – I cannot seem to find a consensus of what essential oils are safe for topical application to dogs and which are not. I personally have not used it on dogs, so unfortunately I cannot offer personal experience either.

      One of the problems with using essential oils on dogs and problems with toxicity appears to be the quality of the EO. You must use therapeutic grade oils which are steam distilled and do not contain any other chemicals as opposed to perfume/aromatherapy grade which may have been distilled with solvents.

      You would also need to dilute the repellent according to your dog’s weight which I have not found a ratio for either. Your best bet may be to ask your veterinarian who probably has some knowledge about using natural repellents for pets. Sorry for not being able to offer a more definite answer, but thanks for visiting our site.

    • Be VERY CAREFUL when using essential oils on pets! MANY of the oils are toxic and deadly to our pets. PLEASE, do the online research first before applying any essential oil to your pet. Thanks. 🙂

  12. I have been using Godrej Buzz off since 2 months. I always wonder what would be other inert ingredients along with DEET as it’s a water based solution.

    • Praful – I assume you are referring to Godrej Protekt Buzz-Off Anti-Mosquito Skin Spray? And are you asking what are the ingredients besides DEET? I went to their website and they list no ingredients, not even the DEET. I contacted them and asked for their ingredient list for the product. I’ll let you know if they respond.

      Godrej replied with this:

      We thank you for the interest shown on our product. Ingredients of Anti Mosquito Spray is available on the pack of the product.

      Strange that they wouldn’t just tell me. How would I order their product online without knowing what the ingredients are? They don’t even list the active ingredient on the product page. I guess you would know more than me by looking on the bottle.

      • Thank you, for your active response can I know what if I use N-N-Diethylbenzamide in repellent, what would be the other ingredients in aqueous base?

        • Praful – I’m having a little trouble understanding what you are asking. Are you asking that you want to make a repellent that is like the Godrej Anti-Mosquito Spray or do you simply want to know what the other ingredients are?

          I assume you read the bottle and it says it contains N,N-Diethylbenzamide (DEB), which is a closely related to N,N-Diethyl-3-methylbenzamide (DEET). And the only other ingredients listed on the bottle is in an “aqueous base” and you want to know what the other ingredients could be?

          I’m not sure when you ask, “…can I know what if I use (DEB) in repellent, what would be the other ingredients…” Are you saying you want to make your own repellent? And if so, are you saying you want to use DEB which I don’t believe anyone can just purchase since it is a toxic chemical. Only Godrej can tell you exactly what the ingredients are, I would only be guessing.

  13. Hi
    have just purchased all the ingredients to make your insect repellent, and thank you for sharing.
    Could you please tell me, how you get the Neem oil to stay liquid in the mixture. I have purchased unrefined Neem oil which is solid.

    • Sharon – In addition to the 10 drops of neem oil in the Broad-Spectrum Repellent Recipe, are you using soybean or coconut oil? As with the coconut oil which will be solid below 76 F (24 C), neem oil also will be solid below 53 F (12 C). I’ve never had a problem with it becoming solid because usually I am using it during the summer when temperatures are warm enough to keep it in a liquid state. You can try warming your repellent container in the sun, in your pants pocket or by placing it in a container of warm water to help liquify the neem oil before use.

      • I am using Soya. But my Neem oil is solid, i am in the UK and it is still cold here. I read that Neem is water soluble, will it dissolve in the Witch Hazel.

        • Unrefined neem oil requires an emulsifier to make it water soluble. Unless you want to add an emulsifier (i.e., soap) you will need to just warm it up to its liquid form before adding it to the other ingredients in the repellent recipe. Bring the neem oil it up to temperature so that it is liquid, then add the 10 drops to the repellent. If the other liquid ingredients are very cold, it may become solid again, but you can always warm it up again as noted previously.

  14. Cameron says:

    Synthetic Vanillin is completely indistinguishable from natural vanillin. Stop buying in to the natural vs synthetic dichotomy; “all-natural” is merely a buzzword used by companies to hype you up about their products. There is nothing that would make a natural chemical inherently safer or better for you than a synthetic one. In fact, some natural extracts are known to actually be MORE harmful than their synthetic counterparts due to the concentration of hazardous impurities from the extraction process.

    • Cameron – I agree, especially for a topical treatment as insect repellent that synthetic vanillin can be used. And if I can find an imitation vanilla flavor product that only contains vanillin in an alcohol base, I would use it. But currently at my grocery store the only initiation vanilla product contains more than just that including:

      Water, Propylene Glycol, Vanillin, Caramel Color, 0.1% Sodium Benzoate (Added As A Preservative), Phosphoric Acid, And Ethyl Vanillin

      I’m fine with synthetic vanillin, even if made from wood pulp lignin, clove oil eugenol or perhaps even from petrochemical precursors, guaiacol and glyoxylic acid. But I do not want propylene glycol irritant, carcinogenic caramel color or preservatives or corrosive acids added to my vanillin.

      So yes, use imitation vanilla for this homemade repellent if you want to save some money because chemically speaking, it is no different in composition than real vanilla. But I would recommend one without all the added ingredients as the above McCormick product has. Look for one that has nothing more than vanillin, alcohol and/or water.

      And beware – there is even fake imitation vanilla extracts that contain no vanillin. Remember it’s the vanillin in vanilla extract that repels mosquitoes, so if you buy fake vanilla extract with no vanillin, then you might as well not buy it at all.

      • Hi, I am about to mix everything up, I got the lemon eucalyptus oil, coconut oil, the alcohol, and was wondering if a homemade vanilla solution would work (it’s just a mixture of vanilla beans -a lot like 10 beans- in 1 cup/300cc very good quality vodka and nothing else)? What would happen if I left the vanilla out of the recipe? I need the repellent to work against aegis egiptae mosquitoes because I live in an area in the Caribbean with Zika, Chikungunia and Dengue. I am most grateful for the research you did and the work you put together, specially the duration charts! Thanks for your time!

        • Melina – Yes, you can use your homemade vanilla solution. If you leave it out, the repellent may not last as long. Research has shown that the vanillin in vanilla extract will increase the repellency time of the essential oils.

