Natural Bug Repellant

One of the first environmental topics I remember arguing with people about is the use of DEET the chemical found in common bug repellant like Deep Woods Off. I had to be in middle school and I watched Dateline or 20/20 (yes, I watched and enjoyed those shows) where there was a special about people who has seizures from their body absorbing the chemicals some actually died (several military personnel died at the time of the story because the military was using a high concentration of DEET in combination with exercise). After that news story I refused to use DEET again. Years later I worked at a day camp and the camp director want me to put Deep Woods Off on the kids everyday and I refused. It was a particularly bad summer for mosquitoes but I thought even with the low risk of West Nile I would not do it. Surprising she respected my stance but just had someone else put it on the kids.


Here are the real facts about DEET:

DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), a powerful insecticide found in over 400 repellents.  DEET can peel paint, damage rayon and spandex, and melt plastic.  Up to 56 percent of DEET applied to the skin enters the bloodstream, and reactions to it include skin rashes, lethargy, muscle spasms, nausea, and irritability.  An extreme reaction can cause seizures and even death.  So it’s hardly worth using DEET to deter insects unless you’re someplace with high rates of insect-borne disease or you experience severe allergic reactions to bites and stings. (source:


There are more natural ways you can protect yourself:

  • Plant Marigolds- Their strong scent helps keep all kinds of bugs away including bees.

  • Eucalyptus Oil- This is “active” ingredient in natural bug replants

  • Dryer Sheets- learned this when I went to camp in high school. I tied them to my shoe laces and in my hair and I got significantly less bug bites than I had been receiving before.

  • Eat Garlic- It will naturally emit a scent that is excreted out of your skin that will keep the bugs away.

  • No Standing Water- Make sure that you refill your birthbath’s daily and manage any other standing water you might have in your yard. Mosquito’s breed in standing water so do not give them the ability to multiply.


List of essential oils that can be used as insect repellants (all must be dilluted before use on skin):

  • CEDARWOOD (Juniperus mexicana)
  • CITRONELLA (Cymbopagon nardus)
  • LEMONGRASS (Cymbopogon citratus)
  • PENNYROYAL (Mentha puleglum)
  • TEA TREE OIL ( Melaleuca alternifolia)
  • GERANIUM (Pelargonium graveolens)
  • CATNIP (Nepeta cataria) – Preliminary studies have shown catnip oil to be 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitos!
  • EUCALYPTUS OIL (Eucalyptus globulus) – Patch test before using on your skin. Keep out of mucus membranes.
  • Source:


    Recipe for Home-made Insect Repellant (must be dilluted, do not use at full strength and test on a small part of your skin to make sure you do not have a reaction):

    • 1/2 ounce citronella oil

    • 1/4 ounce lavender oil

    • 1/8 ounce pennyroyal oil

    • 1/8 ounce tea tree oil

    • 1/8 ounce jojoba oil

    Do not use this blend undiluted on your skin.  Follow these instructions for diluting: To make an insect repellent oil that can be used on your body, add 16 ounces of jojoba or almond oil to the base oil mixture and blend thoroughly.  For an insect repellent spray, add 16 ounces of vodka to the base oil mixture, pour into a spray bottle, and shake before using. (source:



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