a photo of DIY bug repellent

Ditch the DEET: DIY Bug Repellent

By Robin White

Summer is here, and the sunlit hours feel joyously infinite.  No matter how much you may adore summer, you can’t get around one thing. There are BUGS! Beyond the standard irritation of flies and gnats, I positively dread the ticks and mosquitoes. The good news is that, this summer, you can actually enjoy an evening in the park or out on the deck without being eaten alive or slathering yourself in questionable chemicals.

Why not fight fire with fire this year by making a DIY bug repellent? It’s natural, leaves skin feeling fresh, and won’t break the bank to make at home. What’s more is you can tailor your compound to suit you.

Choose your Arsenal

Nature supplies us with a vast variety of bug-repelling essential oils. Just be sure to use a combination of oils to protect you from all kinds of creepy-crawly-flying biters. You can evade these pests by choosing your essential oils accordingly.

  • Mosquitoes: citronella, peppermint, lemon, lavender, eucalyptus, geranium, rosemary, lemongrass, cedarwood, sage, cinnamon.
  • Gnats/flies: lavender, lemongrass, clove, eucalyptus, peppermint, cedarwood, tea tree oil, rosemary, geranium.
  • Ticks: peppermint, geranium, tea tree, cedarwood.

Choose your Base Ingredients

Depending how you would like to apply your repellent, you can switch out different materials as the base. Witch hazel is a good place to start, but you can change the feel significantly with what you choose to mix into it. Mix with distilled water to create a light compound that can be sprayed in a fine mister onto clothing or skin. If you want to add a moisturizer to help absorb the essential oil and extend effectiveness, you can mix with a light oil such as grapeseed or almond oil.

If you’re looking for a gentle moisturizer with long-lasting, robust, bug-kicking properties, try the recipe below, or exercise your creative license and customize away!

a photo of guest blogger Robin White
Robin White works insurance by day and crafts by night. She dabbles in gardening, food preservation, sinful desserts, adventures in the great outdoors, and DIY body and wellness products.

Robin’s Pest-Desist Recipe


  • 2 oz. witch hazel
  • 1 – 1 ½ oz. almond oil
  • 1 teaspoon vodka
  • 30 drops of geranium essential oil
  • 40 drops of lemongrass essential oil
  • 20 drops of tea tree essential oil
  • 10 drops of cedarwood essential oil


  • 4 oz. Boston glass bottle – Use cobalt or amber glass to protect the essential oils from sunlight
  • funnel
  • fine measuring device


  1. Measure and pour the witch hazel into the bottle.
  2. Add in the vodka.
  3. Mix in droplets of geranium essential oil, lemongrass essential oil, tea tree essential oil, and cedarwood essential oil.
  4. Fill to the top with almond oil.
  5. Shake well.

Note: Shake well before use. Dispense into your hand and rub onto your exposed skin. Keep away from your eyes and mouth.

Erin Dorney

Erin Dorney is a freelance writer and marketing consultant.

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