  15. Hello, I happened to be on the search for some mosquito repellent for my trip to Cambodia this summer and I was cruising on amazon and reading tons of comments, and somehow got to this lovely page.
    So I have no idea what DEET is, but it seems to be really bad.
    But onto my main point.
    The vanilla extract you had linked seems to be out of stock, would this be an okay alternative?
    http://amzn.to/1Gsk712

    Thank you so much for your clearly extensive research.

  16. Hi I was wondering if I can use vanillin in its powder form. It looks like I found some. Will it dissolve in the solution of essential oils, etc.?

    • Josh – I have never used any powdered form of vanillin and do not how well it will dissolve in this recipe. If you decide to try it with the powder, let us know how it goes.

      • Thanks for your reply. I will try to use some on my second batch. For my first batch, I went with 2 oz of soybean oil + 2 oz of alcohol + 25 drops of lemon euc. However, I think I have an issue with separation. After sitting on the table, I see a yellow clearer liquid (half) below and a white foamy substance (other half) on top. I’m using ethanol 90 for alcohol. Shaking distributes it pretty well but what do you think?

        • I’m not sure why you are getting that kind of separation. I use 70% isopropyl, but that shouldn’t make that much of a difference. There is some separation when stored, but like you, I just give it a shake before applying. I know some commercial brands use emulsifiers to make the blend not separate and be uniform, but I’ve never felt the need to add them.

  17. Jerry Dudley says:

    I live in Costa Rica, and have TONS of citronella growing on my property. Lemon grass also. I start my concoction by fine chopping equal amounts of both, filling a glass jar with the chopped leaves, then topping off with alcohol. I let it sit a few days, then strain the liquid into an equal amount of aloe gel. I will now add a dose of vanilla extract to my recipe. My question… How can I produce a more concentrated extract of my citronella/lemon grass??? Or, is my soaking method giving me the best I can hope for???

    • Jerry – If you want to stick with an alcohol method, to make it more concentrated allow the chopped leaves to soak in the alcohol for two weeks with lid sealed. After two weeks, strain the liquid and then either let the container sit out with no lid and wait for the alcohol to evaporate or place your container in the freezer – the oil will separate out on top from the alcohol which you can scoop off and then add to your aloe vera gel and vanilla. Aside from using more complicated methods, like steam distillation or hexane solvent extraction, this at-home method should make a more concentrated oil. How effective has your current repellent recipe worked?

  18. Jerry Dudley says:

    My recipe works well, but must be applied every couple of hours. A concentration should extend this timeframe. The vanilla may improve it as well. I’ll let you know.

  19. Dr Kulkarni Suresh says:

    A very good article, following the home tips.

  20. Hi I had another q: After spraying on skin, if you stop smelling the lemon eucalyptus or other EO’s on your skin after a couple of hours, does that indicate that it is no longer active in repelling mosquitoes? I’m kinda worried about this.. even with the vanilla extract, i can’t really smell it after about 2 hours.

    • Jerry Dudley says:

      In my experience, the smell is the indicator. If you can’t smell it, the bugs are not repelled. You may have a half hour or so more that it works, but not as effective. The more potent your extract, the more duration your repellant. Not to say the stronger the better, only to a point. Too strong and you could have a skin reaction (rash or itchiness).

    • The downside to using natural essential oils as a repellent compared to a synthetic repellent like DEET, is that it must be reapplied more often because of it volatility. So as to your question – if you stop smelling the oils on your skin, is it no longer repelling mosquitoes? Most likely you won’t have to guess – the mosquitoes will let you know. 😉 But yes, the EO repellent efficacy is reduced over time and you’ll have to reapply.

  21. Thank you for the excellent article! My vanilla extract says it has 2000 PPM vanillin, which is 0.2% concentration. When you refer to adding “5% vanillin” what volume/concentration do you use? The label of the vanilla extract in your link didn’t mention the concentration.

    • Merrin – The 5% vanillin referred to a study where they added synthetic vanillin (not vanilla extract) to a solution containing essential oils. The total concentration of the vanillin in the solution was 5% which is different that using a vanilla extract with a 5% concentration of vanillin. Since I did not want to use synthetic vanillin, I chose to use a vanilla extract that contains a higher concentration of vanillin which Madagascar does vs Tahitian, Mexican or Indonesian. When I asked a vanilla extract manufacturer what the concentration of vanillin was in their Madagascar extract they replied with this:

      Vanillin content varies no matter where the vanilla is grown and it varies by crop as well.

      I’m not sure how the Kirkland’s brand of vanilla extract can state exactly how many PPM of vanillin it contains. I have read that a cured vanilla pod, in general, contains anywhere between 1.5%-3% vanillin.

      So the amount of vanilla extract I use in the recipes (i.e., 1 tsp in the Repel Lemon Eucalyptus copycat recipe) is just an approximation. If you want to be more exact, you can purchase synthetic vanillin in powder form to replicate the 5% as used in the study.

  22. Thank you so much for a very informative page. I was wondering if you’d run across any effectiveness rates’ for the use against wood ticks? Thank you again for the info.

    • Angie – This study, “A Prospective Cross-Over Field Trial Shows Protection of Lemon Eucalyptus Extract Against Tick Bites”, demonstrated a significant reduction in bites by the European castor bean tick which is in the same family as our wood tick. 42 attached ticks were reported during the weeks when the Lemon Eucalyptus spray was used, and 112 were reported when it was not.

  23. Thank you so much for your quick response. I am planning on making this repellent for my little ones for extra bug protection on our daily outdoor adventures this summer. Glad to know that it has a measure of tick protection in addition to keeping flying bugs at bay. There has been an increase in local cases of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Thanks for researching and writing about this important topic. You may very well have prevented a lot of pain and suffering. I personally know how difficult battling a tick-borne illness is.

    I will keep track of the results of our woods/field studies and share what I find. Thanks again.

  24. Thank you for such an informative article! I have a question about the broad spectrum recipe. Is it a total of 50 drops of combined EOs, or 10 drops of one or the other?

    • Mandy – Yes, 50 drops total. Use 10 drops each of lemon eucalyptus, catnip, neem and citronella (40 total). Then add another 10 drops (to equal 50 total for the recipe) of one or a combination of these oils (lavender, geranium, clove flower, lemongrass, lemon, peppermint, cedar leaf, turmeric, patchouli, castor seed and/or rosemary.) So you could add 10 drops of peppermint oil, or 5 drops of peppermint and 5 drops of cedar leaf, etc.. Whatever combination you prefer to equal 10 drops.

