4 Cheap and Easy Homemade Mosquito Repellents

by Elizabeth Lang on 26 May 2011 37 comments
Photo: Jonf728

Many joke that the unofficial state “bird” of Minnesota, my home state, is the mosquito. When summer hits, the mosquitoes start swarming. Of course, Minnesota isn’t the only place with mosquitoes; most areas of the world with standing water and lots of trees experience these pesky creatures. (See also: Use Beer to Get Rid of Pests)

Unfortunately, the easiest and most effective method to repel mosquitoes involves the toxic chemical DEET. While the health effects of DEET are not conclusive, they are scary enough to warrant the government recommending limited exposure. The CDC recommends that children over the age of two months and adults use repellent with DEET concentrations up to 30%, and Health Canada recommends that children under age 12 use mosquito repellents with a DEET concentration of less than 10%. Even though many repellents may have lower concentrations of DEET, I’d still rather steer clear of any mosquito repellents with chemicals.

Several companies now make natural mosquito repellents, but most are not cheap. Luckily, there are many homemade mosquito repellent recipes available on the internet.

Garlic Mosquito Repellent

  • Ingredients: Minced garlic, mineral oil, and lemon juice
  • Cost: Less than $5
  • Directions:

Mince a few cloves of garlic then cover with mineral oil. Allow it to sit for at least 24 hours. Next you take a teaspoon of *just the oil* and mix it with 2 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Strain through a cheesecloth if you have any floaties then pour into a spray bottle. Shake before each use.

Recipe from Tipnut

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

Lemon Eucalyptus Mosquito Repellent

  • Ingredients: Lemon eucalyptus oil and sunflower oil or witch hazel
  • Cost: $9.50 for 8 oz. of lemon eucalyptus oil (can be purchased on Amazon.com)
  • Directions: Mix 1 part lemon eucalyptus oil for every 10 parts of sunflower oil/witch hazel. Rub or spray on skin.

Recipe modified from About.com

Lavender Mosquito Repellent

  • Ingredients: Fresh lavender (the flower)
  • Cost: Free (if you have lavender growing in your yard); otherwise Home Depot sells the plant for about $12
  • Directions:

Rub a lavender flower behind your ears, wrists and neck. Not only will you smell great but mosquitoes will leave you alone.

Recipe from Garden Mandy

Vanilla Mosquito Repellent

  • Ingredients: Vanilla extract
  • Cost: Less than $5 at grocery store
  • Directions:

Apply some vanilla extract or vanilla essence to your pulse points. 

Recipe from Nora’s post about Easy Homemade Mosquito and Insect Traps

Are there any homemade mosquito repellent recipes that you’ve tried? How did they work out?

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Guest's picture
Cheryl

Love these!! Thanks! for the vanilla extract, does it matter if it's imitation vanilla?

Guest's picture
Debbie M

I really wanted the vanilla extract to work, but it totally didn't. It was real vanilla, too.

Guest's picture
Guest

i also tried it and it did not. if anything it seemed to attract them.

Guest's picture
Cindy

Thank, Elizabeth, I will be posting this information on my blog; appreciate any information and/or savings us comsumers can benefit from.

Guest's picture
BJ

Whatever happened to good old citronella oil? I'm guessing that vanilla will only make them hungrier. Also, who wants to spray themselves with concentrated garlic? That sounds like a great way to repel friends. ;-)

Guest's picture

Hi Elizabeth,
I can't see that applying toxins to the body like Deet would be an alternative to getting bit by a mosquito. Anything natural that will repel mosquitoes is worth a look. I used dryer sheets rubbed directly onto the body before, it seemed to work for me.

Guest's picture
Guest

fyi a lot of dryer sheets have many chemicals known to be toxic to humans. The Environmental Working Group has put together what is known about dryer sheets and other cleaning and laundry products.

here is the link to a list of various dryer sheets - if you click on any one of them you can find out more about them and their ingredients.

best of luck to you.

Camilla Cheung's picture

A Venezuelan fellow I knew swore that taking Vitamin B kept the mosquitoes away during an extended trip up the Amazon River. Don't know how healthy or effective that is though.

Guest's picture
Guest

I take vitamin b regularly/daily- for years... Mosquitoes love me , I get eaten alive regularly.

