10 Essential Oils that Repel Insects


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

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.


“Crafting a Natural Bug Repellent with Essential Oils.” Herbal Academy of New England. 18 June 2014. Web. 8 July 2015.


Ettinger, Jill. “Smell Fantastically Natural and Repel Insects: 6 Essential Oils for Summer.” Ecosalon. 2 July 2013. Web. 7 July 2015.


Langton, Nicole. “Essential Oils That Repel Insects.” LiveStrong. 21 October 2013. Web. 8 July 2015.


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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What are Essential Oils?

Essential Oils

I have been using essential oils for at least five years now. When I worked in a health food store, I started to learn a bit about them. But it was not until I started my Verefina business that I really appreciated just how useful, versatile, and beneficial essential oils are. Essential oils have various therapeutic applications and health benefits. They also make wonderful natural cleaners.

What Are Essential Oils?

So what, exactly, are essential oils? They are concentrated aromatic compounds produced by plants, and each oil carries the distinct “essence” of the plant from which it comes. Although they are fat-soluble, essential oils do not contain fatty acids or lipids, so they technically are not oils.

Household Uses for Essential Oils

Plants use essential oils as a defense system against various diseases. Some have anti-microbial properties, which makes them ideal for use as safe, natural cleaners. Lemon, tea tree, lavender, and rosemary essential oils all work well in natural household cleaners. Some can be used for laundry, and essential oils make good air fresheners, too. Essential oils are also sometimes found in soaps and hand sanitizers.


One of the most popular uses for essential oils is in aromatherapy. I use essential oils in my diffuser at least 3 or 4 times a week. A diffuser looks a like a small humidifier. You simply fill it with water and add a few drops of your desired essential oil (follow the exact directions of your particular diffuser). When you turn it on, the essential oil is diffused into the air and scents the room. A diffuser is preferable to adding essential oils to simmering water because heat can damage them. Lavender is of course one of the best known essential oils for aromatherapy; it has a calming and soothing effect. But other essential oils have therapeutic uses too. One of my favorite combinations is lavender and peppermint. I use this to feel both relaxed and energized at the same time. The citrus essential oils tend to have an uplifting effect and so are good for improving one’s mood. Lemon and lime is another great combination in the diffuser. And tea tree and clove oils help support the immune system.

Essential Oil Diffuser

An Essential Oil Diffuser

Essential Oils for Skin and Hair Care

Essential oils are also found in many skin and hair care products. As I mentioned above, they are used as anti-microbial agents in hand sanitizers and soaps. Lavender and tea tree oils can also be helpful in treating acne. Tea tree oil is useful for healing cuts and scrapes as well as for treating dry, itchy scalp. Rosemary essential oil is known for promoting hair growth and health.

Because essential oils are so highly concentrated, they need to be diluted in a “carrier” oil before being applied to the skin. (For more on how to dilute essential oils, see my post on How to Use Lavender Essential Oil). Many plant oils, such as almond, grape seed and even olive, work for this purpose. My personal favorite, though, is fractionated coconut oil. This odorless oil has a very long shelf life and, unlike most other plant oils, it absorbs rapidly into the skin. Essential oils have a very small molecular size, so they absorb rapidly when applied on the skin. Once absorbed into the body, essential oils help deliver oxygen to cells.

Home Remedies

Various essential oils can be used for minor ailments. Grapefruit, for example, can help to ease headaches, and lemon is helpful for sore throats. Eucalyptus is commonly used to clear respiratory congestion. Peppermint can help calm an upset stomach. Clove essential oil can be used to relieve the pain of a toothache.

Note: Essential oils are highly concentrated, and they should therefore be used with caution. Please dilute them before use. Some essential oils are unsafe during all trimesters of pregnancy; others should only be used after the first trimester. Do not use any essential oil during the first trimester. Use essential oils cautiously if you are pregnant or nursing.

How do you like to use essential oils?