Essential Oil Mosquito Repellent Recipe (that WORKS!)

A bottle of homemade mosquito repellent held up above a blue towel, essential oils and a paper flower in the background

Living in Minnesota’s north woods, mosquitoes are quite literally our state bird. It’s a DAILY battle not to be eaten alive from spring to fall. I grew up using the typical DEET mosquito spray and thought nothing of it until I started to pay attention to the after-effects.

The plants near my spray site nearly DIED. Their leaves developed bleached-out portions anywhere that DEET touched them. My lips would go numb if it came in contact with my face. It damaged materials like leather, plastic, and painted surfaces.

Oh boy. If that’s happening to the stuff around me, what is DEET doing to MY skin and body?! The skin is an effective barrier to our outside environment but is also penetratable to certain substances, including DEET.

A person scratching their arm

Not only is DEET able to be absorbed into our bodies, but only 50% of it is excreted over a span of 5 days. So, it sticks around in our bodies for A LONG time. No, thank you!

Of course, the EPA claims that DEET has “no risks of concern to human health or the environment,” but what do other sources say?

While the negative effects of DEET are largely tied to high doses and it has undoubtedly saved lives in terms of Malaria, West Nile Virus, etc…. is there another way? 

Of course, there is! Essential oils are fairly effective as long as the right ones are selected and dosed at the proper concentration. Let’s dive in!

The Best Essential Oils to Repel Mosquitos

While DEET is undoubtedly the most effective compound at repelling mosquitos, I’ve found my homemade essential oil mosquito repellent works well enough in 95% of situations. It’s pleasant to use and has greatly reduced my overall DEET exposure.

When I do happen to get a few bites, a quick application of my Chickweed Salve soothes them right away!

10 different essential oils grouped together on top of a painted wooden background

Essential oils to repel mosquitoes:

  • Camphor
  • Cedarwood – weak evidence to support its use (Barnard, 1999)
  • Citronella – One of the most effective essential oils (Trongtokit, 2005), but can wear off within 30 minutes. 
  • Clove – One of the most effective essential oils (Trongtokit, 2005; Barnard, 1999). Also has the longest duration of repellency. 
  • Eucalyptus
  • Geranium – shows similar effectiveness to DEET (Ali, 2013)
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Lemongrass
  • Patchouli – One of the most effective essential oils (Trongtokit, 2005)
  • Peppermint – Only effective in high concentrations (Barnard, 1999).
  • Pine needle
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme – One of the most effective essential oils (Barnard, 1999). 

Homemade Mosquito Repellent Recipe

This recipe provides a 2% dilution, which is ideal for topical application. It’s fine to omit or add other essential oils. You may not have all of these on hand, or you may want to experiment with others such as eucalyptus or rosemary! Just be sure to keep the total to 50 drops for the 4 oz recipe to prevent skin irritation.

A bottle of homemade mosquito repellent held up above a blue towel, essential oils and a paper flower in the background

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links to products (including Amazon). I’ll earn a small commission if you make a purchase through my link, at no additional cost to you! Regardless, I only link to products that I personally use on our homestead or believe in.

Supplies

  • Measuring cup
  • 4 oz spray bottle– I like amber glass since I often have this bottle outdoors with me (UV light will rapidly degrade the essential oils)

Ingredients

*Be sure to use an essential oil brand that is unadulterated and therapeutic grade. What I have linked above is (based on my research) the best quality, affordable, and accessible. I’m slowly transitioning over to them as my previous supply runs out.

**There is some research to support that vanillin (the main compound in vanilla) can extend the time that essential oils are effective in repelling mosquitos – up to 3 hours! While I haven’t personally tried it, it might be worth experimenting with. I’d start by adding 1 tsp of REAL vanilla extract into the mixture above.

How to make it

Step 1: Mix together

Once you have your ingredients gathered, the rest is super easy! Fill the spray bottle with 4 oz of distilled water, then add the 50 drops of Polysorbate 20, followed by the 50 drops of assorted essential oils. As discussed above, it’s okay to do some swapping of the essential oils as long as you stick with 50 drops in total for the 4 oz recipe.

The ingredients for the essential oil mosquito repellent recipe set out on a painted wooden background

Step 2: Shake well

Before you use it, shake the mixture well to ensure that all of the essential oils are well-incorporated and you receive a true 2% dilution when sprayed onto your skin. The Polysorbate 20 is a great emulsifier to get the oils and water to mix properly, but it won’t hold the solution in suspension forever, so be sure to shake it before each application.

Step 3: Label

I know what you’re thinking “Oh, I’ll remember what this is.” Trust me, you won’t! Always, always label your homemade goods with at least the name of what it is and the date you prepared it. If there’s room, I like to list out the ingredients as well. You can use cute labels, or if you’re basic like me, a strip of masking tape works just fine.

A bottle of homemade mosquito repellent held up close to the camera to show the masking tape label

Putting My Homemade Mosquito Repellent In Action

How to use

Simply, give it a shake and then mist a light layer over your skin and clothing. Avoid your eyes and mouth. Start with a small part of your body (like your forearm) to ensure that you don’t react to any of the essential oils before committing to your whole body. 

Some of the essential oils included can cause skin irritation, but the dosing is low enough that I’ve never had anyone react to it. 

Holding the mosquito repellent spray bottle, ready to spray

One thing that makes this homemade mosquito repellent different from DEET is the frequency of application. You may find that it wears off in an hour or two, so keep the bottle handy for reapplication if you’re outdoors for extended periods of time.

