Homemade Insect Repellent

25 May

image of herbs, oils, and a mortar and pestleDo homemade insect repellents really work? Yes, they absolutely do. The secret lies in the ingredients. When Gregg and I go backpacking, we make sure that we have plenty of insect repellent handy and ready to use.

Choosing Your Carrier Base

Depending upon your preference, you may use an oil carrier base or a lighter, alcohol base. I prefer the oil base because it seems to last longer and smells more potent. My mate, on the other hand, likes the lighter base because he does not like the feel of oil on his skin or clothing.

Oil Carrier Base

My preferred oil carrier base is MCT oil, which is a medium chain triglyceride oil derived from coconuts. It’s also great to cook with. This oil is extremely light and helps to nourish the skin. It also absorbs quite easily and does not stain most clothing.

You can also use extra-virgin olive oil, mineral oil, almond oil, or jojoba oil. These oils, however, tend to stain and add a thickness to the mix that can be challenging to spray.

Lighter Carrier Base

Good alternatives to oil are Vodka—yes, the kind you drink, and witch hazel. Vodka tends to dissipate more quickly, in my experience, but enables the spray to come out far more easily. Witch Hazel is a very effective astringent that relieves sores, bruises, swelling, and itching. Some people use it to inhibit sweating. Because sweating is vital to the body in eliminating toxins from the body, I don’t recommend using this herb for that purpose.

Creating the Mix

I always include neem oil  in my mix because it provides too many benefits to leave it out. Neem nourishes the skin, prevents your mixture from turning rancid, and has the reputation as “the curer of all ailments”.

The unattractive smell, however, merits conservative use of this oil. On the plus side, however, it makes you very unattractive to blood-thirsty pests. Because neem confuses the insects’ hormonal responses, they tend to not want to feed or breed after being exposed to this oil. This not only means they leave you alone, it also ensures fewer pests in the future.

To make the spray tolerable to our senses, while still repelling pests, we add other oils to the mix. The following oils are known to repel particular types of insects:

  • Ticks: English pennyroyal, tea tree oil, rosemary, dalmatian pyrethrum
  • Mosquitoes: Lemon, catnip, lemongrass/citronella, tansy, feverfew, thyme, peppermint, basil, sage, eucalyptus
  • Moths: Patchouli
  • Horse Flies: Tansy floral water
  • Cockroaches: Peppermint, cypress, salt water
  • Fleas: Mint, rosemary, dalmatian pyrethrum, eucalyptus
  • Lice: Tea tree, lemongrass/citronella, rosemary, eucalyptus
  • Silverfish: Eucalyptus radiata, eucalyptus citriodora
  • Bees, hornets, wasps: Lemongrass/citronella, eucalyptus, thyme, mint
  • Gnats: Marigold, lemongrass/citronella, tansy
  • Bed bugs: eucalyptus, clove, rosemary

Making the Mix

You will need the following items to make your mix:

General Mix for Homemade Insect Repellent

  • 1 oz. Of carrier base (oil, vodka, or witch hazel)
  • 15 drops of neem
  • 25-50 drops of each type of essential oil

Mix it all together in a spray bottle. If you are anal about the bottle being completely full, you can add more base. Shake before using.

Ro’s Favorite Homemade Insect Repellent for Camping

This homemade insect repellent is time-proven to deter a variety of pests that typically bombard you during camping trips. I like to add a bit of lavender but my mate is allergic to it, so here is a good mix that doesn’t require lavender.

  • 1 oz. Of carrier base (oil, vodka, or witch hazel)
  • 15 drops of neem
  • 30 drops of lemon oil
  • 25 drops of peppermint oil
  • 25 drops of eucalyptus radiata oil
  • 20 drops of pennyroyal

Tip: Lavender oil is great to have on hand when camping. It prevents burns from blistering, it relieves bug bites, pain, and it is a powerful antiseptic.

Caution: Lemon oil can make your skin hypersensitive to the sun, so make sure that you spray it on areas that will be covered by clothing.

Also, if you are pregnant, be careful when using any essential oils. Many of them can cause the uterus to contract.

Bonus Tip

This tidbit of information is something I actually learned by mistake. After setting up our tent for the evening during a backpacking adventure, Gregg noticed that the bugs were literally avoiding our tent. Typically, they gather around the outside screen as if scheming up ways to get inside.

Long story short, we discovered a bounce dryer sheet in a blanket I had sitting out. Whatever is in that dryer sheet, the bugs detest. Now, when we camp, We bring bounce dryer sheets and hang them inside our tent. I also use them for placemats to discourage bugs from sharing my meal or sampling my wine. It works like a charm.

I have also hung them on my backpack to keep bees and hornets out of my face.


One Response to “Homemade Insect Repellent”

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