  25. Thank you for such a well compiled article. I’m getting tired of reading DIY articles lacking references to the actual studies. It is inappropriate to withhold credit and much less interesting! I’ll certainly use this recipe this summer! It was fun reading the reasoning behind each ingredient.

  26. Hello

    My kids are under 3 but I don’t have a problem with them rubbing eyes or eating it, would it be safe for me to apply this homemade repellent?

    • Sandra – This is what the CDC says regarding the use of Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE) on children:

      Most repellents can be used on children aged >2 months… (However) Products containing OLE specify that they should not be used on children aged <3 years.

      I have to do some more digging as to the reason why since they offer no detailed explanation, but I would err on the side of caution and not use it on children under 3 years old.

  27. I read someone post somewhere that Neem oil should NOT be mixed with water, alcohol, vodka or witch hazel as it denatures the Neem. I have made an ounce of a 2 percent Neem and fractionated coconut oil repellent. I now wish it smelled better. Can I add another EO or two to my mix without messing it up, or do I have to start over? What if I want to add vanillin? This is my first attempt at this, so I am sorry if this is a dumb question.

    • MC – Neem oil is often mixed with water, solvents, emulsifiers, etc. for insecticide applications. One successful study tested it’s effectiveness as a mosquito repellent by using a mixture of neem oil and kerosene. Neem oil does have an off-putting odor, so yes, you can add another essential oil and/or vanillin to your mix without compromising the effectiveness of the neem oil.
      …and as Carl Sagan said:

      “There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question.” 🙂

  28. APRIL ALFRED says:

    In your 1 recipe you say to use 10 drops of lemon eucalyptus, catnip, neem, citronella, but the you say use 10 drops of some other oils. Should I be using all the oils you recommend?
    Thank You
    April Alfred

    • April – In addition to using the 10 drops each of lemon eucalyptus, catnip, neem and citronella, you will add 10 more drops in any combination of the essential oils that I listed, but you don’t have to use them all. For example you could use 10 drops of lavender or 5 drops of lavender and 5 drops of rosemary to equal the 10 drops. Whatever combination you want – 2 drops of geranium, 2 drops of clove, 2 drops of tumeric, 2 drops of cedar leaf and 2 drops of patchouli – which equals 10 drops total as well.

  29. Helen Cumerlato says:

    If I am not comfortable using anything with alcohol, can I substitute water?

    • Helen – Yes, you can substitute water or alcohol-free witch hazel for the alcohol. However, the alcohol acts as an emulsifier so without it, you will have to shake well before applying.

  30. Good day,
    I was wondering if I could make the recipe to repel all bugs without any soybean or coconut oil and just substitute those with an extra 4oz of rubbing alcohol for a total of 8oz of rubbing alcohol.
    Thank you in advance!

    • Mona – The soybean and coconut oils act as carrier oils for the essential oil so that they can be properly applied topically to the skin without irritation. The oils, especially soybean, also increase the repellent factor. I’m afraid substituting alcohol would not be a good choice. Do you not want to use any kind of oil or just not soybean or coconut? There are other carrier oils you can use as a substitution for either of them.

  31. Can I use catnip extract instead of the essential oil?

    • Sarah – There is a significant difference between catnip essential oil and catnip extract. The catnip EO is much more concentrated and contains only the volatile compounds of catnip. A catnip extract will be mostly composed of either alcohol, glycerin, water, or some other carrier liquid combined with a very small percentage of catnip oil.

  32. That link for the Madagascar vanilla has glucose syrup in it, isn’t that counterproductive?

    • Lori – The glucose syrup is not a significant factor, especially since it is a minor percentage of the entire repellent formula. Both male and female mosquitoes fulfill their sugar requirements from flowers and plants. Female mosquitoes bite us for the proteins in our blood. Carbon dioxide, type O blood, cholesterol metabolism, beer-drinkers and other factors have more effect on attracting mosquitoes. Other factors are listed on our other page here under the heading, “What Attracts Mosquitoes to Some People More Than Others?”.

  33. Many thanks for a very informative and well researched article. I have all the ingredients apart from the soybean oil. I live in Cyprus and to say it has been a world wide quest to get all the ingredients together is an understatement… I generally get bitten by mosquitoes 7 times a day, so am looking forward to trying out your formula. 👍

    • Nick – Glad our repellent article was helpful to you. I imagine it would be more difficult to find some of these ingredients in Cyprus. Soybean oil is sometimes labeled as “Vegetable Oil” which is usually more common – just double check the ingredient label which will list it as soybean. Hope the formula works for you – being bitten 7 times a day would certainly be annoying!

  34. Hello! Thank you very much for the great info in the article, as well as in the comments.
    I will soon start a round the world trip with my wife and 21 months old daughter and one of our biggest concerns are the mosquito related diseases. Since we will spend quite some time in southeast asia, we are looking for a repellent that offers the most protection possible being at the same safe, specially for our baby daughter.
    What do you think it will work best, the “25 drops of lemon eucalyptus…” recipe or the one with mixed oils (catnip+lemon eucalyptus…).

    Again, thank you very much.
    Nelson

    • Nelson – Since lemon eucalyptus has been studied extensively, is EPA-registered, endorsed as an insect repellent by the CDC and has shown to be comparable to a 25% DEET forumula, I would suggest using that recipe for your trip or purchase Repel’s Lemon Eucalyptus Repellent.

      You could also make the “Broad-Spectrum Repellent Recipe” as a backup to cover a wide range of mosquito or other insect species in Asia or other parts of the world where you will be traveling. For example, in one study, neem oil protected 85% from species in the genus Aedes, while only 37.5% from Armigeres species.

      • Hello again!
        Thank you for such a fast reply!
        I’m afraid that an equivalent to 25% DEET formula will not be enough for some areas. In most of the travel forums, travelers advices are towards a 50% plus DEET repellent, the same was told to me by a tropical diseases doctor.
        I’ll look into the prominent mosquito species in southeast Asia and in the other places where we are planing to visit.

        Another concern is the combination with sun protection. I’m not a fan of sunscreen and I’m reading around to look for a natural ingredients recipe. While searching, I wondered if it’s somehow possible to do a all-in-one recipe. For example, by adding to the recipe of the repellent carrot seed oil and red raspberry seed oil.
        Am I wanting more than I could wish?