Guest's picture
Guest

I used to take Vitamin B Complex 50 and garlic pills and I noticed how little I was bitten by mosquitoes.

Guest's picture
Guest

I'm glad you have a reference for your remarks on how DEET might be dangerous to some people when ingested in large quantities or used in a manner grossly different from what the label on the product directs.

But what about these other remedies? (By virtue of being matter, they technically are also mixtures of 'chemicals'.) Do you have some (non-anecdotal) references on their effectiveness as mosquito repellents? Maybe people placing their scented arms into a box full of mosquitoes got a certain percentage fewer bites? Did someone find these plant chemicals to work by diverting mosquitoes at long distances or short? (Mosquitoes use very different cues for locating an animal's general area than they do for homing in on a likely bite site.)

Guest's picture
Guest

Folks - If vanilla worked, don't you think the would be well known? There are people that spend lots of time studying how to keep the bugs away. Lemon and eucalyptus oil?

Here is the thing. If You were going into an area with endemic malaria what would you use? DEET or vanilla?

Guest's picture
Ronald Westcott

well we dont have a malaria endemic here but i still dont love mossies,i have used lavender disinfectant and baby oil 50/50,shake it up and spray it on! no mossies and i smell lovely and my skin is soft aswell, it is a lot better than putting poison all over me!

Guest's picture
Guest

CATNIP WORKS LIKE A CHARM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Guest's picture
Guest

what about tea tree oil it seems to work for everything else it helps with fleas and kills lice seems like it might be worth a shot

Guest's picture
Saltpork

The only thing I know of that works all the time every time is dry ice.

Mosquitoes are attracted to exhaled carbon dioxide. If you put some dry ice in the area you're going to be in they will completely ignore you.

I'm not suggesting you try to pack dry ice for your hiking trip, but most of us will use this advice for backyard work or camping where you don't leave an area. Drop a block of dry ice and let it evaporate.

Guest's picture
Fabienne

mineral oil on the skin is very bad. mineral oil is a byproduct of crude oil. the only reason it's in everything today is because it costs more to dispose of than to buy.

http://www.herballuxuries.com/about-mineral-oil.html

but i love the other three! <3

Guest's picture
Lis

Vanilla does work. I was using it all the time after a doctor in the Dominican Republic suggested it for my baby. The extract I bought there was pure and black in color. When I came back to the states and tried the pure white-colored extract, it didn't work at all. I'm not sure what the difference is in extraction methods. All I know is that I'm buying the black one in bulk.

Guest's picture
Guest

If its bulk vanilla or vanillan it is most likely not real vanilla. Real vanilla is expensive and comes in small bottles. Even if it doesn't say imitation on it because it comes from other countries. It is wood pulp chemicals and it kills or repels insects because it is a toxic poison. The real vanilla attracts them. Various forms of vanilla are all kinds of pulp chemicals and some are slow killers.

Guest's picture
Guest

Yes!!

Guest's picture
Guest

The above commentor could not be more incorrect. Bulk vanilla from out of country is not always imitation just because it is cheaper. Yes in the states the real deal is expensive and in small bottles but real pure vanilla can be purchased from other countries at great prices and yes it is dark in color. The pure vanilla also does NOT attract mosquitoes as claimed but repels them. The only problem in using vanilla is that it is only good for 30-45 minutes and must be re-applied. As an alternative to DEET however it's great, especially if you won't be out long or don't mind spraying yourself down every hour or so.

Guest's picture
Guest

I used garlic powder and disolved it in water, until the water was saturated, then I added it and a couple squirts of dish washing liquid to my hose end sprayer. Sprayed all of the trees and all over the lawn. While it was wet there was a strong smell of garlic, but once it dried the smell was gone, the bugs (especially mosquitoes) were gone and it lasted through 2 rain storms before I had to reapply.

