As the weather gets warmer and we spend more time outdoors, we’re also faced with a massive burst in summer insect life, which can turn a relaxing BBQ on the deck into a battle, ending up with you and your guests beating a retreat indoors.
But let’s face it, commercial repellents are not only expensive, most of them contain ingredients that aren’t all that good for us. So, to help you get on top of the mosquitoes and flies without resorting to chemicals, we’ve hunted down 5 natural insect repellents that you can make at home.
1. Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Mosquito Repellent
This repellent is not only super easy to make but is effective for about an hour before you need to re-apply. It is not strong enough, however, to protect against disease-carrying mosquitoes, so is not recommended for use in areas where the aedes aegypti mosquito is present. But for backyard use, it’s a pleasant smelling and non-toxic way to keep the mozzies at bay. All you have to do is mix 1-part lemon eucalyptus oil for every 10 parts sunflower oil or witch hazel. Store in a spray bottle and shake before applying.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar & Essential Oils Insect Repellent
Both apple cider vinegar and white vinegar are a good base for an insect repellent, as they deter flies and, combined with specific essential oils, will deter mosquitoes and ticks as well. Oils that have excellent repellent properties include geranium, lemongrass, citronella, rosemary and lavender.
To make the repellent, mix 1 cup of distilled water with 1 cup apple cider (or white) vinegar, adding 10 to 25 drops of each of the essential oils (you don’t need to use all of the above, but the mixture will be more effective if you do). Pour into a spray bottle, shake and apply to arms and legs. If applying to your face, spray the mixture on your hand and rub it on gently, avoiding your eyes.
3. Lavender Soap Insect Repellent
Lavender is an amazing general insect repellent, deterring flies, mosquitoes, moths and fleas. Growing it in your garden, having bunches of it in your house, dabbing the essential oil on your skin or adding oil drops to animal bedding are all effective ways of repelling insects naturally.
The following recipe is for a liquid lavender soap, which is good for your skin, smells great and repels insects. And lavender is also a natural stress reliever, so there’s an added bonus to this easy-to-make soap. First, you’ll need to get hold of some liquid pure soap, such as Castile soap, which is usually available at pharmacies and health food stores. Add 10 – 15 drops of good quality lavender oil and shake. Pour it into a recycled liquid soap dispenser and use it to wash your hands and face whenever you’re planning on heading outside.
4. DIY Citronella Candles
Citronella oil is a tried and true mosquito repellent, and burning it in candles adds a pleasant ambience to a summer evening. You can pick up citronella candles at most hardware shops and supermarkets, but you can also make your own pretty easily, which also means you can be sure that it’s a good quality oil.
First, you’ll need to get your hands on some small to medium sized Mason jars, candle wicks, sturdy tape (or a hot glue gun), beeswax and a bottle of citronella essential oil. (Candle-making supplies are readily available online or at craft supply shops, and are not expensive.)
Cut the wicks to the right length for your jars, leaving at least 3cm over the rim and attach to the bottom of the jars with tape or hot glue. Once attached, put the jars in the oven on its lowest temperature, which makes pouring the wax easier and prevents the jars from cracking if the wax happens to be too hot.
Now you need to melt the wax, using a double boiler or equivalent. When it’s melted, pour in the citronella oil – about three drops per cup of wax — and stir it through the wax with a metal spoon. Pour the melted wax into your jars so it sits a few centimetres below the rim and use pencils or chopsticks to keep the wick centred. Once the candles have cooled – leave them for 48 hours — trim the wicks so they are about 1.5cm from the surface. And there you have it – homemade citronella candles that look great and keep your evenings mozzie-free.
5. All Purpose Natural Bug Spray
This bug spray is super effective against most insects, including mosquitoes, and is inexpensive and easy to make. All you need is ½ a cup dried or fresh catnip, 2 cups water, 4 tablespoons witch hazel, ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla and 10 – 20 drops of essential oil, such as lavender, lemongrass, geranium or citronella, or a mix of all of them.
Put the catnip in a saucepan and cover with the water, bringing it to a simmer and then boiling for 5 minutes. If you’re using fresh catnip, roughly chop it and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for at least an hour. Once cooled, strain the liquid to remove the chunks of catnip and pour 4 tablespoons of the liquid into a small spray bottle. Store the remainder in an airtight jar for your next batch of spray. Add all the remaining ingredients to the spray bottle and top up with water if necessary. Replace the lid and give it a good shake. Apply a small amount to a patch of skin on your arm or leg to make sure you don’t have a reaction to the spray (it’s very unlikely but best to make sure). When using the spray, be careful to avoid your face. You can also use the spray on surfaces, such as tables or window sills to deter ants and flies.
Let us know how you go with making these natural repellents or add a suggestion of your own in the comments on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you!