        I’m very thankful for the help!

        • Yes, unfortunately it would be difficult to find an all-natural repellent formula that is equivalent to a 50%+ DEET product. There are always trade-offs. However, remember that the DEET percentage is related to time, not any one moment of efficacy against your chances of being bit.
          From the CDC:

          The concentration of DEET in a product indicates how long the product will be effective. A higher concentration does not mean that the product will work better; It means that it will be effective for a longer period of time….Higher concentrations of DEET may have a longer repellent effect, however, concentrations over 50% provide no added protection.

          DEET Concentration and Avg Hours of Protection:
          5-10% 2-3 hours
          15-24% 4-5 hours
          25-30% up to 6.5 hours

          Therefore, if you will be exposed to mosquitoes for a shorter period of time (less than 6 hours), there is no need for a 50% DEET product. However, with that said, I understand wanting a stronger product when the consequence for you and your family of being bit is more than an annoying itchy spot, such as contracting malaria, viral encephalitus, yellow fever, etc..

          We make our own natural sunscreen with zinc oxide. Carrot seed oil and red raspberry seed oil do have high SPF ratings as a pure oil, however in order to use them on your skin so they won’t cause irritation, they must be diluted to a maximum 5% concentration. In fact, using it directly can actually increase photosensitization. So by the time the carrot seed or raspberry seed oil is diluted, the SPF value has decreased significantly.

          The CDC recommends applying a sunscreen product first, then your DEET repellent. They do not recommend using a combination product because the instructions for safe use of DEET and safe use of sunscreen are different. Also, typically sunscreen must be applied more often (i.e., from sweating or being in the water) whereas DEET products should be used sparingly. There may also be times when you don’t need the sunscreen such as at dusk, and only need to apply the repellent.

  35. I don’t know how to express my gratitude. I was not aware about the relationship between the concentration and duration of Deet repellent (It’s dumb, I know). Now, I’m sure that I’ll go for an Deet-free repellent. The decision is to made our own or buy the one you mentioned above. The need to travel light it’s not compatible with lots of glass botles. Maybe we can be cost effective and take 2 or 3 bottles of ready to use home made repellent.

    Regarding the sunscreen, I’ll look to your recipe! Thank you very very much. I’ll keep informed about my next steps and how it worked for us.

    • It’s not dumb, and most people, including myself (until I did research for this article on natural mosquito repellents), are not aware of what the DEET concentration in a product really means. And my explanation was not meant to dissuade you from using DEET – just perhaps a lower concentration.

      The lemon eucalyptus recipe is meant to be similar to Repel’s version, however there is no way (without lab testing) to know whether it is exactly as effective. The active ingredient in oil of lemon eucalyptus that repels mosquitoes is PMD (para-menthane-3,8-diol) which the CDC endorses as repellent. In fact, PMD is the only plant-based repellent that has been advocated for use in disease endemic areas by the CDC (study).

      On Repel’s label the ingredient lists 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus of which is 65% PMD. I cannot guarantee that this recipe contains that much or not. So if you are absolutely not wanting to use DEET, I would recommend getting Repel’s Lemon Eucalyptus Repellent as opposed to making your own. Again, there is a big difference between using this in our backyards or on a camping trip here in the U.S. against annoying bites vs. protecting yourself against potential life-threatening diseases around the world.

      You still may want to consider using a DEET product (perhaps 30% or less) or consider a 20% Picaridin product which still has potential side effects, but not as severe as DEET. Or perhaps you can use the Repel on your exposed skin and the DEET or Picaridin only on your clothes – although that means bringing 2 bottles instead of 1 which is against the rules of traveling light. 🙂

      You may want to take a look at the Consumer Reports article that discusses their results of comparing lemon eucalyptus, picaridin and DEET products.

  36. I am so pleased to have found your recipe! I am disabled with a compromised immune system and have to be careful. The last time I used DEET I got a bad chemical burn everywhere I sprayed. No more DEET for me–ever. I can’t wait to try this. I’ll test it on a small spot first but I don’t see anything I can’t tolerate. WOOT! Thank you! You may have saved camping for me. Seriously.

  37. Hello! Thank you so much for such good information! Before I find this page, I have read a lot about Neem oil and Coconut oil and bought both of them as 16oz each. I can’t wait to mix them up and fight mosquitoes! Now these products has arrived and I feel the smell of Neem oil is hard to handle, and I don’t know how to mix them since I only had these two type of oil which is much less ingredients than your recipes. Since I don’t want to spend a lot money on all the other oils on your recipes (summer will be over soon), Could you suggest: 1. if I only want to add one of other oil to help help on the smell also, what would you suggest? 2. with Neem oil, coconut oil and one of your suggested oil, could you advise a good percentage to use? (I don’t mind to use alcohol as an emulsifier).
    Thank you very much! I will definitely try with other oils for beginning of next summer.

    • Tori – If you want to add only one other essential oil, I would suggest lemon eucalyptus. You could follow our broad-spectrum recipe, using 4 oz isopropyl, 4 oz coconut oil, 1 tbsp vanilla extract and then a total of 50 drops of essential oil – this could be split equally between the neem and lemon eucalyptus. So 25 drops of neem and 25 drops of lemon eucalyptus. However, I do not know if the neem oil scent will still be too strong at this ratio. You may have to experiment, such as 20 drops neem + 30 drops lemon eucalyptus or even 10 drops neem + 40 drops lemon euc.. until the scent is acceptable to you.

  38. I want to prepare mosquito repellent oil from eucalyptus oil, neem oil, peppermint oil, coconut oil. How many concentrations do I use to prepare this oil? I mean how much percentage of them I use?

    • Nayyar – Follow our broad-spectrum repellent recipe, substituting your essential oil preferences. Substitute the lemon eucalyptus, catnip and citronella oils with your neem, peppermint and eucalyptus oils so that the total drops equal 50. Use the coconut oil and isopropyl as listed.

  39. Hello. thanks for the well-written post. Since OLE should not be used on children under 3 years old, I think it’s safe to assume it should not be used on Pregnant or Breast-feeding women. Dr Mercola also suggested this precaution in his article here.