How to store

Store the bottle in a cool, dark location for 6 months. I make a fresh bottle every spring when the mosquitos start hatching and then refill as needed until the season is over.

FAQ About Homemade Mosquito Repellent

What smell do mosquitos hate the most?

There are many scents that repel mosquitos (see my complete list above), but the most effective ones are citronella, clove, geranium, patchouli, and thyme.

Does this recipe repel ticks, too? 

Possibly! The best essential oils for repelling ticks include spearmint, oregano, and thyme essential oil when used in 5% solution. Another study found clove essential oil to have an 83% repellency, and pairing thyme with citronella resulted in a 91% repellency (3% dilutions). Since my recipe above includes clove, citronella (and the optional thyme), it’ll likely help ward off ticks as well.

If you frequently come into contact with ticks, I highly recommend making my Homemade Drawing Salve to have on hand!

3 tins of homemade drawing salve on a bed on pine needles, calendula and plantain

Do I have to use all of the essential oils?

No, if you don’t have them all on hand; you can use what you have as long as you stick with 50 drops for a 2% solution. However, using them all together has a synergistic effect in that they are more powerful when used together than if by themselves.

Can I make the solution stronger than 2%?

Sure, you can certainly give it a try if you’d like an extra strong mosquito repellent. Just make sure to add extra drops of Polysorbate-20 (1 drop per 1 drop of essential oils) so that the solution is properly emulsified. However, if you notice any skin irritation, please back down to the 2% solution.

What’s the best way to soothe mosquito bites?

The hands-down best way to get immediate relief is my Soothing Chickweed Salve Recipe. It works WONDERS on mosquito bites, stings from nettle, painful scrapes, you name it. If you’re someone who reacts strongly to bites and stings, definitely check it out!

4 salve tins filled with chickweed salve set on a wooden table

Is this safe for children?

Yes, this is safe for children over the age of 2, but consider diluting it to a 1% solution (25 drops essential oils + 25 drops Polysorbate-20 in 4 oz). Do not use on children younger than 2 years old.

Is a small amount of DEET safe?

The less DEET you apply, the better. According to Health Canada, a product containing 30% (or less) DEET is recommended for adults and children older than 12 years old. Children should use 10% or less. Stay away from the mega-doses!

Other Articles You’ll Love:

Thanks for reading signature

A bottle of homemade mosquito repellent laying on a blue towel along with some essential oils, a paper flower, and a succulent

Essential Oil Mosquito Repellent Recipe (that WORKS!)

This toxin-free mosquito repellent recipe provides a 2% dilution, which is ideal for topical application. It’s fine to omit or add other essential oils, just be sure to keep the total to 50 drops for the 4 oz recipe to prevent skin irritation.
5 from 1 vote
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 4 oz

Equipment

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • COMBINE - Fill the spray bottle with 4 oz of distilled water, then add the 50 drops of Polysorbate 20, followed by the 50 drops of assorted essential oils. It’s okay to do some swapping of the essential oils as long as you stick with 50 drops in total for the 4 oz recipe.
  • SHAKE - Shake the mixture well to ensure that all of the essential oils are well-incorporated and you receive a true 2% dilution when sprayed onto your skin. The Polysorbate 20 is a great emulsifier to get the oils and water to mix properly, but it won’t hold the solution in suspension forever, so be sure to shake it before each application.
  • LABEL - Always, always label your homemade goods with at least the name of what it is and the date you prepared it. If there’s room, I like to list out the ingredients as well. You can use cute labels, or if you’re basic like me, a strip of masking tape works just fine.
  • USE - Give it a shake and then mist a light layer over your skin and clothing. Avoid your eyes and mouth. Start with a small part of your body (like your forearm) to ensure that you don’t react to any of the essential oils before committing to your whole body. 
  • STORE - Store the bottle in a cool, dark location for 6 months. I make a fresh bottle every spring when the mosquitos start hatching and then refill as needed until the season is over.

Notes

*Be sure to use an essential oil brand that is unadulterated and therapeutic grade. What I have linked above is (based on my research) the best quality, affordable, and accessible. I’m slowly transitioning over to them as my previous supply runs out.
**There is some research to support that vanillin (the main compound in vanilla) can extend the time that essential oils are effective in repelling mosquitos – up to 3 hours! While I haven’t personally tried it, it might be worth experimenting with. I’d start by adding 1 tsp of REAL vanilla extract into the mixture above.
***Some of the essential oils included can "technically" cause skin irritation, but the dosing is low enough that I’ve never had anyone react to it. 
Keyword DIY, essential oil, mosquito repellent, toxin-free
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Achieve Your Best Harvest Yet!​

Grab your own FREE copy of my Garden Growing Guide. It’s fully customizable to your growing zone and can be printed or used digitally. Happy Gardening!

8 thoughts on “Essential Oil Mosquito Repellent Recipe (that WORKS!)”

  1. 5 stars
    Thank you so very much for this article and mostly the recipe I super appreciate you…….Do you have a recipe for flies?? Flies are all over my porch and come in my house. They are very bad. Thank you

  2. Hello there!
    Research palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii) in regard to its efficacy compared to DEET. Rather excellent results! I make a spray for my dogs (and us!) using neem oil, palmarosa, lavender, and lemon eucalyptus (only small amount of this).
    Thank you for sharing this with us 🙂
    Kath

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




Scroll to Top