Summer is here! Along with the warm sunshine, backyard barbecues, and wild pool parties, there is, of course, an influx of insects. No matter what insect seems to invade your summer fun, it’s a constant battle to keep them at bay. Mosquitos, no-see-ums, chiggers, black flies … all of these tiny blood suckers are on a quest to find the tastiest, most delicious part of your body.
While many over-the-counter products are available to kill insects, most of them contain extremely harsh chemicals that have been found to cause serious side effects in some cases. For those concerned about the effects of chemicals on their family’s health, using harsh insect repellents simply is not an option, that’s where natural bug repellent comes into play (we got an easy DIY recipe below)
What’s Wrong with DEET?
DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide or diethyltoluamide) was developed by the U.S. Army in 1946 for armed forces members deployed to tropical locations. It became available to the public in 1957. It became popular among people desperate to end the itchy annoyance of mosquito bites. However, just as more and more people have begun relying on the chemical, scientific studies have raised concerns about its long-term effects.
Not only has DEET been found to be a skin irritant when large doses are applied directly to the body, but some alarming research suggests it can lead to serious neurological problems in children. On top of this, DEET also can have serious environmental impacts, such as poisoning bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and brown pelicans. DEET also can kill helpful insects, such as pollinators, along with pests such as mosquitos. Plus, it eventually can make its way into our water systems when we wash it off.
So now what? Should you just resign yourself to becoming an itchy, bug-bitten mess? Of course not, because people long have been creating do-it-yourself, all-natural bug repellents made of environmentally safe ingredients. If there are mosquitos, rest assured there is someone out there trying to combat them!
Mothers long have been concerned about the possible effects of mosquito-borne diseases, but also more recently about the potential long-term effects of chemicals, such as DEET, used in insect repellants. Thanks to this concern, many alternatives now are available online and in health food stores that are safe to use on all members of the family.
If you are interested in taking this a step further, making your own insect repellent is perhaps even easier than finding a commercially available one, and it means you know exactly what you are putting on your body.
Potent DIY Insect Repellent
Essential oils long have been a secret weapon in the fight against insect bites. The typical essential oils used in homemade insect repellent recipes are extremely potent. So, they should be used with caution around children and those with skin sensitivities. If applied to clothing, instead directly on the skin, they still can be extremely safe while preventing any adverse reactions.
Common Essential Oils Used in Insect Repellent
- Tea Tree
- 20 drops Geranium
- 20 drops Eucalyptus
- 20 drops Citronella
- 20 drops Rosemary
- 10 drops Tea Tree
- 10 drops Lemongrass
- ½ cup Witch hazel
- ½ cup Vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Vodka
- 1 Tsp Vegetable glycerin
Simply combine all the essential oils into a spray bottle and shake vigorously. If you don’t have all the essential oils listed, feel free to ad-lib based on the common essential oils listed above. All you need is 100 drops, and because not everyone loves every essential oil, try experimenting to find exactly what combination works for you.
Once the oils are fully combined, add in all other ingredients except the glycerin. Shake vigorously again until they are thoroughly combined. Then add in the vegetable glycerin, which is used to prevent the mixture from separating (this is an optional ingredient).
Because this is a rather potent essential oil mixture, keep out of reach of children, and apply directly to clothing and gear, but try to avoid spraying it directly onto skin.
A Safer Variation for Children
- 10 drops Lavender
- 10 drops Eucalyptus
- ¼ cup Witch Hazel
- ¼ cup Water
Use the same process as in the original recipe: combine all oils in a small spray bottle, and shake until fully combined. Mix in the other ingredients and again, shake until mixed.
Because essential oils (especially the ones listed above) can cause skin irritation for even adults, you can make a small kid-friendly batch for your little ones that are safe to use for children three and up. As with anything used on children, try dabbing a small drop on the underside of their wrist first to ensure there’s no adverse reaction.