    He recommends a 10% concentration of OLE (I think yours is 2% right?…1/2 tsp is 2.5 mL and total recipe volume is 127.5mL) but he doesn’t mention choosing soy or coconut oil as the carrier oil, nor adding vanilla extract for longer-lasting power. Thanks for adding those helpful bits!

    I am still confused about the difference between OLE and PMD. Can one actually buy PMD? Is it more effective yet still just as safe as OLE? Does Repel use PMD and that’s why they go up to 30%? Does Repel’s higher concentration of OLE/PMD simply translate to a longer staying power (like how the DEET concentration works)?

    Thanks in advance! Going to use this tonight at a baseball game. Got some nasty bug bites last time, and the large red welts didn’t go away for a month so I used nightly vitamin E oil for a week and they disappeared.

    • Sierra – PMD (para-menthane-3,8-diol) is derived from citronellal, a naturally occurring chemical compound found in the lemon eucalyptus plant and is the pesticide component of the oil when extracted. You can read more about it in this EPA PMD Fact Sheet (pdf).

      PMD is only one component of OLE (oil of lemon eucalyptus) which should be noted is different than lemon eucalyptus essential oil. The trademarked name is Citriodiol®. What’s more confusing is that Citriodiol® is referred to as “OLE” is the U.S., simply as “PMD” in Canada, “Extract of Lemon Eucalyptus” in Australia and “PMD Rich Botanic Oil” (PMDRBO) in Europe. Here’s an excerpt from the makers of Citriodiol®

      While some publications and even regulatory authorities do refer to Citriodiol® as “PMD”, this is not accurate. PMD is only one of the components in Citriodiol®. The rest is made up of the other components derived from Eucalyptus citriodora (lemon eucalyptus) oil. Researchers have shown that pure PMD is about 50% less effective as a repellent than PMD left in this natural mixture (i.e. Citriodiol®)

      So OLE is actually more effective than PMD alone. Does Repel use PMD? Yes, as it is the primary component of OLE as you can see in their ingredient list: 30% OLE, of which contains 65% p-menthane-3,8-diol (PMD).

      So our lemon eucalyptus repellent recipe is not exactly trying to duplicate Repel’s brand since we are using lemon eucalyptus essential oil as a whole, not the derivative, OLE. Lemon eucalyptus essential oil is comprised of 75% citronellal which is the main repellent property. When citronellal is converted into Citriodiol® (OLE), it results in a compound containing ~65% PMD along with other minor components of the citronellal. So in short, OLE which contains PMD, is a synthesized product meant to create a concentrate of PMD.

      Our concentration of lemon eucalyptus essential used in the recipe cannot really be compared to the OLE concentration in Repel’s since they are not the same thing. With the addition of vanilla and soybean and/or coconut oil (all of which have be shown to have repellent properties) to the lemon eucalyptus EO, it seems to be a good balance and works well enough for us. Repel’s forumula does contain OLE (as well as ethanol, isoparaffinic solvent and a hydrocarbon propellent), but not vanilla or coconut oil.

  40. I have madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans. Can I use that? How would I add that to the bug spray?

    • Nicole – A 2-inch piece of vanilla bean is approximately the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. You could try to use that conversion to substitute the vanilla extract in the repellent recipe, but I have never used vanilla bean caviar directly, so I’m not sure how it will turn out. You could also create an extract from your beans, but it takes at least a month to soak the beans in alcohol before it’s ready to use.

  41. Hello! Thanks for the wonderful and well documented recipes. I have a question, is it ok to use cheap vodka instead of alcohol? I have both so what do you suggest me best?

    I also have coconut oil, my question is if this will improve the formula or if it works the same without it.

    Thanks and sorry about my English I’m not native speaker. Hope I asked well.

    • Shannon – The alcohol content of vodka ranges between 35% – 50%, where as isopropyl is between 70% – 90%. The lower alcohol concentration may affect solubility and shelf life.
      Yes, coconut oil will improve the formula because it increases the protection time.
      Your English is fine. Yes, you did ask well. 🙂

  42. Thanks so much for your fast response and for sharing this information. I will use the alcohol then! 🙂

  43. I just made a solution of 10% lemon eucalyptus to 90% witch hazel. How much vanilla extract should I add? Thank you.

  44. Hi
    So appreciative of your article. I am based in the UK, but traveling.
    I wanted to know if neem oil, lemon eucalyptus, vanilla and soybean oil. Would be enough?
    2. Is soya oil and soybean oil the same thing?
    3. I have seen the vegetable oil as you mentioned, but it was made with GM soybean, does that matter?
    And finally (phew!)😊
    4. Is the soybean oil advertised for horses the same oil for humans?

    Thanks in advance for your response
    Rgds
    Clare

    • Clare:
      1. That combination should work, however I’ve personally never tried it. You may have to experiment and tweak.
      2. Real soya oil comes from the plant, Glycine soja, whereas soybean oil comes from Glycine max. What may be confusing, however, is that there is a brand name, Admiration Soya Oil, which is made from soybeans.
      3. GM soybeans, as far as I know, are as effective as non-GM soybeans in regards to extending repellent properties.
      4. I couldn’t find much info on equine soybean oil. I assume it’s processed similarly to soybean oil used for human consumption. In fact, the way people love their horses, I imagine it could be even a better product than the human’s version. 🙂 If it’s fortified in someway, then that may effect its usage in the repellent, but honestly I do not know.

  45. Can I use the actual REPEL product and add some vanillin along with peppermint essential oil? That way I would not have to create from scratch my own spray. Also I would take advantage of the 65% p-Menthane-3,8-diol ingredient, which is much stronger than regular lemon eucalyptus oil (so I have read).

    • Bo – I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t add the vanillin and peppermint essential oil to the Repel Lemon Eucalyptus product, however…
      The Repel product lists 70% as “other ingredients”. On their website, they have stated, “We don’t release complete listings of active and inactive ingredients” – so I cannot say how adding the vanillin and peppermint eo will react with those “other” ingredients or any of the other active ingredients they have not listed. If you do add the peppermint, as with using all EOs, make sure it is not over 5% of the total solution to avoid skin irritation.

  46. Can I make lemon eucalyptus oil that can be used in place of a pre made
    Blend?

    If so is it a 50/50 blend?

