A DIY Bug Spray That Actually Works

Hate bugs, but hate bug spray even more? Yeah, I'm with you on that, which is why this summer I decided it was high time to learn how to make an all-natural bug spray at home.

Nothing ruins a perfect summer evening like a whopping, itchy mosquito bite, or the incessant buzzing of insects around your head, but so many of the brand-name bug sprays have an awful smell and are loaded with chemicals... it makes you wonder if the costs of wearing it outweigh the benefits. Sure, they're effective, and studies have shown that DEET, a pesticide often found in bug sprays, is safe to use on your skin, but it makes you smell so gross that you start to repel yourself. Besides, you keep promising yourself you're switching to an all-natural beauty routine, and that green aerosol can of bug spray doesn't make the cut. Store-bought all-natural bug sprays are a great alternative, but they can cost a fortune, and why spend the money on something you can make yourself?

At first, the ingredients sound kind of scary — I mean witch hazel, what even is that? Like all the ingredients in this DIY bug spray, witch hazel (a magical topical astringent with dozens of uses) is actually a commonly found product in drug stores and grocery stores. Aside from that, all you need is a little distilled water and a few essential oils of your choice. The essential oils are the key to repelling insects, and combining at least two or three of them in one spray is ideal. Different oils ward off different insects, but when it comes to creating your blend, just go with smells that appeal to you. The most commonly used oils include lavender, tea tree, peppermint, lemon, eucalyptus, and citronella. I chose to make three different kinds: tea tree and eucalyptus, peppermint and lavender, and lemon and eucalyptus.

Take it from me, crafting your own custom bug spray is easier than you think.

Ingredients & Supplies

  • Witch hazel
  • Distilled or boiled water
  • Essential oils
  • Dropper
  • 2 oz. spray bottle
  • Funnel (optional)


1. Using a funnel if you have one, fill the spray bottle a little less than half way up with witch hazel.

2. Add in a combination of essential oils equaling between 50-60 drops in all. The more oil you use, the stronger the scent of your spray.

3. Fill the rest of the bottle with water. Screw the sprayer and cap on the bottle, and shake vigorously. Spray directly on skin, but avoid the eyes and mouth.

Shake before each use. Store in a dry, cool place.

Does It Work?

The bug spray was a cinch to make, and they all smelled amazing. Instead of the heavy, toxic scent of unidentifiable chemicals, the homemade repellents were light and refreshing. But the real question was do they work?

To put the spray to the test, I got a few friends to go on a hike with me — three of us wore the homemade bug sprays, and one person went repellent-free. It was a hot afternoon, and we spent about two hours outside picking blueberries (which you know, if you've ever tried it, is like a bug feeding frenzy). Out of the three of us wearing homemade spray, no one was bitten by mosquitoes or ticks. The tea tree eucalyptus spray seemed to be the best repellent against flies, but the other two blends were still effective. The poor guy who wore no bug spray? Well, he found a few ticks and spent the afternoon with a halo of horseflies above his head. I think those results speak for themselves!

Do yourself a favor — forget the heavy-hitting, deep-woods, you-can-taste-it-in-your-mouth bug spray you've been using all these years, and make this all-natural, personalized bug spray instead. Your skin and your soul will appreciate it.

Images: Sadie Trombetta