DIY Bug Repellant Recipe

Any kindergartener can name the four seasons: spring, summer, fall, winter. But let’s be real, sometimes it feels like there really are just two: winter, and bugs.

Every year throughout March and April, my winter-weary soul wants nothing more than for warmer days to arrive. Then they finally, blessedly arrive, and… boom. So does black fly season. (Cue the disappointed trumpet sounds.)

I am one of those fortunate souls who seems to be both extra-popular with the bugs, and extra-sensitive to their bites. But such is life, and as pesky as those flies and mosquitoes are, I know our ecosystem would be far worse off without them. So rather than wishing them away, or hiding inside, I’ve learned to make peace with them. I can still be a good neighbor, even if I’d rather not get too cozy.

Using Essential Oils as Bug Repellant

There are many all-natural or herbal bug sprays on the market for those hoping to avoid DEET and other synthetics. They typically use essential oils as the active ingredients, so as an added bonus, they smell really nice! Maybe it’s the homesteader in me, but although I enjoy these products, I can’t bring myself to pay full price at the store for something I could whip up for way less at home. A few essential oils in my stash are all I need to make this simple DIY bug repellant recipe.

Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts, and a little bit goes a long way! By mixing a few drops in with a carrier such as witch hazel extract (which also makes a great facial toner!) you can quickly and easily make an effective homemade bug spray. Just a quick note about essential oil safety: because of their potency, it’s extremely important to always, always dilute them before applying to the skin. A good rule of thumb is no more than 2% essential oil to carrier liquid, or roughly 12 drops of essential oil to every ounce of liquid. It’s really easy to accidentally add an extra drop or two, so I’ve added a little wiggle room into this recipe. (Be sure to do your own research on essential oil safety for your own context, especially if you have small children or pets around.)

Lavender is one of the many wonderful plants whose essential oils make for potent bug repellants.

There are all kinds of uses for essential oils in homemade personal care items, cleaning products, crafts and other applications around the home. So although they require a bit of up-front investment, even the smallest bottles will last you for a long time. Be sure to source them from a reputable and responsible supplier. My personal favorite is Mountain Rose Herbs, which also carries my favorite witch hazel extract.

And now, without further ado, I hope you enjoy this easy-peasy homemade bug spray recipe!

DIY Bug Repellant Recipe


(This recipe makes enough for a small 2 oz. spray bottle, easy to keep in a pocket of your garden overalls, or in a bag on the go. You can easily double, triple or even quadruple this to make a larger amount!)

  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) witch hazel extract*
  • 6 drops lemongrass essential oil
  • 6 drops eucalyptus essential oil
  • 4 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 4 drops lavender essential oil
  • Spray bottle of choice (I keep an eye out for little 2-ounce spray bottles, like these from the dollar store)

* You can find witch hazel extract in the facial care section of most drugstores, where it’s often sold as a toner. You can also substitute 2 tsp of plain vodka, topping off the remainder with distilled water.

** If you don’t have all of these essential oils, use whichever ones you have or look into other bug-repelling essential oils, such as tea tree or peppermint. The only one I really wouldn’t skip is the lemongrass oil, which seems especially effective in my experience.


1. Pouring carefully or using a funnel, add your carrier liquid (witch hazel or vodka/water substitute) to your spray bottle.

2. Carefully add the desired number of drops of each essential oil to the liquid.

3. Close up the bottle and give it a shake. Yep, that’s really it.

Congrats, your DIY bug repellant is ready to go! Perhaps a little bug-free stroll in the woods is now in order?

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