Guest's picture
Sara

Would you mind giving us the amounts to use? I have tons of very old oaks and elms in my yard. They all have 'knots' which collect rain water, making them the perfect egg laying enviroment. I know that there are pucks to put in them, but the trees are to tall to safely get to them! I am not allergic to many things, but I am VERY allergic to Mosquito bites! (figures!) Our yard is so bad that it attracts bats and even they don't cut down on the problem. The city fogs, our exterminator sprays, we use Tiki Torches, along with 'Off Candles' and Yard Guard AND spray or rub down with DEET. The combination does help, but that's a lot of toxins! And, no kidding, just in the 15 -30 minutes that it takes to get all of that done, I will suffer 30+ bites. (if I take over 2 -3, i'll be sick. I have Lupus, so that may have something with it!) I have also noticed that Mosquito's apparently 'love my blood' over others! I will have HUGE whelps from the bites and just about everyone else in the yard will be bite free. (I think that ---I--- am their repellent! ;( ) I would really love to try your approach, but want to make sure that I'm doing it correctly. Thank you in advance. :) ~Sara

Guest's picture
Chantelle

In a empty spray bottle combine mint and a few drops of lavender oil.

I take a few clippings from my chocolate mint plant and put it in a tea diffuser with boiling water(like making tea), let stand in water until it is strong, add a few drops of lavender oil, or put a few flower heads into the spray bottle, or lavender massage oil. shake and spray. Keep spray bottle by the front door for you and your kids and enjoy the outdoors without the bites.

Guest's picture

Mosquitoes are everywhere, most of the time, our sleep will be disturb because of them. But we cannot blame them, they do it for the sake of survival. Thank you for this share. I hope I can use other ingredient so that it could produce another scent.

Guest's picture

I would like to add Ceylon Cinnamon Leaf oil to these recipes. Just mix 1% Cinnammon Leaf Oil with 99% Water and you are good to go. You can spray it on your arms and legs or any exposed area except around the eyes or on the eyes of course. And since you only need 1%, a little 2oz bottle will last a long time and works out the cheapest. This thing works miracles to keep away black ants. And the best part is it smells great and has a variety of other benefits.

Guest's picture
George

Very informative post. Mosquitoes are everywhere and they are not only irritating, they are also deadly as some of them may cause Malaria or Dengue fever. It is best for us to have always a clean surroundings and apply some mosquito repellant for additional safety. Thanks for sharing, I would love to try lemon eucalyptus mosquito repellent

Guest's picture
doxshougs

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Guest's picture
Lonshonyock1

Avons Skin So Soft oil original scent mixed with some rubbing alcohol and water in a fine mist spray bottle works wonderful and I have used it for years. I do approx. 1 part SSS oil, 1 part alcohol and about 4 parts water. You can play with the recipe to see what works better for you. The oil is mostly the repellent The reason I came here to look is, I have friends living in Egypt getting eatin up and I dont know if they have Avon there so I came to look for more remedies.

Guest's picture
Guest

Tried the garlic/mineral oil/lemon one....Total no go. It seemed to work at first but then after 10 mins I was getting ate up...Kept spraying just to see if it would work, but didn't work..even when I sprayed it directly on a mosquito. Gonna pick up some Skintastick tomorrow..sucks :o(

Guest's picture
Guest

These are GREAT! Thanks!

I am going to try mixing up a lot of garlic in Mineral oil & adding some of the ingredients mentioned here to spray on my lawn and shrubs where I do a lot of gardening.
There is a product called "Mosquito Barrier" which sounds very good & is expensive. It states that it would be very hard to duplicate it.

But I will try! If I have to spray after a rain, so be it. Those things eat me alive!

Guest's picture
Guest

Spraying yourself with Listerine works well and you smell great!! I used it in Montana while we were haying and it seemed to work great. You do have to keep spraying yourself every couple of hours but Listerine is pretty cheap compared to bug spray.

Guest's picture
Rena Ball

Bath and Body Works vanilla body spray works too.

Guest's picture
Guest

we are trying the lavender one hope that it works .... will let u guys know how well it works

Guest's picture
GuestSandy

Listerene the yellow bad tasting kind. 50 50 water listerene Spray on grass around patio. Kills instantly and last a while.

Guest's picture
Guest

That's a negative on the pure vanilla extract. It *may have worked for the first 5 min., but apparently the mosquitoes in SE Tennessee acquire a taste for vanilla rather quickly.

Guest's picture
Guest

i tried vanilla..doesnt work, i tried apple cider vinegar and witch hazel with rosemary and that didnt work. now i want to try lemon eucalyptus oil and witch hazel and see what happens. this sucks not being able to find a alternative. wish me luck