    • Sunni – Lemon eucalyptus oil is not a blend of lemon essential oil and eucalyptus essential oil. It is made from the leaves and twigs of one species of Eucalyptus tree, Corymbia citriodora formerly Eucalyptus citriodora, also known as the lemon-scented gum tree. It has unique properties, containing 80% citronellal from the essential oil, which you would not have if you were to combine lemon and eucalyptus essential oils.

  47. I can’t find any vanilla extracts that have vanillin as an ingredient the ones I am looking at say “Vanilla Bean Extractives In Water And Alcohol 41%” or something like that. Is this the same thing as synthetic vanillin? Could I use this in the insect repellent? It does not have all the other ingredients such as glycol or caramel coloring.

    • Bo – Vanillin is a natural component of vanilla bean, so if you are using real vanilla extract, like the one you mention, it will have vanillin in it, but it won’t be listed as an ingredient. We have suggested using Mexican or Madagascar vanilla extract because they naturally contain higher amounts of vanillin, and it is the vanillin that repels mosquitoes. But you can use whatever vanilla extract you like.

      You would only see the ingredient, “vanillin”, listed on an artificial or imitation vanilla product. It is synthetically produced, but has the same chemical structure as the natural vanillin found in real vanilla bean extracts.

  48. This is very helpful! I have done some coursework in essential oils myself so this is great. I’m wondering if anyone has any experience using this with what we call “black flies” in the north – little gnats, no-see-ems, whatever – that swarm the hairline and bite. Some, like me, even get a mild fever after being bitten. I’ve used an old formula from Burt’s Bees – not their current product – which is really effective but no longer available. Repel seems to work ok.

    • Mary – For gnats, the best essential oils to use are: Eucalyptus globulus, lemongrass, spearmint, peppermint, citronella, lemon-eucalyptus, thyme and catnip. For biting black flies: cedar, lavender, sassafras, lemon, eucalyptus globulus, pennyroyal, geranium, citronella, pine, spearmint and peppermint. The lemon-eucalyptus recipe above works best on mosquitoes for us. I’ll use the broad-spectrum recipe when I know I’ll be in places where gnats and/or black flies are more of a problem.

      I see the current Burt’s Bees repellent contains mostly rosemary and lemongrass oil, along with cedar, peppermint, citronella, clove and geranium oils. Do you know what was in the old formula or how it was different?

  49. Suresh kulkarni says:

    Very good article. Is there any herbal solvent instead of any alcohol. Z for mosquito repellent vaporizer.

  50. Suresh kulkarni says:

    Thanks for your attention to words. Last one year I am trying to do ayurvedic plant mosquito repellent vaporizer with ethanol. Now that is so much costly. We dropped that idea. You advised witch hazel.
    Is it available in india, affordable, please guide me in this matter. Your all advised are remarkable. Thanks.

  51. Suresh kulkarni says:

    Thanks, I am trying your advice and will be reporting later on. Again, thanks.

  52. Can you please share if you know these formulas to work for No See Ums also? And/or if there is something to add to the formula that would work. I have heard a combination of witch hazel, tea tree oil and Listerine has been known to work on no see ums but that doesn’t usually take care of the mosquitoes.

    I go to an area in Mexico near Cancun that has both mosquitoes (which can in certain seasons carry dengue fever) and no see ums, which in some seasons are almost worse! Ideally, I’d love to find a blend that takes care of both and one that I can also add red raspberry oil to the coconut oil to add to the sunscreen effect.

    I thought of trying a blend of the following – but not sure what amounts to use: Witch Hazel, Citronella, Eucalyptus, Tea Tree Oil, Spearmint, Lemongrass, Lavender (only a couple drops because I can hardly stand the smell), coconut oil, raspberry seed oil, and a small bit of Listerine. And now maybe your Mexican vanilla extract. (Does it ever get old?) Thanks!

    • CC – I know that Repel’s product only uses lemon eucalyptus which they say is effective against midges (no-see-ums). I have also read about using the Listerine & tea tree oil combination. It’s interesting to note that Listerine contains eucalyptol and thymol.

      Eucalyptol is a natural compound found in several essential oils (camphor laurel, bay leaves, tea tree, mugwort, sweet basil, wormwood, rosemary, common sage, cannabis sativa), but the highest amounts are found in Eucalyptus species, especially Eucalyptus globulus. Thymol is derived from common thyme (Thymus vulgaris). Both Eucalyptol and thymol are known mosquito repellents.

      I would say then, that using a combination of lemon eucalyptus, Eucalyptus globulus, and tea tree oils would be a good start for a mosquito & no-see-um repellent. You could also add the other oils you mentioned in some combination with these three until you found the best effective formula.

      Follow our “Broad Spectrum Repellent Recipe” above to get an idea of ratios. 50 total drops of essential oils, 4 ounces of coconut oil, as much raspberry seed oil needed for the sunscreen effect, vanilla extract and instead of the 4 oz of rubbing alcohol, you could use a combination of witch hazel and Listerine – not sure in what proportions, perhaps start with 2 oz of each. Something you’ll have to experiment with.

  53. Thank you for posting this information. I wish I would have found this before I ordered NOW Foods Lemon Eucalyptus Oil. The oil I got is a blend of lemon oil, eucalyptus oil & lemongrass oil. I now know that is the wrong oil to use. However, I went ahead and made a batch. Hopefully it will provide some protection. I did use the correct vanilla and I used coconut oil. I have used the Repel version with great luck before…just want something more natural. I like making my own products for my family.

    • Tiff – The lemon, eucalyptus and lemongrass oils still have insect repellent properties, so all is not lost. If you feel like it isn’t providing enough protection, you could always add some lemon eucalyptus essential oil (made from Corymbia citriodora aka Eucalyptus citriodora) later on to enhance the repellent factor.

  54. Suresh kulkarni says:

    Hello sir,
    With deodorant kerosene which essential oils compatible. Because , in practical deodorant kerosene and essential evaporating but not getting same smell. What is the solution

  55. Hello, I am hoping no one asked this question yet but I tried to read all the comments and I ran out of time. I’ve been working on formulating a lotion bar that helps deter bugs and I came across ur article. I would like to add vanillin into my lotion bar but the liquid won’t mix in with the oils without an emulsifier. My plan is to try vanilla EO (I forget the technical name) and possibly vanilla beans. Do u think the vanilla beans will be of any help? Thank a ton!

