The bugs have been out for a while now. And if you’re one of those unlucky people who attracts biting insects, then finding an effective way to keep them at bay is probably a must for you. There are many insect repelling options out there, but some products- especially those made with DEET– may have a negative impact on your health. If you’d prefer to find an effective, toxin-free way of repelling insects, then essential oils may be the best answer for you. There are a number of essential oils that can keep bugs away- without the toxic side effects.
Research done at Iowa State University found that catnip essential oil is roughly 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET (source).
Cedarwood essential oil is obtained from the steam distillation of pieces of cedar. It is useful for repelling flies, mosquitoes, and other pests (source).
Citronella essential oil is an old standby as a natural insect repellent. Derived from a plant related to geraniums, this oil works by masking the scents that generally attract insects, thereby making it difficult for them to find their targets (source). It has been used as an insect repellant since 1948.
The compound eugenol is responsible for many of clove essential oil’s health benefits. Although undiluted clove essential oil can provide two to four hours of protection against mosquitoes (source), the pure oil can cause irritation on the skin. If you want to use undiluted clove oil to deter mosquitoes, put it on your clothing , rather than directly on your skin. Just be sure to check on an unnoticeable spot to make sure it doesn’t stain or discolor the fabric. Putting clove oil in a diffuser can also help keep mosquitoes away.
Cloves can also deter moths and ants. Place a mesh bag with crushed cloves in areas where these critters are a problem.
Eucalyptus is a popular ingredient in natural bug repellants because it can help repel mosquitoes. This oil, diluted at 15%, can deter mosquitoes for up to three hours; when combined with vanillin, it is effective for about five hours (source). A 2010 study found that eucalyptus essential oil is also effective at deterring the sandfly (source).
Lavender essential oil is a popular oil with a wide range of uses. While it gives off a sweet, floral scent to humans, many insects are repelled by linalool, a naturally-occurring alcohol found in lavender (source). Lavender is particularly repellant to mosquitoes, fleas, houseflies, and moths but is safe for both humans and pets. Its effectiveness is increased when combined with other essential oils, such as citronella.
A relative of citronella, lemongrass has a stronger, spicier scent that many biting bugs will avoid. It is especially effective against horse flies and mosquitoes.
Patchouli essential oil can provide up to two hours of protection against insects (source). Many people can tolerate higher concentrations of patchouli, but even a dilution of 10% can be effective.
Peppermint essential oil may be refreshing and energizing for people, but mosquitoes don’t like it. This oil has been found to provide complete protection against mosquitoes for about 2.5 hours (source).
Tea tree essential oil has a strong scent that keeps ants, horse flies, and other insects away.
DIY Insect Repellent
You can make your own all-natural insect repellent using essential oils:
* 50-60 drops essential oils (choose from any of the ones listed above)
* 4 oz. distilled water
* 4 oz. witch hazel
* 8 oz. spray bottle (glass is preferable, as essential oils can break down plastic)
Place all of the ingredients in the spray bottle, and shake gently to mix. Shake before each use, and spray on exposed skin before going outside.
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Masters, Madeline. “What Kind of Bugs Does Lavender Essential Oil Repel?” SFGate. Web. 10 July 2015.
Mercola, Joseph. “Tea Tree Oil: Three Cheers for Tea Tree Oil.” Mercola.com. Web. 30 June 2015.
“Oil of Citronella General Fact Sheet.” National Pesticide Information Center. Web. 8 July 2015.
Schoffro Cook, Michelle. “8 Natural Mosquito Repellents.” Care2. 30 May 2013. Web. 9 July 2015.
Trongtokit Y., Rongsriyam Y., Komalamisra N., Apiwathnasorn C. “Comparative Repellency of 38 Essential Oils Against Mosquito Bites.” PubMed. 19 April 2005. Web. 20 July 2015.
Turner, Paige. “Cloves as a Repellent.” SFGate. Web. 21 July 2015.
Yang P., Ma Y. “Repellent effect of plant essential oils against Aedes albopictus.” PubMed. 30 December 2005. Web 20 July 2015.
Yigzaw, Erika. “Green Cleaning: 10 Essential Oils That Naturally Repel Insects.” American College of Healthcare Sciences. 26 June 2014. Web. 7 July 2015.
“15 Cedarwood Uses for Wisdom and Beauty.” Dr. Axe. Web. 9 July 2015.
“25 Uses for Peppermint Oil.” Dr. Axe. Web. 21 July 2015.
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