    • Maggie – The vanilla beans should have some effect since vanillin would still be present. I assume you will be scraping out the vanilla bean caviar from the pod and mixing it into your lotion bar? Technically, there is no such thing as vanilla essential oil (more info here). Do you mean vanilla oleoresin or vanilla absolute?

  56. The vanilla extract changed the color of the mix (got the good one). Will this be hard to wash out? I substituted soybean oil with castor oil, only 20 drops for 4oz of distilled water and witch hazel. The EO I used was: lemon grass, peppermint, lemon, clove and eucalyptus and neem.

    • Kim – I’ve never had a problem with staining using the vanilla extract, but I would suggest testing on a small area of clothing first and see how it washes out, especially on light-colored fabrics.
      When you say you substituted soybean oil with castor oil – do you mean you used 4 oz of castor oil? If so, I don’t know how the castor oil may affect staining because I’ve never made that substitution. Also, using distilled water instead of alcohol and/or witch hazel only may affect how the oils are distributed in the solution and how it is absorbed when sprayed on clothing.
      Are the 20 drops you mention referring to how much vanilla extract you used? If so, that is about 1 ml which is significantly less than the 1 tbsp in the broad-spectrum repellent recipe. I wouldn’t expect it to stain, since I have used 1 tbsp and haven’t had any problems, but again, you’ve made some substitutions and I don’t know how they will affect the recipe. The best thing to do is test it.

      • Thank you for your prompt reply. I am terribly allergic to mosquito bites and so is my son. I hide during the summer since 1 bite would itch for 2 weeks and leave a dark spot on my skin for over a year. I reviewed your reply and re-read your formulas again. I added more vanilla to make it a total of 1 tbsp and added more neem to make it 1 full tsp for an 8 oz bottle and a total of 130 drops with the EO. I added the castor oil and witch hazel because I don’t have soybean oil on hands and Amazon delivery charge is to much for soybean oil. I do have the virgin coconut oil but it’s solid most of the time and I like the spray better than rubbing it in. I will try to find something the soybean oil in the grocery stores, I have rice bran oil on hands would that work? I am trying to be ready for this summer since the Zika map is showing they are coming.

        • Kim – Most bottles labeled as “vegetable oil” are actually 100% soybean oil. For example, Wesson Vegetable Oil is soybean oil. If you look on the label it will say, “Ingredient: Soybean oil”. So you probably can find a bottle of vegetable oil (Wesson or some other brand, even generic) at your local grocery store that is soybean oil.

          • Thank you so much for your quick reply! I am sure I can find Wesson Vegetable Oil in the local stores. My son sprayed a centipede bug after I mixed the solution and it killed it. I hope it will do the same for mosquitoes. Thanks again for your article and your responses!

  57. Heather says:

    I must admit I’m a little hesitant to try this because I have tried so many recipes that were absolute failures. But your reasoning and research is excellent. Do you personally find any difference in effectiveness when leaving out the coconut/soybean oil? 2 natural repellents that I purchased instantly stained material on patch testing. Also, do you know if diffusing either of these EO blends (for mosquitoes or broad spectrum) near you outdoors would be effective?

    • Heather – I’ve never used the repellent without either coconut or soybean oil so I can’t say if it’s just as effective without it. What were the 2 natural repellent brands that stained?
      I’ve also never used the solution in a diffuser, though it may be worth trying. I imagine, however, it would only work for a limited distance, i.e, sitting right next to one placed on a table outside…
      Although this mosquito deterrent reed diffuser that uses Geraniol (Skeeter Screen) claims it covers 250 square feet area and lasts for 3 months (8 oz), so it may be more effective than I would have thought.

  58. Hi this looks amazing!
    I’m very to keen to make this repellent asap. My daughter was bitten by a deer tick 2 weeks ago – yuck! (we thought it came from a walk in the woods). Yesterday I witnessed a female adult tick in my garden crawling onto my pet rabbit – YUCK!! I know I’m overreacting but I’m feeling infested!
    So my plan is to spray the rabbits & the cat as well as my kids ankles when the go in the garden.
    Does this sound like a good plan? Would it be ok to use on the pets too? Would the repel alternative mix be ok to use of rabbits & cats?
    I have all the oil but its the vanillin I’m struggling with – most contain sugar or syrup. Would this attract ticks or over biting bugs, wasps,bees ?
    Thanks, Elmo.

    • Elmo – The repellent recipes listed here are formulated for humans only. Dogs, cats, rabbits and other pets require different formulations. For example, there are oils that can be used on dogs, but are not safe to use on cats. Same with rabbits. And each individual pet may respond differently. This page has a natural flea and tick spray recipe for cats that uses dried herbs – neem, catnip, lavender, and peppermint. Haven’t found one for rabbits yet.
      There are vanillin or vanilla extract products that do not contain sugar or syrup. This Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract contains only vanilla bean extractives in water and alcohol.

      • ah thanks I will hold off from spraying the pets and make something else for them.
        Thanks for he link but we live in the uk & it’d be pricey to ship so I bought some vanilla extract with sugar. hopefully it’ll be ok.

        • The vanilla extract with sugar will be ok to use. Because sugar can attract mosquitoes, some people prefer not to use a vanilla extract that contains sugar, but it’s such a small amount by the time you mix it in with the rest of the repellent solution, I don’t think it will matter.

  59. Hi! I found some cheaper vanilla. The ingredients: water, alcohol 10%, vanillin, artificial flavors and caramel coloring. Is this okay to use? Thank you.

  60. Hi there, as a scientist and someone who respects health and healing, I found this article to be incredibly thoughtful, helpful, and user-friendly; thank you. I plan to make two solutions available in spray and wipe form to combat the Aedes species of mosquitoes associated with Zika. I will be reducing the oil in the spray solution for my clothing. My main question is in regards to creating a solution available in wipe form. would it be okay to pour any of the recipes on Johnson’s hand & face wipes alcohol free wipes and let soak in a ziplock? If so, how long would the wipes likely stay potent? Our trip is 14 days.

    • Dr. O-O – I’ve never used the recipe in hand wipe form, so I’m not really sure how long they would stay potent. If you do make wipes, I would suggest using a more natural-ingredient wipe than Johnson’s because I’m not sure how the repellent ingredients would be affected by the chemicals and additives in the wipes:

      Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate, Glycerin, Carbomer, Coco-Glucoside, Glyceryl Oleate, Lauryl Glucoside, Polyglyceryl-2 Dipolyhydroxystearate, p-Anisic Acid, Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Glyceryl Polyacrylate, Parfum

      Or you can go all-out basic and use a strong paper towel wipe like Debbie did here for her natural insect repellent wipes.
      Hope you have a great, bite-free trip!

  61. Hi will this recipe work for head lice – repellent and dealing with infestation?

    • I don’t know if it would work for head lice. It is meant to mainly repel mosquitoes, biting flies, gnats and ticks. I know some have used tea tree, neem, and eucalyptus oils for head lice treatment. This page has some DIY remedies for head lice that includes using essential oils.

  62. Hello there, thank you for the helpful article. In the second recipe you do mention the neem oil as an essential oil, is it really an essential oil? Because I cannot find it on the internet labeled as ‘essential’ but as simply ‘pure oil’. Thank you

    • Marios – I contacted about 10 different websites that either specialize in neem oil or essential oils in general. Most of them consider it a carrier oil or simply a vegetable oil, however one company did say: “Neem is considered an essential oil.”
      Another said:

      Neem oil is actually a fatty carrier oil, but it is often sold as an essential oil since most aromatherapy applications use it like an essential oil.

      The technical definition of an essential is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants.
      I agree with the above explanation that neem is used like an essential oil. This company sells it and labels it as Neem Essential Oil, a “100% Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil”. Most high quality neem oils are cold pressed. But I will find neem oil sold, as the one previously mentioned, in 5ml bottle like other essential oils, but then also in 15 oz bottles, like this product for a fraction of the price per ounce, yet both are unrefined and cold pressed. You never see other high quality vegetable oils, like olive oil, for example, sold in 5 ml bottles. I’ll admit, it’s confusing, especially when companies that actually sell neem don’t seem to agree on its classification.

  63. Your receipe: Use 10 drops each of lemon eucalyptus, catnip, neem and citronella (40 total). Then add another 10 drops (to equal 50 total for the recipe) of one or a combination of these oils (lavender, geranium, clove flower, lemongrass, lemon, peppermint, cedar leaf, turmeric, patchouli, castor seed and/or rosemary.

    I only have neem and citronella and missing catnip and lemon eucalyptus. I used 15 neem, 15 citronella, 10 clove, 10 lemongrass, 10 peppermint, 10 rosemary. It’s more than the 50 drops but I worry since I don’t have catnip and lemon eucalyptus? I haven’t test it yet but I will be traveling to New Orleans soon, the bugs there are vicious. Will this be okay without the catnip and the lemon eucalyptus?

    • Kim – I think that combination will work fine. The addition of catnip and lemon eucalyptus is there to broaden the repellency effect, but I’m sure yours will work well too. Let us know how it worked when you return from NOLA!

  64. Hi I made a batch last week but how long should I expect its ‘shelf life’ to last?
    Also how long does one application stay active for? (If I cant smell it on me anymore does it mean its time to reapply? )
    thanks

    • I usually mix a new batch of repellent once a year. Yes, if you can’t smell it, its effectiveness is dwindling…but the mosquitoes are the best indicators – they’ll let you know when you should reapply. 🙂

  65. Hi is this best sprayed onto skin or clothing?
    Should it be head to toe coverage? I’ve been doing wrists and ankles points (clothed).
    I was thinking about making a balm/oil
    Using coconut oil that solidifies.
    Would it be the same ratio substituting the witch hazel for coconut oil ?

    • I’ve used on both skin and clothing. Test for skin sensitivity (24 hours) and test a spot on your clothes for staining issues. I mention above under “Important Precautions Before Using Natural Repellents” how you can make one batch for applying to clothes (to decrease chance of staining) and one for applying to skin.
      You can spray it anywhere you think you may get bit – obviously not into eyes, nostrils, mouth, ears, or any sensitive areas.
      Never made a balm with this recipe so I’m not sure about substituting the witch hazel for coconut oil.

  66. Would you recommend ethyl vanillin or ‘plain’ vanillin for bug sprays?
    (Deeply apologize if you’ve already answered this somewhere…)

    • SJM – Vanillin, yes, but I’m not sure about ethyl vanillin, because it has a different chemical structure than ‘plain’ vanillin. I know it has a stronger flavor element compared to vanillin, but I don’t know how that converts as far as repellency goes. The repellent studies were done with vanillin, not ethyl vanillin which differs from vanillin by having an ethoxy group (–O–CH2CH3) instead of a methoxy group (–O–CH3).

  67. I plan on testing a version of your Broad-Spectrum Repellent Recipe out at the lake.

    However, I will NOT be testing Rose Geranium oil on my pets, because geraniums are known to be extremely toxic to both dogs & cats.
    http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/geranium
    http://homeguides.sfgate.com/toxic-geraniums-dogs-50042.html

    • If ingested, geraniums are definitely toxic to dogs and cats, however the consensus seems to be that Rose Geranium Oil is safe to use on dogs, not on cats. I believe there is a difference between ingesting the plant vs. using a couple of drops on their fur and/or collar. Vets recommend applying one drop between the shoulder blades and one drop on the base of the tail or – an even safer method – apply the oil only to the collar.

  68. Vanessa says:

    I found culinary grade imitation vanilla on amazon.
    http://amzn.to/29f1QJf

    They have the clear and one with caramel color. The clear imitation vanilla has vague description of ingredient flavors, but the caramel colored vanilla only lists the preservative and coloring as extra ingredients. Would the caramel color and preservatives be ok in the solution?

    • Yes, the caramel color and preservatives are ok. They won’t affect how the vanillin performs in the repellent. Some like the clear vanillin if they are using it on clothing, but I haven’t had any problems using the real vanilla extract that is naturally brown.

  69. Ready to make lemon eucalyptus solution with soybean and witch hazel, can a few drops of lavender be added and if possible the maximum no of drops? Excellent article.

    • Leo – If using on your skin, you want to keep the essential oil concentration at no more than 5%. So you can either substitute some of the 25 drops of lemon eucalyptus with the lavender oil or increase the amount of vanilla, witch hazel and soybean oil (maintaining the correct proportions) to keep the EO concentration to 5%.

Comments, Opinions, Questions?

*

Notify me of new posts by email.